Volcano zone reservoirs could hold huge amounts of gold and silver

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Steam rises from the “Champagne Pool” at Wai-O-Tapu, in the central area of New Zealand’s North Island Sept. 26, 2011. (REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel)

The heat is on for prospectors in what could be the next gold rush. According to a recent study in the journal Geothermics, a team of geologists has discovered a mother lode of gold and silver inside super-heated reservoirs within New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone. Extreme heat from the volcanoes’ magma plumes is heating water, producing acidic underground reservoirs and springs that in turn dissolve the surrounding rock. This then allows the embedded gold and silver to come loose and collect in the water. If successfully drilled, one well could yield as much as $2.7 million in gold a year.

According to lead study author Stuart Simmons, a research professor at the University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute, gold and silver depositing in hot springs and geothermal wells is nothing new. Apparently this was first discovered over 50 years ago, with New Zealand’s ‘Champagne Pool’ hot spring one of the only places in the world where tourists can actually see this phenomenon happen.

“If you Google ‘Champagne Pool’ online, you will see photos of the striking orange-colored precipitates that deposit around the edge of the pool,” Simmons told FoxNews.com. “Those precipitates are rich in gold, silver, mercury, thallium, arsenic and antimony.”

Related: What the animal world would look like if humans never existed

The road to this new discovery began 15 years ago, when Simmons and a colleague constructed a special device to lower down wells up to 1.8 miles deep, obtaining hot samples of thermal water to determine the concentration of precious minerals.

“After about 5 years, we had some preliminary data on which to make assessments of the amounts of precious metals that might be available,” he recalled. Their work paid off, with the amounts of aqueous gold and silver found in the 18 reservoirs estimated to be tens of thousands of ounces of gold and hundreds of thousands of ounces or more of silver. Now, all they need to do is figure out a way to mine it, which is no easy task considering new equipment would have to be developed that could take the heat (the chloride-rich waters in the underground reservoirs can get as hot as 752 degrees Fahrenheit) and also ensure lasting production.

“It is not really practical to mine gold and silver in a traditional sense inside the geothermal areas,” Simmons said. “Hot boiling water would be encountered in shallow excavations and there would be considerable environmental impact to deal with.”

He explained that there currently isn’t much interest in figuring out ways to mine the minerals since it would disrupt energy production, what with the wells being drilled for steam to power turbines and generate electricity. One solution that was proposed in the study was to mine the reservoirs in intervals after enough gold and silver had accumulated so as to make the disuse of the steam-field worthwhile.

Related: Prehistoric ‘Scarface’ discovered

“The more practical thing to do is to attempt to extract the metals from the fluids as they flow through the [existing] surface pipe work,” he said. “The gold and silver are passively accumulating in the shallow parts of the wells and in surface pipe work, so it is not lost.”

So if the new tech is developed, who will reap the financial benefits? Not the researchers who made the discovery – they were in it strictly for the science, according to Simmons.

“The team did the work mainly to get a better understanding of processes of gold and silver deposition in ancient hydrothermal systems that are no longer active but that are host to ore deposits,” he said. “There are many such deposits forming mines and prospects around the Pacific Rim (Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and the western US). So the aim was to apply our understanding to new discoveries.”

Simmons worked in conjunction with his colleagues at the University of Auckland, New Zealand on the study.

 

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Amazing ‘red lightning’ photographed from space

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A red sprite photographed by space station astronauts on Aug. 10, 2015, above Acapulco, Mexico. (NASA/JSC)

Like a giant jellyfish floating through the atmosphere, “red sprites” hover above thunderstorms in two new photographs snapped from space.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured two rare photographs of red sprites from above on Aug. 10. Red sprites are strange luminous phenomena that occur alongside more familiar lightning strikes. They’re rarely seen from the ground because they occur above storms; they’re also dim and hard to detect with the naked eye.

“They’re very exciting to look at, they create these fabulous visual images, but there is a lot that we still don’t understand about them,” said Ryan Haaland, a professor of physics at Fort Lewis College in Colorado who is involved in an ongoing project studying sprites. [Images: Red Sprite Lightning Revealed in Stunning Photos]

Spritely images

The first sprite photograph shows the phenomenon somewhere over Missouri or Illinois, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory, which published the images Aug. 24. The moon is visible as a bright spot in the night sky, and the city lights of Dallas light up the foreground of the photo. A thin green haze of airglow emanates from the atmosphere. The sprite appears above a white-blue thunderstorm.

A mere 2 minutes and 58 seconds later, the ISS whizzed over Acapulco, Mexico, and another red sprite appeared. This sprite flashed above a thunderstorm off the El Salvador coast. In both cases, the red sprites extended at least 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. (The ISS orbits between 205 and 270 miles above the planet.)

Like lightning, red sprites are caused by electrical discharges from storms, Haaland told Live Science. Sprites are usually produced by enormous summer thunderstorms known by meteorologists as mesoscale convective systems. They accompany traditional lightning, which primes the upper atmosphere for these colorful flashes, Haaland said.

