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Earth Science Current Events


Hacking Big Oil from a Chinese Restaurant?
April 15, 2014 | New York Times

The New York Times has an article that explains how an unnamed major oil company was hacked by using the website of a nearby Chinese restaurant.


Premium Satellite Prints
April 15, 2014 | MyTopo.com

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We are affiliates of MyTopo and receive a commission on sales.


The Status of Landslide Mapping in the USA?
April 13, 2014 | CNBC

An article on CNBC website explores some of the challenges of producing landslide hazard maps for the United States.


Slow-Moving Landslide in Wyoming
April 13, 2014 | Jackson Hole News and Guide

A slow-moving landslide in Jackson, Wyoming has prompted the evacuation of numerous homes and shut down a Walgreens store.

Related: Landslide incidence map


Watching the Total Lunar Eclipse
April 13, 2014 | National Geographic

National Geographic has an article that explains how to watch the total lunar eclipse that will occur overnight on April 14-15.


Possible Exomoon Found
April 13, 2014 | NASA

NASA-funded researchers have spotted the first signs of an “exomoon,” and though they say it’s impossible to confirm its presence, the finding is a tantalizing first step toward locating others. The discovery was made by watching a chance encounter of objects in our galaxy, which can be witnessed only once.


LED Bulb Prices and Efficiency
April 13, 2014 | Energy Information Administration

The Energy Information Administration shows that the efficiency of LED light bulbs is increasing as prices are rapidly falling.


Bottled Water: A Geological Product?
April 13, 2014 | Geology.com

Although much of the bottled water sold in stores is nothing more than expensive tap water, some of it is actually a geological product such as: mineral water, ground water, artesian water, spring water, sparkling water…


South Korea Energy Report
April 13, 2014 | Energy Information Administration

“South Korea relies on imports to meet about 97% of its energy demand as a result of insufficient domestic resources, and the country is one of the world’s leading energy importers.” Quoted from the Energy Information Administration report.


California Snow Pack is Low and Why That’s a Problem
April 13, 2014 | Slate.com

California already has drought problems, but mountain snowpacks in the state are really low this spring and that will prevent reservoirs from filling. Since melting snowpack is a major contributor to California’s water there will likely be more water shortages this summer unless more rail falls.


First Geothermal Plant in New Mexico
April 13, 2014 | KOB4

KOB4 has a short report on Lightning Dock Geothermal, the first geothermal plant to open in the state of New Mexico.


A Scientist’s Life
April 13, 2014 | Scripps

Scripps Institution of Oceanography features Lihini Aluwihare: “In my field I’m called an organic geochemist. In a very basic sense, I’m using molecules to tell a story about the processes on Earth that involve organisms. If you think about the number of different molecules that are on Earth most of them are organic, meaning they were made by organisms. My interest lies in trying to understand those molecules and what their structure tells us about the processes that have acted on them.”


Future of the Haynesville Shale?
April 13, 2014 | TheAdvertiser.com

Natural gas drilling activity in the Haynesville Shale was booming in 2010 but has fallen significantly since then. The fall occurred as natural gas prices fell from $12 down to $2. Companies started drilling there with a high income assumption. After the price fall, drillers could make more money drilling liquid and oil-rich plays because the revenue there was greater. They Haynesville still holds lots of gas and drilling will increase when prices increase.


NASA image.
Monitoring Sacramento River Levees with Radar?
April 10, 2014 | NASA

“In the Sacramento River delta north of San Francisco Bay, islands, agricultural lands and communities below sea level are protected from surrounding water channels by more than 1,100 miles of dirt levees, many of which date back to the California Gold Rush.” NASA now has a method to monitor them using radar. Quote from the NASA press release.


Rare Earths in Seafloor Nodules Off Bermuda?
April 10, 2014 | Bermuda's The Royal Gazette

Some mineral experts say that Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone has a rich resource of polymetallic nodules that are rich in rare earth elements.

Related: What are Rare Earth Elements?


