Deep ‘Scars’ From Ancient Geological Events Play Role In Current Earthquakes

Super-computer modelling of Earth’s crust and upper-mantle suggests that ancient geologic events may have left deep ‘scars’ that can come to life to play a role in earthquakes, mountain formation, and other ongoing processes on our planet.

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This changes the widespread view that only interactions at the boundaries between continent-sized tectonic plates could be responsible for such events.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Aberdeen have created models indicating that former plate boundaries may stay hidden deep beneath the Earth’s surface. These multi-million-year-old structures, situated at sites away from existing plate boundaries, may trigger changes in the structure and properties at the surface in the interior regions of continents.

“This is a potentially major revision to the fundamental idea of plate tectonics,” says lead author Philip Heron, a postdoctoral fellow in Russell Pysklywec’s research group in U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences. Their paper, “Lasting mantle scars lead to perennial plate tectonics,” appears in the June 10, 2016 edition of Nature Communications.

Heron and Pysklywec, together with University of Aberdeen geologist Randell Stephenson have even proposed a ‘perennial plate tectonic map’ of the Earth to help illustrate how ancient processes may have present-day implications.

“It’s based on the familiar global tectonic map that is taught starting in elementary school,” says Pysklywec, who is also chair of U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences. “What our models redefine and show on the map are dormant, hidden, ancient plate boundaries that could also be enduring or “perennial” sites of past and active plate tectonic activity.”

To demonstrate the dominating effects that anomalies below the Earth’s crust can have on shallow geological features, the researchers used U of T’s SciNet — home to Canada’s most powerful computer and one of the most powerful in the world- to make numerical models of the crust and upper-mantle into which they could introduce these scar-like anomalies.

The team essentially created an evolving “virtual Earth” to explore how such geodynamic models develop under different conditions.

“For these sorts of simulations, you need to go to a pretty high-resolution to understand what’s going on beneath the surface,” says Heron. “We modeled 1,500 kilometres across and 600 kilometres deep, but some parts of these structures could be just two or three kilometres wide. It is important to accurately resolve the smaller-scale stresses and strains.”

Using these models, the team found that different parts of the mantle below the Earth’s crust may control the folding, breaking, or flowing of the Earth’s crust within plates — in the form of mountain-building and seismic activity — when under compression.

In this way, the mantle structures dominate over shallower structures in the crust that had previously been seen as the main cause of such deformation within plates.

“The mantle is like the thermal engine of the planet and the crust is an eggshell above,” says Pysklywec. “We’re looking at the enigmatic and largely unexplored realm in the Earth where these two regions meet.”

“Most of the really big plate tectonic activity happens on the plate boundaries, like when India rammed into Asia to create the Himalayas or how the Atlantic opened to split North America from Europe,” says Heron. “But there are lots of things we couldn’t explain, like seismic activity and mountain-building away from plate boundaries in continent interiors.”

The research team believes their simulations show that these mantle anomalies are generated through ancient plate tectonic processes, such as the closing of ancient oceans, and can remain hidden at sites away from normal plate boundaries until reactivation generates tectonic folding, breaking, or flowing in plate interiors.

“Future exploration of what lies in the mantle beneath the crust may lead to further such discoveries on how our planet works, generating a greater understanding of how the past may affect our geologic future,” says Heron.

The research carries on the legacy of J. Tuzo Wilson, also a U of T scientist, and a legendary figure in geosciences who pioneered the idea of plate tectonics in the 1960’s.

“Plate tectonics is really the cornerstone of all geoscience,” says Pysklywec. “Ultimately, this information could even lead to ways to help better predict how and when earthquakes happen. It’s a key building block.”

SPECIAL REPORT: Study Shows Weakened Magnetic Field Has No Effect on Avian Compass

Reporting their results in the New Journal of Physics, scientists have taken a step forward in unraveling the inner workings of the avian compass – a puzzle that has captivated researchers for decades. The team, led by a group at Oxford University, is exploring the possibilities of a weakened Earth’s magnetic field would have on living organisms.

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Magnetic sensing is a type of sensory perception that has long been studied. Over the past 50 years, scientific studies have shown a wide variety of living organisms have the ability to perceive magnetic fields and can use information from the Earth’s magnetic field in orientation behavior. Examples abound: salmon, sea turtles, spotted newts, lobsters, honeybees, and perhaps us humans, most of which can perceive and utilize geomagnetic field information.

The avian magnetic compass is a complex entity with many surprising properties. The basis for the magnetic sense is located in the eye of the creature, and furthermore, it is light-dependent. The most accepted theory is living organisms or themselves via magnetically sensitive chemical reactions, which take place in proteins known as cryptochromes present in the eyes retina.

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Scientific studies have confirmed that humans do in fact have both magnetite and cryptochromes hardwired as part of our biological makeup. Using an ultrasensitive superconducting magnetometer in a clean-lab environment, scientists have detected the presence of ferromagnetic material in a variety of tissues from the human brain. Magnetic particle extracts from solubilized brain tissues examined with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, electron diffraction, and elemental analyses identify minerals in the magnetite-maghemite family.

Now the question is, does the weakening Earth’s magnetic field have an effect on living organisms? “The principle that chemical transformations can respond to very weak magnetic fields, known as the radical pair mechanism, is unquestionably genuine,” said Peter Hore, a biophysical chemist at Oxford University, who is heading up the study. “What is not yet proven is whether this mechanism lies at the heart of avian magneto-reception (The ability to perceive magnetic fields).”

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According to Hore, probably the most serious stumbling block is whether the spin coherence in the radicals (the short-lived chemical intermediates responsible for the magnetic field effect) could last long enough to allow a magnetic field as weak as the Earth’s to alter the photochemistry of a cryptochrome.

To find out more, the team has built a computational model focusing on the internal magnetic interactions within and between the radicals involved in the process. The simulations allow the scientists to examine the modulation of these interactions caused by thermal fluctuations in the positions of the radicals in their binding sites in the cryptochrome.

Examining the data, the group observes the effect of a weakening Earth magnetic field is sufficient to change the proportion of radical pairs that proceed along two competing chemical reaction pathways. “The effect happens in such a way that the yield of the signaling state of  protein should depend on the direction of the magnetic field with respect to the cryptochrome molecule,” Hore adds. “Furthermore, our results show the loss of coherence caused by certain sorts of internal magnetic interactions and molecular dynamics could actually enhance, rather than degrade, the sensitivity of a cryptochrome-based magnetic compass sensor.”

Device applications
Thinking further ahead, the researchers highlight that their findings could benefit the development of low-cost and more environmentally-friendly electronic devices. “Certain organic semiconductors (OLEDs, for example) exhibit magneto-electro-luminescence or magneto-conductance, the mechanism of which shares essentially identical physics with radical pairs,” said Hore. “I believe there is scope for the design and construction of electronically addressable devices, based on principles learnt from studies of the avian compass, for determining the presence, intensity and direction of weak magnetic fields using cheap, non-toxic organic materials.”

 

New Algorithm Created by MIT Researchers to Produce First Image of a Black Hole

A team of MIT scientists has developed an algorithm that could finally lead to taking pictures of black holes. Black holes are one of Universe’s great mysteries, yet to be fully discovered and understood. They are regions of space-time that manifest a strong gravitational effect that sucks everything inside them – not even light an escape. And it is because light cannot get out, that people can’t see the enigmatic black holes.

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Seeing black holes would only be possible through a telescope with a 10,000 diameter. This is impossible to construct, given that it would end up being roughly the size of the Earth. This is why scientists try to put together data collected from radio telescopes located in different areas of the Globe.

The MIT group determined to finally take a glimpse of black holes has developed the Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors (CHIRP) algorithm to solve the “puzzle”. CHIRP is based on interferometry, a technique combining atmospheric signals captured by different telescopes and tamper them with each other.

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Today, we have other algorithms trying to reveal what very-long-baseline interferometry data looks like, but the pictures created by them are blurry. This is why we are currently not able to see pictures of black holes. These algorithms also cannot handle large amounts of data. That’s where CHIRP shines because it only picks the relevant data and turns it into sharper pictures.

The team is now eager to get all the Event Horizon Telescope data and further update the algorithm. They plan on including factors such as the changing of black holes over time, or their magnetic fields. The scientists’ ultimate goal is to film black holes as they’re “eating” materials in space.

The MIT team will show off their groundbreaking algorithm at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) this June.

 

JUST IN: New Zealand Scientists Discover Magma Buildup Not Seen in 400,000 Years

Could this be signs of a 400,000 year cycle along the Taupo Caldera Zone? Scientists say they’ve discovered a magma buildup near a New Zealand town that explains a spate of recent earthquakes and could signal the beginnings of a resurgent volcano.

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Geophysicist Ian Hamling said that since 1950, enough magma to fill 80,000 Olympic-size swimming pools has squeezed up beneath the surface near the coastal town of Matata, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Auckland.

A paper published Saturday in the online journal ‘Science Advances’ outlines the findings. Hamling, the paper’s lead author, said that while other parts of New Zealand have active volcanoes, there have been none near Matata for at least 400,000 years. This is a very unusual occurrence to discover magma buildup in an area with no volcanoes anywhere on Earth.

