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  • richardmitnick 11:41 am on April 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , , , CME's - Coronal Mass Ejections, , ,   

    From Eos: “Capturing Structural Changes of Solar Blasts en Route to Earth” 

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    Sarah Stanley

    Comparison of magnetic field structures for 20 coronal mass ejections at eruption versus Earth arrival highlights the importance of tracking structural evolution to refine space weather predictions.

    Coronal mass ejections erupt when flux ropes—the blue loops seen here—lose stability, resulting in a blast of plasma away from the Sun. New research [AGU Space Weather] emphasizes the importance of changes in the magnetic field structure of flux ropes between eruption of plasma blasts and their arrival at Earth. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO, CC BY 2.0


    Huge clouds of plasma periodically erupt from the Sun in coronal mass ejections. The magnetic field structure of each blast can help determine whether it might endanger spacecraft, power grids, and other human infrastructure. New research by Palmerio et al. highlights the importance of detecting any changes in the magnetic field structure of a coronal mass ejection as it races toward Earth.

    Coronal mass ejections often erupt in the form of a flux rope—a twisted, helical magnetic field structure that extends outward from the Sun. A flux rope can come in a variety of types that depend on the direction of the magnetic field axis and whether its helical component curves to the left or right. While the direction of the helical curve remains unchanged, the axis can alter direction after eruption from the Sun.

    In the new study, the researchers analyzed observations of 20 different coronal mass ejections, comparing their flux rope structure at eruption to their structure once they reached satellites near Earth. They used a variety of satellite and ground-based observations to reconstruct the eruption structures, and they directly observed structures close to Earth as the plasma blasts washed over NASA’s Wind spacecraft.

    NASA Wind Spacecraft

    The analysis showed that between Sun eruption and Earth arrival, flux rope structure changed axis direction by more than 90° for 7 of the 20 coronal mass ejections. The rest of the blasts had an axis rotation of less than 90°, with five changing by less than 30° after eruption.

    These results highlight the importance of capturing posteruption changes in flux rope magnetic field structures of coronal mass ejections to refine space weather predictions. Such rotations can result from a variety of causes, including deformations in the Sun’s corona and interaction with other coronal mass ejections.

    However, capturing these changes remains a challenge. Reconstructions of flux rope structure from direct spacecraft observations may vary depending on which reconstruction technique is used. In addition, such observations depend on the spacecraft’s particular path through a coronal mass ejection, which might not give an accurate picture of the overall structure.

    And although posteruption structural changes are important, the researchers emphasize that the flux rope structure of a coronal mass ejection at eruption is still a good approximation for its structure upon Earth arrival and serves as a key input for space weather forecasting models.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:48 am on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , Welcoming Women into the Geosciences,   

    From Eos: Women in STEM – “Welcoming Women into the Geosciences” 

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    3 April 2018
    Emily V. Fischer
    Amanda Adam,
    Rebecca Barnes
    Brittany Bloodhart
    Melissa Burt
    Sandra Clinton
    Elaine Godfrey
    Ilana Pollack
    Paul R. Hernandez

    Early results of a program to foster the careers of women entering the geosciences demonstrate the effectiveness of several specific factors.

    Early-career scientists and their mentors share a lighthearted moment while learning firsthand about snow crystal formation and snowpack metamorphism at a snow science event in Laramie, Wyo. The event, organized by the University of Wyoming’s Multicultural Association of Student Scientists, included participants from PROGRESS, a program that supports undergraduate women as they begin careers in the geosciences. Credit: Ilana Pollack

    Women are underrepresented in the geosciences, in part because of systemic attitudes and behaviors [e.g., Rosen, 2017]. Why do we need to close this gap? Diverse teams produce better ideas—they set the bar for scholarly excellence [McLeod et al., 1996]. So what are the best ways to welcome the next generation of women into geoscience careers?

    Born from Collaboration

    The Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) set out to find and test some answers to this question. ESWN, an organization with more than 3,000 members around the world, focuses on the peer mentoring and professional development of early-career women at the graduate and postdoc levels. This organization grew out of an informal gathering of six early-career women at the 2002 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

    In 2014, members of the ESWN Leadership Board sought out expertise in gender and quantitative educational psychology. We wanted to find out the effects of connecting undergraduate women to a same-gender mentoring network and challenging their perceptions of their ability to succeed in science. We designed an experiment to quantify and qualify such effects on first- and second-year undergraduate women.

    We implemented our experiment at nine universities in two U.S. regions (Colorado/Wyoming Front Range and North and South Carolina) between fall 2015 and fall 2016. We are now halfway through our National Science Foundation–funded project, and we see positive results [Hernandez et al., 2017]: Undergraduate women with large mentoring networks that include faculty mentors are more likely than those without such networks to identify as scientists and are more intent on pursuing the geosciences.

    Our experiment has developed into an effective and scalable program that benefits the undergraduate women it serves and thus may be part of the solution to the gender gap in the geosciences. Although we are still learning the full effect of our intentionally designed mentoring experiment, the early results are robust enough for us to share the general format of the resulting program in the hope that similar programs can be implemented at additional universities.

    A Recipe for PROGRESS

    This program, the Promoting Geoscience, Research, Education and Success (PROGRESS) framework, offers three resources to undergraduate participants: a professional development workshop, access to female mentors and role models, and online discussions and resources. Many of the PROGRESS volunteer mentors and role models are also members of ESWN.

    Here we explain the essential components of our professional development workshop because this module of PROGRESS is mature and ready to be propagated. The goals of this first intervention component are as follows:

    to introduce the women to geoscience careers
    to establish connections among students
    to help participants identify role models and the value of mentoring
    to discuss how to overcome expected hurdles

    The workshop module begins with an introduction to the geosciences that focuses on teamwork and societal context. Why? People value people-oriented work environments [Su and Rounds, 2015], and linking to societal context enhances learning.

    Two panel discussions follow this introduction. Each panel features women representing different ethnic, career, and other perspectives because when people see others like themselves succeeding, they feel like they belong [Rattan et al., 2012]. Panelists give “Ignite”-style presentations—5 minutes, 20 slides—followed by student questions. In the first panel, the women present their career and personal pathways. The second panel has a “day in the life” theme because exposure to women succeeding in counterstereotypic roles helps break down stereotypes [Zawadzki et al., 2013].

    Engaging the Participants

    Seeing specific factors that fuel curiosity, frustration, and thrill of discovery in the geosciences is important to students. To add more exposure to women doing science, we offer our workshop participants hands-on activities, including a weather balloon launch, a Doppler on Wheels demonstration, and a water quality experiment.

    The workshop introduces gender stereotypes and biases—discussing these issues is important for overcoming their effects. We introduce these topics via a board game [Shields et al., 2011] and using group exercises, including a modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) that helps reveal unconscious attitudes toward gender. The students also identify other stereotypes (e.g., socioeconomic status and race), and we review the ubiquity of these issues.

