Archives par mot-clé : Geology


by Hannay Osborne, 21 August 2019 in Newsweek from PNAS

A huge source of methane has been discovered deep beneath the surface of Earth, sitting between the upper mantle and lower oceanic crust. The discovery is important as it could provide an insight into the hydrothermal vents that may have helped the planet’s first life emerge. Researchers also argue it could be a source of hydrogen and methane on other planets in the solar system—”even those where liquid water is no longer present.”

The ‘abiotic’ methane—methane that is not formed with organic matter—was found locked inside rocks. Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Massachusetts, took 160 samples from hydrothermal sites across the globe, including the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Guaymas Basin, the East Pacific Rise and the Mid-Cayman Rise. After analyzing them with a laser-based microscope, they found that almost all contained pockets of methane.

In their study, published in the journal PNAS, the team says this could be the biggest source of abiotic methane in the world. This reservoir, they say, could account for more methane than was in Earth’s atmosphere before the onset of the industrial era.

The methane appears to have formed by reactions between trapped water and olivine, a group of rock-forming minerals found in the planet’s subsurface. When seawater moves through the deep ocean crust, it mixes with magma-hot olivine. When the mineral cools, the water is trapped inside and a chemical reaction takes place, leading to the formation of hydrogen and methane.

Traditionally, we think of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—as forming when organic material breaks down. When it is emitted into the atmosphere, it has a warming effect far greater than carbon dioxide, although it is far shorter-lived than the latter, disappearing after about a decade.

However, methane is also known to exist on the seafloor. It is released through deep-sea vents—geothermally heated fissures on Earth’s crust. In 2016, scientists with the Ocean Exploration Trust discovered over 500 methane spewing vents off the west coast of the U.S.

However, the source of the seafloor methane has remained something of a mystery. “Identifying an abiotic source of deep-sea methane has been a problem that we’ve been wrestling with for many years,” study author Jeffrey Seewald, a senior scientist at WHOI, said in a statement.

Lead author Frieder Klein added: “We were totally surprised to find this massive pool of abiotic methane in the oceanic crust and mantle. Here’s a source of chemical energy that’s being created by geology.”

Fire from Ice: A Case Study of Methane Hydrates in the Eastern Mediterranean

by E. Zogopoulos, August 13, 2019 in EnergyIndustryeView

Methane hydrates is a source of methane gas which is found in crystalline formation that look like ice and can be found in permafrost regions or under the sea in outer continental margins.

We are living in times of fundamental changes in the energy landscape, driven by uncertainty, unstable energy prices, disruptive technologies, geopolitical gambits and subsequent attempts for regulatory interventions. While governments and corporations are trying to adjust to the new landscape and guess the name of the game, they need reliable sources of power to make predictions and critical strategic decisions.

Historical & geopolitical context

The era of hydrocarbons does not seem to be over, but there might be some indications in the horizon. We like it or not, they will still account for the vast majority of the global energy mix by 2050, despite significant breakthroughs in renewables. Many new players come in the energy market with the elusive promise of additional and cheaper resources and the will to disrupt the game – and eventually make money out of it.

Furthermore, the growing tension between public policy and private initiatives has been boiling and has been more than just an understatement for decades. The under-investment that we observe now due to lower prices and risks could become chronic and the global output of energy resources could lead to secure supply deficit.

Gas is believed to gradually replace coal, which is a source of distress for some existing players. The world is facing a proliferation of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) supplies that are already impacting gas markets and competing with pipeline gas. Some of the largest and most significant consuming nations are contemplating reform or unbundling, which could mean some take or pay contracts become stranded and an increasing oil price is likely to reinforce the price arbitrage between long-term and spot pricing.

There is undeniably a constant call for further investments in renewables, but lower oil, gas and coal prices and increased efficiency (or very effective lobbying) might slow this down. The global players do take into consideration the call for renewables (like solar and wind energy), either for publicity purposes or even because they do believe that this could be the future.


