Geology is responsible for some phenomena blamed on global warming

Melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets have been blamed on global warming, but both have a geologic origin. The “Blob” a recent warm ocean area off the Oregon coast, responsible in part for the hot weather and drought in California, has been blamed on global warming, but that too may have a geologic cause.


My article Greenland surprises (Feb. 2014) reported on research that posited “The Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere. [Lithosphere: The solid part of the earth consisting of the crust and outer mantle.] The Greenland lithosphere is 2.8 to 1.7 billion years old and is only about 70 to 80 kilometers thick under Central Greenland.”

A recent paper (April, 2016) published in Nature Geoscience supports the hypothesis of a geologic cause of metling: Melting at the base of the Greenland ice sheet explained by Iceland hotspot history.

Greenland hot spot

The paper abstract says:

Ice-penetrating radar and ice core drilling have shown that large parts of the north-central Greenland ice sheet are melting from below. It has been argued that basal ice melt is due to the anomalously high geothermal flux that has also influenced the development of the longest ice stream in Greenland. Here we estimate the geothermal flux beneath the Greenland ice sheet and identify a 1,200-km-long and 400-km-wide geothermal anomaly beneath the thick ice cover. We suggest that this anomaly explains the observed melting of the ice sheet’s base, which drives the vigorous subglacial hydrology and controls the position of the head of the enigmatic 750-km-long northeastern Greenland ice stream. Our combined analysis of independent seismic, gravity and tectonic data implies that the geothermal anomaly, which crosses Greenland from west to east, was formed by Greenland’s passage over the Iceland mantle plume between roughly 80 and 35 million years ago. We conclude that the complexity of the present-day subglacial hydrology and dynamic features of the north-central Greenland ice sheet originated in tectonic events that pre-date the onset of glaciation in Greenland by many tens of millions of years.

Geology – not global warming.

West Antarctica:

West Antarctica is underlain by a string of active volcanoes.

Hot rock and ice: Volcanic chain underlies Antarctica Science Daily, Dec. 2015. [link to original paper]

“Scientists were able to deploy ruggidized seismometers that could withstand intense cold in Antarctica only recently. A line of seismometers strung across the West Antarctic Rift Valley and the Marie Byrd Land have given geologists their first good look at the mantle beneath the ice and rocks, revealing areas of hot rock that might affect the behavior of the overlying ice sheet.” “A line of volcanoes hints there might be a hidden mantle plume, like a blowtorch, beneath the plate,” said Doug Wiens, PhD, professor of earth and planetary sciences and a co-author on the paper. “The volcanoes would pop up in a row as the plate moved over it.”

Again, geology not global warming.

The Blob:

The blob

The “blob” was an area of very warm water off the west coast of North America in 2013 and 2014 that was apparently the cause of extreme heat and drought in the West, and record snow and cold in much of the East. The blob was attributed to a persistent high pressure area. But there is another possible cause.

Beneath the “blob” is an active volcanic region called the Axial volcano and seamount. Dr. Tim Ball calculated heat flow from the volcano. He says that “The amount of energy from the magma was far in excess of what was needed to supply the heat necessary to create the ‘Blob anomaly.’” [link]

Axial volcano Oregon

Geology, not global warming.

By the way, the area near the Juan de Fuca rift may be Where the Next Big American Earthquake and Tsunami Might Occur. See more on the eruptions of the Axial Volcano: link.

Life begins between the sheets, the best way to pour champagne, the Bermuda Triangle, and more

From time to time I will report interesting scientific research that probably would not be reported by local media.

The Secret of Life May Be As Simple As What Happens Between the Sheets

life_mica_fMica sheets that is. Several lines of evidence support the idea that life originated with molecules that lay between mica sheets. The term “mica” refers to several aluminum-potassium silicate minerals that form very thin, transparent sheets.