    Throughout the session, the facilitator reiterates that ability can be improved with effort. This conception appears important for building academic tenacity [Dweck et al., 2014] and overcoming the effects of stereotype threat—the idea that people underperform when they feel at risk of conforming to negative stereotypes surrounding their social group [Good et al., 2003]. Discussions also offer the chance for students to validate sexism and racism they may have experienced [Moss-Racusin et al., 2012].

    A Network of Support

    PROGRESS students consider all the support they will need by completing a mentor map exercise, where they reflect on who advocates for them, who they turn to for scientific advice, who gives them safe spaces to discuss their frustrations, etc. [Glessmer et al., 2015]. Supportive connections help students attain academic goals [Skahill, 2002]. We also teach skills like constructing emails to help students connect themselves to faculty.

    Following the workshop, students can be paired with a mentor who also identifies as a woman in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), or they can continue their interactions with each other via campus get-togethers. There is evidence that same-gender mentoring can be more effective than cross-gender mentoring for female undergraduates [Blake-Beard et al., 2011].

    As discussed in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, more research is needed on how to foster effective mentoring relationships. We are exploring multiple models, such as one-to-one versus group mentoring, and also different ways of pairing students with mentors on the basis of perceived similar interests [Gehlbach et al., 2016].

    We do not yet know which strategy is better, but our program is already serving women across multiple institutions in two U.S. regions, which speaks to its transferability. In addition to a website, we have a closed Facebook group where we share news, internships, and other professional development opportunities, and students can also seek advice on their challenge du jour [Ellison et al., 2007].

    PROGRESS to Date

    As a result of our study, we found that PROGRESS participants develop larger mentor networks than their peers and that having a faculty mentor is related to greater personal identity as a scientist and greater intent on pursuing the geosciences. This is a critical result because most students who change their major away from STEM do so early in their college education.

    Many of our PROGRESS participants, who began the program as freshmen and sophomores, are now thinking about graduation and planning for their next steps. As we continue to track the women in the PROGRESS program, we will continue to update the geoscience community on widely transferable aspects of our research. All of our PROGRESS materials are available online for anyone who wants to start a similar program.


    Support was provided by the National Science Foundation (DUE-1431795, DUE-1431823, and DUE-1460229). We thank all our volunteer mentors.


    Blake-Beard, S., et al. (2011), Matching by race and gender in mentoring relationships: Keeping our eyes on the prize, J. Soc. Issues, 67(3), 622–643, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01717.x.

    Dweck, C. S., G. M. Walton, and G. L. Cohen (2014), Academic tenacity: Mindsets and skills that promote long-term learning, Bill & Melinda Gates Found., Seattle, Wash., https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/manual/dweck-walton-cohen-2014.pdf.

    Ellison, N. B., C. Steinfield, and C. Lampe (2007), The benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites, J. Comput. Mediated Commun., 12(4), 1,143–1,168, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x.

    Gehlbach, H., et al. (2016), Creating birds of similar feathers: Leveraging similarity to improve teacher–student relationships and academic achievement, J. Educ. Psychol., 108(3), 342–352, https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000042.

    Glessmer, M. S., et al. (2015), Taking ownership of your own mentoring: Lessons learned from participating in the Earth Science Women’s Network, in The Mentoring Continuum: From Graduate School Through Tenure, edited by G. Wright, pp. 113–132, Syracuse Univ. Grad. Sch. Press, Syracuse, N.Y.

    Good, C., J. Aronson, and M. Inzlicht (2003), Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat, J. Appl. Dev. Psychol., 24(6), 645–662, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2003.09.002.

    Hernandez, P. R., et al. (2017), Promoting professional identity, motivation, and persistence: Benefits of an informal mentoring program for female undergraduate students, PLoS One, 12(11), e0187531, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187531.

    McLeod, P. L., S. A. Lobel, and T. H. Cox Jr. (1996), Ethnic diversity and creativity in small groups, Small Group Res., 27(2), 248–264, https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496496272003.

    Moss-Racusin, C. A., et al. (2012), Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 109(41), 16,474–16,479, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1211286109.

    Paunesku, D., et al. (2015), Mind-set interventions are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement, Psychol. Sci., 26, 784–793, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615571017.

    Rattan, A., C. Good, and C. S. Dweck (2012), Why do women opt out? Sense of belonging and women’s representation in mathematics, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., 102(4), 700–717, https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026659.

    Rosen, J. (2017), Data illuminate a mountain of molehills facing women scientists, Eos, 98, https://doi.org/10.1029/2017EO066733.

    Shields, S. A., M. Zawadzki, and R. N. Johnson (2011), The impact of the Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation in the Academy (WAGES-Academic) in demonstrating cumulative effects of gender bias, J. Diversity Higher Educ., 4(2), 120–129, https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022953.

    Skahill, M. P. (2002), The role of social support network in college persistence among freshman students, J. Coll. Stud. Retention, 4(1), 39–52, https://doi.org/10.2190/LB7C-9AYV-9R84-Q2Q5.

    Su, R., and J. Rounds (2015), All STEM fields are not created equal: People and things interests explain gender disparities across STEM fields, Front. Psychol., 6, 189, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00189.

    Zawadzki, M. J., et al. (2013), Reducing the endorsement of sexism using experiential learning, Psychol. Women Q., 38(1), 75–92, https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313498573.

    Author Information

    Emily V. Fischer (evf@atmos.colostate.edu), Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Amanda Adams, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Rebecca Barnes, Colorado College, Colorado Springs; Brittany Bloodhart and Melissa Burt, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Sandra Clinton and Elaine Godfrey, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Ilana Pollack, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; and Paul R. Hernandez, West Virginia University, Morgantown
    Citation: Fischer, E. V., A. Adams, R. Barnes, B. Bloodhart, M. Burt, S. Clinton, E. Godfrey, I. Pollack, and P. R. Hernandez (2018), Welcoming women into the geosciences, Eos, 99, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018EO095017. Published on 03 April 2018.

    See the full article here .

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 7:05 am on March 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , , , , , Radon Tells Unexpected Tales of Mount Etna’s Unrest,   

    From Eos: “Radon Tells Unexpected Tales of Mount Etna’s Unrest” 

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    22 March 2018
    Susanna Falsaperla
    Marco Neri
    Giuseppe Di Grazia
    Horst Langer
    Salvatore Spampinato

    Readings from a sensor for the radioactive gas near summit craters of the Italian volcano reveal signatures of such processes as seismic rock fracturing and sloshing of groundwater and other fluids.

    Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, spews lava from a Strombolian and effusive eruption on 24 April 2012. The church Santa Maria della Provvidenza stands in the foreground in the town of Zafferana Etnea on the mountain’s eastern flank. New research from a team studying the volcano finds that variations in its radon emissions provide insights into volcanic and tectonic influences inside the mountain and, for some seismic activity, up to tens of kilometers away. Credit: Marco Neri.