Location of sampled and inferred methane hydrate occurrences in oceanic sediment of outer continental margins and permafrost regions. Most of the recovered methane hydrate samples have been obtained during deep coring projects or shallow seabed coring operations. Most of the inferred methane hydrate occurrences are sites at which bottom simulating reflectors (BSRs) have been observed on available seismic profiles. The methane hydrate research drilling projects and expeditions reviewed in this report have also been highlighted on this map. (Map courtesy of Timothy S. Collett, USGS)

Anthropocene: “it will be the rocks that have the final say” about this fake word.

by David Middleton, August 7, 2019 in WUWT

The fake geologic epoch known as the “Anthropocene” just won’t die… It’s like a zombie from a bad science fiction movie.

Despite being populated with activists like Naomi Oreskes, it has taken the AWG ten years to vote on what their conclusion will be and to start looking for evidence to support their conclusion… And the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Here’s where the Anthropocene dies…


Figure 4 from Finney & Edwards.  “Workflow for approval and ratification of a Global Standard Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) proposal. Extensive discussion and evaluation occurs at the level of the working group, subcommission, and International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) Bureau. If approved at these successive levels, a proposal is forwarded to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for ratification. This process is also followed for other ICS decisions on standardization, such as approval of names of formal units, of revisions to the units, and to revision or replacement of GSSPs.”

A voracious Cambrian predator, Cambroraster, is a new species from the Burgess Shale

by Royal Ontario Museum, July 31, 2019 in ScienceDaily

Fossils of a large new predatory species in half-a-billion-year-old rocks have been uncovered from Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies. This new species has rake-like claws and a pineapple-slice-shaped mouth at the front of an enormous head, and it sheds light on the diversity of the earliest relatives of insects, crabs, spiders, and their kin.

Reaching up to a foot in length, the new species, named Cambroraster falcatus, comes from the famous 506-million-year-old Burgess Shale. “Its size would have been even more impressive at the time it was alive, as most animals living during the Cambrian Period were smaller than your little finger,” said Joe Moysiuk, a graduate student based at the Royal Ontario Museum who led the study as part of his PhD research in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. Cambroraster was a distant cousin of the iconic Anomalocaris, the top predator living in the seas at that time, but it seems to have been feeding in a radically different way,” continued Moysiuk.

Rare fossil in a fossil reveals a dinosaur’s surprising last meal

by Michael Gresko, July 11, 2019 in NationalGeographic

The find—described today in the journal Current Biology—is the fourth Microraptor fossil to preserve stomach contents, but it’s the first to show that Microraptor ate lizards. Previous fossils captured it eating small mammals, fish, or birds. The specimen also reveals that, like some predatory birds today, Microraptor had a taste for swallowing lizards whole and head-first.

This fossil of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor also preserves the animal’s last meal: a lizard it seems to have swallowed whole and head first.


Volcanism Altering Bering Sea Eco-Systems, Not Climate Change

by James  E. Kamis, July 8, 2019 in ClimateChangeDispatch

Volcanism, primarily ocean floor in nature, is the most feasible and plausible cause of recent alterations to the Bering Sea physical and biological systems, not climate change.

Since 2014, multiple changes to the Bering Sea’s physical and biological systems such as a rise in seawater temperature, sea ice melting, alteration of commercial fish migration patterns and the very sudden die-off of certain sea bird species have made front-page news.

Many scientists have been quick to attribute these supposedly ‘unnatural’ events to human-induced atmospheric warming or climate change without mentioning or giving due consideration to emissions from active volcanic features that circumvent the entire Bering Sea and populate its seafloor.

This immediate jump to a climate change cause and event effect relationship is especially difficult to understand knowing that frequently during the last five years we have been informed of yet another eruption from a Bering Sea area volcano located in either Russia, Alaska, or on the Bering seafloor.

So, let’s take a moment to review Bering Sea volcanic activity and its likely effect on the area’s physical and biological systems.

More ‘reactive’ land surfaces cooled the Earth down

by Charles the moderator , July 6, 2019 in WUWT

Higher reactivity could explain temperature drop before last ice age

GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

From time to time, there have been long periods of cooling in Earth’s history. Temperatures had already fallen for more than ten million years before the last ice age began about 2.5 million years ago. At that time the northern hemisphere was covered with massive ice masses and glaciers. A geoscientific paradigm, widespread for over twenty years, explains this cooling with the formation of the large mountain ranges such as the Andes, the Himalayas and the Alps. As a result, more rock weathering has taken place, the paradigm suggests. This in turn removed more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, so that the ‘greenhouse effect’ decreased and the atmosphere cooled. This and other processes eventually led to the ‘ice Age’.

