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Earth Happenings Archive
January, 2001
Mars Global Surveyor completes mapping mission
(AP, via CNN.com 1/31)
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor is close to finishing its main mission, after having gathered tens of thousands of images of the red planet.

Scientists hope to save lives with lessons from Montserrat
(AP, via CNN.com 1/31)
Scientists have learned a lot from the Soufriere Hills volcano in the five years it has been erupting, destroying life and property -- lessons they hope will save lives in the future.

Texas A geologist seeks ways to squeeze more oil from mature fields
(EurekAlert 1/31)
When he says "it's good to the last drop," Wayne Ahr isn't talking about his morning coffee. Research by this Texas A University professor aims to squeeze some of the last remaining drops of oil out of mature fields, potentially gaining needed energy reserves from sources drillers thought were used up.

Mount Rainier Menaces
(AP, via CBSNews.com 1/31)
An eruption of Mount Rainier in Washington state could release a deadly torrent of mud and rock on populated areas west of the still-active volcano, U.S. government scientists say.
About 30,000 people live in the potential path of the mudflow in the Puyallup River Valley, though no major cities would be in danger.

The Eastern U.S. Keeps Its Cool While The World Warms
(Science Daily 1/31)
Much of the Earth has warmed over the last half-century, but the eastern half of the United States has shown a cooling trend. NASA-funded research indicates cooler temperatures in the eastern U.S. are caused by an increase in sun-shielding clouds produced by warmer ocean temperatures in the Pacific.

Southern U.S. Faces Drought
(EarthAlert 1/31)
La Nia, the weather pattern blamed from severe droughts in the southern U.S., may be gone but the region faces a new enemy with a look-alike and potentially longer lasting successor, a leading weather expert said on Tuesday.

Glitches In The Earth's Wobble Help Geophysicists Probe The Planet's Core
(Science Daily 1/30)
Millimeter deviations from the expected wobble of the Earth's axis are giving geophysicists clues to what happens 1,800 miles underground, at the boundary between the Earth's mantle and its iron core.

Ancient Coral Reef Record Gives History Of El Nio
(Science Daily 1/30)
Using pieces of ancient coral reefs as windows on the history of climate, geologists have discovered that at no time in the past 130,000 years does the weather phenomenon known as El Nio appear to have been as intense as it has in the last century.

NASA's IMAGE Spacecraft Reveals Earth's Invisible Magnetic Tail
(Science Daily 1/29)
The first large-scale pictures of the hidden machinations of the Earth's magnetic force-field are now available, including confirmation of a suspected but previously invisible "tail" of electrified gas. The tail, which streams from Earth towards the Sun, was spotted by NASA's Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft and is featured on the cover of the Jan. 26 issue of the journal Science.

The Richter Scale: What It Is And What It Measures
(Reuters 1/28)
Most people have heard of the Richter scale -- the measure of the strength of an earthquake -- but what does it really measure and what does it mean?

Societal Collapse Driven by Abrupt Climate Change, Not Social, Economic and Political Forces, Yale Anthropologist Reports in New Study
(Yale University 1/25)
Contrary to common beliefs, societal collapses of the past have been caused by sudden climate change, not only by social, political and economic factors, Yale anthropologist Harvey Weiss reports in a new study published in this week's Science.

Lake Titicaca study sheds new light on global climate change
(EarthAlert 1/25)
Tropical South America has endured alternating periods of heavy rainfall and severe drought during the last 25,000 years, according a new study in the journal Science.

Core samples reveal evidence for a wet Ice-Age South America
(EurekAlert 1/25)
A 25,000-year precipitation record deduced from sediment core samples taken in lofty Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru suggests that, contrary to widely accepted previous analyses, tropical South America may have been wet rather than dry during the last Ice Age and later cold periods, scientists from five universities reported Friday.

Ancient coral reef record gives history of El Nio
(EurekAlert 1/25)
Using pieces of ancient coral reefs as windows on the history of climate, geologists have discovered that at no time in the past 130,000 years does the weather phenomenon known as El Nio appear to have been as intense as it has in the last century.

Meteorite Helps to Explain Mars Water Puzzle
(Reuters 1/24)
Mineral grains from a Martian meteorite ejected from the red planet 175 million years ago are giving scientists new clues about water on the planet.

Bizarre new predatory dinosaur unearthed on Madagascar
(EurekAlert 1/24)
Fossilized remains of a small and bizarre predatory (or theropod) dinosaur were recently recovered on the island of Madagascar...These fossils, which date to the Late Cretaceous period (about 65-70 million years ago), represent a dinosaur new to science, dubbed Masiakasaurus knopfleri. (See additional stories from the National Science Foundation and ABC News, which reports that the species name was in honor of rock musician Mark Knopfler, singer-songwriter of the rock band Dire Straits.)

