The Humanion Arkive Year Delta 2018-19
September 24: 2018-September 23:2019
The Arkives
First Published: September 24: 2015








































Teachers Learning About Lunar Geology















Kristy Mar, a middle school teacher at J.H. Hull Middle School in Torrance, California, peers through microscope to examine moon rocks encapsulated in clear Lucite. Image: NASA Photo:Ken Ulbrich. Posted: December 09, 2015

Seeking to Find: The Khumbu Glacier in the Foothills of Mount Everest: 5,000 Meters Up Resides the World’s Highest Glacier

Aberystwyth University members of the Ever Drill Project, Katie Miles and Professor Bryn Hubbard, flying the Aber flag at drill site
three on the Khumbu glacier near Everest Base Camp. Image:
Aberystwyth University

|| July  16: 2017: Aberystwyth University || ά. Climate change scientists have successfully completed the first ever drilling of the world’s highest glacier. The team of scientists from Aberystwyth University and the University of Leeds undertook a six week mission to the Khumbu Glacier in the foothills of Mount Everest. Working at an altitude of roughly 5000 metres, the team used a specially adapted car wash unit to drill into the 17km-long glacier at three different points. Sensors for recording the glacier’s internal temperature and how it flows were installed to collect data.

At the highest point near Everest base camp, the team spent three days drilling 150 metres down into the glacier before recording its internal structure using a 360o camera. The expedition was a part of the Ever Drill Project, led by the University of Leeds with the drilling led Professor Bryn Hubbard from Aberystwyth University. The car wash unit used by the team for drilling produces a jet of hot water at a pressure of up to 120 bar, enough to penetrate road tarmac. Professor Hubbard said, “Working in the field is challenging at best, but on this occasion our equipment worked as well as can be expected at such high altitude, where the air is so thin.

At the outset, we were expecting to encounter a lot of debris in the form of rocks and stones in the glacier. These would have made drilling more challenging. As things turned out, drilling at the highest and lowest points was relatively trouble free, which in itself, tells us quite a bit about the internal structure of the glacier.”

At the lower end of Khumbu, the team successfully drilled 45 metres down to the bed of the glacier. At the mid-point, the team encountered rocks and mud sediment, which restricted drilling to between 15 and 25 metres. Data collected during the expedition will be combined with satellite images to understand how the glacier moves and changes over time and how it, might, respond to anticipated climate change.

Situated in a region notorious for its seismic activity and prone to large earthquakes, the Khumbu and surrounding areas are the source of water for around 40% of the world’s population. However, dams and lakes, that form on the glacier present significant risk of flash flooding for people living down-stream.

Professor Hubbard said, “Understanding what actually happens inside these glaciers is critical to developing computer models of their response to anticipated climate change. Equally important is developing a better understanding of how they flow so that we can better predict, when dams, that form on these glaciers, are likely to be breached, releasing life-threatening volumes of water to the valleys below.

This is a real risk in the Himalayas, as it is in other regions, such as the Andes, and has the potential to endanger the lives of thousands of people.” Dr Duncan Quincey, Leader of the Ever Drill Project, said, “This is the first time anyone has the opportunity to gather data from below the surface of Khumbu. By understanding the glacier’s internal structure, temperature and flow, scientists can better predict how this glacier and others in the region will respond to climate change over the coming decades.”

Professor Hubbard was accompanied by Aberystwyth University postgraduate researcher Ms Katie Miles, from the Centre for Glaciology, Dr Duncan Quincey, from the School of Geography at Leeds and Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Evan Miles.

Before starting to drill the team made their way up to the glacier over a period of eight days to acclimatise to the lower levels of oxygen at 5000 metres. Members of the team will return to the drill sites on Khumbu in autumn 2017 to retrieve temperature sensors and to investigate how it moves during the wet season.

Current satellite data suggests that the glacier moves more during the monsoon season and the team is hoping to corroborate this data with actual data collected from the glacier itself. The team is planning a second drilling mission to the Khumbu Glacier in spring 2018.

Dr Quincey is overseeing the remote sensing, satellite imagery aspect of the project. Both the drilling work and the remote sensing are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, NERC.

Professor Bryn Hubbard was awarded the Polar Medal in January 2016 for his work as a 'Polar scholar in glaciology, glacial geology and the structure and motion of ice masses'. The 2018 Himalaya study will be his 30th consecutive year to include a period of glaciological fieldwork.

Since 1988, Professor Hubbard has worked in Antarctica on six occasions, studied high altitude glacier movement in the Peruvian Andes on three occasions, worked in Greenland on five occasions and on Svalbard eight times, as well as, Canadian Arctic and Norway. Before researching at the world’s more exotic ice masses, he carried out fieldwork in the European Alps, leading or participating in field camps on perhaps 20 occasions. ω.

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The Geologist Discovers: What One Cannot Find Close at Hand on Earth One Must Go and Look for It on Mars

A high-resolution false colour image shows the ancient seafloor deposits up close. The network of cross-cutting veins formed from fluids in the rocks.
The green-yellow-brown deposits are composed of Fe- and Mg-rich clay minerals, that formed at the base of a deep sea. This image is approximate
one km across.  Image: NASA:JPL:University of Arizona

|| July 14: 2017: University of Hong Kong News || ά. Clues to life’s origins could be found in deposits, that formed in the bottom of an ancient sea on Mars more than 03.8 billion years ago. Using infrared remote sensing, Dr Joseph Michalski, Associate Professor of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, and his colleagues, have detected that minerals formed in a vast ancient Martian sea, larger than any land-locked sea on Earth, were similar to seafloor deposits found on early Earth billions of years ago. This groundbreaking work, published in Nature Communications, identifies a window into an environment, where life potentially formed on Earth.

The oldest preserved rocks on Earth probably formed in a poorly understood ancient ocean. The presence of isotopically light carbon within biogenic morphologies in these rocks indicates that life, may have, flourished on the early Earth in hydrothermal seafloor environments. Yet, progress in further understanding the actual origins of life or prebiotic chemistry from these rocks or those of similar age, is severely challenged by the fact that they have experienced multiple generations of chemical over-printing and physical deformation. Because of this reality, studies of the ancient Earth, might, never show script of the origin of life.

The search for life’s origins through empirical geologic evidence, might, require exploration beyond Earth, where ancient rocks might still be preserved and younger geological activity has not overwritten critically important chemical and textural records. This journey could lead to Mars, where the ancient sedimentary, volcanic and hydrothermal deposits contemporaneous with the origin of life on Earth have escaped deep burial and metamorphism.

Image: University of Hong Kong

On Earth, the seafloor contains minerals, that form from the interaction of hot fluids from the crust with cold water in the bottom of the sea, called, hydrothermal seafloor deposits. Despite the lack of sunlight, these environments are teeming with life that thrives on chemical energy, the organisms live by eating rocks. It is not known how life on Earth formed, but some scientists think, it might have, originated in ancient seafloor environments through hydrothermal chemical reactions. Therefore, this well-reserved seafloor environment on Mars from billions of years ago could provide a window into the similar environments thought to have existed on the early Earth, which are not well-preserved here.

Dr Michalski and his colleagues discovered the deposits using infrared data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars:CRISM instrument, a NASA experiment in orbit around Mars since 2006. CRISM is an infrared camera, that can detect light in >500 wavelengths, most of them invisible to the human eye.

By measuring the way infrared light reflects off of the Martian surface, it is possible to identify specific minerals on Mars because many minerals have a unique 'fingerprint' in the infrared spectrum. In addition, the team, also, used remote sensing measurements of heat radiation, reflected lasers and high-resolution visible images to investigate the properties of the Martian surface.

“These deposits in the Eridania basin on Mars contain a unique set of rock textures and mineral occurrences, that are not observed anywhere else on Mars.” said Dr Michalski. “Ancient rocks like these are better preserved on Mars than on Earth because our planet has plate tectonics, which recycles the crust and Mars does not. These deposits, therefore, provide a window into the long lost geologic record of the early Earth.

In our quest to explore Mars, we are trying to understand the geology of our neighbouring planet, and also, to determine, if the conditions for life occurred there. Previous work has shown that, indeed, there were environments on Mars, where life could have existed. But this discovery is different. We have found a new category of geological conditions on ancient Mars.