Image by Sir Charles Lyell
Military Armor Inspired by Twinning in Mollusk Shells?
April 10, 2014 | MIT News

“The shells of a sea creature, the mollusk Placuna placenta, are not only exceptionally tough, but also clear enough to read through. Now, researchers at MIT have analyzed these shells to determine exactly why they are so resistant to penetration and damage — even though they are 99 percent calcite, a weak, brittle mineral.”


Burning Marcellus Gas in Ontario
April 10, 2014 | BizJournals

About 30 percent of the natural gas used in the Province of Ontario, Canada is produced from the Marcellus Shale.


New USGS Topo Maps of Utah
April 10, 2014 | United States Geological Survey

USGS announced that they have published new topographic maps and orthophoto images for the state of Utah in pdf format. A small sample of the Moab quad is shown below. If you want to see it full size in a pdf document click here (28 megabytes).


The Contraction of Mercury
April 10, 2014 | Carnegie Institution for Science

“Unlike Earth, with its numerous tectonic plates, Mercury has a single rigid, top rocky layer. [...] New global imaging and topographic data from MESSENGER show that the innermost planet has contracted far more than previous estimates.” Quoted from the Carnegie Institution for Science press release.


Will Yellowstone Erupt in Our Lifetime?
April 10, 2014 | National Science Foundation

“Yellowstone is like a conveyer belt of caldera clusters,” he says. “By investigating the patterns of behavior in two previously completed caldera cycles, we can suggest that the current activity of Yellowstone is on the dying cycle.”

Related: The Volcano Beneath Yellowstone


What is Causing the Oklahoma Earthquakes?
April 10, 2014 | ThinkProgress

During 2013 the state of Oklahoma experienced 109 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher. Already this year the state has equaled that number. Some people blame wastewater injection.

The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas is also experiencing a number of earthquakes.


South Dakota Sand and Fracking Specs
April 10, 2014 | WashingtonTimes.com

The South Dakota Department of Environmental and Natural Resources conducted a study on 256 sand samples collected from the western part of the state to determine if they could be developed as frac sand sources for use in wells that use hydraulic fracturing in North Dakota’s Bakken formation.

Related: What is Frac Sand?


Satellite Data and Corn Belt Productivity
April 10, 2014 | NASA

“Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to NASA and university scientists.” Quoted from the NASA press release.


Pittsburgh: Landslide Capital of the East
April 8, 2014 | WTAE News

WTAE News has a video report on a large landslide, with a chute about 100 yards wide on the side of Mount Washington. Pittsburgh has lots of landslides because it is a city flanked by steep river valley walls, lots of precipitation and weak red shales forming much of the bedrock.

Related: Landslide Incidence Map


Spending a Billion Dollars on CO2?
April 8, 2014 | Arizona Geology Blog

Kinder Morgan is going to spend about one billion dollars to drill for carbon dioxide in Arizona, treat the gas, compress it, send it through a new pipeline to oil fields in Texas and New Mexico, and pump into the ground for enhanced oil recovery. One billion dollars for CO2!


Large Dams Cost Too Much!
April 8, 2014 | International Rivers

An Oxford University study reports that large dams typically require about 8 years for construction and have average cost overruns of nearly 100%. By the time they are finished the needs of their region have often changed and the unanticipated expenses might make the total cost too high.


Using Unmanned Aircraft to Survey Polar Ice
April 8, 2014 | National Science Foundation

“Scientists studying the behavior of the world’s ice sheets–and the future implications of ice sheet behavior for global sea-level rise–may soon have a new airborne tool that will allow radar measurements that previously would have been prohibitively expensive or difficult to carry out with manned aircraft.” Quoted from the National Science Foundation press release.


Petrochemical Exports Could Double
April 8, 2014 | ChemWeek.com

Stephen Pryor, President of ExxonMobil Chemical, believes that “US exports of polyethylene, polypropylene, and para-xylene, three of the largest primary petrochemical products, could double by 2025 thanks to shale gas.” Quoted from ChemWeek.com.