U.S. scientists, colleagues solve volcanic mystery, learn tears occur in vast plates
(EurekAlert 1/24)
Working on volcanoes in the remote province of Kamchatka in easternmost Russia, U.S., Russian and German geologists believe they have solved a long-standing mystery about volcanoes ringing the Pacific Ocean.
The question has been why analysis of hardened lava there, also on Adak Island in Alaska's Aleutian chain and elsewhere around the globe reveals a chemical makeup different from what researchers predict it should be.

Scientists Make Rain In Mexico
(Science Daily 1/24)
Producing more rain by seeding clouds may no longer be wishful thinking. After many failed attempts by scientists to duplicate cloud-seeding experiments that appeared to have worked in the past, a team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) believes it has finally succeeded in increasing rainfall in existing storm clouds and quantifying the results. The findings are being presented this week at the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting in Albuquerque.

Horizontal Strain Critical To Characterizing Aquifer Properties And To Understanding Land Subsidence
(Science Daily 1/24)
To understand how subsidence and fissures result from pumping aquifers, scientists and engineers need to measure horizontal as well as vertical strain, geologists have now demonstrated.

U.N. Commits To Global Warming Fight
(Associated Press, via CBS News 1/23)
Setting the stage for new talks on climate change, the head of the U.N. Environment Program called Tuesday for more concerted action to fight global warming, saying fresh evidence proves temperatures are rising quicker than expected.

Fore nsic Seismology Provides Clues To Kursk Disaster
(Science Daily 1/23)
The explosions that sank the Russian submarine Kursk on August 12, 2000, triggered shock waves that were recorded by a network of seismic stations in the Baltic region and beyond. Now, forensic seismologists have used these data to reconstruct the disaster. Writing in the January 23 issue of EOS, the weekly newspaper of the American Geophysical Union, Keith D. Koper and Terry C. Wallace of the University of Arizona and Steven R. Taylor and Hans E. Hartse of the Los Alamos National Laboratory report that, based on their analysis of seismograms, explosions, not impact, caused the Kursk to sink with the loss of all crew members.

Computers Predict Tsunami: NOAA Scientists See Big Wave in West Coast's Future
(ABC News 1/23)
A computer model offers a grim picture of a likely side effect of a major Puget Sound-area earthquake: a massive tidal wave known as a tsunami hitting the sound - and therefore the Pacific Northwest cities of Seattle and Tacoma - at the speed of a jetliner.

Report warns of disaster from global warming
(Associated Press, via CNN.com 1/22)
In the most emphatic warning yet about the danger of global warming, a meeting of scientists from 99 nations issued a report Monday that sharply increased projected climate change blamed on air pollution and warned of drought and other disasters.
The report, meant to spur stalled world talks on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, said global temperatures could rise by up to 10.5 degrees over the next century.

UCSD Structural Engineer To Research Best Ways To Stabilize Seaside Cliffs
(Science Daily 1/22)
Tragically, the number of deaths and destroyed homes continues to climb as the picturesque Southern California coastline crumbles. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that a quarter of the homes within 500 feet of the U.S. coast could be lost to erosion in the next 50 years. In response to this dilemma, structural engineers with the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering are embarking on a new study to determine the best ways to stabilize these fragile cliffs.

Higher Ocean Temperatures Linked To Cooling In Midwest
(Science Daily 1/22)
While Earth as a whole has warmed during the last half-century, much of the continental United States has grown slightly colder. The trend toward cooler temperatures in the central and eastern United States is due to warmer ocean temperatures, a University of Illinois researcher says.

Kentucky Cave Passage Explored
(Associated Press 1/21)
In the misty darkness, Alan Glennon and his partner ..... are among the first explorers experienced enough and small enough to squeeze through and see the prize that lies ahead - perhaps the biggest cave passageway in Kentucky.

California Studies Landslide Zones
(Associated Press 1/21)
Step inside 335 Marina Blvd. and marvel at the views. Marina Green buzzes with Frisbees across the street, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge loom just outside the living-room windows......But there's a catch: The house is perched atop soil known to react like quicksand during an earthquake. (See also Fox News for a photograph and additional information.)

