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february 2012

Listening for gas bubbles

Passive acoustic technology detects natural gas leaks and seeps

In recent decades, active acoustic surveys have been used to detect methane seeps and gas hydrates — deposits of crystalline solids consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, surrounded by a cage of water molecules — buried under the seafloor.

27 Feb 2012

AAG: Eruption of El Salvador's Ilopango explains A.D. 536 cooling

El Salvador’s Lake Ilopango, near the capital city of San Salvador, is known for boating, diving and the rugged, scenic beauty of its 100 meter-tall cliffs --- the lip of the caldera that holds the lake. However, 1,500 years ago, it may have been the site of one of the most horrific natural disasters in the world. It may also be the long-sought cause of the extreme climate cooling and crop failures of A.D. 535-536, reported Robert A.

25 Feb 2012

Down to Earth With: Geologist Kyle House

Kyle House, a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Geology and Geophysics Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., gravitated to scenery at a young age when he moved from Oklahoma to western Washington and beheld the Cascade Range for the first time. He learned that rocks and landscapes can tell fascinating stories, and he developed a passion for explaining the events that shape them. While earning degrees in the geosciences, he became attuned to the value of collaboration. Any scientist working in isolation can tell only an incomplete version of a phenomenon or event, he says.

24 Feb 2012

Gold, lead and death in Nigeria

Geology, economics and culture culminate in a perfect storm with deadly results

20 Feb 2012

Energy Notes: October 2010-2011

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

19 Feb 2012

Mineral Resource of the Month: Boron

Elemental boron is a metalloid that has limited commercial applications. But boron compounds, chiefly borates, are commercially important; therefore, boron products are priced and sold based on their boric oxide content, varying by ore and compound and by the absence or presence of calcium and sodium. Four borate minerals — colemanite, kernite, tincal and ulexite — make up 90 percent of the borates used by industry worldwide.

13 Feb 2012

CryoScoop: Two-decade Antarctic drilling effort complete

Valery Lukin, director of the Russian Antarctic program, confirmed today that a team of Russian scientists has completed an Antarctic drilling project two decades in the making, according to the Associated Press. The team finished drilling on Feb. 5 through 3.25 kilometers of ice to reach Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake in the world.

07 Feb 2012

Unearthing Antarctica's mysterious mountains

In 1958, geologists discovered a mountain range buried more than a kilometer beneath the East Antarctica Ice Sheet. For more than half a century, the origins of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains have proven to be a geological puzzle, but a new study may have finally solved the enigma, and simultaneously given geologists a new understanding of mountain-building processes.

07 Feb 2012

Benchmarks: February 7, 2009: Deadliest day of fire ever recorded in Australia

On Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, John Brumby, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, warned the public of the high risk of wildfires that weekend: “It’s just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow.” He was right. The next day, more than a dozen major fires and hundreds of smaller ones tore across the region, fueled by record temperatures and high winds. The so-called Black Saturday fires released more energy than 1,500 Hiroshima bombs, according to one fire expert. Together, the fires cost billions in damage and killed 173 people — the deadliest day of fires recorded in Australia.
06 Feb 2012

Visiting Virunga's gorillas

Every day, Virunga rangers bring up to eight visitors to see one of six semi-habituated gorilla families. Hikers stumble through dense jungle along a narrow path forged with machetes, warding off excruciating fire ant attacks and trying to avoid stinging nettle. My traveling companion Frances can attest to the horror of the fire ants. When we visited the gorillas after hiking the volcano, she stepped on an ant mound. It took three of us 20 minutes to pick off all the ants, some an inch long with pincers up to a third the length of their bodies. Some East African communities, including the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, use them as natural sutures.

04 Feb 2012