Not only would this sort of environment be habitable to life on Mars, it is the kind of environment, where life is thought to have formed on Earth. Future exploration of this site will lead to a better understanding of the chemical environments, that were present, and hopefully, pave a pathway toward a landed mission, that could investigate, and perhaps, sample these materials on the Martian surface.” ω.

Contact Dr Joseph Michalski, Associate Professor of HKU Department of Earth Sciences: tel: 3917 1452; email: jmichal at or Ms Cindy Chan, Senior Communication Manager of Faculty of Science: tel: 3917 5286:6703 0212: email: cindycst at

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Scientists Discover Extreme Geothermal Activity in New Zealand’s South Island

The Deep Fault Drilling Project Site in Westland. Image: University of Liverpool

|| May 19: 2017: University of Liverpool News || ά. Liverpool scientists are part of an international collaboration who have discovered surprisingly high temperatures and the potential for large geothermal resources when drilling nearly 900 metres into the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. The scientists were part of the Deep Fault Drilling Project which was carried out in 2014 in Westland, north of Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island. The site was drilled by a team of more than 100 scientists from 12 countries, who were working to understand how earthquakes occur on geological faults.

The team identified the Whataroa site as the best place in the world to understand what a fault looks, feels, and sounds like just before an earthquake occurs. The Alpine Fault is known to rupture in magnitude eight earthquakes approximately every 300 years, plus or minus 90 years. The results of the project, published in the journal Nature, discuss the site’s geothermal gradient, a measure of how fast the temperature increases going deeper beneath the Earth’s surface. They discovered water at 630 metres depth that was hot enough to boil at the surface. Similar geothermal temperatures are normally found at depths greater than three kilometres.

The study finds that the geothermal conditions discovered are extreme by global standards and comparable to those in major volcanic centres like Taupo but there are no volcanoes in Westland. Scientists from the University’s School of Environmental Sciences took part in the drilling operations which led to the exciting result on how the fault affects hydrothermal fluid flow.

Professor Dan Faulkner said, “The unusually high fluid temperatures measured are important for two primary reasons; first hydrothermal fluids have a profound effect on fault strength and influence the earthquake process and, second, the high water temperatures could be exploited as a source of geothermal energy in the area.

Dr Betty Mariani, Liverpool Lecturer in Geology, who was, also, part of the project, said, “We have many more exciting results to come from the Liverpool team that is still working on rock core from the drilling project”.

Professor Rupert Sutherland, from Victoria University of Wellington, who led the project, said, “The geothermal environment is created by a combination of tectonic movement and groundwater flow. Slippage during earthquakes has uplifted hot rocks from about 30 kilometres deep, and the rocks are coming up so fast that they don’t get a chance to cool properly.

Earthquakes fracture the rocks so extensively that water is able to infiltrate deep beneath the mountains and heat becomes concentrated in upwelling geothermal fluids beneath valleys. River gravels that are flushed by abundant West Coast rain and snow dilute this geothermal activity before it reaches the surface.

Nobody on our team, or any of the scientists who reviewed our plans, predicted that it would be so hot down there. This geothermal activity may sound alarming but it is a wonderful scientific finding that could be commercially very significant for New Zealand.”

The discovery could transform the economy and resilience of Westland and provide a significant and sustainable clean energy resource that could be developed using local people and equipment, according to Warren Gilbertson, Chief Operating Officer of Development West Coast.

Novel technologies were used to gather the data, including precise temperature and seismic measurements that were made using lasers and a fibre-optic cable installed in the borehole. Overall, the Deep Fault Drilling Project fell short of achieving all of its technical goals as the fractured and strongly-layered rocks and extremely hot temperatures provided engineering challenges. However, many scientific measurements were made and the borehole continues to provide interesting data.

The Deep Fault Drilling Project is an international science project jointly led by Victoria University of Wellington, GNS Science and the University of Otago but also involving researchers and students from more than a dozen organisations in New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

DFDP’s two principal funding bodies are the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme with additional funds for specific components of research being provided by the Earthquake Commission, the National Science Foundation, United States, the National Environmental Research Council, United Kingdom and participating organisations.

The paper `Extreme hydrothermal conditions at an active plate-bounding fault’: DOI:10.1038/nature22355 is published in Nature. ω.

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Science Found Its Way Back Into Fiction to Realise It May Not Have Been Fiction But a Reporting Mirror of What was Once Reality

Image: University of Glasgow


|| May 01: 2017: University of Glasgow News || ά. New research shows that a volcano in northeastern Australia last erupted around 7000 years ago and stories passed down by the Gugu Badhun Aboriginal people suggest they were there to see it happen. In a paper published in the journal Quaternary Geochronology, geologists, based in Scotland and Australia, outline how they used a sophisticated rock dating technique to determine when the eruption occurred. They describe a potential link between the volcanic eruption and stories from Aboriginal verbal traditions, which would have been passed down for around 230 generations, further back in time than even the oldest written historical records of Egypt or Mesopotamia.

The team, from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre:SUERC, the University of Glasgow, the University of St Andrews, the Australian National University, and James Cook University, examined rock samples from long lava flows around the Kinrara volcano in Queensland. The flows, which are up to 55 km long, are still clearly visible across the landscape around the volcano. Dr Benjamin Cohen, of the University of Glasgow and SUERC, said, “When people think of Australia, volcanoes are probably not the first thing that springs to mind, but they are actually more common than many people realise. For example, there are nearly 400 volcanic vents in north Queensland, which erupted over the last few million years and Kinrara is one of the most recent.”

The researchers used a technique, known as argon-argon geochronology, to learn more about the age of the volcano. Using a noble gas mass spectrometer, they could measure the amount of argon built-up from natural radioactive decay of potassium, allowing them to determine how much time has passed since the volcano erupted.

The team’s measurements allowed them to date the Kinrara eruption to around 7000 years ago, with the possibility that it may have been up to 2000 years further back or forward in time. “The argon-argon technique we use has improved considerably in the last few years, allowing us to view the past through a sharper lens than ever before. Without those improvements, we would not have been able to determine the age of the Kinrara volcano.”

Dr Cohen’s exploration of local histories from the Gugu Badhun people uncovered a recording, made in the 1970s, of an Aboriginal elder discussing an event that sounds very much like a volcanic eruption. The elder described a time when a pit was made in the ground with lots of dust in the air, and that people got lost in the dust and died. He described an occurrence when the earth was on fire along the watercourses.

Dr Cohen added, “These stories are plausible descriptions of a volcanic eruption, the Kinrara volcano has a very prominent crater, which produced volcanic ash and lava fountains. The lavas from the volcano flowed 55 kilometres down the surrounding stream and river valleys, and would have looked very much like the earth burning.

The volcanic eruption of Kinrara adds to a growing list of geological events, that appear to be recounted in Australian Aboriginal traditions, including sea level rise around 10,000 years ago and other volcanic eruptions elsewhere on the continent.

“Studying the Kinrara eruption has been a fascinating step on the road to better understanding the most recent volcanic activity in Australia, and also the history and traditions of Aboriginal peoples. We look forward to continuing our work on volcanoes in Australia.”

The team’s paper, titled, 'Holocene-Neogene volcanism in northeastern Australia: Chronology and eruption history’, is published in the April issue of Quaternary Geochronology. ω.

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Bhutan Now Has BRACE: New Project to Build Resilience to Earthquakes in the Remote Himalayan Kingdom

Image: University of Bristol

|| January 29: 2017: University of Bristol News || ά. A new interdisciplinary project led by researchers at the University of Bristol aims to develop resilience and research capacity in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan to cope with earthquakes and their cascading effects on the country's environment, business, infrastructure, and society. The project, Building Bhutanese Resilience Against Cataclysmic Events:BRACE is funded by NERC as part of its Global Challenges Research Fund. Led by Dr Frances Cooper from the University's School of Earth Sciences, it is designed to forge new relationships among geoscientists, geographers, historians, archaeologists, engineers and policy makers to address seismic risk and develop resilience-building strategies within Bhutan.