Classics Doctoral Student Finds Bones that Prove Homer was Right About Sacrifices
(University of Cincinnati 1/20)
Ancient animal bones stored in the basement of a Greek archaeological museum for the past 50 years have resolved a longstanding archaeological controversy and given historical credence to details in Homer's "The Odyssey." University of Cincinnati doctoral student in classics Sharon Stocker came across the skeletal remains in 1996 during an inventory of storerooms containing materials found by UC archaeologist Carl W. Blegen at the Palace of Nestor in Pylos, Greece

USGS develops faster method for estimating streamflows
(EurekAlert 1/19)
Estimating streamflows in areas where there are no gauges once took days but now only takes minutes, thanks to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, who have developed a user-friendly streamflow-estimating system called "Streamstats."

Tools suggest early humans dined on termites
(Reuters, via CNN.com 1/18)
Early humans liked termites so much that they made special bone tools to grub out the juicy insects, a new study says.

Study: Sea Salt Seasons Chemical Brew That Destroys Arctic Ozone
(Science Daily 1/19)
Sunlight, snow and sea salt are sometimes used to illustrate Nature at its best. But new scientific evidence shows that, when combined, these forces may provide a potent mixture for destroying ozone.

Martian Ice Streams, Not Floods, May Have Shaped Channels
(Science Daily 1/17)
Some channels visible on the surface of Mars may have been gouged by ice, rather than by catastrophic flooding, as is generally believed. That is the view of Dr. Baerbel K. Lucchitta of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona, who compared the Martian features with strikingly similar ones on the Antarctic sea floor. Her findings are reported in the February 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

More El Nios And La Nias May Lead To More Global Rainfall Extremes
(Science Daily 1/17)
Researchers at NASA and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), studying changes in tropical precipitation patterns, have noted a higher frequency of El Nios and La Nias over the last 21 years. In addition, when either of those events occur, the world can expect more months with unusually high or low precipitation with droughts more common than floods over land areas.

Atmospheric Chemistry Key To Global And Local Air Pollution
(Science Daily 1/16)
The chemical cycles in the troposphere along with pollutants of human and natural origin can alter the composition of the air and affect local, regional and global environmental quality, according to a Penn State researcher.

Earlier Water On Earth? Oldest Rock Suggests Hospitable Young Planet
(Science Daily 1/17)
Geological evidence suggests that Earth may have had surface water -- and thus conditions to support life -- billions of years earlier than previously thought. Scientists reconstructed the portrait of early Earth by reading the telltale chemical composition of the oldest known terrestrial rock. The 4.4-billion-year-old mineral sample suggests that early Earth was not a roiling ocean of magma, but instead was cool enough for water, continents, and conditions that could have supported life. The age of the sample may also undermine accepted current views on how and when the moon was formed. The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and is published in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Want To Get Rid Of Trash Quicker? Just Add Water, Study Suggests
(Ohio State University 1/17)
Landfills are normally dry environments, and the lack of adequate moisture doesn't allow biodegradable trash to decompose as quickly as it should, say researchers at Ohio State University.
In fact, keeping a landfill saturated means it could stabilize in five to 10 years, instead of taking the average 100 years or longer to do so, said Ann Christy, an assistant professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering at Ohio State.

Improved rain predictions could improve flood forecasting
(EurekAlert 1/16)
Forecasts for heavy rains in the Middle Atlantic region of the U.S. often come too late to predict flooding accurately, but evaluations of past storms with different forecasting methods may improve flood prediction, according to two Pennsylvania meteorologists.

Antarctic ice shelf collapse is triggered by warmer summers, melt water
(EurekAlert 1/16)
Warmer surface temperatures over just a few months in the Antarctic can splinter an ice shelf and prime it for a major collapse, NASA and university scientists report in the latest issue of the Journal of Glaciology.
(See also ABC News.)

Antarctic ice discovery shows ancient warming occurred
(Reuters, via Cnn.com 1/16)
The discovery in a core of ancient polar ice of evidence of a sudden Antarctic temperature rise thousands of years ago has added fuel to the debate on global warming.

Small island states urge action to check global warming
(AP, via CNN.com 1/15)
Representatives of 38 small island states called Monday on developed nations to take drastic action to check global warming and prevent their inundation by rising sea levels.


(Reuters 1/14)
An Ethiopian scientist has discovered the well-preserved 3.4 million-year-old partial skeleton of a child hominid, which experts say should provide valuable information in the study of human evolution.

Antarctic Ice Discovery Warms Climate Change Debate
(Reuters 1/14)
The discovery in a core of ancient polar ice of evidence of a sudden Antarctic temperature rise thousands of years ago has added fuel to the debate on global warming.

