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  • richardmitnick 9:11 am on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland, Eos, Magma Flow in a Major Icelandic Eruption,   

    From Eos: “Magma Flow in a Major Icelandic Eruption” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    Sarah Stanley

    Lava erupts from a fissure in the Holuhraun lava field during the 2014 eruption of Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland. New research reveals how tectonic forces contributed to the underground flow of magma before it erupted. Credit: GISBA/iStock

    Iceland straddles a short stretch of the spreading boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. New research by Spaans and Hooper [Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth] explores how mechanical stress caused by the two plates moving apart contributed to magma emplacement during an eruption of Bárðarbunga volcano in late August of 2014.

    Researchers have long had a general understanding of the eruption’s mechanics: Two weeks beforehand, magma began traveling underground away and upward from the ice-covered crater of the volcano in a formation known as a dike. Cutting through the existing rock above, the dike traveled roughly northeast for 50 kilometers before stopping beneath the Holuhraun lava field in central Iceland.

    Within days, lava began to erupt from a fissure in the lava field. For 6 months, the fissure released record-breaking amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and more lava than had been produced by any other Icelandic eruption in the past 200 years—1.6 cubic kilometers in total.

    Although previous research Nature Geoscience has revealed this detailed timeline of the dike’s path, the mechanisms underlying its formation have been unclear. The researchers investigated the interaction between two factors that helped open the dike and extend it: pressure from the magma flow itself and existing stress from the two tectonic plates pulling away from each other.

    To explore this interaction, the researchers constructed a mathematical, mechanical model of dike formation. They based their approach on a previously developed method that keeps the model computationally manageable by considering only relevant boundaries, like dike walls and magma chamber walls, instead of modeling a much larger volume of rock.

    The model used measurements of changes to Earth’s surface that occurred during the eruption, which can hint at what happened underground. Some of these changes were detected in radar images of Earth’s surface captured by satellites in a method known as interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR). Other data came from 31 global navigation satellite system (GNSS) stations positioned around the volcano; slight changes in their relative positions indicate surface changes.

    The approach revealed that tectonic forces contributed significantly to formation of the dike at the final, northern stretches of its path. However, the magnitude of tectonic stress was much lower along the dike’s initial path away from the volcanic crater, where magma pressure dominated its formation.

    These findings suggest that earlier, undetected volcanic activity within the past 50 years released tectonically induced stress near the caldera, whereas stresses farther north were left unrelieved until the 2014 eruption. Past activity could easily have gone unnoticed because it occurred beneath the Vatnajökull ice cap, and sensitive monitoring equipment was only recently introduced to the area.

    In addition to shedding light on the past, the ability to model and understand eruptions like this one could aid efforts to predict when and where lava may erupt in the future. For instance, this new research suggests that a new dike arising from the same crater may not necessarily travel in the same direction and would likely erupt closer to the crater itself.

    See the full article here .


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

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

    Eos news bloc


    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 10:54 am on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CASSIOPE/e-POP satellite, CSA- Canadian Space Agency, , Eos, How Heavy Oxygen Ions Escape Earth’s Gravity   

    From Eos: “How Heavy Oxygen Ions Escape Earth’s Gravity” 

    Eos news bloc


    5 April 2018
    Emily Underwood

    A new study reveals that low-frequency electromagnetic waves accompany intense heating events at low altitudes.

    CASSIOPE/e-POP satellite passing over Earth’s nightside aurora. Credit: Canadian Space Agency

    “CAScade, Smallsat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer” (CASSIOPE) is a made-in-Canada small satellite from the Canadian Space Agency. It is comprised of three working elements that use the first multi-purpose small satellite platform from the Canadian Small Satellite Bus Program. This generic, low-cost platform carries two payloads: e-POP, a scientific payload consisting of eight high-resolution instruments used to probe the characteristics of near-Earth space, and Cascade, a high data rate, high capacity store and forward technology payload from MDA Corporation.