The BRACE team will bring together a diverse group of researchers from Bhutan, the UK, and the USA, to investigate links between historical earthquake records, current seismic hazards and the potential impacts of earthquakes on people, infrastructure, and the environment. hutan nervously witnessed the devastating magnitude 07.8 Gorkha earthquake, which struck Nepal in 2015, killing almost 9,000 people. Bhutan lies to the east of Nepal along the same seismically-active Himalayan belt. However, compared to Nepal, Bhutan has not experienced a major earthquake for quite some time.

Accordingly, the seismic risk is poorly understood and the country is underprepared for a major seismic event. The potential disruption to the landscape and infrastructure and the consequent impacts on access to food, water, energy, and the health and wellbeing of the population could be devastating.

Dr Cooper said, "Earthquakes threaten societies in complex ways. Buildings may collapse, trapping or killing people, and communications may be severed along with critical lifelines to water and hospitals. On top of all that, earthquakes can cause landslides, floods and fires that exacerbate the crisis.

Governmental agencies need the training, resources, modes of emergency communication and decision-making practices to enable them to deal with such a cataclysmic event. Unfortunately, because earthquakes are unpredictable, government and community planning are challenging, as is communicating the risks to the population."

The central objective of BRACE is to co-develop methodologies with Bhutanese partners, historians, seismologists, engineers, construction firms, disaster response teams and policy makers, to improve resilience strategies before the next big earthquake.

By improving estimates of seismic hazard and risk, as well as helping to improve risk governance amongst institutions, organisations and the private sector, the project aims to build a more resilient society in its continued pursuit of Gross National Happiness.

For more information, visit the project website at ω.

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New Study Estimates Frequency of Volcanic Eruptions

Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull on March 29, 2010.  Image: NASA:MODIS Rapid Response Team

|| January 14: 2017: University of Leeds News|| ά. Holidaymakers concerned about fresh volcanic eruptions causing flight-disrupting ash clouds might be reassured by a study setting out the first reliable estimates of their frequency. While the University of Leeds-led research suggests that ash clouds are more common over northern Europe than previously thought, it puts the average gap between them at about 44 years.

Lead author Dr Liz Watson, from the School of Geography at Leeds, said, “Reliable estimates of the frequency of volcanic ash events could help airlines, insurance companies and the travelling public mitigate the economic losses and disruption caused by ash clouds in the future.” The work began soon after 2010’s explosive eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which caused more than 10 million air passengers to be stranded and cost the European economy an estimated £04 billion.

Focusing on northern Europe, which is downwind of Iceland, one of the world’s most active volcanic regions, they examined samples taken from peatlands and lake beds in mainland northern Europe, Great Britain, Ireland and the Faroe Islands, alongside previously existing samples taken from other sites across northern Europe. The samples, cores up to seven metres long, were taken from peat and lake sediment where geological records are particularly well preserved.

Using electron microscopy and chemical analysis, the team identified tiny shards of preserved volcanic ash, called cryptotephra, about the width of a human hair, which enabled them to pinpoint at what point volcanic ash clouds had spread across the continent. For many of the occurrences, the researchers were also able to match sample data to historical records or to existing geological data which charted specific eruptions.

The work found evidence of 84 ash clouds during the last 7,000 years, most of which could be traced to eruptions from Icelandic volcanoes. More incidences of volcanic ash are recorded over the past 1,000 years, because evidence is better preserved and historical records are more complete, leading the team to estimate an average recurrence of 44 years.

Co-author Dr Graeme Swindles is Associate Professor of Earth System Dynamics in the School of Geography at Leeds. He said, “In 2010, when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, people were really shocked, it seemed to come completely out of the blue, but the eruption of Grímsvötn, the following year, was an extraordinary coincidence. Although it is possible that ash clouds can occur on an annual basis, the average return interval for the last 1,000 years is around 44 years.

The last time volcanic ash clouds affected northern Europe before the recent event was in 1947, 69 years ago but aviation was much less intense at that time and it simply didn’t have the same sort of impact. Our research shows that, over thousands of years, these sorts of incidents are not that rare but people wondering how likely it is that the 2010 chaos will be repeated in the next few years can feel somewhat reassured.”

The researchers also looked at the intensity of the eruptions responsible for producing volcanic ash clouds. They found that volcanic activity likely to produce ashfall in northern Europe would typically measure four or above on the internationally-recognised Volcanic Explosivity Index:VEI. “Eruptions can’t always be indexed rapidly.” explained co-author Dr Ivan Savov, of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment.

But in cases where that calculation can be made early on, it will give a good indication of the likelihood of volcanic ash causing a major problem. The 2010 eruption cost billions in terms of lost revenues and there was an effect on the global economy, so the work we’ve been able to do to quantify the risk will be of interest to insurance companies trying to make sense of the potential for future air traffic disruptions.”

The research paper, Estimating the frequency of volcanic ash clouds over northern Europe, is published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The work was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the National Science Foundation in the US. ω.

Enlighten Universana The Humanion Beacon Organisations: Leeds Cancer Centre at the University of Leeds

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Looking for Something Mars-Like Deep Inside the Earth

ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano and Pedro Duque, together with Eurocom Matthias Maurer took part in the second phase of their ESA ‘Pangaea’ planetary geological field training on a landscape very similar to Mars at Geoparque Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands in October 2016. The highlight of the week was a sampling traverse inside a lava tube. Lava tubes are planetary caves. Many have been already spotted on both the Moon and Mars. Being underground structures, they are good shelters from radiation. They may contain subsurface water, and therefore be interesting in the search of extraterrestrial microbial life. Image: ESA:LRicci


|| November 13: 2016|| ά. A crew consisting of ESA astronauts and pilot Luca Parmitano, ESA astronaut and engineer Pedro Duque and ESA eurocom and scientist Matthias Maurer explored the barren and dry landscape of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in October to simulate a planetary mission. The Lanzarote national park is in many ways similar to Mars and the trio interpreted its geological history, researched scientific questions and identified suitable rock samples for further analysis.

“The ‘Pangaea’ course intends to prepare astronauts to become effective collaborators with scientists for future geological studies on planetary bodies.” says Pangaea project manager Loredana Bessone. The course was designed to take into account recommendations from NASA’s Apollo programme, and to build on current knowledge of planetary geology. European scientists who worked on robotic missions such as Rosetta, ExoMars and the Curiosity Mars rover were involved from the start.

“The geological descriptions of the landscape that the astronauts radioed to the ‘ground’ team were astonishingly complete and precise, showing an acute sense of observation.” noted course designer and director Francesco Sauro. “We used the common geological practice of ‘flexecution’ throughout the course whereby objectives changed depending on discoveries in the field.” This allowed the astronauts to identify samples and features of high scientific interest that could not be foreseen by geologists from satellite-image analysis.

“Geology, more than any other scientific discipline, uses complex terminology that requires years to learn.” says Loredana. “Exploring planetary bodies in the future will require that the astronauts and ground control can communicate efficiently using common terms.”  Pedro Duque confirms: “An operational language will need to be developed among all agencies involved in human space exploration.” During their field trips, the astronauts identified and retrieved samples that will be used for scientific study involving students, in collaboration with the Geopark of Lanzarote and other institutes and universities involved in the course.

“The astronaut routes were chosen for scientific interest and we will use the findings from the course for further astronaut training as well as data for student theses.” says Pangaea scientific coordinator and instructor Matteo Massironi. “The information is not only useful for understanding similar processes on other planets, but also for understanding the best way to get scientific answers efficiently during real-life operational settings.”

This was the second session of a course designed and developed by ESA, in collaboration with the Italian university of Padova, CISAS, and planetary scientists from European universities, to prepare for future exploration operations. The next session will take place in March 2017 and focus on geo-microbiology and planetary protection. ω.

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The Colima Volcano: Mexico

Colima volcano: Mexico’s Colima volcano erupting on October 11, 2016. At the beginning of the month, as lava flowed down its slopes, villagers living at the foot of the mountain were evacuated. Image: Webcams de Mexico

|| October 20: 2016|| ά.  As hundreds flee lava and ash spewed from Mexico’s Colima volcano, its continuing eruption is being tracked not only by ground instruments but also from space. Starting last month, Colima is one of 22 active volcanoes worldwide being monitored by satellites. The latest observations by Europe’s Sentinels and the US Terra and Landsat satellites are being processed automatically for the rapid delivery of key parameters to geohazards researchers.

