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Earth Happenings Archive
January, 1998
Double Whammy (Scientific American January 1998)
"An asteroid striking land would be catastrophic, but the damage might be far worse if it crashed into the sea."
Government can't keep promise on waste disposal (CNN 1/31)
"Sixteen years ago, the federal government promised it would find a safe place to store the thousands of tons of radioactive waste created by nuclear power plants. It didn't."
To Mars and beyond: NASA slates a busy year (CNN 1/30)
"Even by space agency standards, this year is shaping up to be a extraordinary one for NASA. The agency plans to return a hero to space, launch new space probes, begin work on an international space station and celebrate its 40th anniversary."
Newly Declassified Submarine Data Will Help Study Of Arctic Ice (Science Daily 1/29)
"A treasure-trove of formerly classified data on the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, gathered by U.S. Navy submarines over several decades, is now being opened. Data from the first of approximately 20 cruise tracks -- an April, 1992 trans-Arctic Ocean track -- has just been released, and information from the rest of these tracks, or maps of a submarine's route, will be analyzed and released over the next year-and-a-half."
Ocean currents make Earth wobble (CNN 1/28)
"The oceans are pushing Earth around. That's the conclusion of a study of what makes the Earth wobble a few yards as it spins on its axis."
NEAR spacecraft sends back new photos of Earth (CNN 1/26)
"A tiny NASA spacecraft completed a flyby of Earth before being hurled deep into space, and as it passed by it captured on film some captivating new images of the planet. The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft -- NEAR, for short -- passed within 336 miles of Earth and took numerous photographs while gathering momentum from Earth's gravity." (NASA's NEAR Page with new images)
North China earthquake cracks Great Wall (CNN/Reuters 1/26)
"A strong earthquake that struck northern China this month has caused cracks in parts of the ancient Great Wall, a government official said on Monday."
Floods hit wheat, barley fields in southwest Iran (CNN/Reuters 1/25)
"Rains and floods have washed away 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of farmland under wheat and barley cultivation in southwestern Iran [tin the last year], the official news agency IRNA reported on Sunday. "
A change in the weather (Nature Science Updates 1/22)
"According to the Central England Temperature record, which dates back to 1659, over the past 20 years England has experienced its warmest summer (1976), its warmest calendar month (July 1983), and the warmest July and August combined (1995). In addition, 1995 was also the driest summer on record."
The sands of Ukhaa Tolgod (Nature Science Updates 1/22)
"The red sandstones of Ukhaa Tolgod in southern Mongolia make a true dinosaur graveyard: yet many people have wondered how the dinosaurs actually died. To all appearances, they seem to have been buried suddenly, caught unawares in a sandstorm."
Wobbly Planet Means Climatologists Need To Rethink Long-Term Study Of Sea-Level Variations (Science Daily 1/22)
"In an article published in the Jan. 23 issue of the journal Science, U of T physicist Jerry Mitrovica and PhD student Jon Mound use numerical simulations to show how long-term changes in the orientation of the Earth's rotation axis, or "wobbling" of the planet, can produce sea-level variations which exceed 100 metres."
Navigation Satellites Track Yearly Growth Of Mountains (Science Daily 1/20)
"Results show that about three inches of motion per year occurs between the Nazca and South American plates, and is divided three ways. About 1.4 inches per year of the Nazca plate slides smoothly under South America, giving rise to volcanoes. Another 1.3 inches per year is locked up at the plate boundary, squeezing South America, and is released every hundred years or so in great earthquakes. About 0.3 inches of motion per year crumples South America, building the Andes."
Oil Spill May Be Nigeria's Biggest (Washington Post/AP 1/19)
"Oil oozing from a ruptured pipeline has washed ashore along Nigeria's southeastern coast, blackening beaches for a mile, Mobil Corp. said Monday. The 1.6 million gallon spill -- said to be the largest in Nigeria's history -- has infuriated residents of nearby fishing villages, who claim the spill has caused widespread environmental damage."
23 Trapped in Russia Mine Blast (Washington Post/AP 1/19)
"Rescue workers struggled on Monday to extinguish a fire at a Russian arctic coal mine where 23 miners were trapped, but they had lost nearly all hope of finding any of them alive."
Fluid From Earth's Mantle Weakens The San Andreas Fault (Science Daily 1/19)
"For years geologists have tried to understand why the San Andreas Fault is so weak. In work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Research, geochemists Mack Kennedy, Yousif Kharaka, and their colleagues have found that part of the answer lies in the fault's surprisingly intricate connections with the Earth's mantle, deep underground."
