Eruption Clues: Researchers Create Snapshot Of Volcano Plumbing

Much like a forensic team recreates a scene to determine how a crime was committed, researchers at the University of New Hampshire are using scientific sleuthing to better understand the journey of magma, or molten rock, in one of Europe’s largest and most active volcanoes, Mount Etna. Researchers applied several techniques, in a new way, to create a more accurate picture of the volcano’s plumbing system and how quickly the magma rises to the top to cause an eruption. Their findings contribute to our understanding of how and when volcanoes erupt.

In their study, recently published in the journal Geochemical Perspective Letters, the UNH team set out to determine if the magma lingers below in pockets of the volcano or if it pushes up all at once. To put the pieces of the puzzle together, they combined three approaches previously not used together to reconstruct the ancient magma plumbing system by looking for chemical signatures in lava rock collected from flows on the surface. They looked at the minerals and the trace elements in the rocks because the tracers can help identify where the minerals have been by how they crystallized.

“As magma moves up through Earth’s crust beneath the volcano, it starts to crystallize,” says Sarah Miller, of UNH’s department of Earth sciences and lead author of the study. “Some elements move rapidly and some more slowly, so there is a chemical record of events in those crystals that can help us determine their journey.”

Extracting the timing and magma source information for ancient volcanism demonstrates how long-lived pre-eruptive processes of transport and storage work at Mount Etna. The researchers found a range of crystallization depths, suggesting there were discrete sites beneath the volcano where the rising magma crystallized. Their chemical forensic work showed two interesting things about the volcano. First, the source that produced magma in the ancient Mount Etna is much the same as what happens in Mount Etna in the present-day. Secondly, they showed that the crystals were virtually chemically identical to the lavas in which they erupted. This second finding suggests that in Mount Etna the length of time for crystal storage beneath the volcano is likely relatively short, a result which could help provide insight with recent findings for larger more explosive eruptive systems like Yellowstone.

“This proof-of-concept work puts us in a position to apply our approach more widely to other volcanoes,” said Julie Bryce, professor and chair of Earth sciences and a co-author of this paper. “Our work advances ways we can examine and think about volcanic plumbing systems beneath frequently active volcanic centers. Reconstructing the dynamics of these plumbing systems, and knowing how long-lived they are, helps in anticipating future changes in eruptive potential.”

The University of New Hampshire is a flagship research university that inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top ranked programs in business, engineering, law, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, receiving more than $100 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space.

First Evidence For Julius Caesar’s Invasion Of Britain Discovered

The first evidence for Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain has been discovered by archaeologists from the University of Leicester.

Based on new evidence, the team suggests that the first landing of Julius Caesar’s fleet in Britain took place in 54BC at Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet, the north — east point of Kent.

This location matches Caesar’s own account of his landing in 54 BC, with three clues about the topography of the landing site being consistent with him having landed in Pegwell Bay: its visibility from the sea, the existence of a large open bay, and the presence of higher ground nearby.

The project has involved surveys of hillforts that may have been attacked by Caesar, studies in museums of objects that may have been made or buried at the time of the invasions, such as coin hoards, and excavations in Kent.

The University of Leicester project, which is funded by the Leverhulme Trust, was prompted by the discovery of a large defensive ditch in archaeological excavations before a new road was built. The shape of the ditch at Ebbsfleet, a hamlet in Thanet, is very similar to some of the Roman defences at Alésia in France, where the decisive battle in the Gallic War took place in 52 BC.

The site, at Ebbsfleet, on the Isle of Thanet in north-east Kent overlooking Pegwell Bay, is now 900 m inland but at the time of Caesar’s invasions it was closer to the coast. The ditch is 4-5 metres wide and 2 metres deep and is dated by pottery and radiocarbon dates to the 1st century BC.

The size, shape, date of the defences at Ebbsfleet and the presence of iron weapons including a Roman pilum (javelin) all suggest that the site at Ebbsfleet was once a Roman base of 1st century BC date.

The archaeological team suggest the site may be up to 20 hectares in size and it is thought that the main purpose of the fort was to protect the ships of Caesar’s fleet that had been drawn up on to the nearby beach.

Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, Research Associate from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History said: “The site at Ebbsfleet lies on a peninsular that projects from the south-eastern tip of the Isle of Thanet. Thanet has never been considered as a possible landing site before because it was separated from the mainland until the Middle Ages.