“Within the geohazards arena, this kind of systematic service is really something new.” explains Fabrizio Pacini of Terradue, which operates the new service through ESA’s online, cloud-based Geohazards Exploitation Platform, or GEP. “Researchers already use Earth observation data, of course, but usually on an on-demand basis from a single sensor. We make use of a range of sensors to cover multiple sites on a continuing basis.” The service is based on automated processing chains developed by GEP research partners, running on the GEP itself, then made available through it.

Massimo Musacchio, from Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology:INGV, explains, “We are contributing a surface-temperature mapping service. Using mainly optical data from multiple satellites, it reveals thermal anomalies around volcanoes.”

Colima from Space

“Running our processing algorithm on the GEP saves valuable time – no manual browsing, downloading or processing is needed,” adds INGV’s Fabrizia Buongiorno. “Time series data can be speedily extracted from a single co-registered pixel, to highlight gradual trends within a narrow area.” The second, mainly post-eruption service is vegetation vigour maps, to assess the health of plant life and agriculture around volcanoes. Developed by Noveltis, France, this service relies on the processing of optical images, including Sentinel-two data.

The third is high-resolution change monitoring, developed by the DLR German Aerospace Centre, based on 50 m-resolution time-series radar imagery from Sentinel-one. “Radar images can be acquired at night and in cloudy conditions, offering a significant advantage for volcano monitoring.” says Virginie Pinel of France’s IRD Research Institute for Development. “Variations between images can be used to map eruptive deposits such as lava and explosive deposits, without anyone needing to access the affected area. Knowing the extent of eruptive deposits is crucial for assessing a volcanic event and any follow-on landslide risk.”

Colima Heat

Out of around 1500 potentially active land volcanoes, the 22 targets were selected through a combination of recent activity and scientific interest. They include some volcanoes that already have plentiful ground monitoring infrastructure, including Italy’s Vesuvius, designated a permanent Geohazards Supersite National Laboratory by the international Group on Earth Observations, as well as others in Latin America and Southeast Asia, sometimes with less ground data availability.

These trial services were set up in response to a 2015 ESA workshop on Satellite Earth Observation and Disaster Risk Reduction. More than 500 million people worldwide are estimated to live within the potential exposure range of a volcano.

The GEP is one of six Thematic Exploitation Platforms developed by ESA to serve data user communities. As a new element of the ground segment delivering satellite results to users, these cloud-based platforms provide an online environment to access information, processing tools, computing resources and tools for community collaboration. The aim is to enable the easy extraction of valuable knowledge from vast quantities of environmental data now being produced by Europe’s Copernicus programme and other Earth observation satellites. ω.

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In Search of Magnetism

Earth's protective shield: The magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable impact on every day life. The field can be thought of as a huge bubble, protecting us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. Image: ESA:ATG medialab


|| October 03: 2016|| ά. Oceans might not be thought of as magnetic, but they make a tiny contribution to our planet’s protective magnetic shield. Remarkably, ESA’s Swarm satellites have not only measured this extremely faint field, but have also led to new discoveries about the electrical nature of inner Earth. The magnetic field shields us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth from the Sun. Without it, the atmosphere as we know it would not exist, rendering life virtually impossible.

Scientists need to learn more about our protective field to understand many natural processes, from those occurring deep inside the planet, to weather in space caused by solar activity. This information will then yield a better understanding of why Earth’s magnetic field is weakening. Although we know that the magnetic field originates in different parts of Earth and that each source generates magnetism of different strengths, exactly how it is generated and why it changes is not fully understood.

This is why, in 2013, ESA launched its trio of Swarm satellites. While the mission is already shedding new light on how the field is changing, this latest result focuses on the most elusive source of magnetism: ocean tides. When salty ocean water flows through the magnetic field, an electric current is generated and this, in turn, induces a magnetic response in the deep region below Earth’s crust, the mantle. Because this response is such a small portion of the overall field, it was always going to be a challenge to measure it from space.

Last year, scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, showed that if it could be measured from space – never done before – it should also tell us something about Earth’s interior. However, this all remained a theory, until now.

Thanks to Swarm’s precise measurements along with those from Champ – a mission that ended in 2010 after measuring Earth’s gravity and magnetic fields for more than 10 years – scientists have not only been able to find the magnetic field generated by ocean tides but, remarkably, they have used this new information to image the electrical nature of Earth’s upper mantle 250 km below the ocean floor.
Magnetic field sources

Alexander Grayver, from ETH Zurich, said, “The Swarm and Champ satellites have allowed us to distinguish between the rigid ocean ‘lithosphere’ and the more pliable ‘asthenosphere’ underneath.” The lithosphere is the rigid outer part of the earth, consisting of the crust and upper mantle, while the asthenosphere lies just below the lithosphere and is hotter and more fluid than the lithosphere.

“Effectively, ‘geo-electric sounding from space’, this result is a first for space exploration,” he continues. “These new results are important for understanding plate tectonics, the theory of which argues that Earth’s lithosphere consists of rigid plates that glide on the hotter and less rigid asthenosphere that serves as a lubricant, enabling plate motion.”

Roger Haagmans, ESA’s Swarm mission scientist, explained, “It’s astonishing that the team has been able to use just two years’ worth of measurements from Swarm to determine the magnetic tidal effect from the ocean and to see how conductivity changes in the lithosphere and upper mantle.

“Their work shows that down to about 350 km below the surface, the degree to which material conducts electric currents is related to composition. In addition, their analysis shows a clear dependence on the tectonic setting of the ocean plate. These new results also indicate that, in the future, we could get a full 3D view of conductivity below the ocean.”

Rune Floberghagen, ESA’s Swarm mission manager, added, “We have very few ways of probing deep into the structure of our planet, but Swarm is making a valuable contribution to understanding Earth’s interior, which then adds to our knowledge of how Earth works as a whole system.” The research paper was published in Science Advances on 30 September. ω.

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ESA is Preparing Astronauts on Earth, in Italy for Exploring Celestial Bodies

ESA is now training astronauts in identifying planetary geological features for future missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids. Luca Parmitano and Pedro Duque will work under leading European planetary geologists and apply their knowledge during field trips in Bressanone, Italy. Image: ESA:I. Drozdovsky


|| September 10: 2016|| ά. ESA is now training astronauts in identifying planetary geological features for future missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids. This week, Luca Parmitano and Pedro Duque will work under leading European planetary geologists and apply their knowledge during field trips in Bressanone, Italy.

“This Pangaea course, named after the ancient supercontinent, will help astronauts to find interesting rock samples as well as to assess the most likely places to find traces of life on other planets,” explains field geologist, explorer and course designer Francesco Sauro.

The first part of the course will see Luca, Pedro and astronaut trainer Matthias Maurer learn about planetary geology from Matteo Messironi, a geologist working on the Rosetta and ExoMars missions, lunar geology from Moon expert Harald Hiesinger, meteorites from Anna Maria Fioretti and Mars from expert Nicolas Mangold, who is working with NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.

 The theory will be followed by field trips in carefully chosen areas representing other planets in terms of geological features. The practical lessons will see the students recognise rocks, draw landscapes and explore a canyon that has sedimentary features similar to those discovered by Curiosity on Mars.

Francesco explains: “We created a course that enables astronauts on future missions to other planetary bodies to spot the best areas for exploration and the most scientifically interesting rocks to take samples for further analysis by the scientists back on Earth.”

 “Pangaea complements our CAVES underground training,” notes project leader Loredana Bessone. “CAVES focuses on team behaviour and operational aspects of a space mission, whereas Pangaea focuses on developing knowledge and skills for planetary geology and astrobiology.”

The course is organised together with the Centre of Studies and Activities for Space at the University of Padova, Italy. The second part of the course will start in October on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain. ω.

