New Zealand’s Mount Taranaki ‘Almost Certain’ To Erupt

Taranaki civil defense authorities have begun training an army of 500 volunteers for when, not if, Mt Taranaki erupts, and for major weather events.

Whether it erupted was a matter of when, not if, according to the Taranaki Civil Defense Emergency Management (CDEM). Scientists are seeing an increase in the likelihood of an eruption over the next 50 years, Civil Defense group manager Craig Campbell-Smart said.

“Technically it’s termed a quiescent stage – it’s not dormant but not actively erupting.” In its new five year plan, it singles out preparing for an eruption as a priority. One hundred people have already been trained; most of them people from the region’s councils, and more were being recruited from the public.

“There’s a very broad selection of skills we require,” he said. Roles included leadership, planning and intelligence, operations, field staff, logistics, public information management and welfare. The system was based on those used by the military.

“It’s very disciplined, about building our capability so we can stand up at very short notice.” CDEM was also decentralizing and setting up operations centers to deal with emergencies on a district council level. Campbell-Smart said it was difficult to predict exactly what would happen in an eruption as it depended on the size and type of the event.

“Worst case scenario we’re looking at very strong gas eruption that would produce a super heated gas cloud with debris in it – that’s the stuff that’s an immediate threat to life, that’s about 800 degrees Celsius and that would roll down the mountainside. That’s the  least likely scenario but it’s a potential.”

An eruption of gas and ash was the most likely event, and there would be advance warning through increased localized seismic activity in the area. “It could go quite high and fall on other areas, which is why it’s a national hazard,” he said.

In Taranaki, ash would fall into rivers and over towns, depending on the wind. It was very abrasive and would accumulate on roads and paddocks, and contaminate stock feed and water supplies. It would also affect air conditioning systems, municipal water supplies and cause telecommunications equipment to overheat and fail.

Rain would make it worse.

“If ash gets wet it doubles in weight. It could collapse roofs, and accumulate on the flanks of mountain in river systems, resulting in lahars.” The next eruption could take one of three possible general forms, Taranaki CDEM said.

– Small explosive pumice eruption.

– Lava dome eruption.

– Large explosive pumice eruption. The last one occurred in AD1655 – although this would not be likely.

A small explosive pumice eruption could signal a period of more frequent eruptions, while a lava-dome eruption could continue for many years or decades, the CDEM website said.

The last major eruption occurred about 1854. Despite the risk of an eruption, the current alert level set by GeoNet – which monitors the volcano – is at zero, with no volcanic activity. However, it notes: “An eruption may occur at any [alert] level, and levels may not move in sequence as activity can change rapidly.”

A volcanic event on Mt Taranaki is “almost certain” and the consequences would be “catastrophic”, experts say. An eruption of the volcano could have serious physical effects on the landscape, affect the region’s economy and threaten ecosystems. A Taranaki CDEM map showing evacuation zones revealed the areas in the region most at risk.

The red zone held the most risk – and those who remained there were “unlikely to survive”. At the other end of the spectrum, the green zone was considered sheltered from volcanic activity except for ash fall. You can keep an eye on Taranaki via a webcam here.

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Science Of Cycles Research and News Service Fund Drive

As with all community services, it is time to request support with our services. We are hopeful to keep our research and news services available to all who seek this knowledge.

Needless to say we are convinced what we provide on Science Of Cycles informs its readers to be best informed of what is occurring right now in the present, but as importantly, what is most likely to occur in the near future.

Thank you in advance for all of you who seek and appreciate this knowledge, and for all future seekers who come to understand our products importance.                   Cheers, Mitch



NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane On Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.

“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water – an essential ingredient for life as we know it – to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

Seasonal Methane Releases

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.

“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”

Finding Organic Molecules

To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.

SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.

The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.

In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.

Study Of Ancient Fish Suggests Chicxulub Asteroid Strike Warmed Planet For 100,000 years

A small team of researchers from the U.S. and Tunisia has found evidence that suggests a huge asteroid that struck the Earth approximately 66 million years ago caused the planet to warm up for approximately 100,000 years. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of oxygen ratios in ancient fish bones and what it revealed.