    Some researchers view radon emissions as a precursor to earthquakes, especially those of high magnitude [e.g., Wang et al., 2014; Lombardi and Voltattorni, 2010], but the debate in the scientific community about the applicability of the gas to surveillance systems remains open. Yet radon “works” at Italy’s Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, although not specifically as a precursor to earthquakes. In a broader sense, this naturally radioactive gas from the decay of uranium in the soil, which has been analyzed at Etna in the past few years, acts as a tracer of eruptive activity and also, in some cases, of seismic-tectonic phenomena.

    To deepen the understanding of tectonic and eruptive phenomena at Etna, scientists analyzed radon escaping from the ground and compared those data with measurements gathered continuously by instrumental networks on the volcano (Figure 1). Here Etna is a boon to scientists—it’s traced by roads, making it easy to access for scientific observation.

    Fig. 1. Panoramic view of the volcano as it appeared during 2008 and 2009. No image credit.

    Dense monitoring networks, managed by the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Catania-Osservatorio Etneo (INGV-OE), have been continuously observing the volcano for more than 40 years. This continuous dense monitoring made the volcano the perfect open-air laboratory for deciphering how eruptive activity may influence radon emissions.

    Tower of the Philosopher

    Volcanologist Marco Neri during the winter of 2008–2009 downloads data onto a laptop from the ERN1 radon sensor at the site (later buried in lava) known as the Tower of the Philosopher. Behind him, less than 1 kilometer away, ash billows from the summit craters of the volcano. Credit: Marco Neri.

    In a recently published study [Falsaperla et al., 2017], we analyzed a period of dynamic and variable volcanic activity of Etna between January 2008 and July 2009. In those 19 months, the volcano produced seismic swarms, surface ground fractures, a vigorous lava fountain, and an eruption lasting 419 days.

    In short, the volcano delivered enough diverse behaviors to test whether radon detected by a station located near the top of Etna, at an altitude of about 3,000 meters, showed any patterns that matched eruptive behavior recorded by the networks. The station is at a place formerly known as the Torre del Filosofo (Tower of the Philosopher), which in 2013 became buried below meters of lava flows that completely changed the location’s appearance.

    The network’s data are plentiful and are related to physical occurrences, such as the vibrations produced by magma movements in the feed conduits, or so-called volcanic tremor, as well as the tremor source’s localization within the volcano; isolated seismic events or swarms; and ground fractures accompanying the opening of eruptive fissures and associated explosive and effusive events. We conducted an analysis of this enormous amount of data through a statistical-mathematical approach that revealed possible correlations and, in many cases, obvious synchronicities with radon emissions.

    What Did We Discover?

    Our study revealed that essentially two processes influenced radon levels at the monitoring station. The first, easily imaginable given the location of the measuring probe less than a kilometer from the summit craters of Etna, is linked to the rise of magma in the volcano’s central conduit. Short, intense radon bursts, which researchers refer to as gas pulses, occur when a carrier gas that conveys the radon to the surface also bursts from the volcano (Figure 2). In the area in question, this carrier consists mainly of water vapor that feeds the local fumarolic activity.

    Fig. 2. Volcanic processes may have influenced the flux of radon recorded by the ERN1 probe during Mount Etna’s 2008–2009 flank eruption. Variations in magmatic activity could have caused gas pulses near the feeding dike, as well as the rapid increase in radon values recorded by the ERN1 station probe. Conceptual model by the authors (2017).

    The second process is rock fracturing from an earthquake or seismic swarm. Radon rising from rock fractures is a well-known, recurrent phenomenon caused by greater permeability of the ground following earthquake-induced breakage of rock.

    Action at a Distance

    We have also discovered that the radon probe of the Torre del Filosofo was sensitive even to relatively small earthquakes taking place several kilometers away. We noted a clear synchronism between seismic swarms more than 10 kilometers away from the probe and significant variations of radon, impossible to explain by the diffusion of radon gas to rocks and toward the surface. We therefore had to find a different solution, which we identified as a sloshing phenomenon, like the lapping of waves.

    Slosh dynamics describes the movement of liquids within a container [Ibrahim, 2005]. Experimental observations prove that sloshing may occur inside the conduits of volcanoes, promoting magma oscillations [Namiki et al., 2016].

    Applied to Etna, sloshing may explain how rock shaking induced by a seismic swarm can cause oscillatory motion in the groundwater and in the magmatic fluids contained within the volcano (Figure 3). These oscillations can propagate quickly inside the mountain, reaching far greater distances than had been imagined in relatively short times. Sloshing may also be favored by flank instability affecting the eastern and southeastern sectors of the volcano, as it can produce tensile stresses both on the summit and on the rift zones, increasing the permeability of the rocks in those areas [Acocella et al., 2016].

    Fig. 3. Along with volcanic triggers (Fig. 2), tectonic activity may have influenced the flux of radon recorded by the ERN1 probe during Mount Etna’s 2008–2009 flank eruption. Seismicity in the rift zone could have caused microfracturing of the rocks, changing their porosity and permeability. Resulting gas migration inside the highly fractured zone related to the rift may have led to fluctuations in radon emissions recorded by the ERN1 station. Conceptual model by the authors (2017).

    In some ways, these remote influences are an unforeseen discovery that implicitly reveals that the volcano is in a perpetually precarious balance and therefore easily disturbed. Reminiscent of a butterfly effect, even a small phenomenon occurring, for example, on the north side of Mount Etna can make its effects felt on the opposite side.


    We are grateful to Stephen Conway for his help in the English editing of this article. This work was supported by the Mediterranean Supersite Volcanoes (MED-SUV) project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development, and demonstration under grant agreement 308665.


    Acocella, V., et al. (2016), Why does a mature volcano need new vents? The case of the new Southeast Crater at Etna, Front. Earth Sci., 4, 67, https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2016.00067.

    Falsaperla, S., et al. (2017), What happens to in-soil radon activity during a long-lasting eruption? Insights from Etna by multidisciplinary data analysis, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 18(6), 2,162–2,176, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GC006825.

    Ibrahim, R. A. (2005), Liquid Sloshing Dynamics: Theory and Applications, 948 pp., Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U.K., https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511536656.

    Lombardi, S., and N. Voltattorni (2010), Rn, He and CO2 soil gas geochemistry for the study of active and inactive faults, Appl. Geochem., 25, 1,206–1,220, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2010.05.006.

    Namiki, A., et al. (2016), Sloshing of a bubbly magma reservoir as a mechanism of triggered eruptions, J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res., 320, 156–171, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.03.010.