“Storms cause charges to get pushed around, and you get a charge imbalance,” Haaland said. “That imbalance causes lightning and it also causes the sprites in the upper atmosphere.”

Sprites aren’t as hot as lightning, though, because the upper atmosphere is less dense than the lower atmosphere where lightning strikes.

“The only way to get high physical temperatures is to have lots of atoms, and we don’t,” Haaland said.

Atmospheric mystery

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sprites remain largely mysterious, however. Scientists aren’t sure what causes their tendril-like shapes, which can vary. Nor are they sure why some storms produce red sprites, while others produce different colorful upper-atmosphere phenomena, such as blue jets and dimly glowing ELVES (which stands, vaguely, for “Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources”).

Sprites last a mere 20 milliseconds or so, Haaland said, and they’re tough to measure. He and his colleagues at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and the Air Force Academy take measurements from observatories in New Mexico and Wyoming that overlook the storm-prone Great Plains. But they’ve also had to fly expeditions using research aircraft operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in order to get closer. From afar, Haaland said, the optical signatures of red sprites are blurred by ambient light and atmospheric noise.

The goal, Haaland said, is to figure out both what causes red sprites and their kin, and if these phenomena perturb the upper atmosphere in any way.

“We really want to know what impact they have on the upper atmospheric electrodynamo and the upper atmospheric chemistry,” he said. “Do they influence different chemical processes, or are they just something that happens?”

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Sea creatures make brighter clouds to cool the Earth

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Marine stratocumulus clouds stretched across the southern Indian Ocean in this image taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite in early March 2013. (NASA.)

Green globs of little critters in the ocean are responsible for half of the cloud droplets that cover the Southern Ocean during the summer, a new study finds. This link between the critters and clouds provides needed insight for predicting the effects of climate change, the researchers say.

Marine phytoplankton, which are tiny organisms that rely on light to grow and spread into globs in the ocean, influence how clouds accumulate droplets. Researchers found that the number of droplets over the Southern Ocean nearly doubles during summer months because the sun-loving plankton are more abundant then. Clouds with more droplets are brighter and able to reflect more sunlight, preventing solar radiation from reaching Earth, the scientists said.

White, fluffy pillows of clouds in the sky are doing more than posing for pictures — the tiny water droplets in each cloud are powerful sunlight deflectors that can turn heat away before it enters Earth’s atmosphere. The brightest clouds have the most water droplets, but the abundance of water droplets can depend on marine life, which emit microscopic particles (called aerosols) that float up through the atmosphere, gather water droplets and join together to form clouds. [Image Gallery: Curious Clouds]

Understanding the link between marine life and cloud droplet formation is a vital part of climate change predictions. “We need to know if we’re already saturated in terms of aerosols affecting clouds and making them brighter,” said Daniel McCoy, one of the lead authors of the study and a doctoral student in atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. If the clouds can squeeze in more droplets, however, it’s possible to “push the clouds to be brighter” from man-made aerosols.

Determining the exact source of aerosols, which result from both nonhuman and human activities, is a tricky business, because once aerosols leave the surface of the Earth and enter the atmosphere, very little identification remains to tie them to particular sources.

The study used sensitive satellite tools and modeling programs to determine the types and amounts of aerosols emitted over the Southern Ocean, covering the region from the south of Brazil down to the Tierra del Fuego, a group of islands on the southernmost tip of South America. The Southern Ocean is almost completely devoid of human influence, making it an ideal laboratory to study the natural processes that form aerosols, which can help researchers better understand the effect of human-caused (or anthropogenic) aerosols.

Marine aerosols

The researchers used satellites to study clouds over the Southern Ocean, and measured the concentration of cloud droplets per cloud. The scientists found that portions of the Southern Ocean that were enriched in green phytoplankton corresponded to the locations of clouds with many water droplets, McCoy said. The phytoplankton get their green color from the chemical chlorophyll, which allows the organisms to absorb sunlight.

Since the aerosols are difficult to distinguish when viewed from space, the researchers used models that tracked the compound dimethyl sulfide, which is released by phytoplankton and turns into a sulfate aerosol in the atmosphere. They also designed a model that included simulations of the process by which salty water known as “sea spray” is enriched with organic matter produced by phytoplankton (essentially, phytoplankton poop).

Not all aerosols attract water droplets, said Susannah Burrows, the other lead author of the study and a climate scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Although most aerosols are carried up by the same atmospheric circulation patterns, their chemical and physical properties determine whether or not they become “cloud condensation nuclei,” which are the points around which droplets form before they become cloud droplets.

Smaller aerosols may have a harder time attracting water droplets than do larger ones, Burrows said. Solubility also plays a role in determining how easily the aerosol will take up water vapor from the atmosphere. Sea salt is very soluble and “likes to suck up water vapor from the atmosphere, so organic particles are less effective cloud-condensation nuclei than salt,” Burrows told Live Science.