In a new study, Jeremy Caves-Rugenstein from ETH Zurich, Dan Ibarra from Stanford University and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam were able to show that this paradigm cannot be upheld. According to the paper, weathering was constant over the period under consideration. Instead, increased ‘reactivity’ of the land surface has led to a decrease in CO2 in the atmosphere, thus cooling the Earth. The researchers published the results in the journal Nature.

Scientist Spots High Geothermal Heat Flux In East Greenland – ‘Dramatic Consequences For Ice Basal Melting’

by K. Richard, July 5, 2019 in NoTricksZone

Geothermal heat flux can foment upper mantle temperature anomalies of 800–1000 °C, and these extreme heat intensities have been found to stretch across 500 km of central-east Greenland. This could result in “a significant contribution of ice melt to the ice-drainage system of Greenland” (Artemieva et al., 2019).

Evidence of more than 100,000 formerly or currently active volcanic vents permeate the Earth’s sea floor (Kelley, 2017).

Active volcanoes spew 380°C sulfuric acid and “metal-laden acidic fluids” into the bottom waters of the world ocean on a daily basis. In other words, literal ocean acidification is a natural phenomenon.

The carbon dioxide concentrations present in these acidic floods reach “astounding” levels, dwarfing the potential for us to even begin to appreciate the impact this explosive geothermal activity has on the Earth’s carbon cycle (Kelley, 2017).

About Antarctica

by Thongchai Thailand, June 27, 2019

  1. Antarctica is broken into two pieces. On the west is West Antarctica that constitutes 20% of Antarctica. The upper portion of West Antarctica forms a thumb. It’s called the Antarctic Peninsula. The remaining 80% of Antarctica is called East Antarctica. The right image shows a NASA graph that reflects ice melting on the entire continent from 1995 to 2015. It is here shown as a proxy for ice melting denominated as millimeters of sea level rise due to meltwater. Note that West Antarctica, inclusive of the Antarctic Peninsula, the 20% portion of the continent, accounts for all of the continent’s ice loss. East Antarctica, the much larger 80%, is actually gaining ice. This melt graph was created in 2015 by Dr. H. Jay Zwally is Chief Cryospheric Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Project Scientist for the Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite.
  2. The lopsided melt data raises this question: why is all the melt concentrated in 20% of the continent while the other 80% gains ice? The answer is found in the University of Washington 50-year average surface temperature map. It was generated in 2009 by Dr. Eric Steig – Earth and Space Sciences – University of Washington. It’s validity was hotly debated for many years. However, since that time, it has been proven correct by two more modern studies. NASA’s skin temperature map and British Antarctic Survey’s temperature map.
  3. The surface temperature map that Dr. Steig made represents the temperature of the upper few meters of ice and sediment and does not reflect the temperature of the atmosphere…

How geologic forces are melting southern Greenland ice sheet

by J.E. Kamis, May 25, 2016 in ClimateChangeDispatch

The most plausible scenario for southern Greenland’s surface ice melt is related to geologically induced heat flow and not atmospheric warming for various, well-established reasons. Based on research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (see here), the top surface of southern Greenland’s ice sheet is currently melting at a high rate and therefore greatly reducing surface ice volume. They attribute this geographically localized melting effect to an unusually persistent and man-made atmospheric high pressure system (a so-called Omega Block) that has remained stationary above southern Greenland during the spring of 2016.

This non-moving high-pressure system has trapped a cell of very warm air above southern Greenland resulting in higher-than-normal surface ice melting rates and volumes. NOAA and the mainstream media are portraying this above-average melting as undeniable proof man-made global warming damaging our planet.

This portrayal is vastly misleading.

That’s because southern Greenland’s surface ice melt is more likely caused by natural, geologically induced heat flow from one of Earth’s largest Deep Ocean crustal plate junctures, the 10,000 mile long Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is “an immensely long mountain chain extending for about 10,000 miles (16,000 km) in a curving path from the Arctic Ocean to near the southern tip of Africa. The ridge is equidistant between the continents on either side of it. The mountains forming the ridge reach a width of 1,000 miles.”