    Wang, X., et al. (2014), Correlations between radon in soil gas and the activity of seismogenic faults in the Tangshan area, north China, Radiat. Meas., 60, 8–14, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.radmeas.2013.11.001.
    Author Information

    Susanna Falsaperla (email: susanna.falsaperla@ingv.it), Marco Neri, Giuseppe Di Grazia, Horst Langer, and Salvatore Spampinato, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione di Catania, Italy

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:05 pm on March 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, An Improved Understanding of How Rift Margins Evolve, , ,   

    From Eos: “An Improved Understanding of How Rift Margins Evolve” 

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    Terri Cook

    An extensional detachment fault in western Norway. In a new study, researchers examine how crustal-scale extensional faults successively link and interact to produce the architecture of a rifted margin. Credit: Per Terje Osmundsen.

    Earth’s surface is continuously reconfigured by the assembly and breakup of supercontinents. As part of this cycle, landmasses split apart at continental rifts, linear zones where the lithosphere is stretched and lowered and new oceanic crust forms.

    Geologists have long understood that rifted margins are characterized by several types of normal faults that accommodate this extension, including steep faults with up to a few kilometers of vertical displacement and lower-angle faults that can accommodate tens of kilometers of horizontal motion. Although the growth of these steeper faults has been systematically studied in rift margins, the role that the lower-angle faults plays in these settings is not as well understood.

    To bridge this gap, Osmundsen and Péron-Pinvidic [Tectonics] studied the range of faults present along the mid-Norwegian margin, an important oil- and natural gas–producing area that experienced multiple episodes of rifting between the late Paleozoic and early Cenozoic. Using several sources of seismic reflection data collected in the Norwegian Sea between 1984 and 2008, the researchers identified five structural domains that formed via the linkage of large extensional faults.

    The faults combined into what the authors call “breakaway complexes,” which distinguish the margin’s proximal and necking domains, with thicker continental crust and higher-angle faults, from its distal and outermost portions, which are recognized by increasingly isolated slivers of crystalline continental crust and the presence of lower-angle faults. Seaward of the outermost breakaway complex, nearly flat detachment faults prevail. The 3-D architecture of the rifted margin develops mainly through the lateral and downdip interaction between these faults.

    By defining these structural domains in a novel way, this study places low-angle, high-displacement faults within a broader framework. This perspective will help researchers better understand the lateral variability of rift-forming processes and, ultimately, how these margins—and their economically important sedimentary deposits—evolve.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:45 pm on March 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , , , How Earthquakes Start and Stop, ,   

    From Eos: “How Earthquakes Start and Stop” 

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    14 March 2018
    David Marsan
    Greg Beroza
    Joan Gomberg

    Earthquakes: Nucleation, Triggering, Rupture, and Relationships to Aseismic Processes; Cargèse, Corsica, France, 2–6 October 2017.

    This fault scarp in Italy’s Apennine Mountains, an example of surface-rupturing normal faulting, formed during the complex 2016 Amatrice-Norcia earthquake sequence. Attendees at a school in Cargèse, on the French island of Corsica, discussed current topics of interest in earthquake behavior and new developments in understanding complex earthquake sequences. Photo Credit: Maxime Godano.

    The second Cargèse school on earthquakes, held last October, covered important and persistently challenging topics in earthquake behavior, including what factors control earthquake nucleation, how static or dynamic stresses and fluid injection trigger earthquakes, and how recent progress in measuring aseismic deformation might inform our understanding.

    The 79 participants representing 21 nationalities, mostly Ph.D. students and postdocs, and the 20 lecturers addressed these questions from a range of disciplines and over a range of spatial and temporal scales.

    Throughout this school, a recurring topic of discussion was what new insights have been gained since the first school in 2014. Here are some of the new developments presented at the 2017 school.

    Presentations on new observations of the complexity of earthquake rupture—perhaps most notably in the 2016 Kaikoura, New Zealand, earthquake—emphasized the critical role that geometric complexity must play in earthquake physics. With some notable exceptions, earthquake scientists have confronted this complexity only intermittently in the past. However, recent developments in sensor technology, such as nodal-style seismic instruments, remote sensing using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), and high-performance computing, increasingly allow scientists to discern complexity and explore its role in earthquake behavior.

    Another new development presented at the school arises from multiple studies of large subduction zone earthquakes. These studies point to a preparation phase that manifests as foreshocks and possibly slow slip before some large events, sometimes originating at relatively shallow depths where the fault friction is thought to be high. The question of whether this preparation phase is the manifestation of a cascading failure process or is driven by an underlying aseismic process of unknown origin remains at issue.

    Another important contributor to progress, discussed at the school, is the continuing development and application of new signal processing approaches to discern small earthquakes and weak deformation transients. This development is especially significant because the mechanical processes at work in weak deformation transients are poorly known. Laboratory exploration of established and proposed friction laws, of the slip rate–dependent and slip-dependent types, will be essential to elucidate those processes. Lab experiments and numerical simulations are making steady progress toward more realistic physical models that account for such factors as fluids, roughness, and damage zones. These models also provide new insight into earthquake processes.

    Induced seismicity, which was also discussed at the school, provides an opportunity to accelerate progress in understanding the role of fluids in faulting. It also fills the spatial gap between laboratory experiments and naturally occurring tectonic earthquakes. Greater access to data relevant to induced seismicity would help realize its potential for furthering earthquake science in general.

    At the end of the school, there were rumblings about the next one. What important current trends might we anticipate? Machine learning and data mining applied to earthquake science are emerging as an important area. Other examples include continued new insights from studies of induced seismicity and potentially even a controlled earthquake experiment. Finally, new observational capabilities—the ramping up of InSAR satellites, lidar surveys, dense seismometer arrays, and novel and highly ambitious deployments like S-net, which spans the seafloor from the Japanese coast to beyond the Japan Trench—are certain to provide new insights and will help ensure that future earthquakes teach us more than has been possible previously.

    More information about the school can be found on its website.

    David Marsan, ISTerre, Université Savoie Mont Blanc, Le Bourget du Lac, France; Greg Beroza (email: beroza@stanford.edu), Department of Geophysics, Stanford University, Calif.; and Joan Gomberg, U.S. Geological Survey, Seattle, Wash.

    See the full article here .

    Earthquake Alert


    Earthquake Alert

    Earthquake Network projectEarthquake Network is a research project which aims at developing and maintaining a crowdsourced smartphone-based earthquake warning system at a global level. Smartphones made available by the population are used to detect the earthquake waves using the on-board accelerometers. When an earthquake is detected, an earthquake warning is issued in order to alert the population not yet reached by the damaging waves of the earthquake.

    The project started on January 1, 2013 with the release of the homonymous Android application Earthquake Network. The author of the research project and developer of the smartphone application is Francesco Finazzi of the University of Bergamo, Italy.

    Get the app in the Google Play store.

    Smartphone network spatial distribution (green and red dots) on December 4, 2015

    Meet The Quake-Catcher Network

    QCN bloc

    Quake-Catcher Network

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. With your help, the Quake-Catcher Network can provide better understanding of earthquakes, give early warning to schools, emergency response systems, and others. The Quake-Catcher Network also provides educational software designed to help teach about earthquakes and earthquake hazards.