Prior research has shown that approximately 66 million years ago, a massive asteroid struck the Earth at a point near what is now Chicxulub, Mexico. Other studies have suggested the sudden change in climate that resulted is what caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. The belief has been that the smoke and particles thrust into the atmosphere blocked out the sun causing the planet to cool for a long period of time. In this new effort, the researchers suggest the cooling period likely was shorter than thought and that it was followed by a lengthy hot spell. The researchers came to this conclusion by studying the bones and teeth of ancient fish.

The fish remains were sifted from sediment samples collected at a site in El Kef, Tunisia. During the time before and long after the asteroid strike, the area was covered by the Tethys Sea. The researchers looked at oxygen ratios in the fish remains as a means of determining the temperature of the water at the time that the fish died. Collecting samples from different layers allowed for building a temperature timeline that began before the asteroid strike and lasting hundreds of thousands of years thereafter. In looking at their timeline the group found that sea temperatures had risen approximately 5°C not long after the asteroid struck and had stayed at that temperature for approximately 100,000 years.

The researchers suggest the strike by the asteroid very likely released a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because the ground area where it struck was rich in carbonates. The strike very likely would have also ignited large long-burning forest fires which would have also released a lot of carbon into the air. The evidence suggests that the cooling after the impact was short-lived as massive amounts of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere setting off global warming.

The researchers note that a lot more work will need to be done to confirm their findings. Another site will have to be found with similar evidence, for example, to prove that the warming was not localized.

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How A Particle May Stand Still In Rotating Spacetime

When a massive astrophysical object, such as a boson star or black hole, rotates, it can cause the surrounding spacetime to rotate along with it due to the effect of frame dragging. In a new paper, physicists have shown that a particle with just the right properties may stand perfectly still in a rotating spacetime if it occupies a “static orbit”—a ring of points located a critical distance from the center of the rotating spacetime.

The physicists, Lucas G. Collodel, Burkhard Kleihaus, and Jutta Kunz, at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, have published a paper in which they propose the existence of static orbits in rotating spacetimes in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

“Our work presents with extreme simplicity a long-ignored feature of certain spacetimes that is quite counterintuitive,” Collodel told “General relativity has been around for a bit more than a hundred years now and it never ceases to amaze, and exploring the ways that different distributions of energy can warp the geometry of spacetime in a non-trivial way is key to a deeper understanding.”

In their paper, the physicists identify two criteria for a particle to remain at rest with respect to a static observer in a rotating spacetime. First, the particle’s angular momentum (basically its own rotation) must have just the right value so that it perfectly cancels out the rotation due to frame dragging. Second, the particle must be located precisely in the static orbit, a ring around the center of the rotating spacetime at which the particle is neither pulled toward the center nor pushed away.

A key point is that not all astrophysical objects with rotating spacetimes have static orbits, which in the future may help researchers distinguish between different types of astrophysical objects. As the physicists explain, in order to have a static orbit, a rotating spacetime’s metric (basically the function that describes spacetimes in general relativity) must have a local minimum, which corresponds to the critical distance at which the static orbit is located. In a sense, a particle may then be “trapped” at rest in this local minimum.

The physicists identify several astrophysical objects that have static orbits, including boson stars (hypothetical stars made of bosonic matter that, like black holes, have immense gravity but do not emit light), wormholes, and hairy black holes (black holes with unique properties, such as additional charge). On the other hand, Kerr black holes (thought to be the most common kind of black hole) do not have metrics with local minima, and so do not have static orbits. So evidence for a static orbit could provide a way to distinguish between Kerr black holes and some of the less common objects with static orbits.

While the physicists acknowledge that it may be unlikely to expect a particle with just the right angular momentum to exist at just the right place in order to remain at rest in a rotating spacetime, it may still be possible to detect the existence of static orbits due to what happens nearby. Particles initially at rest near the static orbits are predicted to move more slowly than those located further away. So even if researchers never observe a particle standing still, they may observe slowly moving particles in the vicinity, indicating the existence of a nearby static orbit.

“Acknowledging the existence of the static ring helps us appreciate better what to plan and expect from future observations,” Collodel said. “For instance, we can search for the ring in order to identify possible exotic objects, such as the boson star, or even assure with confidence (upon observing the ring) that an AGN [active galactic nucleus] is not powered by a Kerr black hole. In the future we plan to investigate how the presence of the ring might affect accretion disks, which are at this stage much easier to observe, and if it could shield some objects from infalling matter.”

Subglacial Valleys And Mountain Ranges Discovered Near South Pole

Researchers have discovered mountain ranges and three huge, deep subglacial valleys from data collected during the first modern aerogeophysical survey of the South Pole region.

The findings are the first to emerge from extensive ice penetrating radar data collected in Antarctica as part of the European Space Agency PolarGAP project and have been published in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

Although there are extensive satellite data that help image the surface of the Earth and its deep interior, there was a gap around the South Pole area, which is not covered by satellites due the inclination of their orbits. The PolarGAP project was therefore designed to fill in the gap in the satellite data coverage of the South Pole and in particular acquire the missing gravity data.

Airborne radar data were also collected to enable mapping of the bedrock topography hidden beneath the ice sheet. The data reveals the topography which controls how quickly ice flows between the East and West Antarctic ice sheets.

The team, led by Northumbria University, has mapped for the first time three vast, subglacial valleys in West Antarctica. These valleys could be important in future as they help to channel the flow of ice from the centre of the continent towards the coast.

If climate change causes the ice sheet to thin, these troughs could increase the speed at which ice flows from the centre of Antarctica to the sea, raising global sea levels.

The largest valley, known as the Foundation Trough, is more than 350km long and 35km wide. Its length is equivalent to the distance from London to Manchester, while its width amounts to more than one and a half times the length of New York’s Manhattan Island.

The two other troughs are equally vast. The Patuxent Trough is more than 300km long and over 15km wide, while the Offset Rift Basin is 150km long and 30km wide.

Lead author Dr. Kate Winter a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Northumbria University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, explains: “As there were gaps in satellite data around the South Pole, no one knew exactly what was there, so we are delighted to be able to release the very first findings to emerge from the PolarGAP project.

“We now understand that the mountainous region is preventing ice from East Antarctica flowing through West Antarctica to the coast. In addition we have also discovered three subglacial valleys in West Antarctica which could be important in the future.

“If the ice sheet thins or retreats, these topographically-controlled corridors could facilitate enhanced flow of ice further inland, and could lead to the West Antarctic ice divide moving. This would, in turn, increase the speed and rate at which ice flows out from the centre of Antarctica to its edges, leading to an increase in global sea levels.”

Dr. Winter adds: “The data we have gathered will enable ice sheet modellers to predict what will happen if the ice sheet thins, which will mean we can start to answer the questions we couldn’t answer before.”

Dr. Winter worked with researchers from Newcastle University, British Antarctic Survey, the Technical University of Denmark, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the European Space Agency on the paper, Topographic steering of enhanced ice flow at the bottleneck between East and West Antarctica.

Dr. Fausto Ferraccioli, Head of Airborne Geophysics at British Antarctic Survey and the Principal Investigator of the European Space Agency PolarGAP project, explained: “Remarkably the South Pole region is one of the least understood frontiers in the whole of Antarctica.

“By mapping these deep troughs and mountain ranges we have therefore added a key piece of the puzzle to help understand how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may have responded to past change and how it may do so in the future. Our new aerogeophysical data will also enable new research into the geological processes that created the mountains and basins before the Antarctic ice sheet itself was born.”

Dr. Neil Ross, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at Newcastle University, added: “Understanding how the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets interact is fundamental to our understanding of past, present and future global sea level. These new PolarGAP data give us both insights into how the landscape beneath the ice influences present ice flow, and a better understanding of how the parts of the great Antarctic ice sheets near to South Pole can, and cannot, evolve in response to glaciological change around their margins.

“There is a need to follow up the extensive aerogeophysical PolarGAP survey with detailed field investigations and numerical modelling of the glaciological processes operating in this frontier region of Antarctica.”