Antarctic marine life recovery following the dinosaurs’ extinction

by British Antarctic Survey, June 19, 2019 in ScienceDaily

The K-Pg extinction wiped out around 60% of the marine species around Antarctica, and 75% of species around the world. Victims of the extinction included the dinosaurs and the ammonites. It was caused by the impact of a 10 km asteroid on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, and occurred during a time period when the Earth was experiencing environmental instability from a major volcanic episode. Rapid climate change, global darkness, and the collapse of food chains affected life all over the globe.

The K-Pg extinction fundamentally changed the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Most groups of animals that dominate modern ecosystems today, such as mammals, can trace the roots of their current success back to the aftermath of this extinction event.

A team of scientists from British Antarctic Survey, the University of New Mexico and the Geological Survey of Denmark & Greenland show that in Antarctica, for over 320,000 years after the extinction, only burrowing clams and snails dominated the Antarctic sea floor environment. It then took up to one million years for the number of species to recover to pre-extinction levels.

Plate tectonics may have driven ‘Cambrian Explosion’

by University of Exeter, June 19, 2019 in ScienceDaily/from Nature

A team of scientists have given a fresh insight into what may have driven the “Cambrian Explosion” — a period of rapid expansion of different forms of animal life that occurred over 500 million years ago.

While a number of theories have been put forward to explain this landmark period, the most credible is that it was fuelled by a significant rise in oxygen levels which allowed a wide variety of animals to thrive.

The new study suggests that such a rise in oxygen levels was the result of extraordinary changes in global plate tectonics.

During the formation of the supercontinent ‘Gondwana’, there was a major increase in continental arc volcanism — chains of volcanoes often thousands of miles long formed where continental and oceanic tectonic plates collided. This in turn led to increased ‘degassing’ of CO2 from ancient, subducted sedimentary rocks.

This, the team calculated, led to an increase in atmospheric CO2and warming of the planet, which in turn amplified the weathering of continental rocks, which supplied the nutrient phosphorus to the ocean to drive photosynthesis and oxygen production.

In hot pursuit of dinosaurs: Tracking extinct species on ancient Earth via biogeograph

by Charles the moderator, May 31, 2019 in WUWT

University of Tokyo

One researcher at the University of Tokyo is in hot pursuit of dinosaurs, tracking extinct species around ancient Earth. Identifying the movements of extinct species from millions of years ago can provide insights into ancient migration routes, interaction between species, and the movement of continents.

“If we find fossils on different continents from closely related species, then we can guess that at some point there must have been a connection between those continents,” said Tai Kubo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the University Museum at the University of Tokyo.

A map of life – biogeography

Previous studies in biogeography — the geographic distribution of plants and animals — had not considered the evolutionary relationships between ancient species. The new method that Kubo designed, called biogeographical network analysis, converts evolutionary relationships into geographical relationships.

By combining data from fossils and models of the ancient Earth, researchers can map where ancient species may have migrated. This method, called biogeographical network analysis, converts evolutionary relationships between species into geographical relationships. This method was used in research by Tai Kubo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the University Museum at the University of Tokyo. Credit Caitlin Devor, The University of Tokyo, CC-BY Usage Restrictions Image by Caitlin Devor, The University of Tokyo, CC-BY

Tertiary hyperthermal events: precursors of the current situation?

by A. Jacobs & A. Préat, May 20, 2019 in SSRN.Elsevier

The focus of this study is based on a detailed analysis of the hyperthermal events of the

Paleocene / Eocene limit of 56 Ma and the lower Eocene (for the 54-52 Ma interval, Figure 1).

This example will show that the Earth has experienced many times much higher temperatures

than today, with warmer, sometimes more acidic oceans and an atmosphere much richer in CO2

(or CH4) than the current one. Are these past events precursors of the current situation?

Keywords: global warming, climate change, Paleocene, Eocene, hyperthermal events

The Relationship between Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration and Global Temperature for the Last 425 Million Years

by William J. Davis, September 2017, in ResearchGate

Assessing human impacts on climate and biodiversity requires an understanding of the relationship between the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere and global temperature (T). Here I explore this relationship empirically using comprehensive, recently-compiled databases of stable-isotope proxies from the Phanerozoic Eon (~540 to 0 years before the present) and through complementary modeling using the atmospheric absorption/transmittance code MODTRAN. Atmospheric CO2 concentration is correlated weakly but negatively with linearly-detrended T proxies over the last 425 million years.