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Earth Happenings Archive
January, 1997
Climate: Warming by accident (Nature Science Updates 1/30/97)
"New research into the history of climate science traces the story of how a small and scattered group of part-time, unpaid researchers showed that industrial carbon dioxide emissions could be warming the planet."
Offshore deposits of methane hydrates may prove to be energy source (Nando Times 2/4/97)
Fuel of future lies locked in earth (MSNBC/Reuters 1/29/97)
Researchers have "found a tantalizing new energy source locked beneath the ocean floor: vast stores of methane...Theoretically, methane in hydrate form could be used as natural gas. Unfortunately, the scientists have not yet found a way of getting the methane out of the earth in a useable form." The discovery was published in the journal Nature.
World environment worsens as interest wanes (Nando Times/Reuters 1/27/97)
"The global environment is worsening as interest in it apparently is waning, the head of the Nairobi-based U.N. Environment Program said." The causes in each region of the world were addressed separately.
The colors of minerals (Earth/Kalmbach 1/97)
"Minerals that derive their color from impurities are called allochromatic ("other colored"). Some, like the pink and green watermelon tourmaline, record contact with more than one impurity."
New dinosaur species discovered (MSNBC/AP/Reuters 1/23/97)
"Remains of a flesh-eating dinosaur found on the Isle of Wight in southern England are from a new species...Millions of years ago the Isle of Wight, four miles off the country’s coast in the chilly English Channel, was a warm, subtropical region." Other stories in Nando Times/Reuters, Nando Times/AP, Washington Post/AP.
Two-thirds of the world will be short of water by 2025 (Nando Times/AP 1/23/97)
"...unless action is taken to stem the wasting and polluting of water, a U.N.-commissioned report says."
Clinton pushes science teaching (Washington Post/AP 1/22/97)
"In conjunction with Clinton's speech, the Education Department said today it would help as many as 60 states and school districts to participate in the 1997 and 1998 math and science tests and use the results to improve teaching methods."
Hubble telescope sends back photos of "twisters" (CNN 1/22/97)
"The twisters are swirling in the center of the Lagoon nebula, which is thought to be a star-birth region about 5,000 light years from Earth."
Dallas suburb an unexpected source for natural gas (Nando Times 1/22/97)
The man who discovered this had predicted that the drill site "sat on the eastern edge of the 30,000-square-mile geologic formation called the Barnett Shale, which has yielded 250 productive gas wells 30 miles to the northwest."
The evolution of size (Nando Times/NYT 1/21/97)
"Paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope formulated in 1871 a 'law' of biology: the body size of organisms in a particular evolutionary lineage tends to increase over the long run..." A new study of how mollusks evolved over 16 million years has concluded that this might not be the case.
Scientists say Earth is still warmer than average (Nando Times/Reuters 1/21/97)
"The Earth was slightly cooler in 1996 than in 1995 but still much warmer than the average, indicating that global warming is still taking place, British meteorologists said on Tuesday."
Data suggest long-term change toward heavy weather worldwide (Washington Post/AP 1/21/97)
"Winter storms seem more ferocious each year--and they just may be...Since 1900, the number of what scientists categorize as extreme precipitation events--blizzards and heavy rainstorms--has jumped 20% in the United States, and total winter precipitation is up 10%...Climatologists are not sure what causes the trend, although it is consistent with computer models that have looked at the consequences of global warming."
Incident in Australian outback remains seismic mystery (Nando/NYT 1/21/97)
"Late on the evening of May 28, 1993, something shattered the calm of the Australian outback and radiated shock waves outward across hundreds of miles of scrub and desert...Pinning down the nature of the outback incident was seen as an important test of the emerging skills [to distinguish natural disturbances from human-made ones]."
Arsenic poisons Bangladesh water (Washington Post/AP 1/20/97)
"The prevalence of arsenic in Bangladesh's drinking water is a 'major public health issue,' a World Health official said Monday, but he urged residents not to panic...Experts have blamed the increasing contamination on overpumping of ground water for drinking and irrigation."
Fish fossils found in China (Washington Post/AP 1/18/97)
"Archaeologists digging in southwestern Guangxi province have discovered fish fossils dating back tens of millions of years ...The discovery is expected to significantly contribute to the classification of ancient fish and the understanding of the history of the region where the fossils were found."
Chinese water polluted (Washington Post/AP 1/18/97)
"More than half of China's rivers and lakes are seriously contaminated and 25,000 miles are too polluted for fishing...The pollution--mostly waste from factories, cities and chemically treated fields--was also affecting underground water supplies."
New pictures of Europa suggest oceans, possible life (CNN 1/17/97)
"The features provide evidence that water, heat and organic compounds may have combined to create an environment suitable for the start of life... Scientists are eagerly awaiting Galileo's closer look at Europa. It will pass within 364 miles (587 km) of the moon on February 20."
Ice volcanoes reshape Europa's chaotic surface (NASA 1/17/97)
"Ice-spewing volcanoes and the grinding and tearing of tectonic plates have reshaped the chaotic surface of Jupiter's frozen moon Europa, images from NASA's Galileo spacecraft reveal." Related stories include Science Now's "An icy world looks livelier", and Nando Times's "Spacecraft images show ice flows on one of Jupiter's moons".
Carnivorous dinosaur Troodon laid eggs two by two (Nature 1/16/97)
"In the Nature report, [the scientists] show that Troodon maternal behaviour was a bridge between that of birds and reptiles." Oil spreads along Japan's coast (Nando Times 1/16/97)
"The fight against Japan's worst-ever oil spill expanded to previously untouched parts of the coast on Thursday, with new oil leaks discovered from a wrecked Russian tanker."
