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Sherlock

Volcano 'Pollution' Solves Mercury Mystery

Scientists from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have discovered how volatile metals from volcanoes end up in polar ice cores.

Image
©University of Oxford
Measurements have shown that 7 tonnes of mercury escapes from the Masaya volcano every year.

'It has always been a mystery how trace metals, like mercury, with a volcanic signature find their way into polar ice in regions without nearby evidence of volcanic activity,' said Dr David Pyle of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences who led the research team with colleague Dr Tamsin Mather. 'These traces only appear as a faint 'background signal' in ice cores but up until now it has still been difficult to explain.'

The team sampled the fumes of two volcanoes; Mount Etna in Sicily and Masaya in Nicaragua. They pumped gases from the edges of the volcanic craters across some gold-plated sand, to measure the volatile metal mercury, and through very fine filters, to capture fume particles. They discovered that the gases at both volcanoes contain high levels of mercury vapour, and that the fume is also very rich in tiny particles, as small as 10-20 nanometres in size.

Fish

Fisheries, Not Whales, To Blame For Shortage Of Fish

The argument that increasing whale populations are behind declining fish stocks is completely without scientific foundation, leading researchers and conservation organizations said today as the International Whaling Commission opened its 60th meeting in Santiago, Chile.

Harpoon on the bow of a whale hunting ship
©iStockphoto/Chris Overgaard
Harpoon on the bow of a whale hunting ship. The Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program have presented three new reports debunking the science behind the 'whales-eat-fish' claims emanating from whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program today presented three new reports debunking the science behind the 'whales-eat-fish' claims emanating from whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland. The argument has been used to bolster support for whaling, particularly from developing nations.

"It is not the whales, it is over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries," said fisheries biologist Dr. Daniel Pauly, director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

"Making whales into scapegoats serves only to benefit wealthy whaling nations while harming developing nations by distracting any debate on the real causes of the declines of their fisheries."

Who's eating all the fish? The food security rationale for culling cetaceans, the report co-authored by Dr Pauly for the Humane Society International contrasts "the widely different impacts of fisheries and marine mammals" with fisheries targeting larger fish where available and marine mammals consuming mainly smaller fish and organisms.

Snowman

Australian Astronomical Society Warns Of Global Cooling As Sun's Activity 'Significantly Diminishes'

Australian Astronomical Society warns of global cooling as Sun's activity 'significantly diminishes'.

A new paper published by the Astronomical Society of Australia has a warning to global warming believers not immediately obvious from the summary: Based on our claim that changes in the Sun's equatorial rotation rate are synchronized with changes in the Sun's orbital motion about the barycentre, we propose that the mean period for the Sun's meridional flow is set by a Synodic resonance between the flow period (~22.3 yr), the overall 178.7-yr repetition period for the solar orbital motion, and the 19.86-yr synodic period of Jupiter and Saturn.

Comment: Let's see: Stop worrying about warming, start worrying about cooling. OK, got it!


Bizarro Earth

US: Wildfire forces town to evacuate north of Phoenix

People in the Crown King and Horse Thief Basin areas were asked to leave immediately Sunday afternoon because of a growing wildfire.

At 4 p.m., fire crews say flames had torched 300 acres and that the fire was growing.

Image
©Christopher Sign
Crown King smoke plume (Arizona).

"This is a very serious situation," said Steve Sams with the Prescott National Forest Office.

The fire was located about one mile south of Crown King, northeast of Lane Mountain. It was slowly moving north.

Fire crews used aircraft to battle the blaze. A 60-person fire crew was on the ground hiking and trying to build a fire line to stop the flames from spreading.

Bizarro Earth

US: 5.1 magnitude earthquake off Oregon Coast

Earthquake Details
Magnitude 5.1
Date-Time

* Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 19:33:41 UTC
* Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 10:33:41 AM at epicenter

Location 44.309°N, 129.243°W
Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program
Region OFF THE COAST OF OREGON
Distances:

* 409 km (254 miles) W (272°) from Yachats, OR
* 410 km (255 miles) WNW (287°) from Barview, OR
* 410 km (255 miles) WNW (290°) from Bandon, OR
* 490 km (304 miles) W (275°) from Eugene, OR
* 537 km (334 miles) WSW (258°) from Portland, OR

Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 8.5 km (5.3 miles); depth fixed by location program

Parameters NST=105, Nph=105, Dmin=473.9 km, Rmss=1.32 sec, Gp=169°,

M-type=body magnitude (Mb), Version=7

Source

* USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)

Event ID us2008twbk

* This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.


