“It's a mineral, Marie!” Read the rest
Satellite data from the European Space Agency have revealed that the Earth’s magnetic poles are weakening, and doing so faster than scientists previously thought.
From Mysterious Universe:
Chris Finlay, one of the researchers with the ESA, says that this new data is groundbreaking in terms of how much it reveals about Earth’s magnetic field: "Swarm data are now enabling us to map detailed changes in Earth’s magnetic field, not just at Earth’s surface but also down at the edge of its source region in the core. Unexpectedly, we are finding rapid localized field changes that seem to be a result of accelerations of liquid metal flowing within the core."
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Although invisible, the magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable effects on our everyday lives.
The field can be thought of as a huge bubble, protecting us from cosmic radiation and electrically charged atomic particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. However, it is in a permanent state of flux.
Landsat imagery of the Ucayali river in Peru shows it meandering over a period of several years; an oxbow lake forms, islands grow and fade in the channel, and a smaller river is "eaten" at the top left. [Hindered Settling, via]
P.S. Looks like it might be a bad idea to build houses on flood plains. Read the rest
"Fordite" is an anthropocenic mineral "formed from the built up of layers of enamel paint slag on tracks and skids on which cars were hand spray-painted (a now automated process), which have been baked numerous times. In recent times the material has been recycled as eco-friendly jewelry." (via JWZ) Read the rest
A crack in the Earth almost a kilometer long opened in Wyoming—and no-one was around to see it happen. CBS Local reports that the fissure was likely the result of landslides over a period of two weeks.
The size is estimated at 750 yards long by 50 yards wide.
Randy Becker, a hunter who saw the crack and took some pictures, was surprised to see it, “I was stunned. The magnitude of this shift in earth is dramatic. It blows you away to see it.”
NBC News has this incredible shot of it from the sky:
The Washington Post reports that the mysterious hole has opened nervous questions about fearsome regional megavolcanoes. Experts, however, say it's NBD.
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According to the SNS, locals have been referring to the newly formed trench as “the gash.” Others simply call it “the crack.” Photos from the crevasse reveal steep cliffs, massive earthen towers and large boulders strewn across the bottom.
The gash’s size was impressive, but so was the speed at which it formed. Social media users speculated that the formation represented an impending volcanic eruption or an earthquake, but experts were quick to allay their fears.
On its Facebook page last week, SNS provided an update about what might have caused the ground to split open:
Since so many people have commented and asked questions, we wanted to post an update with a little more information. An engineer from Riverton, WY came out to shed a little light on this giant crack in the earth.
Nearly everyone in the US depends on food crops grown in California, so farmers must continue to pull what little water remains in underground aquifers. This is causing the state to actually sink. It's been sinking for decades, but the problem is getting worse. Reveal News writes, "Last summer, scientists recorded the worst sinking in at least 50 years. This summer, all-time records are expected across the state as thousands of miles of land in the Central Valley and elsewhere sink."
As a result, the "sinking is starting to destroy bridges, crack irrigation canals and twist highways across the state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey."
Later this month, scientists will set explosive charges on Mount St Helens as part of an effort to study the seismic geology of the Pacific Northwest. Read the rest
After a peaceful nap three decades long, Mauna Loa seems to be stirring. "While there are no signs of impending eruption, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has recorded an increased level of seismic activity on the flanks and summit of Mauna Loa over the past 13 months," reports Big Island Now. "Four distinct earthquake swarms — clusters of earthquakes occurring closely in time and location — have occurred since March 2013."
Mauna Loa is "one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi in the Pacific Ocean, [and] the largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, historically considered the largest volcano on Earth."
From a Wired Science blog post by Erik Klemetti, assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University.
As of right now, there is little evidence of deformation or increasing carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide emissions from Mauna Loa — all key signs that an eruption might be about to start at a shield volcano like Mauna Loa. HVO also notes that the earthquake activity is much less intense now that it was in the years just prior to the 1984 activity. Remember, lava flows from Mauna Loa are definitely a hazard for people living between the volcano and Hilo and Hawaii has been preparing for the volcano’s awakening. Nothing is going on right now, but you can get quite a view from the webcams set up at the Mokuʻāweoweo summit area.
The Darvaza gas crater, known to locals as "Door to Hell" or "Gates of Hell" is located in the Karakum Desert of central Turkmenistan (about 150 miles from the nation's capital). Read the rest
Sometimes before an earthquake, strange bright orbs and glows are seen in the sky, like the scene visible in this video clip captured a half hour before the 2008 quake in Sichuan, China. You might think these are related to the UFOs that cause the quakes, but new research not only suggests a natural cause but also raises the possibility that the phenomena could be an indicator that a quake is coming. The scientists from Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and San Jose State University suggest that rocks under high stress deep underground release oxygen ions that eventually make their way to the surface, ionizing air pockets above ground and creating a light-emitting plasma.
“If you see visible lights in the sky, and you live in an earthquake-prone area, they might be an early-warning sign that an earthquake is approaching,” geologist Robert Thériault says.
More in Smithsonian: "Why Do Lights Sometimes Appear in the Sky During An Earthquake?" Read the rest
Image: Tom Pfeiffer/Volcano Discovery
Sicily's Mount Etna volcano is currently erupting. The series of explosions began on October 26, but on November 11, the mountain did something rare and nifty. Over the course of several hours it blew out dozens of perfect smoke rings, each hundreds of feet in diameter, including the one pictured here.
It's not the first time Etna has done this. Nobody knows exactly how the rings form, but people have been photographing smoke rings coming from Etna since at least 1970. Volcanologist and tour guide Tom Pfeiffer took this picture, as well as several others that you can see at his Volcano Discovery website. He suspects that the smoke rings are formed when eruptions alter the shape of volcanic vents. Read the rest
This image shows magnetic anomalies in the South Pacific — underwater lines where the crust of the Earth either matches up with the planet's overall magnetic polarity (reds and purples) or is completely reversed (blues). Invisible to the naked eye, these stripes run along all of Earth's ocean basins. We first noticed them in the 1950s and, at first, they were a giant mystery. Why would there be these distinct lines of magnetism, and why would the lines fluctuate in their polarity? As Chris Rowan explains at the Highly Allochthonous blog, the answer ended up being a key part of proving that chunks of the Earth's crust were moving away from each other.
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Fred Vine and Drummond Matthews thought through the consequences of the hypothesis put forward by Harry Hess, that new oceanic crust was being continuously produced by the eruption of basalt at mid-ocean ridges. When combined with the facts that newly cooled basalt has a strong remanent magnetisation aligned with the ambient magnetic field, and that the Earth’s magnetic field reverses its polarity every million years or so. Vine and Matthews* argued that if seafloor spreading was indeed occurring at mid-ocean ridges, then linear positive and negative magnetic anomalies, formed from crust produced in normal and reversed polarity chrons, would form a symmetric pattern around the mid-ocean ridges, which is exactly what we see.