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Using GPS data and satellite images, the scientists say they discovered an area of land about 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) has risen by 40 centimeters (16 inches) since 1950. A period of quick uplift between 2004 and 2011 likely triggered thousands of small earthquakes. Scientists had previously thought tectonic shifts caused the quakes.

The magma remained about 10 kilometers (6 miles) below the surface, deep enough that he did not expect a volcano to develop within his lifetime. Geophysicists are aware a volcano could develop over hundreds or thousands of years, or the magma could eventually cool and harden.

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Matata is home to about 650 people. Researchers hoped further study would allow scientists to develop a warning system for earthquakes in the area. The quakes are likely triggered by magma stressing and breaking rock.

Modern equipment has allowed the team to accurately measure tiny horizontal and vertical changes in the coastal land. Just over half of the area studied is offshore, however, scientists needed to rely on inferences from what happened on land to gauge the changes underwater.

Victoria Miller, a volcanologist with Geoscience Australia, who was not involved in the research, said the location was of interest because it was outside of an active volcanic area. “The scientific analysis seems robust and notes the limitations of modeling an offshore source,” states Miller.

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Meteor Activity Outlook for June 4-10, 2016

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Sunday June 5th. At this time the moon will lie close to the sun and will be invisible at night. Later in this period, the waxing crescent moon will enter the evening sky but will not interfere with meteor observing.

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The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 3 for observers located in the northern hemisphere and 4 for observers located in tropical southern locations (25S) . For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 9 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 12 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S).

The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brightest meteors will be visible from such locations.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 4/5. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky.

A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year. Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the edge and not the center.

Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located far below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude). The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.

These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.

The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 17:48 (267) -23. This position lies in western Sagittarius, near the border with Ophiuchus. The nearest bright star is 3rd magnitude theta Ophiuchi, which lies 5 degrees to the southwest. Due to the large size of this radiant, Anthelion activity may also appear from the nearby constellations of western Sagittarius, Serpens Caput, and southeastern Scorpius as well as Ophiuchus. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight saving (LDST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky.

Hourly rates at this time should be near 2 as seen from mid-northern latitudes and 3 as seen from tropical southern latitudes. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The June Mu Cassiopeiids (JMC) were discovered by Dr, Peter Brown and associates using data from the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) installation. These meteors are active from May 31-June 5, with maximum activity occurring on June 1st. The radiant position at maximum lies at 01:29 (022) +56. This area of the sky lies in southern Cassiopeia, just east area occupied by the 4th magnitude star known as theta Cassiopeiae. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour of the night when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. These meteors are better seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. Hourly rates, are expected to remain less than 1. With an entry velocity of 42 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with medium velocities.

The radiant for the Daytime Arietids (ARI) only lies 45 degrees west of the sun. Therefore these meteors can only be seen between the time the radiant rises and dawn. This is a small window of opportunity that lasts for about an hour before the break of dawn. This shower is expected to peak on the morning of June 7th. The current position of the radiant is 02:48(042) +23. This position lies in central Aries, 10 degrees southeast of the 2nd magnitude star known as Hamal (Alpha Arietis). Despite being a strong source of meteors, visual members of this shower are rare due to the low altitude of the radiant.

If this radiant was better placed in the sky it would rival the better known Perseids of August. These meteors are the strongest source of radio meteors for the entire year. With an entry velocity of 42 km/sec., the average Daytime Arietid meteor would be of medium speed.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 6 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 2 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates would be near 9 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 3 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

Robert Lunsford – American Meteor Society

 

 

JUST IN: New Study Suggest Supervolcanoes Connected via Batholithic Flows

A new study by University of Wyoming researchers shows isotopic variations across the batholith indicate the magma formed by melting of multiple rock sources that rose through multiple conduits that appear to connect several supervolcanoes such as the Yellowstone caldera. Geophysical monitoring of the ground above active supervolcanoes shows that it rises and falls as magma moves beneath the surface of the Earth.

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Silica-rich magmas – like those in the Yellowstone region and along the western margin of North and South America – can erupt violently and explosively, throwing vast quantities of ash into the air, followed by slower flows of glassy, viscous magma. But, what do the subterranean magma chambers look like, and where does the magma originate? Those questions cannot be answered directly at modern, active volcanoes.

This study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and its findings are outlined in a paper published in the June issue of American Mineralogist, the journal of the Mineralogical Society of America. University of Wyoming researchers suggests they can go back into the past to study the solidified magma chambers where erosion has removed the overlying rock, exposing granite underpinnings.