Superclusters of galaxies are arranged in 3-d lattice (Nature Science Update 1/16/97)
"Apart from imposing an eerie sense of order on the Universe at the largest scales, the result is disturbing, as it challenges our most fundamental views about how the Universe comes to be the way it is." See also 1/19/97 Nando Times report.
Moons might hold alien life (MSNBC 1/16/97)
"Mysterious gassy planets spotted outside the Earth's solar system may not be hospitable to life as we know it, but rocky moons orbiting them might." Also see Nando Times and Nature stories.
Scientists predict universe has "only" 10 trillion years left (Nando Times 1/16/97)
"... but certain physical processes will continue as far into the future as astronomers can imagine." 10 trillion is a 1 with 13 zeroes after it! Also see related 1/16/97 Nando Times and CNN articles.
Leaving your mark on Saturn (ScienceNow 1/15/97)
"The European Space Agency is collecting names and wisdom from the public via the World Wide Web for a CD-ROM time capsule to be placed on board a space probe bound for Saturn later this year."
Supernova to brighten until 2007 (Nando Times 1/15/97)
"A star that exploded a decade ago into the brightest supernova seen from Earth in 400 years is about to put on another celestial show... Supernovae are of particular interest because they are essential to life in the universe. Virtually every atom making up the Earth and everything on it was created in the violence and extreme heat of an exploding star." Also see MSNBC report.
Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet not first Jupiter hit (Nando Times 1/14/97)
"The battering that Jupiter took in 1994--leaving huge black scars that remained visible for several weeks--was not the planet's first bombardment to be recorded on Earth, Japanese astronomers say...Their finding may help astronomers estimate more accurately how often planetary impacts occur."
U.S., Russia release Arctic data kept hidden by Cold War (Nando Times 1/14/97)
" 'Buried in these...observations can be found clues to the puzzle of climate change,' [Vice President] Gore said. The release of more than 1.3 million observations 'doubles the data available on the Arctic Ocean." See also CNN report, 1/14/97.
Global climate stayed warm in 1996, with regional surprises (Nando Times 1/14/97)
"The surface records show that the earth has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last century, and that the warming has accelerated in the last two decades."
Mysterious "high-velocity clouds" of hydrogen may be from birth of Milky Way (Science Now 1/14/97)
"Such an explanation 'starts to fit in with current theories of galaxy formation and the origin of the universe.' "
Hale-Bopp comet photo stirs interest on Internet (Nando Times 1/13/97)
"The comet will be most visible in March and April and, due to its unusual brightness, should be easily seen from urban areas like Los Angeles."
* Related story: February 1997 Scientific American.
Don't mess with Mother Nature (MSNBC 1/10/97)
"Even skeptics find it tough to dismiss suggestions that the floods, mud slides and other West Coast mayhem may be related to human development."
China closes 57,340 polluting factories
"A total of 57,430 small, but highly-polluting, factories were shut down by the Chinese government as of mid-December, the China Daily reported Saturday."
Volcano Lovers (The Why Files 1/9/97)
"In Alaska, Mt. Pavlof is rumbling. In Mexico, El Popo is fuming. OK -- We admit it: We're thinking eruptions. Volcanoes are the best proof that it's bloody hot downstairs, geologically speaking. Since Earth's early days, they have shaped our planet. Now we know they've shaped other planets as well. What's the latest on subterranean pressure cookers?"
Moon can raise earth temperatures (Nando Times 1/9/97)
"Using data collected by satellites from Jan. 1, 1979, through Jan. 31, 1996, scientists at Arizona State University found temperatures at the north and south poles varied by close to 1 degree over a 29.5-day period, the time it takes for the moon to complete its phases."
Oceans: seeing hot waves (Nature Weekly Update 1/9/97)
"Dr Andrew T. Jessup and colleagues from the University of Washington, Seattle, describe an infrared imaging technique, which, they believe, should reveal more about general ocean-to-atmosphere interaction, perhaps with implications for better climate prediction."
Missing Members of A Living Museum (Science Now 1/8/97)
"Cracks in the Earth's crust deep below the sea may not be as secure a refuge for weird lifeforms--worms, mollusks, and other ancient species--as scientists had thought. Russian fossils, described in tomorrow's Nature, suggest that broad groups of hydrothermal vent creatures have gone extinct."
Chrysler develops method for extracting hydrogen from gasoline (CNN 1/6/97)
"Chrysler Corp. said Monday it has developed a way to extract hydrogen from gasoline, bringing prototypes of "fuel-cell" electric cars 10 years closer to reality."
Mining Nutrients, Tubeworms Reach Ripe Old Age (ScienceNow 1/6/97)
"Tubeworms that live around volcanic vents on the deep sea floor have a plentiful supply of hydrogen sulfide dissolved in the hot water that spurts from the vents. But tubeworms living elsewhere on the ocean floor have no obvious source of this nutrient. How do they obtain the hydrogen sulfide they need to survive? The answer: They mine it."
Awaiting The Big Bang?: Scientists grapple with Montserrat's live volcano (Scientific American)
"Experts are still struggling to anticipate what exactly Soufriere Hills volcano will do next. Although stunningly advanced in comparison to earthquake prediction, forecasting volcanic eruptions remains uncomfortably inexact."
More Gallons Per Mile: Chemical signals narrow the search for petroleum (Scientific American)
"Researchers have identified in oil a pair of molecules that seems to reveal how far the oil has migrated from its site of origin. Explorers already use chemical analysis to try to infer what kind of source rocks are likely to have yielded a given sample. By adding information about how far the sample has moved, they should rule out some suspects."
Suburban Amber (Scientific American)
Amber from an urban site in New Jersey "embalms the greatest diversity of Cretaceous life ever found."

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