Better Earth

Ancient Oak Trees Help Reduce Global Warming

The battle to reduce carbon emissions is at the heart of many eco-friendly efforts, and researchers from the University of Missouri have discovered that nature has been lending a hand. Researchers at the Missouri Tree Ring Laboratory in the Department of Forestry discovered that trees submerged in freshwater aquatic systems store carbon for thousands of years, a significantly longer period of time than trees that fall in a forest, thus keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.

"If a tree is submerged in water, its carbon will be stored for an average of 2,000 years," said Richard Guyette, director of the MU Tree Ring Lab and research associate professor of forestry in the School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "If a tree falls in a forest, that number is reduced to an average of 20 years, and in firewood, the carbon is only stored for one year."

The team studied trees in northern Missouri, a geographically unique area with a high level of riparian forests (forests that have natural water flowing through them). They discovered submerged oak trees that were as old as 14,000 years, potentially some of the oldest discovered in the world. This carbon storage process is not just ancient; it continues even today as additional trees become submerged, according to Guyette.

Phoenix

US: Bush declares emergency in California as wildfires rage

U.S. President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency Saturday in California, as the coastal state was grappling with more than 1,000 wildfires.

Bush said the federal government will send more aid to California in an effort to bring the raging fires under control.

According to Cheri Patterson, a spokeswoman for the state's fire department, more than 12,000 firefighters have been battling the fires in northern California for more than a week now and the firefighting force has been stretched too thin by the sheer number of blazes.

Bizarro Earth

4.3 earthquake hits Mammoth Lakes, California

A magnitude-4.3 earthquake struck the Sierra Nevada on Saturday, but there were no reports of damage or injuries, authorities said.


Better Earth

Strange purple suns seen over California

California is on fire. Hundreds of wildfires across the state are filling the air with smoke and filling the sky with ... lavender suns? Christopher Calubaquib saw one on June 26th when he looked through the haze over El Sobrante, California:

Purple sun
©Christopher Calubaquib

"Because of the smoke, the sun was not very bright. I didn't need to use a filter," says Calubaquib. A day later, another lavender sun appeared over Arcata, California:

Image
©Mike Kelly

"The colors were not retouched; that is how it really looked," says photographer Mike Kelly.

What makes the sun lavender? It happens when the air is filled with particles measuring about 1 micron (10-6 m) across, a little larger than the wavelength of red light. Micron-sized particles scatter red light strongly, while letting shades of blue pass through. The mix of ash over El Sobrante produced a lavender hue, reminiscent of the great Alberta muskeg fires of September 1950. Believe it or not, the same physics can turn the Moon blue, but that is another story.

Better Earth

US: Utah's rivers mellowing after big spring flows

Utah's high-riding rivers are finally letting up.

The U.S. Geological Survey says most in the state are slowing down after a spring when near-record snowpack filled the state's rivers with icy, roiling water.

The high water produced the best season in years for river tour companies and kept rescuers busy at one of Utah's most adventurous areas.

Unlike previous years when snow melted quickly, this year's cool spring and sporadic warm spells stretched out the melting process in much of Utah.

Many rivers around the state are still flowing at above-average heights, drawing out prime conditions for rafters, kayakers and boaters. Tour companies said it's welcome relief from previous drought years.

"To have high water and to have it sustained for this long, it's been a long time," said Vicki Mackay of Colorado River and Trail Expeditions in Salt Lake City. "We're celebrating for sure."

One of the diciest spots, though, has been Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, not far from where the Green River joins the Colorado before thundering over 28 sets of rapids.

A few weeks ago, flow exceeded 50,000 cubic feet per second in the canyon.