Geology

Volcano under Antarctic ice may erupt, accelerate melting

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 17, 2013   View Article

A newly discovered volcano rumbling beneath nearly a mile of ice in Antarctica will almost certainly erupt at some point in the future, according to a new study. Such an event could accelerate the flow of ice into the sea and push up the already rising global sea levels.

When the volcano will blow is unknown, “but it is quite likely” to happen, Amanda Lough, a graduate student in seismology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., told NBC News.

Australia’s sponge effect caused global sea levels to drop, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 19, 2013   View Article

A serendipitous convergence of weather patterns funneled so much water over Australia that normally rising global sea levels actually fell in 2011, according to a new study.

In other words, the rain in Australia stays mainly … out of the ocean.

Unlike other land masses, the soils and topography of Australia are such that the continent acts like a giant sponge, preventing most of the rainfall it receives from quickly running off into the sea.

Fracking and energy exploration connected to earthquakes, say studies

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 11, 2013   View Article

The rivers of water pumped into and out of the ground during the production of natural gas, oil and geothermal energy are causing the Earth to shake more frequently in areas where these industrial activities are soaring, according to a series of studies published today.

While the gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) causes some small quakes, it’s the disposal of wastewater following that process — and many others relating to energy production — that lead to the largest tremors.

“Fortunately, there have been no deaths and damage has been limited to date, but it is obviously of concern to people as we think about the future of the energy economy,” William Ellsworth, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., told NBC News.

Energy future may be swamped in fracking wastewater, scientists warn

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 16, 2013   View Article

The current boom in U.S. natural gas production from glassy shale rock formations is poised to usher in an era of energy independence and could bridge the gap between today’s fossil-fuel age and a clean-energy future. But that future may be swamped in a legacy of wastewater, a new study suggests.

Natural gas production is soaring thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that shoots several million gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart chunks of the glassy rock, freeing trapped gas to escape through cracks and fissures into wells.

An average of 10 percent of this water flows back to the surface within a few weeks of the frack job. The rest is absorbed by the surrounding rock and mixes with briny groundwater, explained Radisav Vidic, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

The science of sinkholes: Common, but rarely catastrophic

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 1, 2013   View Article

A Florida man is missing after an apparent sinkhole opened in his bedroom in the middle of the night, sucking him and his bed deep into the earth. As frightening as it sounds, sinkholes happen all the time, according to geologists. Usually, though, they are slow-motion processes that can take years.

Sinkholes of the sort that swallowed the Florida man form when slightly acidic groundwater dissolves limestone or similar rock that lies beneath the soil creating a large void or cavities. When the overlying ceiling can no longer support the weight of the soil and whatever is on top of it, the earth collapses into the cavity.

Hawaii to suffer most as global sea levels rise, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 21, 2013   View Article

Melting ice in Greenland, Antarctica and elsewhere will push up seas unevenly around the world, according to a new study that finds some of the highest waters will inundate Honolulu, Hawaii.

At the poles, sea levels will actually fall because of the way sea, land and ice interact. For example, the sheer mass of water held in ice in Greenland and Antarctica generates a gravitational field that pulls in the surrounding water. As ice there melts, the gravitational pull weakens and the water is redistributed.

Earth Spun Faster in 2009 Due to Ocean Current?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 22, 2012   View Article

Did it feel like time flew in November 2009? It turns out the days were actually going a wee bit faster for part of that month, according to a team of NASA and European scientists.

Earth spun about 0.1 millisecond faster for a two-week stretch, said study co-author Steven Marcus, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The planet’s speedier spin appears to have been due to a slowdown in an ocean current that whips around Antarctica.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach