Geology news

Mars - spreading volcano

At http://specialpaper.gsapubs.org/content/470/115.abstract 'Is Tharsis, Mars, a spreading volcano?' - it is thought Tharsis Rise on Mars is spreading outwards and that has produced rifting at the summit with radial tear-fault systems associated with folding round its periphery. It is said by this geological attempt at understanding the feature to be analogous to a terrestrial mid-ocean ridge - without the corresponding subduction zones.

Prehistoric Footprints at Formby

The footprints are said to date back some 5000 to 6000 years ago, see www.archnews.co.uk/world-archaeology/uk-archaeology/4216-prehistoric-human-footprints.html and it seems a lot of amateurs have been scouring through sand dunes near Formby in Lancashire after the disovery of footprints. According to marine scientists the beaches are receding and this disperses sand and sediment and uncovers underlying layers.

Australian fire history

A paper in Quaternary Science Review (see www.physorg.com/print210875954.html ) claims Aborigines were not responsible for landscape fires and other environmental impacts shortly after their arrival, assumed to be around 50,000 years ago - but in  reality, an unknown. On long timescales fire activity in Australia reflects prevailing climate - less during cold glacial periods and greater activity in warmer phases.

Rivers cut notches in glacial valleys

Again, can be found at www.physorg.com/print210777849.html ... a geological conumdrum as rivers form steep inner gorges in some broad glacial valleys in the Alps. The U shaped valleys were formed by slow moving glaciers, eroding the bedrock over hundreds and thousands of years. When the glaciers receded rivers carved V shaped notches, or inner gorges, into the flow of the glacial valleys.

Evidence of biomass burning in ice cores

At www.physorg.com/print210529446.html there is a press release on a paper from the December 2nd issue of Science and it seems that Antarctic ice cores have found some striking evidence of biomass burning in the southern hemisphere over the last 650 years - with a series of peaks and troughs. They go back to 1350AD and therefore embrace the period of the Black Death epidemic (see Mike Baillie, New Light on the Black Death).

Fossils of the Soom Shale deposit

At www.geology.com/press-release/soom-shale/ ... a site near Table Mountain in South Africa has a rock layer a few metres thick that contains the petrified remains of bizarre early life-forms complete with eyes, guts, and muscles. It is a mystery how they were preserved in such a pristine condition but a paper in the December issue of Geology claims it was all down to the wind. A bitter wind blowing off an ice sheet.

Ice Age Sea Levels

At www.physorg.com/print210426748.html we learn that research at Southampton University is looking at the rate of sea level rise at the end of the Ice Age. Presumably computer simulation is being used which is programmed by the idea that sea levels rose as a result of a melting ice sheet rather than through a catastrophic redistribution of ocean waters.

Dead Sea sediment core

Israeli scientists are drilling into the sea bed of the Dead Sea in the hope of extracting a sediment core going back several hundred thousand years. This will provide geological and archaeological information that will take years to analyse piece by small piec as it should pigeon hole periods of drought and flood, and changing climate over time. Both Israeli and Palestinian scientists are said to be involved in the project and it is thought one thing that will show up quite clearly is a history of earthquake activity in the Jordan Valley as relevant layers will not line up.

Egyptian Wetlands

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/66507/title/Shuttle_images_reveal_Egypts_lost_giant_lake/ ... what is now a huge sand sheet to the west of the Nile was once a lake as large as Lake Erie before 80,000 years ago.

Cliff Fall in Dorset

Anyone holidaying in Dorset might be aware that you can walk the undercliff from Lyme Regis to Axmouth in what is now a quite pleasant wooded environment stretching some 10 miles or so that is maintained as a National Nature Reserve. It is in fact part of the South West Coastal Footpath, the section taking in the Jurassic Shore of Dorset and Devon. Most of the time there is no access to the beach because of the danger of falling rubble.