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Magma Build-up May Put Salvadoran Capital at Risk

Image: University of Bristol


|| July 24: 2016: University of Bristol News || ά. The build-up of magma six kilometres below El Salvador's Ilopango caldera means the capital city of San Salvador may be at risk from future eruptions, University of Bristol researchers have found. A caldera is a large cauldron-like volcanic depression or crater, formed by the collapse of an emptied magma chamber. The depression often originates from very big explosive eruptions. In Guatemala and El Salvador, caldera volcanoes straddle tectonic fault zones along the Central American Volcanic Arc:CAVA. The CAVA is 1,500 kilometres long, stretching from Guatemala to Panama.

The team, from the Volcanology research group at Bristol's School of Earth Sciences and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in El Salvador, studied the density distribution beneath the Ilopango caldera and the role tectonic stresses, caused by the movement of tectonic plates along fault lines, have on the build-up of magma at depth. Their study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The Ilopango caldera is an eight km by 11 kilometre volcanic collapse structure of the El Salvador Fault Zone. The collapsed caldera was the result of at least five large eruptions over the past 80,000 years.

The last of these occurred about 1,500 years ago and produced enough volcanic ash to form a 15 centimetre thick layer across the entire UK. This catastrophic eruption destroyed practically everything within a 100 kilometre radius, including a well-developed native Mayan population, and significantly disturbed the Mayan populations as far as 200 kilometres away.

The most recent eruptions occurred in 1879–1880 and were on a much smaller scale than the previous one. Project leader and co-author Dr Joachim Gottsmann said: "Most earthquakes take place along the edges of tectonic plates, where many volcanoes are also located. There is therefore a link between the breaking of rocks, which causes faults and earthquakes and the movement of magma from depth to the surface, to feed a volcanic eruption. The link between large tectonic fault zones and volcanism is, however, not very well understood."

Existing studies show that magma accumulation before a large caldera-forming eruption, as well as the caldera collapse itself, may be controlled by fault structures. "However, it is unclear to what extent regional tectonic stresses influence magma accumulation between large caldera-forming eruptions.", co-author Professor Katharine Cashman said.

Lead author Jennifer Saxby, whose research towards an MSc in Volcanology contributed to the study, said: "Addressing this question is important not only for understanding controls on the development of magmatic systems, but also for forecasting probable locations of future eruptive activity from caldera-forming volcanoes."

The team discovered that the current tectonic stress field promotes the accumulation of magma and hydrothermal fluids at shallow:< 6km: depth beneath Ilopango. The magma contains a considerable amount of gas, which indicates the system is charged to possibly feed the next eruption.

Dr Gottsmann said: "Our results indicate that localised extension along the fault zone controls the accumulation, ascent and eruption of magma at Ilopango. This fault-controlled magma accumulation and movement limits potential vent locations for future eruptions at the caldera in its central, western and northern part, an area that now forms part of the metropolitan area of San Salvador, which is home to 2 million people. As a consequence, there is a significant level of risk to San Salvador from future eruptions of Ilopango."

Paper: 'Magma storage in a strike-slip collapse caldera' by J Saxby, J Gottsmann, KV Cashman and E Gutierrez in Nature Communications 7:12295

The research was funded by the EC-FP7 'VUELCO' project under grant agreement #282759, the AXA Research Fund and the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. ω.


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Mount St Helens

Image: Released 01.07.2016 10:00: Copyright Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2016, processed by ESA

|| July 01: 2016 || ά. Sentinel-2A captured this image of Mount St Helens in the US state of Washington on February 08. The active volcano is known for its May 18, 1980 eruption. The event claimed some 57 lives and damaged homes and infrastructure. The eruption was caused by an earthquake that lead to a massive landslide of the volcano’s north face, exposing it to lower pressures. The volcano then exploded, depositing widespread ash and melting the mountain’s snow, ice and glaciers that formed a number of volcanic mudslides or lahars.

Some of these lahars are still visible, particularly in the upper left in pink. In this false-colour image, snow cover appears light blue while pink represents areas with little to no vegetation. In the lower-central part of the image, we can see how snow cover ends in the rectangular areas as the elevation drops closer to the river.

The rectangular areas show land division, possibly for timber extraction, with the blue and red areas revealing where the trees have been cleared.

Sentinel-2 can be used to manage natural resources, to check rates of deforestation, reforestation and areas affected by wildfire. Information from Sentinel-2 can help governing bodies and commercial enterprises make informed decisions about how best to manage, protect and sustain our important forest resources. ω.


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NASA Satellite Data Could Help Reduce Flights Sidelined by Volcanic Eruptions

Audrey Haar Writing

Image: NASA

|| May 12: 2016 || A volcano erupting and spewing ash into the sky can cover nearby areas under a thick coating of ash and can also have consequences for aviation safety. Airline traffic changes due to a recent volcanic eruption can rack up unanticipated expenses to flight cancellations, lengthy diversions and additional fuel costs from rerouting.

Airlines are prudently cautious, because volcanic ash is especially dangerous to airplanes, as ash can melt within an operating aircraft engine, resulting in possible engine failure. In the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, airlines typically consult with local weather agencies to determine flight safety, and those decisions today are largely based on manual estimates with information obtained from a worldwide network of Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers. These centers are finding timely and more accurate satellite data beneficial.

Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are using already available satellite measurements of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a main components of volcanic emissions, along with the more recent ability to map the location and vertical profiles of volcanic aerosols. Researchers are doing this in a number of ways.

A volcanic cloud contains two kinds of aerosols: sulfuric acid droplets converted from SO2 and silicate volcanic ash. Satellites can detect volcanic ash by observing the scattering of ultraviolet light from the sun. For aviation, volcanic ash is potentially the most deadly because of the danger to aircraft engines. While measurements of aerosol absorption in ultraviolet do not differentiate between the smoke, dust and ash aerosols, only volcanic clouds contain significant abundances of SO2, so satellite measurements of SO2 are especially valuable for unambiguous identification of volcanic clouds.

Knowing both the physical location and the altitude distribution of aerosols in the volcanic cloud allow more accurate forecasts in the days, weeks and months after an eruption. “The capability of mapping the full extent of a three-dimensional structure of a moving volcanic cloud has never been done before,” said Nickolay A. Krotkov, physical research scientist with the Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory at NASA Goddard.

Researchers are currently making these measurements using the Limb Profiler instrument, part of Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument, currently flying on the joint NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA))/Department of Defense Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, launched in October 2011.

OMPS is a three-part instrument: a nadir mapper that maps ozone, SO2 and aerosols; a nadir profiler that measures the vertical distribution of ozone in the stratosphere; and a limb profiler that measures aerosols in the upper troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere with high vertical resolution.

“With the OMPS instrument, the volcanic cloud is mapped as Suomi NPP flies directly overhead and then as it looks back, it observes three vertical slices of the cloud,” said Eric Hughes, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, who is working with Krotkov at NASA Goddard.

Knowing the timing and duration of an eruption, the altitude and amount of the volcanic emissions are critical for an accurate volcanic forecast model being developed at the Goddard Modeling and Assimilation Office. The height of the plume is particularly critical for forecasting the direction of the plume. Even several kilometers of height can make a significant difference in predicting plume movement. More accurate volcanic cloud forecasts could reduce airline cancellations and rerouting costs.

While aviation is a short-term immediate application for volcanic cloud modeling, there are also long-term climate applications. “Sulfate aerosols formed after large volcanic eruptions affect the radiation balance and can linger in the stratosphere for a couple of years,” said Krotkov.

There have been large volcanic eruptions that have contributed to short-term cooling of Earth from the SO2 that reaches the stratosphere, which is what happened following the Philippines Mount Pinatubo eruption in June 1991. During volcanic eruptions, SO2 converts to sulfuric acid aerosols. Now researchers are studying the impacts of deliberately injecting SO2 into the stratosphere to contract the effects of global warming, known as climate intervention.

“Nature gives us these volcanic perturbations and then we can see the impact on climate,” Krotkov said. “These are the short- and long-term consequences of volcanic eruptions that have both aviation and climate applications.”

By Audrey Haar: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 240-684-0808

: Editor: Karl Hille: NASA:


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First Global Map of Flow Within the Earth’s Mantle Finds the Surface is Moving up and Down “Like a Yo-Yo”

Composition of Earth’s mantle revisited thanks to research at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source: Image Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

|| May 09: 2016: University of Cambridge News||  Researchers have compiled the first global set of observations of flow within the Earth’s mantle – the layer between the crust and the core – and found that it is moving much faster than has been predicted.