How Worlds Collide: Geophysicists Revive The Great Plate Debate
(Science Daily 1/12)
Alfred Wegener sparked a scientific revolution in 1912 by theorizing that great slabs of the Earth's rocky surface -- tectonic plates -- slide under, over or past each other, setting continents adrift. Hotly debated as recently as the late '60s, tectonic plate theory is now universally accepted. But one major question remains: What drives the movement of the great plates?

Scientific panel to look at impact of Arctic drilling
(AP, via CNN.com 1/12)
A panel of independent scientists has launched a study of the impact of oil and gas drilling in Alaska, a research effort that could provide ammunition for the debate over whether drilling should be increased in the Bush administration.
The 16-member panel, which met for the first time this week, was convened by the National Research Council to begin an 18-month, $1.5 million study on the impact of 30 years of oil drilling in Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's North Slope.

Study disputes theory of human migration
(AP, via CNN.com 1/12)
Anthropologists analyzing ancient skulls from around the world say modern humans did not arise from a single migration from Africa, but from small groups that journeyed to every continent and intermingled with archaic humans such as the Neanderthal. (See a related story at EurekAlert.)
However, other scientists caution the evidence may not necessarily be so clear-cut. (Reuters 1/14)

Liquid Water At Earth's Surface 4.3 Billion Years Ago, Scientists Discover
(Science Daily 1/11)
Strong evidence for liquid water at or near the Earth's surface 4.3 billion years ago is presented by a team of scientists in the cover story of the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Nature. The scientists from UCLA and Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia present research that pushes back our knowledge of the presence of liquid water on Earth some 400 million years.

Australian fossil finder disputes age, backs evolution claim
(Reuters, via CNN.com 1/10)
Modern humankind's evolutionary plot thickened on Wednesday when the man who discovered an Australian fossil whose DNA promises to rewrite human history said the skeleton was not as old as it has been claimed.

New fossil found in Mongolia provides insight into the origin of living birds and the evolution of flight
(EurekAlert 1/10)
The discovery in Mongolia of the fossil of a new bird, Apsaravis ukhaana, that lived about 80 million years ago, sheds new light on the evolution of birds.

New Observations Could Help Predict Climate Change
(Science Daily 1/10)
Researchers at Washington State University,Vancouver, and Princeton University have new observations about rapid climate changes in the Northern and Southern hemispheres over the past 100,000 years that could help scientists predict future climate changes.

Scientists ID Oldest Known Crystal
(Associated Press 1/10)
Scientists have found a crystal believed to be at least 4.3 billion years old, making it the oldest known solid on Earth. And they say its sparkling facets contain hints that oceans, continents and perhaps even life itself developed much earlier than previously thought.

Energy from the sea floor could power oceanographic equipment
(American Chemical Society, via EurekAlert 1/9)
Fuel cells powered by energy from the sea floor could indefinitely supply electricity to instruments used to monitor ocean currents and water temperatures, according to a report in the December 28 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Australia challenges out-of-Africa evolution theory
(Reuters, via CNN.com 1/9)
Australian scientists said on Tuesday they had analyzed the oldest DNA ever taken from human remains, and that the results challenge the theory that modern humans evolved from African ancestors alone.

Ancient Underground Fractures May Threaten Ground Water Supplies
(Science Daily 1/4)
In a series of new studies, scientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that the soil in much of Ohio may not be good material in which to bury solid and industrial wastes. The reason is that fractures deep underground help contaminated water flow downward and reach water supplies too quickly for it to be purified. In such cases, underground water supplies can become contaminated.

Specialized teeth developed simultaneously, continents apart
(Associated Press, via CNN.com 1/3)
The specialized teeth that enabled ancient, shrew-like creatures to flourish and gave rise to all modern mammals evolved independently in two animal groups living continents apart, a study suggests.

New Method For Studying Ocean Currents To Help Fight Erosion
(Ohio State University 1/3)
By the time vacationers first dip their toes in beach sand next summer, scientists may have a new weapon in the battle to protect U.S. coastlines from erosion.

Southern California could be at greater risk of quake damage
(Associated Press, via CNN.com 1/1)
A new picture of the ground beneath Southern California shows one of its most populous areas could be at greater risk of earthquake damage than previously realized.

Despite fall deluge, south Florida faces water crisis
(CNN.com 1/1)
In early October, the rain in southern Florida just wouldn't stop. A tropical weather system turned much the area into an urban lake. Some spots got more than 15 inches of rainfall. Three months later, the entire region is under mandatory water restrictions.

Fear, fascination over five years of eruptions by Montserrat's volcano
(CNN.com 1/1)
Living with nearly five years of continuous volcanic activity has kept people in this island community on edge.



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