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Massive earthquake strikes Chile

A massive magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 95 kilometers north of Iquique on Tuesday night at 6:46 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Because the quake occurred underwater along a thrust fault in the subduction zone, a tsunami warning was issued for several cities along the Chilean coast and around the Pacific Basin. A 2.1-meter wave was reported in some Chilean cities. Preliminary reports indicate several deaths and some damage; power is out in many areas and landslides have also been recorded, according to news reports. So far, widespread destruction — which could easily accompany such a large quake — has thankfully not been reported.  The quake followed weeks of increased seismic activity, including dozens of earthquakes up to magnitude-6.7 that have struck since March 16. It is now clear these were foreshocks. 

01 Apr 2014

Bare Earth Elements: Mars rocks wear manganese coats

Several rocks on the surface of Mars are coated with distinctive dark-colored surface layers enriched in manganese that, while sharing similarities with manganese-rich rock varnish found on Earth, do not appear to be varnish themselves based on differences in trace element levels, according to new research presented Wednesday by Nina Lanza of Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

19 Mar 2014

Sudden gas eruption shakes the ground near Rome's airport

On Aug. 24, 2013, visitors arriving at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, located in the Fiumicino municipality, flew over a surprising hazard: a gas emission that suddenly exploded from the ground a few meters outside the airport compound. The expulsion, referred to as the Fiumicino Gas Vent (FGV), occurred about 15 kilometers southwest of Rome and was first noticed by passing motorists. Shortly after the explosion, scientists sought  to determine the gas’ makeup and whether it posed a continuing danger.

03 Mar 2014

GPS measurements of ground inflation help forecast ash plumes

When Grimsvötn Volcano in Iceland erupted in May 2011, northern European airspace was closed for seven days and about 900 passenger flights were canceled. Scientists were charged with trying to read the volcano — to tell how high the ash plume would go and to figure out how long the violent eruption would last. Such features are hard to predict, but in a novel study, one research team has found a correlation between the height and composition of the Grimsvötn ash plume and ground deformation before and during the eruption. The findings, the team says, could improve volcanic plume dispersion models, which in turn could help air traffic managers determine when and where it’s safe to fly when volcanoes like Grimsvötn and Eyjafjallajökull suddenly erupt.

20 Feb 2014

Bare Earth Elements: EARTH's Top 10 online stories of 2013 ... (Yes, it's a list)

Although there have been a lot of “best of 2013” and "year-in-review" lists posted recently, there haven’t been many focusing specifically on stories the geosciences. EARTH's staff hopes you find time to enjoy one more list with this quick look back at some of our popular pieces from the past year.

31 Dec 2013

Bare Earth Elements: AGU 2013 wrap-up

It’s back to the office this week for several EARTH staffers, including myself, who attended the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week in search of interesting story ideas and fascinating folks in geosciences that we might cover in upcoming issues. With more than 20,000 participants, 7,000 research talks and invited speeches, and 14,000 posters, along with numerous other activities, there was plenty of potential material, and we spent some long days absorbing as much we could. For now, here are a few highlights of AGU 2013.

17 Dec 2013

In or Out? Has Voyager left the solar system?

San Francisco - There is a possibility that Voyager, the U.S. spacecraft launched in 1977, which is thought to have left the heliosphere and entered interstellar space last year, could still be "inside," said Ed Stone, Voyager project chief scientist, today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

09 Dec 2013

Bare Earth Elements: IceCube observatory spurs "dawn of new age" in astronomy

The main purpose of the world’s largest neutrino observatory — the $270-million IceCube project — is to detect and hopefully identify the as-yet-only-theorized sources of exceptionally high-energy subatomic neutrinos that stream through space. In a new study, the members of the project, comprising about 250 scientists, laid out their case showing that the first of those goals — detection — has been accomplished. They detailed 28 detection events of neutrinos ranging in energy from about 30 tera-electronvolts (TeV) to 1.14 peta-electronvolts (PeV) — far higher than for any neutrinos previously observed — and suspected of having originated outside the solar system in violent phenomena like quasars and gamma ray bursts.

25 Nov 2013

Corals find a way to adapt?

Temperature records indicate that ocean waters started to warm shortly after industrial revolution, about the turn of the 20th century. In the past few decades, corals around the world have become endangered because of rising water temperatures. However, a new study suggests that corals may be able to adapt to some of that warming.

14 Nov 2013

Hydrological models locate ancient human migration routes

Archaeologists and geologists have long hypothesized that major river systems flowed north through the Sahara Desert about 100,000 years ago. These rivers would have provided a sort of network of “green corridors” across the Sahara that early humans could have traversed as they migrated out of Africa. Ancient lake records, fossil river systems, and radioisotope data have offered evidence for the existence of flowing water in the region.

01 Nov 2013