Researchers have compiled the first global set of observations of the movement of the Earth’s mantle, the 3000-kilometre-thick layer of hot silicate rocks between the crust and the core, and have found that it looks very different to predictions made by geologists over the past 30 years.

The team, from the University of Cambridge, used more than 2000 measurements taken from the world’s oceans in order to peer beneath the Earth’s crust and observe the chaotic nature of mantle flow, which forces the surface above it up and down. These movements have a huge influence on the way that the Earth looks today – the circulation causes the formation of mountains, volcanism and other seismic activity in locations that lie in the middle of tectonic plates, such as at Hawaii and in parts of the United States.

They found that the wave-like movements of the mantle are occurring at a rate that is an order of magnitude faster than had been previously predicted. The results, reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, have ramifications across many disciplines including the study of oceanic circulation and past climate change.

“Although we’re talking about timescales that seem incredibly long to you or me, in geological terms, the Earth’s surface bobs up and down like a yo-yo,” said Dr Mark Hoggard of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, the paper’s lead author. “Over a period of a million years, which is our standard unit of measurement, the movement of the mantle can cause the surface to move up and down by hundreds of metres.”

Besides geologists, the movement of the Earth’s mantle is of interest to the oil and gas sector, since these motions also affect the rate at which sediment is shifted around and hydrocarbons are generated.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of plate tectonics, where the movement of the rigid plates on which the continents sit creates earthquakes and volcanoes near their boundaries. The flow of the mantle acts in addition to these plate motions, as convection currents inside the mantle – similar to those at work in a pan of boiling water – push the surface up or down. For example, although the Hawaiian Islands lie in the middle of a tectonic plate, their volcanic activity is due not to the movement of the plates, but instead to the upward flow of the mantle beneath.

“We’ve never been able to accurately measure these movements before – geologists have essentially had to guess what they look like,” said Hoggard. “Over the past three decades, scientists had predicted that the movements caused continental-scale features which moved very slowly, but that’s not the case.”

The inventory of more than 2000 spot observations was determined by analysing seismic surveys of the world’s oceans. By examining variations in the depth of the ocean floor, the researchers were able to construct a global database of the mantle’s movements.

They found that the mantle convects in a chaotic fashion, but with length scales on the order of 1000 kilometres, instead of the 10,000 kilometres that had been predicted.

“These results will have wider reaching implications, such as how we map the circulation of the world’s oceans in the past, which are affected by how quickly the sea floor is moving up and down and blocking the path of water currents,” said Hoggard. “Considering that the surface is moving much faster than we had previously thought, it could also affect things like the stability of the ice caps and help us to understand past climate change.”

M.J. Hoggard et al. ‘Global dynamic topography observations reveal limited influence of large-scale mantle flow.’ Nature Geoscience (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2709


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First X-ray View of Martian Soil

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ames

|| May 08: 2016 ||  This graphic shows results of the first analysis of Martian soil by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) experiment on NASA's Curiosity rover. The image reveals the presence of crystalline feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine mixed with some amorphous (non-crystalline) material. The soil sample, taken from a wind-blown deposit within Gale Crater, where the rover landed, is similar to volcanic soils in Hawaii.

Curiosity scooped the soil on Oct. 15, 2012, the 69th sol, or Martian day, of operations. It was delivered to CheMin for X-ray diffraction analysis on October 17, 2012, the 71st sol. By directing an X-ray beam at a sample and recording how X-rays are scattered by the sample at an atomic level, the instrument can definitively identify and quantify minerals on Mars for the first time. Each mineral has a unique pattern of rings, or "fingerprint," revealing its presence. The colors in the graphic represent the intensity of the X-rays, with red being the most intense.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built Curiosity and CheMin.

For more information about Curiosity and its mission, visit


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Mars Crater May Actually Be Ancient Supervolcano

Elizabeth Zubritsky Writing








New research suggests a volcano, not a large impact, may have formed Mars' Eden Patera basin. Left: Reds, yellows show higher elevations in the basin and surrounding area; blues, grays show lower elevations. Right: The dark color indicates younger material draped across the Eden Patera depression. Credits: NASA/JPL/Goddard (left) and ESA (right)

April 08, 2016: Scientists from NASA and the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., have identified what could be a supervolcano on Mars—the first discovery of its kind.

The volcano in question, a vast circular basin on the face of the Red Planet, previously had been classified as an impact crater. Researchers now suggest the basin is actually what remains of an ancient supervolcano eruption. Their assessment is based on images and topographic data from NASA's Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, as well as the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter.

In the Oct. 3 issue of the journal Nature, Joseph Michalski, a researcher affiliated with the Planetary Science Institute and the Natural History Museum in London, and Jacob Bleacher of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., laid out their case that the basin, recently named Eden Patera, is a volcanic caldera. Because a caldera is a depression, it can look like a crater formed by an impact, rather than a volcano.

"On Mars, young volcanoes have a very distinctive appearance that allows us to identify them," said Michalski. "The long-standing question has been what ancient volcanoes on Mars look like. Perhaps they look like this one."

The researchers also suggest a large body of magma loaded with dissolved gas (similar to the carbonation in soda) rose through thin crust to the surface quickly. Like a bottle of soda that has been shaken, this supervolcano would have blown its contents far and wide if the top came off suddenly.

"This highly explosive type of eruption is a game-changer, spewing many times more ash and other material than typical, younger Martian volcanoes," said Bleacher. "During these types of eruptions on Earth, the debris may spread so far through the atmosphere and remain so long that it alters the global temperature for years."

After the material is expelled from the eruption, the depression that is left can collapse even further, causing the ground around it to sink. Eruptions like these happened in ages past at what is now Yellowstone National Park in the western United States, Lake Toba in Indonesia and Lake Taupo in New Zealand.

Volcanoes previously had not been identified in the Arabia Terra region of Mars, where Eden Patera is located. The battered, heavily eroded terrain is known for its impact craters. But as Michalski examined this particular basin more closely, he noticed it lacked the typical raised rim of an impact crater. He also could not find a nearby blanket of ejecta, the melted rock that splashes outside the crater when an object hits.

The absence of such key features caused Michalski to suspect volcanic activity. He contacted Bleacher, a volcano specialist, who identified features at Eden Patera that usually indicate volcanism, such as a series of rock ledges that looked like the "bathtub rings" left after a lava lake slowly drains. In addition, the outside of the basin is ringed by the kinds of faults and valleys that occur when the ground collapses because of activity below the surface. The existence of these and other volcanic features in one place convinced the scientists Eden Patera should be reclassified.

The team found a few more candidates for reclassification nearby, suggesting conditions in Arabia Terra may have been favorable for supervolcanoes. It is also possible massive eruptions here could have been responsible for volcanic deposits elsewhere on Mars that have never been linked to a known volcano.

"If just a handful of volcanoes like these were once active, they could have had a major impact on the evolution of Mars," Bleacher said.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the projects operating Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For information about NASA's Mars Odyssey mission, visit:  For information about NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit:

Elizabeth Zubritsky: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

(Editor: Rob Garner:NASA)


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Dukono Volcano Indonesia Eruptiong Causing Plumes to Rise as High as 8,000 Feet

Kathryn Hansen
















April 01, 2016: On March 22, 2016, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of an ash plume from Dukono, a volcano on a remote Indonesian island.

The volcano is frequently active, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program. During the week leading up to this image, the plume reached as high as 2.4 kilometers (8,000 feet) above sea level.

References and Related Reading: Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program (2016, March 22) Dukono. Accessed March 25, 2016.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat Data from the U.S. Geological Survey. . Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

Instrument(s): Landsat 8 - OLI


P: 020416


Geoscience Education Academy: 27–30 July 2016

Studying Geosciences at The Geoscience Education Academy 2015: Image: GSL

With continued support from BP, the Geoscience Education Academy (GEA) offers UK teachers a great opportunity to understand how to teach the Geoscience part of the curriculum if it is not their principal subject, as well as existing Earth science teachers who may need a refresher and some new material.