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“Every geology student is taught that the present is the key to the past,” says Carol Frost, director of the NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences, and a professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. “In this study, we used the record from the past to understand what is happening in modern magma chambers.”

One such large granite body, the 2.62 billion-year-old Wyoming batholith, extends more than 125 miles across central Wyoming. UW master’s degree student Davin Bagdonas, traversed  Granite Mountain, also Shirley and Laramie mountains to examine the body, finding remarkable uniformity, with similar biotite granite throughout.

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This homogeneity indicates the crystallizing magma was generally well-mixed. However, more subtle isotopic variations across the batholith show the magma formed by melting of multiple rock sources that rose through multiple conduits, and homogenization is yet to be determined.

“Study of the products of supervolcanoes and their possible batholithic counterparts at depth are a vibrant, controversial area of research,” says Brad Singer, professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says research by Frost and her colleagues’ offers an  innovative perspective gleaned from the ancient Wyoming batholith, suggesting that it is the frozen portion of a vast magma system that could have fed supervolcanoes like those which erupted in northern Chile-southern Bolivia during the last 10 million years.

Andean supervolcanos

“The possibility of such a connection, while intriguing, does raise questions.” The high silica and potassium contents of the Wyoming granites differ from the bulk magma compositions erupted by these huge Andean supervolcanos. “This paper will certainly provoke a deeper look into how ancient Archean granites can be used to leverage understanding of the ‘volcanic-plutonic connection’ at supervolcanoes.”

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UPDATE: More News on Magnetic Field – Galaxy Coming

This new finding is yet another strong affirmation towards Battros 2012 ‘Equation’. This study displays a distinct connection between celestial events and our galaxy Milky Way. My Equation implements a natural systemic process of repeated cyclical events throughout its life. This is the essence of my current research I have named the “Science of Cycles”.

New Equation:
Increase Charged Particles and Decreased Magnetic Field → Increase Outer Core Convection → Increase of Mantle Plumes → Increase in Earthquake and Volcanoes → Cools Mantle and Outer Core → Return of Outer Core Convection (Mitch Battros – July 2012)

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An international team of astronomers has discovered a possible connection between the magnetic fields of supernova remnants and that of our own Milky Way Galaxy. The study, recently published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, found that the orientation of supernova remnants can help astronomers understand the nature and shape of the magnetic field of the Milky Way Galaxy itself.

“In supernova explosions, charged particles are accelerated close to the speed-of-light and then speed through space as cosmic rays, some finding their way to Earth”, says Jennifer West, Faculty of Science, University of Manitoba, lead author of the study. The Earth is constantly being bombarded by trillions of these cosmic rays, with some of the highest energy ones coming from supernovae and supernova remnants. These can interfere with electronic equipment and be hazardous to people, particularly people flying in aircraft or living in space.

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Magnetic fields play important roles in many astrophysical processes such as solar flares, stellar evolution, galaxy dynamics, and even the evolution of the universe. They also play a very important role in the dynamics of supernova remnants, which represent some of the most extreme environments in the universe, with conditions unlike anything we can duplicate on Earth.

Supernova remnants are what’s left after stars explode, effectively blowing giant bubbles in the interstellar medium. Many supernova remnants are double-lobed astronomical objects that look like two facing hamburger buns, with the invisible “burger” axes aligned with local magnetic fields.

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For this study, the researchers examined archival radio images of every known supernova remnant in the galaxy to compile a complete sample of objects with this double-lobed shape. Observations show that these axes point in different directions, astronomers were not sure if the orientation is random, caused by local effects, or whether the direction may be influenced by the Milky Way Galaxy’s own magnetic field. By comparing the orientation of the supernova remnants in the images with models based on simulations of the galaxy’s magnetic field, the astronomers found a connection between the supernova remnants and their environment.

Astronomers used a super computer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba to create these models of supernova remnants. The appearance of the simulated supernova remnants depended on the orientation of the magnetic field lines for the direction of a particular remnant, and also differing distances from the Sun.

Samar Safi-Harb, West’s doctoral thesis advisor, notes: “West’s research further stresses the importance of studying supernova remnants, which not only host the heavy elements we are made of, but also help us understand the interplay between these fascinating objects and cosmic magnetism.”

West and her colleagues found that about 80 out of 300 known supernova remnants in the galaxy have the double-lobed shape and most of these (about 75 percent) have models that match the orientation for at least some distances along the line of sight. This gives some insight into the nature of supernova remnants and also helps refine our understanding of the galaxy’s magnetic field. Furthermore, this research helps astronomers understand how cosmic rays can journey to us on this “galactic superhighway.”

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