Researchers hypothesize that structural compartments between mica sheets “could have held, protected and sheltered molecules, and thereby promoted their survival.” “Also, mica could have provided enough isolation for molecules to evolve without being disturbed and still allow molecules to migrate towards one another and eventually bond together to form large organic molecules.” Mica-bearing rocks in the early ocean would receive sunlight for energy and nutrients from the ocean. Earlier research has assigned a similar role to clay minerals, but they are subject to swelling when wet. Read more details in the press release here. This research was published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Best way to pour champagne 


From the press release of the American Chemical Society: In a study that may settle a long-standing disagreement over the best way to pour a glass of champagne, scientists in France are reporting that pouring bubbly in an angled, down-the-side way is best for preserving its taste and fizz. The study also reports the first scientific evidence confirming the importance of chilling champagne before serving to enhance its taste, the scientists say. Their report appears in ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Gérard Liger-Belair and colleagues note that tiny bubbles are the essence of fine champagnes and sparkling wines. Past studies indicate that the bubbles — formed during the release of large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide gas — help transfer the taste, aroma, and mouth-feel of champagne. Scientists long have suspected that the act of pouring a glass of bubbly could have a big impact on gas levels in champagne and its quality. Until now, however, no scientific study had been done.

The scientists studied carbon dioxide loss in champagne using two different pouring methods. One involved pouring champagne straight down the middle of a glass. The other involved pouring champagne down the side of an angled glass. They found that pouring champagne down the side preserved up to twice as much carbon dioxide in champagne than pouring down the middle — probably because the angled method was gentler. They also showed that cooler champagne temperatures (ideally, 39 degrees Fahrenheit) help reduce carbon dioxide loss.

The Bermuda Triangle Explained 

 Two scientists hypothesize that large methane bubbles rising from the ocean floor might account for many, if not all, of the mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft at specific locales around the world.

“The methane—normally frozen at great pressure as gas hydrates embedded within subterranean rock—can become dislodged and transform into gaseous bubbles expanding geometrically as they explode upwards. When these bubbles reach the surface of the water they soar into the air, still expanding upwards and outwards.

Any ships caught within the methane mega-bubble immediately lose all buoyancy and sink to the bottom of the ocean. If the bubbles are big enough and possess a high enough density they can also knock aircraft out of the sky with little or no warning. Aircraft falling victim to these methane bubbles will lose their engines-perhaps igniting the methane surrounding them-and immediately lose their lift as well, ending their flights by diving into the ocean and swiftly plummeting.”

(Story) (Note: although touted as a new hypothesis, the idea has been around at least since 1982.)

Frogs evolution tracks rise of Himalayas and rearrangement of Southeast Asia 

 You never know what will be important. “The evolution of a group of muscled frogs scattered throughout Asia is telling geologists about the sequence of events that led to the rise of the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau starting more than 55 million years ago.” “Asian frogs evolved along with the mountains’ uplift, developing hard, nubby spines and Popeye-like arms to hold onto their mates in the swift-running streams roaring down from the highest mountains in the world. The sequence of evolutionary changes, in turn, tells geologists the sequence in which mountain ranges and river systems arose and isolated frog populations as a result of the Indian tectonic plate pushing northward into Asia.” More details here.



Ancient blob-like creature of the deep revealed by scientists 


Blob2“A unique blob-like creature that lived in the ocean approximately 425 million years ago,” called the Drakozoon, “was a cone-shaped, blob-like creature with a hood and it probably had a leathery exterior skin. It appears to have survived in the ocean by attaching itself to hard surfaces such as rock. It was approximately 3mm long, and used filament-bearing tentacles to catch and eat organic particles in seawater. It pulled its hood down over its body for protection against predators, pulling it back again to expose its tentacles when danger passed.” This is actually a very rare find because the Drakozoon was a soft-bodied animal and it is very hard to make a fossil if the animal does not have bones or shells. This particular specimen “was perfectly preserved because it lived in an area that was covered in volcanic ash, following a volcanic eruption that instantly entombed it and other creatures living with it, keeping it intact for 425 million years.” The fossil was found near Herefordshire, England. See press release here. (Note: the photo is a stereo pair of the fossil. If you stare past the photo you may be able to see it in 3D.)

The ultimate cold case 

 Anthropologists “solve” a 1,500-year old murder in the ancient Greek city of Nemea during the Slavic invasion of Greece. Evidence “suggests the victim was likely an eyewitness to the Slavic invasion of Nemea. The deceased possibly used the tunnel entrance as an escape from the invaders, where he died/was killed.” Find out how “Bones” solved the mystery.