    Together, e-POP and Cascade achieve both a scientific and a commercial objective: e-POP is providing scientists with unprecedented details about the Earth’s ionosphere, thermosphere and magnetosphere, helping scientists understand the cause and effects of potentially dangerous space weather, while Cascade demonstrates a new digital communications ‘courier’ service provided by MDA.

    CASSIOPE is hexagonal in shape, measuring just 180 cm corner-to-corner and 125 cm high and weighing in at just over 500 kg. Partners in the mission include the University of Calgary, Commuications Research Centre in Ottawa, Magellan Aerospace of Winnipeg, and MDA of Richmond, B.C., the prime contractor for the overall mission.

    See also the CASSIOPE/e-POP quick fact sheet.

    The e-POP instruments are supported by Cascade, the companion commercial payload on CASSIOPE, which permits the on-board storage of up to 75 GB of e-POP data. This data can be downlinked to the ground at a rate of over 300 Mbits/s, allowing the e-POP payload to capture up to 15 GB per day of valuable scientific data.

    Cascade demonstrates the capability to deliver Giga packages of data from anywhere on Earth in one day. The Cascade service is not much different from the operations of a normal courier company – pick the parcel up at close of business, carry it via truck, plane or other means, and deliver it before work starts the next day. The difference is that Cascade will replace the truck by a small satellite and the packages are digital data files. Cascade addresses a niche for a particular type of communication service currently not met by any other system. Customers for this service share a common need for global, routine daily pickup and delivery of very large digital data files – 50 to 500 Gigabytes at a time. Data can originate from (or be destined for) sites located anywhere in the world. The system is designed to meet the needs of remote commercial, civil and military clients with large-scale data transfer requirements.

    For further information, please visit MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.

    On 17 December 1971, scientists observed a bizarre new phenomenon in the outermost region of Earth’s atmosphere, where the planet’s magnetic field orchestrates the flow of charged particles and produces such phenomena as auroras.

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    In the midst of a massive geomagnetic storm induced by a surge of solar radiation, satellites detected large flows of heavy oxygen (O+) ions streaming away from Earth, seemingly in defiance of gravity. Ever since, scientists have been trying to figure out what propelled the ions, in part because disturbances in this zone—known as the ionosphere—can disrupt communication systems. A new study by Shen et al.[Journal of Geophysical Research] reveals for the first time how low-altitude electromagnetic waves help launch these ions toward outer space.

    Normally, the upward diffusion of O+ ions in Earth’s ionosphere is balanced by gravity, resulting in a state of equilibrium. Surges of energy from the Sun can disrupt this balance, however, causing flows of plasma that can hurtle outward like a fountain, then fall back toward Earth. To investigate how O+ ions become energized enough to escape Earth’s gravity, the researchers used measurements from the Canadian-based CASSIOPE satellite. One of CASSIOPE’s missions is to become the world’s first commercial space-based digital courier service, picking up and dropping off massive packages of digital data all over the globe. Another is to collect data on solar storms in the upper atmosphere using the Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e‑POP) payload, a collection of eight instruments that can, among other capabilities, measure the energy distribution of ions in the ionosphere and image auroral emissions.

    Over the course of 1 year, the authors observed e-POP measurements at relatively low altitudes, between 325 and 730 kilometers. They looked for hot spots in the ionosphere, which occur when O+ ions become energized enough to escape Earth’s gravitational field. The team analyzed 24 such hot spots, examining their relation to the bulk flow of ions along the magnetic field lines around Earth, as well as low-frequency electromagnetic waves and currents.

    In the first statistical study of its kind, the team observed that extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves known as BBELF waves energize O+ ions, even at relatively low altitudes, heating them and accelerating them outward. This phenomenon, called transverse ion heating, has long been thought to occur predominantly at higher altitudes—not as low as 350 kilometers, as the authors observed. The researchers discovered patches of ionosphere where this heating was particularly intense, reaching up to 4.5 eV (50,000 K) in areas about 2 kilometers across, they report.