    After almost eight years at Stanford, and a year at CalTech, the QCN project is moving to the University of Southern California Dept. of Earth Sciences. QCN will be sponsored by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers into a real-time motion sensing network. QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC).

    The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called MEMS accelerometers, and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong new motions are observed. QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise (like doors slamming, or trucks driving by).

    There are two categories of sensors used by QCN: 1) internal mobile device sensors, and 2) external USB sensors.

    Mobile Devices: MEMS sensors are often included in laptops, games, cell phones, and other electronic devices for hardware protection, navigation, and game control. When these devices are still and connected to QCN, QCN software monitors the internal accelerometer for strong new shaking. Unfortunately, these devices are rarely secured to the floor, so they may bounce around when a large earthquake occurs. While this is less than ideal for characterizing the regional ground shaking, many such sensors can still provide useful information about earthquake locations and magnitudes.

    USB Sensors: MEMS sensors can be mounted to the floor and connected to a desktop computer via a USB cable. These sensors have several advantages over mobile device sensors. 1) By mounting them to the floor, they measure more reliable shaking than mobile devices. 2) These sensors typically have lower noise and better resolution of 3D motion. 3) Desktops are often left on and do not move. 4) The USB sensor is physically removed from the game, phone, or laptop, so human interaction with the device doesn’t reduce the sensors’ performance. 5) USB sensors can be aligned to North, so we know what direction the horizontal “X” and “Y” axes correspond to.

    If you are a science teacher at a K-12 school, please apply for a free USB sensor and accompanying QCN software. QCN has been able to purchase sensors to donate to schools in need. If you are interested in donating to the program or requesting a sensor, click here.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, developed at UC Berkeley.

    Earthquake safety is a responsibility shared by billions worldwide. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) links existing networked laptops and desktops in hopes to form the worlds largest strong-motion seismic network.

    Below, the QCN Quake Catcher Network map
    QCN Quake Catcher Network map

    ShakeAlert: An Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the United States


    The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) along with a coalition of State and university partners is developing and testing an earthquake early warning (EEW) system called ShakeAlert for the west coast of the United States. Long term funding must be secured before the system can begin sending general public notifications, however, some limited pilot projects are active and more are being developed. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018.

    Watch a video describing how ShakeAlert works in English or Spanish.

    The primary project partners include:

    United States Geological Survey
    California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
    California Geological Survey
    California Institute of Technology
    University of California Berkeley
    University of Washington
    University of Oregon
    Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

    The Earthquake Threat

    Earthquakes pose a national challenge because more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our Nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated the average annualized loss from earthquakes, nationwide, to be $5.3 billion, with 77 percent of that figure ($4.1 billion) coming from California, Washington, and Oregon, and 66 percent ($3.5 billion) from California alone. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

    Part of the Solution

    Today, the technology exists to detect earthquakes, so quickly, that an alert can reach some areas before strong shaking arrives. The purpose of the ShakeAlert system is to identify and characterize an earthquake a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking that will result, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way. This can be done by detecting the first energy to radiate from an earthquake, the P-wave energy, which rarely causes damage. Using P-wave information, we first estimate the location and the magnitude of the earthquake. Then, the anticipated ground shaking across the region to be affected is estimated and a warning is provided to local populations. The method can provide warning before the S-wave arrives, bringing the strong shaking that usually causes most of the damage.

    Studies of earthquake early warning methods in California have shown that the warning time would range from a few seconds to a few tens of seconds. ShakeAlert can give enough time to slow trains and taxiing planes, to prevent cars from entering bridges and tunnels, to move away from dangerous machines or chemicals in work environments and to take cover under a desk, or to automatically shut down and isolate industrial systems. Taking such actions before shaking starts can reduce damage and casualties during an earthquake. It can also prevent cascading failures in the aftermath of an event. For example, isolating utilities before shaking starts can reduce the number of fire initiations.

    System Goal

    The USGS will issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning parameter data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis, as soon as the ShakeAlert system, its products, and its parametric data meet minimum quality and reliability standards in those geographic regions. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018. Product availability will expand geographically via ANSS regional seismic networks, such that ShakeAlert products and warnings become available for all regions with dense seismic instrumentation.

    Current Status

    The West Coast ShakeAlert system is being developed by expanding and upgrading the infrastructure of regional seismic networks that are part of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS); the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) is made up of the Southern California Seismic Network, SCSN) and the Northern California Seismic System, NCSS and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN). This enables the USGS and ANSS to leverage their substantial investment in sensor networks, data telemetry systems, data processing centers, and software for earthquake monitoring activities residing in these network centers. The ShakeAlert system has been sending live alerts to “beta” users in California since January of 2012 and in the Pacific Northwest since February of 2015.

    In February of 2016 the USGS, along with its partners, rolled-out the next-generation ShakeAlert early warning test system in California joined by Oregon and Washington in April 2017. This West Coast-wide “production prototype” has been designed for redundant, reliable operations. The system includes geographically distributed servers, and allows for automatic fail-over if connection is lost.

    This next-generation system will not yet support public warnings but does allow selected early adopters to develop and deploy pilot implementations that take protective actions triggered by the ShakeAlert notifications in areas with sufficient sensor coverage.


    The USGS will develop and operate the ShakeAlert system, and issue public notifications under collaborative authorities with FEMA, as part of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, as enacted by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7704 SEC. 2.

    For More Information

    Robert de Groot, ShakeAlert National Coordinator for Communication, Education, and Outreach

    Learn more about EEW Research

    ShakeAlert Fact Sheet

    ShakeAlert Implementation Plan

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  • richardmitnick 10:13 am on February 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , Atmosphere science, , NASA PACE,   

    From Eos: “A Novel Approach to a Satellite Mission’s Science Team” 

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    12 February 2018
    Emmanuel Boss
    Lorraine A. Remer

    NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission satellite.

    The NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission, with a target launch within the next 5 years, aims to make measurements that will advance ocean and atmospheric science and facilitate interdisciplinary studies involving the interaction of the atmosphere with ocean biological systems. Unique to this Earth science satellite project was the formation of a science team charged with a dual role: performing principal investigator (PI)-led peer-reviewed science relevant to specific aspects of PACE, as well as supporting the mission’s overall formulation as a unified team.

    This science team is serving a limited term of 3 years, and recompetition for membership is expected later this year. Overall, the cooperative, consensus-building approach of the first PACE Science Team has been a constructive and scientifically productive contribution for the new satellite mission. This approach can serve as a model for all future satellite missions.


    The PACE satellite, as envisioned, would carry multiple sensors into space as early as 2022. These instruments include a radiometer that will span the ultraviolet to the near infrared (NIR) with high spectral resolution (<5 nanometers). This radiometer will also scan individual bands from the NIR to the shortwave infrared. In addition, the instrument suite would include two different CubeSat polarimeters. These devices are radiometers that separate different polarization states of light over several viewing angles and spectral bands.