Some of the objects of interest at the Geoscience Education Academy 2015: Image: GSL

Now in its seventh year, the GEA provides curriculum led training and support for science and geography teachers across the UK. Held at the Geological Society, Burlington House, London, this course is completely FREE to attend with all travel reimbursed and accommodation included.

With training given by experienced teachers/ examiners, the GEA is a fully accredited CPD training course. A complete pack of teaching resources is available to all attendees.

A group discussion at The Geosciece Education Academy 2015: Image: GSL

Dates are now confirmed for the 2016 GEA: Wednesday 27 – Saturday 30 July. Full information will be available soon...!

To register your interest please complete the Application  form and return to Humphrey Knight.


P: 130216


Geomorphic Impact of the Flooding Caused by Tropical Storm

Examples of erosion and deposition in north-central Pennsylvania from Tropical Storm Lee. (A) Extensive gravel bars formed in a disequilibrium zone on lower Fishing Creek. (B) Washed out bridge in upper Muncy Creek. (C) Eroded road along Big Bear Creek, upper Loyalsock Creek watershed. (D) House eroded on a Pleistocene terrace, Loyalsock Creek. Click on the image for a larger version. See the related article by R. Craig Kochel et al..

Boulder, Colo., USA – In their article for Geosphere, R. Craig Kochel and colleagues discuss the geomorphic impact of the flooding caused Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011 on several large watersheds of the Susquehanna River in the Appalachian Plateau region of north-central Pennsylvania. Unlike many Appalachian floods, the physical impacts to channels and floodplains were extensive.

Channel widening (in places >100%) and bank erosion were common, and huge volumes of gravel were transported during the flood. Flood flows resulted in a significant threshold, crossing where channel patterns shifted from single-channel to multi-thread along many reaches.

Kochel and colleagues suggest that part of the reason for such extensive changes from the flood were related to the land-use history of these watersheds. Watershed-scale deforestation occurred in these streams between 1850 and 1920, resulting in hillslope erosion and downstream floodplain sedimentation. In addition, the former multi-thread gravel-bed channel system was altered by the construction of berms, narrowing the active part of the streams to a single channel.

After the logging era, infrastructure (including homes, highways, and farms) was established on the floodplain that was protected by the berms. The 2011 flood breached these berms, aggraded channels with gravel bars to floodplain elevations, and resulted in numerous avulsions and chutes eroded through the insides of meander bends. These changes reconnected the modified single-channel system with its preexisting multi-thread channel system and resulted in extensive damage to highways, bridges, farms, homes, and other infrastructure in the region.

The increased coarse gravel load available to channels is causing rivers to adjust their morphology and return to multi-thread systems where flood flows occupy numerous channels across valley-wide floodplains. Understanding the trajectory of the geomorphic adjustment of streams in this region is critical to making wise management and land-use policy decisions. Watershed managers would find prudence in evaluating fluvial systems on a watershed scale that addresses adjustments in sediment load and discharge produced by natural changes as well as historical land-use practices.

Geomorphic response to catastrophic flooding in north-central Pennsylvania from Tropical Storm Lee (September 2011): Intersection of fluvial disequilibrium and the legacy of logging
R. Craig Kochel et al., Dept. of Geology & Environmental Geosciences, Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 17837, USA. This article is online.


Posted: January 5, 2016


COP21: How Glacial Melt and Toxic Waste Could Spell Disaster in Kyrgyzstan
Franco Galdini

The Kumtor mine in Kyrgyzstan sits atop two glaciers
© Giulia Bernardi/IRIN

BISHKEK, 2 December 2015 (IRIN) - High in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan Mountains, the twin effects of climate change and gold mining have combined to pose a potential environmental and human health disaster. A melting glacier is feeding a rapidly expanding lake, which experts fear could burst its banks and overrun a mine tailings pond, releasing toxic waste into the region’s water system.

World delegates are now in Paris thrashing out details of a deal to cut emissions to mitigate global warming, which has caused glaciers throughout the world to melt for the past 50 years. Melting icecaps in the poles are causing sea levels to rise, and retreating glaciers in other regions are causing localised flooding in areas along glacier-fed rivers.

A Glacial Lake Outburst Flood can bring more immediate and extreme risks. That’s when rising water in a lake fed by glacial melt breaks through the natural moraine dam, which is made of soil, rock and ice. The frequency of GLOFs has been increasing over the past half century in the Himalayan region, causing the loss of lives and infrastructure.

Due to mining, the prospect of a GLOF at Kyrgyzstan’s Petrov Lake is graver still.

Canada’s Centerra Gold, which is partly owned by the Kyrgyzstan government through a company called Kyrgyzaltyn, runs the biggest open pit gold mine in Central Asia. Centerra does not mine in the Petrov glacier, but it operates on at least two other nearby glaciers at 4,000 meters above sea level. The mine’s tailings pond sits five kilometers below Petrov Lake, which has been expanding rapidly.

A GLOF would wipe out at least part of the tailings pond, spilling cyanide and other chemicals into the Kumtor River, which flows into a water system that millions of people depend on for irrigation, fishing and household use.

William Colgan, a researcher at Toronto’s York University, said Petrov Lake had doubled in size since 1977. As it continues to grow, the moraine dam is coming under increasing water pressure, while melting permafrost within the dam is simultaneously reducing its strength.

“As a tailings pond is located immediately downstream from Petrov Lake, ensuring real-time monitoring… of its stability would be prudent, as would be developing a contingency plan in the event of a partial or full outburst,” Colgan told IRIN.

Warnings ignored?

Kyrgyzaltyn, the state company that owns 33 percent of Centerra, commissioned a British environmental and engineering consulting firm, AMEC Earth and Environmental UK Ltd, to assess the risk and make recommendations. In its 2013 audit, AMEC recommended that Centerra hire an engineering company to suggest and implement options to lower the water level of the glacial lake.

In a follow-up 2014 report that is not publicly available but was obtained by IRIN, AMEC said: “to date, no engineering firm willing to take on the responsibility for the level-lowering works has been found in the country.”

Centerra, which is headquartered in Toronto, said it is taking measures to lower the water level and make sure the lake’s moraine dam does not burst. “Kumtor is lowering the lake level by pumping and is continually monitoring both the lake level and the state of the natural moraine dam,” John Pearson, vice president for investor relations, told IRIN.

However, Kumtor has been pumping water from the lake for years to use in its ore processing operation, but AMEC did not find that to be an adequate measure to mitigate the risk. “AMEC recommends continuing the search for an experienced engineering firm to prepare the design to lower the level of Lake Petrov,” it said in its 2014 report.

Impact on glaciers

Experts say mining activities including Centerra’s practice of dumping waste rock on two other glaciers is causing them to melt at an accelerated rate. The company says it has stopped such dumping, and denies that it contributed to the melting glaciers.

“Kumtor’s impacts on glaciers is immaterial when compared to climate change impacts in the region and across the country,” Centerra said in a 2013 statement.

But experts disagree.

“Kumtor is the largest mining operation interfering with glaciers worldwide,” said Jakub Kronenberg, a researcher at the University of Lodz in Poland. “Its impacts on glaciers are huge in absolute terms.”

He said that other mining operations affecting glaciers to a lesser extent than Kumtor have been met with opposition.

“The best example is Pascua-Lama mine on the Chilean-Argentinian border which has been suspended due to protests against the removal of much smaller glaciers,” Kronenberg told IRIN.

Dumping waste rock has also contaminated water sources and will continue to do so even after the mine shuts down, according to Robert Moran, an expert on water quality issues who has studied the Kumtor mine. The pollution is due to a process known as acid rock drainage, which means waste rocks react to air and water to produce sulphuric acid.

Pearson, of Centerra, denied that acid rock drainage is a problem.

“Studies have demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of the waste rock deposited at site has no acid rock drainage potential,” he said. “Monitoring and evaluation is ongoing and will continue to be a part of closure planning.”

Moran told IRIN he was not reassured by Centerra’s statements.

“Once the mine closes, Kumtor’s contaminated waters will continue to be released into the local ground and surface waters,” he said. “Then the impacts and costs will be left for the citizens of Kyrgyzstan to pay – or to suffer.”