    Researchers traditionally have attributed heating in the lower reaches of the ionosphere to frictional interaction with Earth’s atmosphere, but the new study suggests that electromagnetic waves can also cause heating events. The study also reported downward flowing jets of ionospheric ions, which the authors attribute to downward pointing electric fields associated with auroral currents. (Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017JA024955, 2018)

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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

    Eos news bloc


    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: , , , Eos, , , Radon Tells Unexpected Tales of Mount Etna’s Unrest,   

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

    Eos news bloc


    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: , An Improved Understanding of How Rift Margins Evolve, , Eos,   

    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: , , , Eos, 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

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    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 8:46 am on February 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Drones in Geoscience Research: The Sky Is the Only Limit, , Eos   

    From Eos: “Drones in Geoscience Research: The Sky Is the Only Limit” All Drones Need Proper Control Legislation and Enforcement 

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    All Drones Need Proper Control Legislation and Enforcement

    Christa Kelleher
    Christopher A. Scholz
    Laura Condon
    Marlowe Reardon

    A quadcopter is deployed to collect visual and thermal imagery along Onondaga Creek in Syracuse, N.Y. Credit: Syracuse University photo by Steve Sartori.

    In the digital age, our capabilities for monitoring Earth processes are dramatically increasing, offering new opportunities to observe Earth’s dynamic behavior in fields ranging from hydrology to volcanology to atmospheric sciences. The latest revolution for imaging and sampling Earth’s surface involves unmanned aircraft systems, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely piloted aircraft, or, colloquially, drones.

    Drones come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and platforms. These include several different designs (single rotors, multirotors, hybrids, and fixed-wing platforms) that can be used to carry many different types of payloads, including sensors, cameras, and sampling equipment. More important, drones are now applied toward a range of objectives for assessing dynamic processes in two, three, and four dimensions, revolutionizing our ability to rapidly collect high-quality observations across Earth’s surface.

    The geosciences community at large has taken to the skies, with a broad spectrum of researchers using an array of drone platforms and sensors or samplers in several unique and innovative applications. The codevelopment of drone technology alongside new sensor technology is paving the way for drones to be used as more than just Earth surface imagers. This opens a world of possibilities for Earth science research.

    Six Ways That Drones Transform Geoscience Research and Environmental Monitoring

    A review of the geosciences literature shows that drones are now actively applied toward several objectives and across many fields (Figure 1). The latest generation of drones is especially versatile because these drones can carry payloads of sensors and sampling equipment capable of collecting an impressive variety of images, physical samples, and synoptic measurements.

    Here are six ways that drones blaze new paths of observation:

    1. Drones characterize topography. In recent years, drones have increasingly assisted with the photogrammetry technique known as structure from motion (SfM), where 2-D images are transformed into 3-D topographic surfaces (Figure 2). This technique provides high-resolution topographic imagery, which can be used to augment existing topographic data as well as to identify microtopographic features like small water channels on the surface of a glacier.

    In a study by Rippin et al. [2015], SfM techniques used drone imagery to produce high-resolution digital elevation models over the lower reaches of a glacier in Svalbard. The team then used the models to identify minor channels that were altering the roughness of the ice surface. Because roughness alters energy exchange, the findings of this study have implications for understanding the energy balance of glaciers.

    SfM is relatively inexpensive compared with traditional survey methods such as lidar, and it can be used with off-the-shelf software available for imagery postprocessing and development to produce high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs).

    Fig. 2. A 3-D model produced using SfM photogrammetry obtained at Chimney Bluffs State Park in New York. Note the badlands landscape produced by severe shoreline erosion of Pleistocene age drumlins. The inset shows an aerial view of this type of topography on the southern Lake Ontario shoreline at Chimney Bluffs State Park. Credit: Main imaget: P. Cattaneo, J. Corbett; Inset: C. Scholz

    2. Drones assess hazardous or inaccessible areas. Drones are particularly useful for acquiring imagery or measurements over locations that are hazardous or difficult to reach on foot. In one early example, McGonigle et al. [2008] acquired measurements of volcanic gases using a quadcopter outfitted with spectrometers and electrochemical sensors within the La Fossa crater (Vulcano, Italy). The study set the benchmark for quadcopter use in volcanology and its ability to measure carbon dioxide flux and enhance eruption forecasting.