The Largest Petroleum Basin in the World
April 8, 2014 | USGS

“The West Siberian basin is the largest petroleum basin in the world covering an area of about 2.2 million square kilometers. The basin occupies a swampy plain between the Ural Mountains and the Yenisey River.” Quoted from the USGS report.


Total Lunar Eclipse: April 15
April 8, 2014 | NASA on YouTube.com

There will be four lunar eclipses between now and September 28, 2015. The first will be a total eclipse on April 15, 2014. It will be visible over much of the United States.

April 15, 2014
October 8, 2014
April 4 2015
September 28, 2015


Extreme Ice Survey at Antarctica Peninsula
April 8, 2014 | National Geographic

National Geographic has an article and video titled: “Chasing Ice Photographer Focuses on Melting Glaciers in Antarctica”…. they bolt nine time lapse cameras to bedrock overlooking glaciers and photograph them every hour during daylight.


Qatar LNG Profits in Jeopardy?
April 8, 2014 | Bloomberg

Although Qatar is currently the largest exporter of liquified natural gas in the world, its natural gas profits could be slashed as Australia, the United States, east African nations, Indonesia and several other countries enter or step into the LNG export business.

If Qatar’s profits are threatened, what is going to happen to United States companies who plan to export natural gas and have a transportation disadvantage?

Related: What is LNG?


LNG from Eastern Russia
April 8, 2014 | Reuters

Rosneft, the world’s largest oil company on the basis of output, and ExxonMobil are working on a plant to produce LNG in eastern Russia. They hope to ship the first LNG in 2018.


Antelope Canyon
April 8, 2014 | Weather Channel

The Weather Channel has a short video about Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona.

“Antelope Canyon is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. It is located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona.” Quote from Wikipedia.


1.1 Million BPD from the Bakken – Three Forks
April 7, 2014 | Washington Post

The Bakken and Three Forks Formations are expected to produce about 1.1 million barrels of oil per day during 2014.


Marcellus Shale in Wireline Logs
April 7, 2014 | USGS

USGS has published: “Characterization of the Marcellus Shale Based on Computer-Assisted Correlation of Wireline Logs in Virginia and West Virginia“.


Washington Landslide: USGS Summary
April 7, 2014 | USGS

USGS has published a summary observations on the large landslide near Oso, Washington.

“The slide took place along the edge of a plateau about 600 feet high composed of glacial sediments. The volume of the slide is estimated to be about 10 million cubic yards, and it traveled about 0.7 miles from the toe of the slope. This travel distance is about three times longer than expected based on published information regarding previous slides of this height and volume worldwide. If the landslide had behaved in the expected range, it would have likely blocked the river and possibly destroyed a few houses. Instead it led to tragic loss of life and destruction of property.” Quoted from the USGS summary.


Trailing the Canaries
April 7, 2014 | NASA Earth Observatory

A NASA Earth Observatory image titled: “Trailing the Canaries” has been voted the winner of the Tournament Earth contest.

“The play of light on water can reveal overlooked details and nuances to photographers and artists on Earth. The same thing can happen when looking from space. In June 2013, sunglint revealed wind and wave patterns in the wake of the Canary Islands.” Quoted from the contest results.


Volcano Report for Peru and Chile
April 6, 2014 | Eruptions Blog

Erik Klemetti posts an update on recent activity at Ubinas Volcano in Peru. In addition, some people have expressed concern about the recent magnitude 8.2 earthquake triggering an eruption at one of several nearby volcanos, Erik comments on these concerns plus, in another post, on the recent earthquake at Yellowstone.


USGS photo from the 2006 eruption.
Activity at Tungurahua
April 6, 2014 | Sidney Mornig Herald

Tungurahua Volcano in Ecuador has been active since February, producing explosions and columns of ash.

In 2006 six people were killed and a village was destroyed by the volcano.


Photo Gallery: Ruby Falls Cave
April 6, 2014 | Weather Channel

The Weather Channel has a photo gallery that offers 21 views of Ruby Falls Cave in Tennessee. Several of the photos feature Ruby Falls, the largest and deepest waterfall open to the public in the United States.