French connection

The climate change discussions going on now at the COP 21 conference in Paris between United Nations member states could have an impact on countries like Kyrgyzstan, which will be greatly affected by glacial melt.

The Central and Eastern Europe Bankwatch Network has been monitoring the Kumtor mine because it receives support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Bankwatch's Central Asia officer Vladlena Martsynkevych noted that Kyrgyzstan’s latest submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change estimated that the country would lose 94 percent of its glaciers by the end of the century.

She told IRIN there was a "high need" to protect the glaciers and “to exclude any additional pressures from economic activities… particularly mining."


Posted: December 11, 2015


The 35th International Geological Congress

Date: 27 August - 04 September 2016

Organised by: The Council for Geoscience, Geological Society of Africa
Venue: International Convention Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

Call for Abstracts

Abstracts invited on - Geoethical perspectives on meeting the resource needs of future generations

South Africa will be hosting the 35th World Cup of Geosciences in 2016, the Prestigious International Geological Congress (IGC) which is held every 4 years and is undoubtedly the most important activity of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

The event will showcase the region’s geoscientific superlatives; world-famous geology and geoheritage together with its geological and scenic wonders. All will be discussed during the scientific debate provided for in an extremely diverse scientific programme of oral and poster presentations, workshops, short courses and business meetings.

The Council for Geoscience, together with the Geological Society of South Africa and other collaborators from academia and industry, currently lead the preparations for the 35th IGC in South Africa. The objectives of the IGC are as follows:

Contribute, in collaboration with and under sponsorship of the IUGS, to the advancement of fundamental and applied research in the geological sciences.

Provide a general assembly of geoscientists spanning a wide range of geoscience disciplines where ideas and information can be freely exchanged.

Emphasise the geological specialities or challenges of the host country or region.
Provide the opportunity, by way of geological excursions, to examine geological problems and features in the field.

Scientific Programme

Main themes:

Geoscience for Society
Geoscience in the Economy
Fundamental Geoscience

Relevant sub-themes and joint session

Resourcing Future Generations

The Geological Society, IAPG, EFG and EuroGeoSurveys are convening a joint session as part of the IUGS initiative on Resourcing Future Generations.
Submission of Abstracts

Abstracts are invited on ‘Geoethical perspectives on meeting the resource needs of future generations’, as part of the‘Resourcing Future Generations’ initaitive. Full details and instructions are at

All abstract submissions must be received by the deadline, 31 January 2016.

Important Dates

31 October 2014 - Deadline for submission of symposia/ workshops/ short courses
April 2015 - Abstract submission opens.
2 November 2015 - Early registration opens (available until 31 May, 2016).
31 January 2016 - Abstract submissions closes.
31 March 2016 - Notification of acceptance or otherwise of abstracts.
31 May 2016 - Close of presenter registration and payment for presenters (oral and poster) or removal from the Congress Programme.
1 June 2016 - Standard registration opens.
27 August 2016 - An premium on-site registration fee will apply to all registrations received on-site.

Visit the Congress Website


P: 270116


Summer Job Opportunities to Work as Geoscientists in the Park

Do you want to work in a National Park this summer?

The Geological Society of America (GSA) is now recruiting applicants for more than 75 Geoscientists-In-the-Parks (GIP) opportunities taking place during summer 2016.


GIP participants have the opportunity to work at a National Park and gain valuable work experience. Participants are paid a minimum of $3,600 stipend, travel allowance, provided housing (or a housing allowance) for the duration of the project, and will be eligible for an AmeriCorps™ education award.


Students and recent graduates who are United States citizens or permanent legal residents with a background in natural resource sciences are eligible for the program.

Application Deadline February 29

Apply online by noon (MST) 29 Feb.

About The Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) Program

GIP was developed by the National Park Service (NPS) Geologic Resources Division (GRD) in 1996. It provides college students and recent graduates 18 – 35 years old with on-the-ground, natural resource, science-based work experience with the National Park Service. This program is run in partnership with the Geological Society of America (GSA) and Environmental Stewards™. GSA advertises the program, recruits qualified candidates, and manages the online application process. Once a candidate is offered a GIP position, Environmental Stewards enrolls them in the program, administers their payments and benefits, and serves as their point of contact throughout the program. Learn more: GIP flyer.

Program Objectives

•Provide on-the-job geoscience and other natural resource science training for college and graduate students and recent graduates 18-35 years old,
•Introduce students and recent graduates to science careers in the National Park Service,
•Build natural resource science technical capacity for parks and central offices, and
•Enhance the public’s understanding of the natural resource sciences.

Park projects may include

•Natural resource research;
•Mapping (geology, plants, animals);
•Assessing geologic hazards;
•Preparing field guides and park resource overviews;
•Assisting in natural resource inventories; and
•Leading interpretive talks or programs for park visitors


P: 140116


Geological Society: 2016 Year of Water

As the Year of Mud at the Geological Society draws to a close, we are looking forward to 2016 – the Year of Water! Themed years are at the heart of the Society’s science strategy, and throughout 2016 we will explore a wide range of water-related geoscience through research conferences, lectures, our education programme and other activities.

An understanding of groundwater and hydrogeology is crucial to addressing a wide range of societal challenges, from securing fresh water supplies and mitigating flood risk to extracting shale gas and other hydrocarbons and safely disposing of our nuclear waste. But water also plays an important role in fundamental geological processes, many of which are the subject of continuing research.

Dewatering is key to the formation of sedimentary rocks. Studying the isotopic signatures of ancient waters and the organisms that were formed in them can help us characterise and understand past environments.
Water affects deep mantle processes, and fuels volcanic eruptions, determining explosivity and propelling eruption columns into the atmosphere.
Water is also at the heart of our efforts to look for life on Mars and elsewhere.

The Year of Water will provide an opportunity to share and debate emerging research, and to communicate to policy-makers and the wider public the vital role of water in how our planet works and how we can live sustainably on it.

The Science Committee of The Geological Society, UK nvites proposals for Geological Society conferences to take place during the Year of Water.

How to submit a proposal


Posted: December 20, 2015



Teachers Learning About Lunar Geology

Kristy Mar, a middle school teacher at J.H. Hull Middle School in Torrance, California, peers through microscope to examine moon rocks encapsulated in clear Lucite. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

A Lunar and Meteorite Disk Certification educator workshop was recently held at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's Office of Education’s Resource Center located at the AERO Institute in Palmdale, California.

Twenty regional teachers participated in a professional development workshop that was presented by Barbie Buckner, education specialist for the center, Maria Chambers, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, education specialist, Peter Merlin, subject matter expert, and education resource center manager Sondra Geddes.

“I loved all of the hands on activities that participants were able to do together," said Debra Bernacchi a fourth grade teacher at Cummings Valley Elementary, Tehachapi, California. "Amazing and quite a humbling feeling to know that I was able to see lunar meteorite samples.”

The workshop featured lunar disks with moon rock and soil samples brought back from the historic Apollo missions encapsulated in clear Lucite. Teachers engaged in hands-on, standards-based activities while learning about accretion, differentiation, cratering and volcanism.

Merlin gave a presentation on meteorites. Additionally, he brought his personal collection of meteorites to show including a sample from the latest meteorite landing in Russia. He also talked about the Rosetta spacecraft's mission to catch a comet.

Elementary teacher Maria Blue, Emblem Academy, Santa Clarita, California, exclaimed, “This was fantastic. The activities and learning opportunities will be something I can use immediately. I have been inspired. Great Job. Thanks for presenting an entertaining and educational workshop.”

With the Lunar and Meteorite Disk Certification, educators can request to borrow the lunar or meteorite disk, for use within their classroom. Equipped with activities, students will have access to view and explore these small portions of these extraterrestrial materials.

“I learned so much and am excited to use these fun ideas in my classroom. Thank you for sharing your passion with me,” said Emily Williams, kindergarten teacher, Emblem Academy, Saugus, California. Bryan Jacobs, a sixth grade teacher at Sequoia Elementary, Shafter, California, added, "This was a fast moving, constantly changing day. The most interesting teacher development I’ve attended.”

Leslie Williams: NASA Armstrong News Chief (Acting) 661-276-3893
( Editor: Monroe Conner: NASA)


Posted: December 9, 2015




















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