“However, it is not known how big the Channel that separated it from the mainland (the Wantsum Channel) was. The Wantsum Channel was clearly not a significant barrier to people of Thanet during the Iron Age and it certainly would not have been a major challenge to the engineering capabilities of the Roman army.”

Caesar’s own account of his landing in 54 BC is consistent with the landing site identified by the team.

Dr Fitzpatrick explained: “Sailing from somewhere between Boulogne and Calais, Caesar says that at sunrise they saw Britain far away on the left hand side. As they set sail opposite the cliffs of Dover, Caesar can only be describing the white chalk cliffs around Ramsgate which were being illuminated by the rising sun.

“Caesar describes how the ships were left at anchor at an even and open shore and how they were damaged by a great storm. This description is consistent with Pegwell Bay, which today is the largest bay on the east Kent coast and is open and flat. The bay is big enough for the whole Roman army to have landed in the single day that Caesar describes. The 800 ships, even if they landed in waves, would still have needed a landing front 1-2 km wide.

“Caesar also describes how the Britons had assembled to oppose the landing but, taken aback by the size of the fleet, they concealed themselves on the higher ground. This is consistent with the higher ground of the Isle of Thanet around Ramsgate.

“These three clues about the topography of the landing site; the presence of cliffs, the existence of a large open bay, and the presence of higher ground nearby, are consistent with the 54 BC landing having been in Pegwell Bay.”

The last full study of Caesar’s invasions was published over 100 years ago, in 1907.

It has long been believed that because Caesar returned to France the invasions were failures and that because the Romans did not leave a force of occupation the invasions had little or no lasting effects on the peoples of Briton. It has also been believed that because the campaigns were short they will have left few, if any, archaeological remains.

The team challenge this notion by suggesting that in Rome the invasions were seen as a great triumph. The fact that Caesar had crossed the sea and gone beyond the known world caused a sensation. At this time victory was achieved by defeating the enemy in battle, not by occupying their lands.

They also suggest that Caesar’s impact in Briton had long-standing effects which were seen almost 100 years later during Claudius’s invasion of Briton.

Professor Colin Haselgrove, the principal investigator for the project from the University of Leicester, explained: “It seems likely that the treaties set up by Caesar formed the basis for alliances between Rome and British royal families. This eventually resulted in the leading rulers of south-east England becoming client kings of Rome. Almost 100 years after Caesar, in AD 43 the emperor Claudius invaded Britain. The conquest of south-east England seems to have been rapid, probably because the kings in this region were already allied to Rome.

“This was the beginning of the permanent Roman occupation of Britain, which included Wales and some of Scotland, and lasted for almost 400 years, suggesting that Claudius later exploited Caesar’s legacy.”

The fieldwork for the project has been carried out by volunteers organised by the Community Archaeologist of Kent County Council who worked in partnership with the University of Leicester. The project was also supported by staff from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).

Kent County Council cabinet member Matthew Balfour said: “The council is delighted to have been able to work in partnership with the University of Leicester to help build on the incredible findings made during our road development. The archaeology of Thanet is very special and we are particularly pleased that such important findings have been made with the involvement of volunteers from the Kent community. When we built the road we ensured that the community played a big part in the archaeological works and it is satisfying to see the legacy of our original work continuing.”

Principal Archaeological Officer for Kent County Council Simon Mason, who oversaw the original road excavations carried out by Oxford Wessex Archaeology, said: “Many people do not realise just how rich the archaeology of the Isle of Thanet is. Being so close to the continent, Thanet was the gateway to new ideas, people, trade and invasion from earliest times. This has resulted in a vast and unique buried archaeological landscape with many important discoveries being regularly made. The peoples of Thanet were once witness to some of the earliest and most important events in the nation’s history: the Claudian invasion to start the period of Roman rule, the arrival of St Augustine’s mission to bring Christianity and the arrival of the Saxons celebrated through the tradition of Hengist and Horsa. It has been fantastic to be part of a project that is helping to bring another fantastic chapter, that of Caesar, to Thanet’s story.”

Andrew Mayfield said: “The project has been a fantastic opportunity for us to explore the extraordinary archaeology of Thanet alongside the University of Leicester team. Volunteers, both locally from Thanet and further afield in Kent, enthusiastically give up their time and the success of the dig is very much down to their hard work and commitment. We were also lucky to welcome students from both Canterbury Universities, a local branch of the Young Archaeologists Club as well as the local school. This was very much a team effort.”

The findings will be explored further as part of the BBC Four’s Digging For Britain. The East episode, in which the Ebbsfleet site appears, will be the second programme in the series, and will be broadcast on Wednesday 29 November 2017.

Handheld Cosmic Ray Detector Available to Public – Coming Soon

First, let me announce Part – II of “Mitch’s New Prediction” is coming later today. But I wanted to make public the possibility of being a distributor for this new device of a handheld cosmic ray detector of which I may be able to purchase 10 units per order.

So I’m interested to know if this is something you would be interested in, perhaps as a Christmas gift or one for yourself, or both. I’m not sure what the price would be, but I’m hoping it will stay around $125.

Personally, I believe this product is more than just a novelty item, new studies are indicating cosmic rays are more abundant than previously known, and with our weakening magnetic field, more harmful.

Further details on cosmic rays and recent “political tugs” as related to the ozone reduction will be coming forth in a few hours and is related to my new prediction.

Earth’s atmosphere is constantly showered with high-energy cosmic rays that have been blasted from supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena far beyond the Solar System. When cosmic rays collide with Earth’s atmosphere, they decay into charged particles – muons, that are slightly heavier than an electron.


Cosmic rays last only fractions of a second, and during their fleeting lifespan they can be found through every layer of Earth’s atmosphere, circulating in the air around us and raining onto the surface at a rate similar to a light drizzle. A smaller number of cosmic rays can penetrate Earth’s surface and travel several kilometers through rock and ice.

Physicists at MIT have designed a pocket-sized cosmic ray detector to track these invisible particles. The detector can be made with common electrical parts, and when turned on, it lights up and counts each time a cosmic ray passes through. The relatively simple device costs just $100 to build, making it the most affordable cosmic ray detector available today.

The researchers, led by Spencer Axani, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Physics, have designed the detector with students in mind. They have started an outreach program that lists parts to purchase and detailed instructions on how to assemble, calibrate, and run the detector. The team estimates that an average high school student should spend about four hours building a detector for the first time, and just one hour building it a second time.


Once up and running, detectors can be carried around to measure cosmic rays rates in virtually any environment. The team has helped supply nearly 100 detectors to high school and college students, who have sent the instruments up in planes and weather balloons to measure cosmic ray rates at high altitudes.

The researchers have published the first version of the detector design in the American Journal of Physics. Axani’s co-authors are MIT professor of physics Janet Conrad and junior Conor Kirby.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Mitch Has Another Prediction – This Time Regarding the Ozone Layer

I have been working on this analysis for the last few weeks. I recently noticed some in the science community supporting this idea that humans, or solar storms, are the main culprit for reducing what has become known as the “ozone hole“.

Several recent reports announcing the ozone depletion measured in September of this year was the smallest since 1988. NASA, NOAA and a half dozen other space agencies have stated the cause of this reduction is due to an unstable and warmer Antarctic vortex; the stratospheric low pressure system that rotates clockwise in the atmosphere above Antarctica.

My prediction will come as a surprise to many of you, perhaps mostly because I do not deny the recent announcement embellishing the report of the smallest ozone depletion in the last 20 years. However, it is inconsistent with the latest research on chemical and electrical interactions which occur on varying levels in atmosphere; from the troposphere to the edges of the heliosphere.

I believe the purpose of which is to comfort the public with the ambiance of “hey everybody, you’re doing a good job with your recycling  and maintaining the minimization of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), usually referred to as aerosols. Although all things that reduce pollution is a good thing, any reduction of hairspray (aerosols) is not what reduced the ozone hole.

In a recent article I sent out titled “Evidence for a Time Lag in Solar Modulation of Galactic Cosmic Rays”, indicating the solar modulation effect of cosmic ray particles is a dependent phenomenon that arises from a combination of basic particle transport processes such as diffusion, convection, adiabatic cooling, and drift motion.

This study shows evidence for a time lag of approximately eight months, between solar-activity data and cosmic-ray flux measurements in space, which reflects the dynamics of the formation of the modulation region. This result enables us to forecast the cosmic-ray flux near Earth well in advance by monitoring solar activity.

Cosmic rays may be enlarging the hole in the ozone layer, according to a study appearing in the August issue of the scientific journal American Physical Society. Researchers analyzed data from several sources, and found a strong correlation between cosmic ray intensity and ozone depletion. Back in the lab they demonstrated a mechanism by which cosmic rays could cause a buildup of ozone-depleting chlorine inside polar clouds. Their results suggest that the damage done by cosmic rays could be millions of times larger than anyone previous believed and may force atmospheric scientists to reexamine their models of the Antarctic ozone hole.

I better make this Part – I  More Coming

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Research Reveals The Scale At Which Earth’s Mantle Composition Varies

New research by Brown University geochemists provides new insights on the scale at which Earth’s mantle varies in chemical composition. The findings could help scientists better understand the mixing process of mantle convection, the slow churning that drives the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates.

“We know that the mantle is heterogeneous in composition, but it’s been difficult to figure out how large or small those heterogeneities might be,” said Boda Liu, a Ph.D. student in geology at Brown. “What we show here is that there must be heterogeneities of at least a kilometer in size to produce the chemical signature we observe in rocks derived from mantle materials.”

The research, which Liu co-authored with Yan Liang, a professor in Brown’s Department of Earth Environmental and Planetary Sciences, is published in Science Advances.

Earth’s crust is on a constantly moving conveyer belt driven by the convecting mantle. At mid-ocean ridges, the boundaries on the ocean floor where tectonic plates are pulling away from each other, new crust is created by eruption of magmas formed by the rising of the mantle materials from depth. At subductions zones, where one tectonic plate slides beneath another, old crust material, weathered by processes on the surface, is pushed back down into the mantle. This recycling can create mantle materials of different or “enriched” compositions, which geochemists refer to as “heterogeneities.” What happens to that enriched material once it’s recycled isn’t fully understood.

“This is one of the big questions in Earth science,” Liang said. “To what extent does mantle convection mix and homogenize these heterogeneities out? Or how might these heterogeneities be preserved?”

Scientists learn about the composition of the mantle by studying mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORBs), rocks formed by the solidification of magmas erupted on the seafloor. Like fingerprints, isotope compositions of MORBs can be used to trace the mantle source from which they were derived.

Another type of seafloor rock called abyssal peridotites is the leftover mantle after the formation of MORBs. These are chunks of mantle rock that once were the uppermost mantle and later uplifted to the seafloor. Abyssal peridotites have a different isotope composition than MORBs that appear to come from the same mantle region. To explain that difference in isotope compositions, scientists have concluded that the MORBs are capturing the isotope signal from pockets of enriched material—the remnants of subducted crust preserved in the mantle.

The question this new study sought to answer is how large those enriched pockets would need to be for their isotope signature to survive the trip to the surface. As magma rises toward the surface, it interacts with the ambient mantle, which would tend to dampen the signal of enriched material in the melt. For their study, Liu and Liang modeled the melting and magma transport processes. They found that in order to produce the different isotope signals between MORBs and abyssal peridotites, the pockets of enriched material at depth would need to be at least one kilometer in size.

“If the length scale of the heterogeneity is too small, the chemical exchange during magma flow would wipe the heterogeneities out,” Liang said. “So in order to produce the composition difference we see, our model shows that the heterogeneity needs to be a kilometer or more.”

The researchers hope their study will add a new perspective to the fine-scale structure of the mantle produced by mantle convection.

“Our contribution here is to give some sense of how large some of these heterogeneities might be,” Liang said. “So the question to the broader community becomes: What might be the deep mantle processes that can produce this?”

Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity On Enceladus

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. This presupposes that the moon has a porous core that allows water from the overlying ocean to seep in, where the tidal friction exerted on the rocks heats it. This shows a computer simulation based on observations from the European-American Cassini-Huygens mission. It also offers among others an answer to the long-standing question of where the energy that can support water in liquid form on the small, cryovulcanic moon far from the sun comes from. The Heidelberg University research group led by planetary scientist Assistant Professor Dr Frank Postberg participated in the investigation.

In 2015, the researchers had already shown that there must be hydrothermal activity on Saturn’s moon. Icy volcanoes on Enceladus launch huge jets of gas and icy grains that contain fine particles of rock into space. A detector on the Cassini space probe was able to measure these particles. They originate on the seafloor more than 50,000 metres below the moon’s ice shell, which ranges in thickness from three to 35 kilometres. Using computer simulations and laboratory experiments, the scientists discovered signs that deep below the rock and the water interact — at temperatures of a least 90 degrees Celsius. But where does the energy for the hydrothermal systems that drive the transport of matter come from? And how exactly do the grains of rock get to the surface of the icy moon?

The current studies under the direction of the University of Nantes (France) offer an explanation. According to Dr Postberg, the rock core of Enceladus is probably porous, which is why the water from the overlying ocean is able to deeply permeate it. At the same time, strong tidal forces from Saturn affect the “loose” rock in the moon’s core. The new computer simulations show that the frictional heat is transferred very efficiently to the water circulating through the core, heating it to more than 90 degrees Celsius. This water dissolves some constituents of the rocky material. At certain hotspots, the hydrothermal fluids vent back into the ocean. Due to the cooling dissolved material now partially precipitates as fine particles, which are carried by the warm water to the ocean’s surface. The hotspots are located primarily at the poles of Enceladus.

The ascending hydrothermal fluids probably trigger local melting in the ice layer of the polar region. According to Dr Postberg, this explains why the ice layer at the poles is considerably thinner than at the equator — three to ten kilometres versus 35 kilometres. “At the south pole, the water can even rise through fissures almost to the moon’s surface. There, the microscopically small grains of rock from the core are catapulted along with ice particles into space, where they were measured by the instruments on the Cassini space probe,” explained the Heidelberg planetary scientist. The study also showed that only this heat source in the core can keep the overlying ocean water from freezing. Without it, the ocean would completely freeze in less than 30 million years. Dr Postberg conducts research at the Klaus Tschira Laboratory for Cosmochemistry. The laboratory ist part of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University. It is funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.

The aim of the Cassini-Huygens mission, a joint project of NASA, ESA, and Italy’s ASI space agency that began in 1997, was to gain new insights into the gas planet Saturn and its moons. The Cassini space probe began orbiting Saturn in 2004. The mission concluded in September of this year when the probe entered Saturn’s atmosphere. The latest research results were published in the journal “Nature Astronomy.”

Whole-Brain Map Of Electrical Connections Key To Forming Memories Constructed By Researchers

A team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has constructed the first whole-brain map of electrical connectivity in the brain based on data from nearly 300 neurosurgical patients with electrodes implanted directly on the brain. The researchers found that low-frequency rhythms of brain activity, when brain waves move up and down slowly, primarily drive communication between the frontal, temporal and medial temporal lobes, key brain regions that engage during memory processing.

The research, part of the Restoring Active Memory project, was conducted by Michael Kahana, Penn professor of psychology and principal investigator of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s RAM program; Ethan Solomon, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Department of Bioengineering; and Daniel Rizzuto, director of cognitive neuromodulation at Penn. They published their findings in Nature Communications.

This work elucidates the way different regions of the brain communicate during cognitive processes like memory formation. Though many studies have examined brain networks using non-invasive tools like functional MRI, observations of large-scale networks using direct human-brain recordings have been difficult to secure because these data can only come from neurosurgical patients.

For several years, the Penn team gathered this information from multiple hospitals across the country, allowing the researchers to observe such electrical networks for the first time. Patients undergoing clinical monitoring for seizures performed a free-recall memory task that asked them to view a series of words on a screen, then repeat back as many as they could remember.

At the same time, the researchers examined brain activity occurring on slow and fast time scales, also called low- and high-frequency neural activity. They discovered that when a person is effectively creating new memories — in this case, remembering one of the presented words — alignment between brain regions tends to strengthen with slow waves of activity but weaken at higher frequencies.

“We found,” said Solomon, the paper’s lead author, “that the low-frequency connectivity of a brain region was associated with increased neural activity at that site. This suggests that, for someone to form new memories, two functions must happen simultaneously: brain regions must individually process a stimulus, and then those regions must communicate with each other at low frequencies.”

Areas of the brain identified in this paper — the frontal, temporal and medial temporal lobes — have long intrigued neuroscientists because of their crucial role in such memory functions.

This work supports the RAM project goal of using brain stimulation to enhance memory.

“Better understanding the brain networks that activate during memory processing,” Kahana said, “gives us a better ability to fine-tune electrical stimulation that might improve it. We’re now prepared to ask whether we can use measures of functional connectivity to guide our choice of which brain region to target with electrical stimulation. Ultimately, given the size of this dataset, these discoveries would not be possible without years of effort on the part of our participants, clinical teams and research scientists.”

Earlier this month, the RAM team publicly released its extensive intracranial brain recording and stimulation dataset that included thousands of hours of data from 250 patients performing memory tasks. Previous research showed for the first time that electrical stimulation delivered when memory was predicted to fail could improve memory function in the human brain. That same stimulation generally became disruptive when electrical pulses arrived during periods of effective memory function.

Next, the Penn researchers plan to examine the interaction between brain stimulation and the functional connections the latest study uncovered.

“There’s still significant work to do,” Rizzuto said, “before we can use these connectivity maps to guide therapeutic brain stimulation for patients with memory disorders such as traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease, but we’re working toward that goal.”