    Measurements from these sensors would be used to derive properties of atmospheric aerosols, clouds, and oceanic constituents. Derived products could lead to better understanding of the processes involved in determining sources, distributions, sinks, and interactions of these variables with critical applications including Earth’s radiative balance, ocean carbon uptake, sustainable fisheries, and more.

    The PACE Science Team

    To help map out the scope of the PACE mission, NASA first established a science definition team that provided a report on the desired characteristics of PACE in 2012. Following that report and just before the decision to fund PACE was made, in 2014 NASA published a call for proposals for participants in the first PACE Science Team.

    The scientists funded under this call and selected for the science team were partitioned into two subject areas: One focused on atmospheric correction and atmospheric products, and the other addressed the retrieval of inherent optical properties of the ocean. The team was enhanced with NASA personnel with specific portfolios in two areas: data processing and applications for societal relevance.

    NASA’s solicitation specified “the ultimate goal for each of the two measurement suite teams is to achieve consensus and develop community-endorsed paths forward for the PACE sensor(s) for the full spectrum of components within the measurement suite. The goal is to replace individual ST [science team] member recommendations for measurement, algorithm, and retrieval approaches (historically based on the individual expertise and interests of ST members) with consensus recommendations toward common goals.”

    This new framework differed from past NASA science teams in that PIs not only proposed their own science objectives and coordinated their own research but were also expected to contribute to common goals as well.

    Science Team Activities

    Soon after forming, the science team identified several issues or subject areas of common concern and formed subgroups to address these individual concerns. These areas included construction of novel data sets for algorithm development (both in situ and synthetic data sets), cross comparison and benchmarking of coupled ocean-atmosphere radiative transfer codes, and cross comparison of instruments in the field to assess and constrain uncertainties in the measurements of oceanic particle absorption.

    The science team was also asked by NASA to assess the designs of the PACE radiometer and polarimeter and to determine the value of adding a high spatial resolution coastal camera. An ad hoc subgroup was formed to produce a stand-alone report on the advantages and requirements for polarimetry for atmospheric correction, aerosol characterization, and oceanic retrievals. The team contributed to both the design and content of the PACE website.

    The PACE science team also developed an alternative style for their last two annual meetings that emphasized discussion and interaction. To improve the efficiency of the PACE science team’s workshops, a “flipped meeting” format was adopted in which team members prerecorded their individual presentations in advance and posted these recordings to an internal site. Science team members were able to view and listen to the recordings at their leisure and arrived at the meeting itself readied with questions and discussion points for the presenters. This meeting strategy was successful and led to invigorating two-way discussions.

    Enhanced Collaborations

    The PACE science team is in the last phase of the 3-year term. Several consensus reports are being finalized to provide NASA with input and recommendations about the most likely paths forward for PACE atmospheric correction, atmospheric products, and oceanic optical properties [e.g., Werdell et al., 2018].

    PACE has set itself up to be a model for interdisciplinary collaboration. Early fruits of this can be seen in the multiple collaborations that have sprouted up between ocean and atmospheric scientists, whose vocabulary and culture were initially vastly different. Collaborative products range from published papers that build realistic radiative transfer models from within the ocean to the top of the atmosphere to the assembly of novel databases that contain ocean and atmospheric measurements useful to develop novel algorithms.

    We hope these collaborations will result in increased cooperation in PACE’s future and on future missions. In particular, we’re hopeful that collaborations will lead to enhanced study of processes at the air-sea interface, a complex domain that is relatively unknown, where a holistic and interdisciplinary approach will lead to better understanding of the functioning of our planet.

    PACE’s future is currently uncertain (it is in Congress’s continuing resolutions but was one of the missions the current administration did not support). Although we hope that the mission keeps its funding, we note that the cooperative, consensus-building approach of the first PACE science team was a constructive and scientifically productive contribution to the path forward for a new satellite mission. We expect that this framework to support mission activities will be adopted in future NASA missions to maximize their utility across disciplines.

    Science paper:
    An overview of approaches and challenges for retrieving marine inherent optical properties from ocean color remote sensing, Progress in Oceanography

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on January 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , , China Catching Up to United States in Research and Development,   

    From Eos: “China Catching Up to United States in Research and Development” 

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    24 January 2018
    Randy Showstack

    China’s manned submersible Jiaolong on 1 June 2017 after it was retrieved from its 20th dive in the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest known trench. Although the United States still leads the world in research and development investments, China’s expenditures in these areas soared by an average of 18% annually from 2000 to 2015. Credit: Xinhua/Liu Shiping/Alamy Stock Photo.

    The United States still leads the world in gross domestic expenditures on research and development according to the latest report on such spending. However, the U.S. global share of those activities has dropped from about 37% in 2000 to 26% in 2015, whereas China’s share has increased to 21%, reports the U.S. National Science Board’s (NSB) Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, a congressionally mandated analysis issued on 18 January.

    The new comparison is based on data from 2015. In that year, the United States spent $496.6 billion on research and development (R&D), whereas China spent the equivalent of $408.8 billion. The year 2015 is the most recent one available for many indicators because gathering and analyzing R&D data induce a lag, according to an NSB analyst.

    In 2015, China surpassed the European Union (EU) in gross domestic expenditures on research and development and now trails only the United States. According to the most recent (2015) data, the United States spent $496.6 billion, China spent $408.8 billion, and the EU spent $386 billion. The graph calculates selected country (and EU) expenditures from 1981 to 2015 and converts foreign currencies into U.S. dollars via “purchasing power parity” exchange rates. Credit: Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, Figure 4-6.

    Recent trends show China’s R&D growth is surging. Between 2000 and 2015, R&D has soared by an average of 18% annually in China, whereas U.S. spending rose by about 4% annually, according to the report.

    China has now surpassed the European Union and its $386 billion expenditure on R&D in 2015. At the time of the most recent previous version of the indicators report in 2016, the European Union was still slightly ahead of China according to the 2013 data that was the most recent at the time. If current trends continue, China could surpass the United States within a matter of several years, according to an Eos analysis of the data.

    “The U.S. is still the largest supporter of science and technology, but China is coming on fast, and they are making big commitments to the future,” NSB chair Maria Zuber told Eos. In addition to developing these indicators, NSB governs the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advises the president and Congress on science and engineering policy, research, and education issues.

    “It’s not to say the sky is falling, because the sky isn’t falling. But one also doesn’t want to be asleep at the wheel. There is room for lots of countries to get involved, and it’s good for everybody. But, of course, the U.S. wants to maintain its leadership role.”

    A Huge Increase in Global R&D

    Global R&D expenditures, led by growth in China and other countries, reached $1.92 trillion in 2015 from $722 billion in 2000, up an average of 6.3% annually, or 266% in total over that time period.