    In another example, Brownlow et al. [2016] deployed octocopters to monitor methane (CH4) dynamics both above and below the trade wind inversion on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, an ideal location for characterizing tropical background methane concentrations. The octocopters operated at high elevations, sampling methane at altitudes up to 2,700 meters above mean sea level. The researchers then used observed air chemistries to delineate chemical signatures that indicate sources of air masses at various altitudes. The study demonstrated ultimately that atmospheric monitoring via drones can reveal spatial complexities (e.g., the air column) that are often missed by sampling at the surface.

    In another innovative application, Ore et al. [2015] designed and deployed a quadcopter capable of collecting water samples from rivers and lakes. These researchers successfully applied their system, which can collect three 200-milliliter water samples under moderate wind conditions, during more than 90 different missions on lakes and waterways. Such efforts present an exciting path for monitoring environmental hazards or disasters such as oil spills, tracking waterborne diseases, and sampling remote locations.

    3. Drones image transient events. Drones are ideal for mapping nutrient blooms, sediment plumes (Figure 3), and floods, examples of ecosystem and landscape responses that may occur for only short periods of time. Spence and Mengistu [2016] demonstrated the use of drones to identify an intermittent stream network in the St. Denis National Wildlife Area in Saskatchewan, Canada.

    The authors also found that drone delineation of narrow intermittent streams consistently outperformed delineation with multispectral SPOT-5 satellite imagery (10-meter resolution). In fact, training SPOT-5 delineation on drone imagery did not improve classification accuracy, suggesting that high-resolution drone imagery may be one of the few tools capable of capturing continuous images of fluvial dynamics at relatively fine scales.

    4. Drones contextualize satellite and ground-based imagery. With the proliferation of satellite data products, comparisons between drone-collected data and satellite imagery offer a pathway for reconciling data collected at multiple spatial scales. This nested approach was used by Di Mauro et al. [2015] to examine how such impurities as mineral dust may alter snow radiative properties in the European Alps.

    They used a combination of snow sampling, red-green-blue imaging with quadcopter drones, and Landsat 8 imagery, producing local and regional maps that demonstrated the effects of snow impurities on snow albedo. These impurities directly affect snow surface energy exchanges at many spatial scales, so these researchers’ findings are useful for climate modeling as well as for mapping potential feedbacks between snow surfaces and energy exchange.

    5. Drone imagery validates computational models. Drone-collected data have also been used to constrain model inputs or to compare data to model simulations in many different fields across the geosciences. One growing application is the spatial modeling of stratigraphy (the sequencing of rock layers in a formation). Drones have the potential to revolutionize assessments of spatial patterns of Earth processes, as demonstrated by two recent studies.

    Nieminski and Graham [2017] describe modeling stratigraphic architecture to characterize difficult-to-access outcrops in the Miocene East Coast Basin in New Zealand. They demonstrate how 3-D SfM alongside 2-D visual imagery can enable interpretations useful for both research and the classroom (Figure 4).

    Drones are also commonly used to create model inputs. Vivoni et al. [2014] demonstrated that fine-scale data collected via drones may be particularly useful for generating distributed hydrologic models. The authors describe several different drone-derived data sets, including elevation models and maps of vegetation classification, at resolutions ranging from about a centimeter to a meter that were used as inputs to a spatially distributed watershed model. Such applications may be useful in places where inputs with resolutions finer than 10 meters are desired but may not yet exist.

    6. Drones make the world a better place. Beyond the research world, the drone revolution is spilling over into many everyday humanitarian and environmental applications around the globe. DroneSeed, a company based in Seattle, Wash., is using swarms of off-the-shelf drones to control invasive vegetation with herbicides. The company aims to use drones to identify microhabitat sites ideal for tree planting, deploying biodegradable seedpods, and protecting tree development by limiting invasive vegetation growth. They seek to replant large areas of rough terrain with a fraction of the manpower required to perform the same work on foot.

    Meanwhile, conservationists are protecting vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species using drones. For example, the nonprofit organization Leatherback Trust is tracking leatherback sea turtles via drones, enabling professionals to follow the turtles to locate and observe their nesting sites, rather than painstakingly identifying nests on foot.

