NOAA:  Close encounters of the crabby kind! 
Squat lobster, seen in 2011 during the Okeanos Explorer Galápagos Rift Expedition.  In 1977, scientists discovered deep-sea hydrothermal vents and associated organisms on the Galápagos Rift, profoundly changing our view of the deep sea and revolutionizing the biological and Earth sciences. Our 2011 expedition provided scientists, engineers, and the public with an opportunity to explore unseen areas and revisit the rift sites that changed our view of life on Earth. Here’s a summary of all that was accomplished: 
NOAA Ocean Explorer

NOAA:  Close encounters of the crabby kind!

Squat lobster, seen in 2011 during the Okeanos Explorer Galápagos Rift Expedition.

In 1977, scientists discovered deep-sea hydrothermal vents and associated organisms on the Galápagos Rift, profoundly changing our view of the deep sea and revolutionizing the biological and Earth sciences. Our 2011 expedition provided scientists, engineers, and the public with an opportunity to explore unseen areas and revisit the rift sites that changed our view of life on Earth.

Here’s a summary of all that was accomplished:

NOAA Ocean Explorer

Yellowstone’s Volcano Bigger Than Thought
by Becky Oskin
Yellowstone’s underground volcanic plumbing is bigger and better connected than scientists thought, researchers reported here today (April 17) at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting.
"We are getting a much better understanding of the volcanic system of Yellowstone,” said Jamie Farrell, a seismology graduate student at the University of Utah. “The magma reservoir is at least 50 percent larger than previously imaged.”
Knowing the volume of molten magma beneath Yellowstone is important for estimating the size of future eruptions, Farrell told Our Amazing Planet…
(via: Live Science)
illustration via: National Park Service

Yellowstone’s Volcano Bigger Than Thought

by Becky Oskin

Yellowstone’s underground volcanic plumbing is bigger and better connected than scientists thought, researchers reported here today (April 17) at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting.

"We are getting a much better understanding of the volcanic system of Yellowstone,” said Jamie Farrell, a seismology graduate student at the University of Utah. “The magma reservoir is at least 50 percent larger than previously imaged.”

Knowing the volume of molten magma beneath Yellowstone is important for estimating the size of future eruptions, Farrell told Our Amazing Planet…

(via: Live Science)

illustration via: National Park Service

OCEAN SCIENCE: Biology of Brine Pools and Methane Seeps

One of our objectives in exploring the “New America” is to characterize the biology in some of the most extreme environments in the Gulf of Mexico, and that means visiting two of our favorite geological features - a brine pool and a methane seep. Neither site disappointed, and the mussels and tube worms we saw were stunning.

(via: EVNautilus)

SCIENCE NEWS EXPLAINER:  How a Fossil Forms
 by Sarah Zielinski
Most times, when a living thing dies, it just rots. It leaves no trace that it was ever there. But when the conditions are just right, a fossil may form.
For this to happen, the organism typically must first become quickly buried in sediment on the floor of the sea or some other body of water. Sometimes it may even land in something like a sand dune. Over time, more and more sediments will pile atop it. Eventually compressed under its own weight, this growing accumulation of sediment will transform into hard rock.
Most organisms buried in that rock will eventually dissolve. Minerals may replace any bone, shell or once-living tissue. Minerals also may fill in the spaces between these hard parts. And so a fossil is born.
Some of these fossils contain important information about how an animal lived or died. Or they might even provide clues to ancient climate…
(read more: Science News)
photo by Sarah Zielinski

SCIENCE NEWS EXPLAINER:  How a Fossil Forms

 by Sarah Zielinski

Most times, when a living thing dies, it just rots. It leaves no trace that it was ever there. But when the conditions are just right, a fossil may form.

For this to happen, the organism typically must first become quickly buried in sediment on the floor of the sea or some other body of water. Sometimes it may even land in something like a sand dune. Over time, more and more sediments will pile atop it. Eventually compressed under its own weight, this growing accumulation of sediment will transform into hard rock.

Most organisms buried in that rock will eventually dissolve. Minerals may replace any bone, shell or once-living tissue. Minerals also may fill in the spaces between these hard parts. And so a fossil is born.

Some of these fossils contain important information about how an animal lived or died. Or they might even provide clues to ancient climate

(read more: Science News)

photo by Sarah Zielinski

A study finds that South Florida maybe can’t blame the rest of the world for saltwater seeping into the groundwater, also called saltwater intrusion.