    After the United States, China, and the European Union, other countries—including individual members of the European Union—making major investments in R&D include Japan ($170 billion), Germany ($114.8 billion), South Korea ($70.1 billion), France ($60.8 billion), India ($50.3 billion), and the United Kingdom ($46.3 billion). Israel, which invested $13 billion, leads other countries in the percentage of its gross domestic product for R&D expenditures, at 4.25%, followed by South Korea’s 4.23%. By comparison, the United States is at 2.7%, and China is at 2.1%.

    “We are involved in a global race for new knowledge,” NSF director France Córdova said at an 18 January briefing about the report. The United States “may be an innovation leader today, but other countries are rapidly gaining ground. It is not inconceivable that we may be overtaken in time. Our investment in basic research must remain a national priority.”

    China Takes the Lead in Science and Engineering Articles

    The report also tracks a broad range of other indicators, including the number of science and engineering (S&E) articles published, for which 2016 data are the most recent available. For the first time, China has overtaken the United States in that metric.

    In 2016, China published 426,165 S&E articles, or 18.6% of the world’s total, with its numbers increasing from 189,760 in 2006 at an average annual growth of 8.4%. The United States published 408,985 S&E articles in 2016, or 17.8% of the world’s total, according to the report, increasing its output from 383,115 in 2006 at an average annual growth of 0.7%. Globally, the number of S&E articles increased from 1.6 million in 2006 to 2.3 million in 2016, an average annual increase of 2.9%.

    [I see no indication here that many papers by Chinese scientists have been discounted as either fraudulent or just wrong in their science. see http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/china-cracks-down-after-investigation-finds-massive-peer-review-fraud%5D%5D

    Education and Gender Diversity Trends

    In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, the United States awarded about 40,000 S&E doctoral degrees in 2014, the most recent year for which data were analyzed, with China awarding 34,000. In 2000, the United States awarded about 25,000 S&E doctoral degrees, with China awarding fewer than 10,000.

    Of 7.5 million S&E bachelor’s level degrees awarded worldwide in 2014, India led with a 25% share, followed by China at 22%, the European Union at 12%, and the United States at 10%.

    Another indicator tracked the growth of academic R&D expenditures by technical field. The average annual growth rate for the geosciences in the United States was just 0.1% from 2007 to 2016, the lowest growth rate of the assessed fields; it grew 3.8% from 1997 to 2006. By comparison, engineering grew 3.2% from 2007 to 2016, down from 4.8%.

    Women in 2015 constituted just 28% of workers in S&E occupations in the United States. For the category of Earth scientists, geologists, and oceanographers, the number was 22.7%, and for physicists and astronomers, it was 18.4%.

    Zuber told Eos she hoped the release of the new report would encourage the U.S. government to invest more in science across all federal agencies and to provide funding stability. “If you don’t know what the budget is going to be, it’s very hard for federal agencies to do long-term planning,” she said.

    See the full article here .

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 11:48 am on January 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , Geocorona, Lyman Alpha Imaging Camera U Tokyo, The PROCYON spacecraft NAOJ/ESA, Tracing the Path of Gas Atoms from Earth to the Final Frontier   

    From Eos: “Tracing the Path of Gas Atoms from Earth to the Final Frontier” 

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    Sarah Witman

    Scientists capture the first complete image of Earth’s luminous geocorona and prove its ecliptic north–south symmetry.

    An image of the geocorona, a luminous halo formed by photons released by hydrogen atoms in the outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere. Credit: Rikkyo University.

    The outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the outer exosphere, is almost entirely made up of hydrogen. These hydrogen atoms scatter photons, producing a luminous halo called the geocorona. Observing the precise shape of the geocorona would shed light on the last phase of an important geophysical process: the escape of hydrogen atoms from Earth into interplanetary space.

    The exosphere has been observed from within—distances of less than 64,000 kilometers—extensively. But, from the outside looking in, past space missions have been able to observe the geocorona only from far greater distances. For example, Mariner 5 caught a glimpse from roughly 240,000 kilometers out, and Apollo 16 observed it from the Moon—about 380,000 kilometers away.

    In a recent study, Kameda et al. [Geophysical Research Letters] used the Lyman Alpha Imaging Camera on board the Proximate Object Close Flyby with Optical Navigation (PROCYON ) spacecraft to observe Earth’s geocorona from the greatest distance yet: more than 15 million kilometers away.

    LAICA flight model (image credit: U Tokyo.)

    The PROCYON spacecraft and comet 67P/Churumov-Gerasiment (Conceptual Image). Credit: NAOJ/ESA/Go Miyazaki.

    The camera was able to capture the first image of the entire geocorona, stretching more than 240,000 kilometers: 38 times the length of Earth’s radius. (In comparison, partial images captured by past observation revealed roughly 100,000 kilometers, or less than 16 times the length of Earth’s radius.)

    In addition to this comprehensive image—which proved the ecliptic north–south symmetry of the geocorona for the first time—the team used a mathematical model to determine the distribution of the geocoronal emission’s intensity. From this model, they found that the production of hot hydrogen in the magnetized plasmasphere (a layer of dense plasma surrounding Earth) is likely not the main process involved in shaping the outer exosphere, although it may still be involved somehow.

    This study is a step forward in the geophysical and space sciences and the first successful attempt since the 1970s era Apollo mission to paint a picture of the outermost reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on January 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , , , , Marine geodesy, Megathrust zone, ,   

    From Eos: “Modeling Megathrust Zones” 

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    Rob Govers

    A recent paper in Review of Geophysics built a unifying model to predict the surface characteristics of large earthquakes.

    The Sendai coast of Japan approximately one year after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The harbor moorings and the quay show significant co-seismic subsidence. The dark band along the quay wall resulted from post-seismic uplift. Credit: Rob Govers.

    The past few decades have seen a number of very large earthquakes at subduction zones. Researchers now have an array of advanced technologies that provide insights into the processes of plate movement and crustal deformation. A review article recently published in Reviews of Geophysics pulled together observations from different locations worldwide to evaluate whether similar physical processes are active at different plate margins. The editors asked one of the authors to describe advances in our understanding and where additional research is still needed.

    What are “megathrust zones” and what are the main processes that occur there?

    A megathrust zone is a thin boundary layer between a tectonic plate that sinks into the Earth’s mantle and an overriding plate. The largest earthquakes and tsunamis are produced here. High friction in the shallow part of the megathrust zone effectively locks parts of the interface during decades to centuries. Ongoing plate motion slowly brings the shallow interface closer to failure, i.e., an earthquake. Other parts of the megathrust zone are mechanically weaker. They consequently attempt to creep at a rate that is required by plate tectonics, but are limited by being connected to the locked part of the interface.

    What insights have been learned from recent megathrust earthquakes at different margins?