Whale Dives 3km Deep and Stays Down for Over 2 Hours
April 6, 2014 | BBC

BBC has a story about beaked whales that reports on one that dove nearly 3 kilometers deep and remained submerged for over two hours.


Using US Energy as a Political Lever?
April 6, 2014 | Houston Chronicle

“The Ukraine-Russia crisis has Congress and the Obama administration rushing to consider monumental changes to accelerate exports of natural gas that will permanently and negatively affect the energy landscape for natural gas domestically.” Quoted from the Houston Chronicle. (Many people will disagree with this article both from a political and economic perspective. An different view can be found here and a dual perspective here.)

Related: What is LNG?


2001 Recommendations for the Oso Slide Area
April 6, 2014 | Yahoo! News

In 2001, a report on the area near the Oso Landslide gave three recommendations for reducing the hazard to people and property. These included moving the river about 500 feet from the base of the risky slope (to reduce eroding support from the slope) to moving the river about 2000 feet (which would have required moving many of the homes destroyed by the slide).


Building Codes Saved Lives in Chile
April 6, 2014 | CNN

An article on the CNN website explains how building codes saved lives in the recent magnitude 8.2 earthquake in Chile.


Indonesia Oil and Gas Report
April 6, 2014 | Energy Information Administration

“Formerly a net oil exporter and OPEC member, Indonesia struggles to attract sufficient investment to meet growing domestic energy consumption because of inadequate infrastructure and a complex regulatory environment. At the same time, it was the world’s largest exporter of coal by weight in 2012 and the fourth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in 2013. The government seeks to meet energy demand at home by reorienting domestic energy production away from serving primarily export markets and increasing renewable energy production, particularly geothermal power.” Quoted from the Energy Information Administration publication release.


US Shale Gas Influences Global LNG Price?
April 6, 2014 | BizJournals

“New global contracts for liquefied natural gas in Africa and Asia are being driven by shale gas production in Texas and other top U.S. shale plays.” Quoted from the Houston BizJournal.


The Benefits of Crude Oil Exports?
April 6, 2014 | Oil and Gas Journal

An article in the Oil and Gas Journal, based upon a study done for the American Petroleum Institute, counts the potential benefits of crude oil exports.


Stone Spheres of Costa Rica
April 6, 2014 | Weather Channel

In the 1930′s a fruit company was clearing farmland on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. During their work hundreds of stone spheres up to two meters in diameter were discovered. They are thought to have been made over 1000 years ago and their makers and the methods used to make them are unknown. It would be really hard and costly to make spheres like these today. Imagine what it would have been like 1000 years ago.


Missouri Geosciences Technical Resource Assessment Tool
April 3, 2014 | Missouri Geological Survey

The Missouri Geological Survey has recently launched a new online tool called the Missouri Geosciences Technical Resource Assessment Tool. GeoSTRAT is a web application that makes geologic and hydrologic data readily available for public use. GeoSTRAT enables users to easily visualize and explore geospatial data using an interactive map developed on an Esri and Google platform to allow 3D viewing of the land surface. Data can be downloaded in formats compatible with a variety of free and commercial mapping software and includes layers such as geology, bedrock elevation, water wells, sinkholes, historic mine locations, caves, springs, dye traces, well logs, aquifers, losing streams and a host of other coverages and associated metadata. GeoSTRAT can be used in the office or in the field for site assessments in areas such as geologic hazards, geotechnical consulting and engineering, emergency response, local and regional planning, water availability and a multitude of other purposes.


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frac sandFrac Sand is a high-purity silica sand used in hydraulic fracturing to enhance the flow of oil and gas from tight rock units.
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Canada diamond minesCanada Diamond Mines: Canada is the third largest producer of gem-quality diamonds in the world.
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Green River fossilsSpectacular Fossils of the Green River Formation. Some of the world's best-preserved fossil fish from an intermountain lake.
OpalOpals: Gem quality opal is one of the most spectacular gemstones. A single stone can flash with every color of the spectrum.
NovaruptaMost Powerful Eruption of the 20th Century: People in Juneau heard the volcanic blast - over one hour after it occurred.
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