Both sea-level rise and our pumping of groundwater contribute to saltwater intrusion. Freshwater is less dense than saltwater and will float on top. But with sea-level rise, saltwater pushes in and seeps into the freshwater aquifer. With withdrawals of groundwater, we lower the level of freshwater so there’s less of it keep saltwater out…

The Planetary Society:
Will We Find Signs of Techtonics on Pluto? And What Would That Mean?
by Amy Barr and Geoffrey Collins
It’s very cold in the outer solar system. Yet, studying the agglomerations of ice and rock far from the Sun is a smokin’ hot area of research. The newest kid on the block—2012 VP113, aka “Biden”—earned a lot of press because it, along with Sedna, another cosmic oddball, may have a story to tell about the very early history of our Solar System. But scientists haven’t forgotten Pluto, the O.D.P. (Original Dwarf Planet, hah).
In preparation for the New Horizons spacecraft‘s flyby of Pluto in mid-2015, people want to clarify the implications of possible observations. Of course, speculating now means discussing ideas that will ultimately prove incorrect. The alternative, however, is waiting until after the mission’s completion to think about the scientific details. Pluto will have everyone’s attention during the flyby, but this interest, alack, will probably dissipate (unless New Horizons gets, like, eaten). Scientists should maximize their window of opportunity—prepared to present a scientifically correct story for Pluto’s evolution alongside all the “gee whiz” photos from the flyby.
This paper, for instance, explains the scientific implications of pretty pictures of Pluto that show preserved features from ancient tectonic activity, like troughs, ridges, or bands. The authors conclude that such evidence would indicate that Pluto once hosted a global, subsurface ocean…
(read more)
image: Gemini Observatory / AURA

The Planetary Society:

Will We Find Signs of Techtonics on Pluto? And What Would That Mean?

by Amy Barr and Geoffrey Collins

It’s very cold in the outer solar system. Yet, studying the agglomerations of ice and rock far from the Sun is a smokin’ hot area of research. The newest kid on the block—2012 VP113, aka “Biden”—earned a lot of press because it, along with Sedna, another cosmic oddball, may have a story to tell about the very early history of our Solar System. But scientists haven’t forgotten Pluto, the O.D.P. (Original Dwarf Planet, hah).

In preparation for the New Horizons spacecraft‘s flyby of Pluto in mid-2015, people want to clarify the implications of possible observations. Of course, speculating now means discussing ideas that will ultimately prove incorrect. The alternative, however, is waiting until after the mission’s completion to think about the scientific details. Pluto will have everyone’s attention during the flyby, but this interest, alack, will probably dissipate (unless New Horizons gets, like, eaten). Scientists should maximize their window of opportunity—prepared to present a scientifically correct story for Pluto’s evolution alongside all the “gee whiz” photos from the flyby.

This paper, for instance, explains the scientific implications of pretty pictures of Pluto that show preserved features from ancient tectonic activity, like troughs, ridges, or bands. The authors conclude that such evidence would indicate that Pluto once hosted a global, subsurface ocean…

(read more)

image: Gemini Observatory / AURA

The Arctic methane time bomb is bigger than scientists once thought and primed to blow, according to a study published today (Nov. 24) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

About 17 teragrams of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, escapes each year from a broad, shallow underwater platform called the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, said Natalia Shakova, lead study author and a biogeochemist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. A teragram is equal to about 1.1 million tons; the world emits about 500 million tons of methane every year from manmade and natural sources. The new measurement more than doubles the team’s earlier estimate of Siberian methane release, published in 2010 in the journal Science…

How Tall Are Eruptions on Io and Venus?

by Erik Klemetti

Earth does not hold the monopoly on active volcanism in the solar system. In fact, Earth isn’t even the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Although we have abundant volcanism, to the tune of hundreds to thousands of active and potentially active volcanoes, if you look at the amount of land surface covered by the deposits of recent volcanism, Earth’s volcanism is confined to fairly small areas.

Even so, volcanism likely played a vital role in getting life started on the Earth — and maybe it is the driving force in other parts of the solar system. The manifestation of volcanism on other planets is different than on Earth as well — some places produce giant eruption plumes (like on Io) and some might produce very small plumes (like at the newly-identified potentially active volcanoes on Venus), so why are they so different?

Look at a place like Jupiter’s moon, Io. This plucky little moon is covered almost wall-to-wall with geologically-recent volcanic deposits (see above) thanks to the tidal forces exerted on it by Jupiter’s gravity. When New Horizons passed by Io in 2007, the spacecraft (headed to Pluto-Charon) captured a sequence of frames that showed the giant volcanic plume from TvashtarPatera (along with some fainter plumes from Masubi and Zal; see below)…

(read more: Wired Science)

images: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

We’re bringing water back to the Colorado River! The U.S. and Mexican governments have approved a plan to carry out a historic and vital step in advancing cooperative management of the bi-national Colorado River. The two governments, acting through the U.S. and Mexican sections of the International Boundary and Water Commission, are moving forward with a pilot “pulse flow” of water into the long-depleted delta of the Colorado River, where water has not flowed regularly since 1960.
read more: The Nature Conservancyphoto: © Jean Calhoun

We’re bringing water back to the Colorado River!

The U.S. and Mexican governments have approved a plan to carry out a historic and vital step in advancing cooperative management of the bi-national Colorado River. The two governments, acting through the U.S. and Mexican sections of the International Boundary and Water Commission, are moving forward with a pilot “pulse flow” of water into the long-depleted delta of the Colorado River, where water has not flowed regularly since 1960.

read more: The Nature Conservancy

photo: © Jean Calhoun