    And even more uses abound. For instance, in the wake of recent hurricane disasters in the southern United States, drones were used in search and rescue operations as well as for infrastructure damage assessment [Moore, 2017].

    Notes on Regulations

    As drone use has evolved, so has the regulatory landscape.

    In the United States, regulations distinguish between recreational operations and operations that are commercial and professional in nature, including research efforts [Federal Aviation Administration, 2017]. These regulations specify the necessary training and certification for remote pilots, and they lay out conditions for safe operation.

    Regulations vary among countries and localities; thus, anyone planning to use unmanned aircraft in a research program must review the applicable rules and obtain the required permits and certifications during the project planning stages. Such due diligence should ensure legal and safe data collection.

    Rising to New Heights

    Drones are revolutionizing the research world, industry, and the environment at large. The technology has untold potential for modernizing approaches to time- and energy-intensive tasks while improving documentation and imagery, environmental conservation, and, ultimately, quality of life around the world. When it comes to drones in the geosciences and environment at large, the sky is the limit.

    This work was supported by an award from Gryphon Sensors, LLC; the Syracuse Center of Excellence; and the Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering at Syracuse University. Special thanks for supporting flights and image processing go to Jacqueline Corbett, Ian Joyce, and Peter Cattaneo.


    Brownlow, R., et al. (2016), Methane mole fraction and δ13C above and below the trade wind inversion at Ascension Island in air sampled by aerial robotics, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43(22), 11,893–11,902, https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2016GL071155.

    Di Mauro, B., et al. (2015), Mineral dust impact on snow radiative properties in the European Alps combining ground, UAV, and satellite observations, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 120, 6,080–6,097, https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JD023287.

    Federal Aviation Administration (2017), Small unmanned aircraft systems, Advis. Circ. 107-2, 1 p., U.S. Dep. of Transp., Washington, D. C., https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/AC_107-2_AFS-1_Signed.pdf.

    McGonigle, A. J. S., et al. (2008), Unmanned aerial vehicle measurements of volcanic carbon dioxide fluxes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L06303, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL032508.

    Moore, J. (2017), Drones deliver storm response, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc., Frederick, Md., https://www.aopa.org/News-and-Media/All-News/2017/September/18/Drones-deliver-storm-response.

    Nieminski, N. M., and S. A. Graham (2017), Modeling stratigraphic architecture using small unmanned aerial vehicles and photogrammetry: Examples from the Miocene East Coast Basin, New Zealand, J. Sediment. Res., 87(2), 126–132, https://doi.org/10.2110/jsr.2017.5.

    Ore, J.-P., et al. (2015), Autonomous aerial water sampling, J. Field Robotics, 32, 1,095–1,113, https://doi.org/10.1002/rob.21591.

    Rippin, D. M., A. Pomfret, and N. King (2015), High resolution mapping of supra-glacial drainage pathways reveals link between micro-channel drainage density, surface roughness and surface reflectance, Earth Surf. Processes Landforms, 40(10), 1,279–1,290, https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.3719.

    Spence, C., and S. Mengistu (2016), Deployment of an unmanned aerial system to assist in mapping an intermittent stream, Hydrol. Processes, 30, 493–500, https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.10597.

    Vivoni, E. R., et al. (2014), Ecohydrology with unmanned aerial vehicles, Ecosphere, 5(10), 130, https://doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00217.1.

    Author Information

    Christa Kelleher (email: ckellehe@syr.edu), Department of Earth Sciences and Department of Civil Engineering, Syracuse University, N.Y.;
    Christopher A. Scholz, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, N.Y.;
    Laura Condon, Department of Earth Sciences and Department of Civil Engineering, Syracuse University, N.Y.;
    Marlowe Reardon, Department of Television, Radio, and Film, Syracuse University, N.Y.

    See the full article here .

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

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

    AGU bloc

    Eos news bloc


    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 .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

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

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

    AGU bloc

    Eos news bloc


    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 .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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.

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