    High magnitude earthquakes in Indonesia (2004), Chile (2010) and Japan (2011) were recorded by new networks utilizing Global Positioning System technology, which is capable of measuring ground displacements with millimeter accuracy. This complemented seismological observations of megathrust slip during these earthquakes. The crust turned out to deform significantly during and after these earthquakes. These observations indicated that slip on weak parts of the megathrust zone may be responsible, likely in combination with the more classical stress relaxation in the Earth’s mantle. In regions where megathrust earthquakes are anticipated, crustal deformation observations allowed researchers to identify parts of the megathrust zone that are currently locked. In our review article, we integrate these perspectives into a general framework for the earthquake cycle.

    How have models been used to complement observations and better understand these processes?

    Mechanical models are needed to tie the surface observations to their causative processes that take place from a few to hundreds of kilometers deep into the Earth, which is beyond what is directly accessible by drilling. Many of the published models focus on a single earthquake along a specific megathrust zone. We wondered what deep earth processes are common to these regions globally and built a unifying model to predict its surface expressions. Our model roughly reproduced the observed surface deformation, but it also became clear that some regional diversity would be required to match the data shortly after a major earthquake.

    What have been some of the recent significant scientific advances in understanding plate boundaries?

    Creep on weak parts of the megathrust zone is a very significant contributor to the surface measurements after an earthquake. Mantle relaxation is also relevant. We demonstrate that the surface deformation of these processes may give a biased impression of low friction on the megathrust zone. Creep on the megathrust zone downdip of a major earthquake may be responsible for observations that were puzzling thus far; in an overall context of convergence and compression, tension was observed in the overriding plate shortly after recent major earthquakes.

    What are some of the unresolved questions where additional research or modeling is needed?

    Marine geodesy is an exciting new field that aims to monitor deformation of the sea floor that already yielded important constraints on the deformation of the Japan megathrust. Measurements along various margins will tell whether all megathrusts are locked all the way up to the seafloor. A longstanding question is how observations on geological time scales of mountain building and deformation of the overriding plate are linked to the observations of active deformation. We think that the multi-earthquake cycle model that we present in this review article is a first step towards that goal.

    See the full article here .

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 4:09 pm on January 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGU, , , ERUPT,   

    From Eos: “Working Together Toward Better Volcanic Forecasting” 

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    A National Academies report highlights challenges and opportunities in volcano science.

    Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano became active again in 1999, after a hiatus of some 80 years, and it continues to spew ash and shake the ground today. The most recent major eruption occurred in 2014. Better understanding of volcanic processes could lead to better forecasting of such eruptions. A 2017 report summarizes the current state of volcano science and issues three grand challenges for addressing key questions and setting research priorities. Credit: Sebastián Crespo Photography/Moment/Getty Images.

    Michael Manga

    On average, more than 60 volcanoes erupt every year. Although volcanic eruptions can be amazing natural phenomena, they can also have devastating effects on the landscape, atmosphere, and living beings, and these effects can extend over great distances. Data from many types of instruments, combined with a basic understanding of how volcanoes work, can provide an important means of safeguarding lives and property by detecting the signs of an impending eruption and forecasting its size and duration.

    In 2016, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine commissioned a committee to summarize our understanding of how volcanoes work. The committee’s tasks included reporting on new research and observations that will improve scientists’ ability to forecast eruptions and inform monitoring and early warning. Their consensus report, titled “Volcanic Eruptions and Their Repose, Unrest, Precursors, and Timing” (ERUPT), was released in 2017. The report summarizes opportunities to better understand volcanic eruptions and make more useful forecasts of volcano behavior.

    These opportunities are possible because new measurements can better reveal where magma is stored and how it moves. New mathematical models are being developed for the processes that govern eruptions. And technological advances have enabled expanded monitoring from space and on the ground to fill important data gaps. Together, these improvements will lead to more useful forecasts of the timing, size, and consequences of eruptions.

    Questions and Priorities

    The report identifies outstanding questions and research priorities for several aspects of volcanoes: how magma is stored, rises through the crust, and then erupts; new opportunities to improve forecasting; and the interaction between volcanoes and other Earth systems. It also discusses ways to strengthen volcano science.

    Three grand challenges summarize key questions, research priorities, and new approaches highlighted throughout the report:

    forecast the size, duration, and hazard of eruptions by integrating observations with quantitative models of magma dynamics
    quantify the life cycles of volcanoes globally and overcome the biases inherent in assuming a few well-studied volcanoes represent the many
    develop a coordinated volcano science community to maximize scientific returns from any volcanic event

    The report notes that developing models of volcanic systems that can inform forecasting requires the integration of data and methodologies from multiple disciplines. These disciplines include remote sensing, geophysics, geochemistry, geology, atmospheric science, mathematical modeling, and statistics.

    The report also identifies opportunities to move from forecasting dominated by pattern recognition to forecasting based on physics- and chemistry-based models that assimilate monitoring data. This would be a profound paradigm shift but could yield great rewards for forecasting.

    Monitoring Change: Conclusions from ERUPT

    At the report’s core is a simple theme: Determining the life cycle of volcanoes matters.

    This life cycle is key to interpreting precursors and unrest; revealing the processes that govern the initiation, magnitude, and longevity of eruptions; and understanding how magmatic systems evolve during the quiescence between eruptions. Our current understanding is biased by the modest number of comprehensively monitored volcanoes, the types of eruptions that have been studied, and the small (but growing) number of volcanoes with well-established histories of their full life cycles. Satellites and expanded ground-based monitoring networks can fill some of the data gaps, as can extension of observations to the oceans.

    Authors of the report agree that on the ground, a useful goal is to have at least one seismometer per volcano, complemented by more extensive ground-based monitoring at a smaller number of high-priority volcanoes. From space, achieving daily measurements of deformation and passive degassing at all volcanoes on land would ensure global and continuous coverage. Ideally, degassing measurements would monitor carbon dioxide emissions, as well as sulfur dioxide.

    High-resolution maps of thermal emissions and topography and the way they change over time are useful for understanding a spectrum of volcanic processes and Earth system responses to eruptions, the report notes. It also stresses that geological studies, augmented by mapping, scientific drilling, and geophysical imaging of volcanic systems, are necessary to understand volcanism over longer periods of time.

    Myriad Opportunities

    Capitalizing on the new expanded capabilities in volcano monitoring requires that the volcano science community be prepared to quickly monitor or respond to any eruption, the report notes. Such preparations involve strengthening multidisciplinary research, domestic and international partnerships, and training networks. Emerging technologies, including inexpensive sensors, drones, and new microanalytical geochemical methods, provide previously unimagined opportunities.

    Volcano science often advances substantially following well-studied eruptions. A combination of enhanced monitoring, advancing experimental and mathematical models, and integration of research and monitoring will help the volcano science community understand and forecast volcanic eruptions and maximize what we can learn when volcanoes do erupt.

    Copies of the ERUPT report are available without charge from the National Academies.

    See the full article here .

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