Return to the forbidden planet (Nature Science Updates 1/15)
"The search for planets around stars other than our own Sun takes a dramatic turn this week, with the rehabilitation of a significant discovery that had come under fire from sceptics. The candidate extrasolar planet orbits the Sun-like star 51 Pegasi, a distance of 15 parsecs [49 light years] from Earth, and goes by the modest name 51 Pegasi B."
Enter the dragon (Nature Science Updates 1/15)
"One of the biggest debates in palaeontology at the moment concerns the origin of birds. The heat has been turned up by the discovery of remarkable fossils in China of specimens of a chicken-sized dinosaur called Sinosauropteryx, which seems to have been clothed in a coat of what might have been some kind of feather-like structures."
Satellites track subtle land shifts (Reuters 1/15)
"Giving new respectability to the proverbial bird's-eye view, scientists using satellite data are tracking movements of the Earth's crust, including the growth of mountains, to within a fraction of an inch (2.52 centimeters) a year."
Time Heals Earth's Wounds Quake-Shocked Crust Knits Itself Back Together (Science Daily 1/13)
"Working on the hard granite of California's Mojave Desert, scientists for the first time have directly observed the 'healing' of an earthquake fault. The post-quake 'healing' process restores the stiffness of the Earth's crust and renews the fault zone's resistance to rupture, according to findings reported in the Jan. 9 issue of the journal Science."
1997 Warmest Year Of Century, NOAA Reports (Science Daily 1/13)
"Last year was the warmest year of this century, based on land and ocean surface temperature data, reports a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N. C."
'State of the World' report: at last, some good news (CNN/AP 1/12)
"For 15 Januarys, Lester R. Brown has declared the planet is reaching the end of its resources. Now, the leading environmental researcher says major corporations and governments are listening."
U.S. space probe moving into lunar orbit (CNN 1/11)
"he space probe Lunar Prospector successfully executed the first of three engine bursts designed to swing it gently into orbit around the moon, officials said on Sunday."
Mexico to relocate 20,000 people from volcano-report (CNN/AP 1/10)
"Mexican authorities have decided to relocate some 20,000 people from their homes near the slopes of the rumbling Popocatepetl volcano, a news report said. Officials have also decided to build giant walls along the volcano's slopes to help contain lava and mudslides in case of a major eruption."
New Study Shows Dinosaurs From Gobi Desert Site Killed In Sudden "Sand Slides" Falling From Dunes (Science Daily 1/8)
"A team of scientists presents new evidence in the cover story of the January issue of Geology that the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures from the Gobi Desert's richest fossil site were killed by sudden avalanches of water-soaked sand flowing down the sides of dunes. The research also revealed the first dinosaur footprints ever discovered in the Gobi Desert."
Feather-like features may have kept dinosaurs warm (CNN/AP 1/7)
"Scientists say dinosaur fossils discovered in China with feather-like features suggest the creature was warm-blooded -- a theory that could heighten the debate over the fundamental nature of dinosaurs."
Lunar Prospector blasts off (CNN 1/6)
"The unmanned Lunar Prospector blasted off on a 240,000-mile journey into space Tuesday night, beginning NASA's first moon mission since men last set foot on the lunar surface 25 years ago." (For more information visit NASA's Lunar Prospector Homepage and CNN's special Lunar Prospector Page.)
Scientists sound alarm about ocean perils (CNN/AP 1/6)
"More than 1,600 scientists from around the world sounded a warning Tuesday that overfishing, pollution and coastal development are wreaking unprecedented damage on the oceans. The scientists said their petition would kick off the United Nation's International Year of the Ocean."
Lunar prospector set to launch today -- Will answer long-standing questions about our closest neighbor (Science Daily 1/5)
"After 25 years, NASA is returning to the Moon with the Lunar Prospector spacecraft. Within a month, the small robotic mission will begin returning answers to long-standing questions about the Moon, its resources, its structure and its origins."
China to spend $27.7 billion on environmental improvements (CNN/AP 1/3)
"China plans to spend $27.7 billion to combat erosion and pollution in the Yangtze and Yellow river valleys, a news report said Saturday. "
The Architecture of Life (Scientific American - January '98)
"A universal set of building rules seems to guide the design of organic structures--from simple carbon compounds to complex cells and tissues."

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