The researchers found that they could predict the observed concentration of cloud droplets with their model. The results were “interesting in a climate sense, because the amount of sunlight that is being reflected by these clouds is to some extent determined by the number of cloud droplets,” McCoy told Live Science.

The scientists calculated the amount of light reflected by the clouds and determined that “it ends up being a 60 percent increase in cloud droplets throughout the year, doubling in summer, when the phytoplankton are most active, translating to a 4-watt-per-meter-squared increase in reflected sunlight, and 10-watt-per-meter-squared increase during the summer,” McCoy said. [Top 10 Surprising Results of Global Warming]

Aerosol origins

Aerosols result not only from marine life, but also from volcanic emissions, desert dust and man-made pollution. Aerosols can reflect or absorb light, depending on their composition and color. Many aerosols are a mixture of both solid and liquid phases and are either produced as aerosols or start off as another compound that reacts to gases in the atmosphere and becomes an aerosol. Usually, brightly hued or translucent particles reflect radiation, and darker aerosols absorb light, according to NASA.

Volcanic eruptions are accompanied by sulfur-dioxide gas, which turns into sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere and can temporarily drop global temperatures. Sulfate aerosols from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, spread throughout the atmosphere, reflecting sunlight and cooling the Earth.

Most sulfate aerosols rise in the Northern Hemisphere as a result of industrial activity, such as burning coal. These tiny particles tend to linger in the atmosphere for only about three to five days.

Phytoplankton — the tiny, green algae at the surface of the ocean — produce airborne gases and organic matter that form marine aerosols. During the summer, when phytoplankton take advantage of the extra sunlight to proliferate, the wind picks up water and releases it into the atmosphere as sea spray. This enriched salty water enhances the ability of the sea spray aerosols to attract water droplets that eventually condense into cloud droplets, McCoy said.

The Southern Ocean

The researchers chose to focus on the less polluted Southern Ocean to eliminate the influence of human-caused aerosols, Burrows said. There are natural, marine aerosols over the North Atlantic region; however, “there are a lot of pesky continents and people that make it hard to do these studies,” McCoy said.

Focusing on the Southern Ocean allowed the researchers rule out wind speed, sea surface temperature and other variables that could influence cloud-droplet concentration. Only marine aerosols could explain seasonal and geographic patterns over the Southern Ocean, Burrows said.

“I think that the big, important climate implication from this is that it gives us a way of understanding in a top-down, observationally based way what the interaction is between phytoplankton and cloud properties,” McCoy said.

Studying the relationship between ocean life and clouds over the Southern Ocean could help researchers better understand similar processes elsewhere in the world, including places where human activities are a bigger factor, the researchers said.

The study “helps us have a better idea of what [factors] the climate change predictionshould be including,” McCoy said.

The research was published July 17 in the journal Science Advances.

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Denver’s ‘corpse flower’ really does smell like rotting meat

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Visitors to the Denver Botanic Gardens take a gander at a giant corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) that bloomed August 19. This was the first bloom for the 13-year-old plant, which produces a smell like rotting meat meant to attract flies, (Stephanie Pappas)

From the front of the 3-hour line where thousands of people wait to sniff the first bloom of a giant corpse flower in Colorado, the stench is more like a whiff.

It’s the kind of nagging odor that, if it occurred in your kitchen, might make you wonder if there’s a terrible surprise lurking at the back of the fridge. This is the smell used by the corpse flower, or titan arum, to lure flies and beetles to its blossom. These insects are the main pollinators for the plant, which is native to Sumatra, Indonesia.

Around the back of the greenhouse here at the Denver Botanic Gardens, the smell is stronger, drawn out by the fans that circulate air through the building. A sharply dressed woman in red leans in close to one of the vents and makes a face. [Watch Live As Denver’s Corpse Flower Blooms]

The plant earns its name — the flower does, indeed, smell like a corpse.

First flower

The plant blooming this week at the Denver Botanic Gardens is the first titan arum ever to bloom in the Rocky Mountain region. The Gardens received the plant as a donation back in 2007, said horticulturist Aaron Sedivy; it’s now about 13 years old. This is the first time it’s ever bloomed.

Corpse plants have a three-stage life cycle. First, they send up a single leaf, which then dies off, leaving a tuber dormant underground. After the dormancy phase, the plant can send up another, bigger leaf, or grow a flower. It often takes 10 to 15 years for the plant to bloom for the first time. That puts the Denver corpse flower right on schedule.

“Around the first of June, we realized that it was not a new leaf emerging,” Sedivy told Live Science. “It was definitely a flower bud.”

Predicting the date of the bloom was tricky, Sedivy said; there isn’t much data on corpse plants, which are rare even in their native habitat in Indonesia.

“We had a growth chart we were comparing it with — just one — and we had a few plants that had near-daily photos of their progression,” Sedivy said.

On Tuesday at around 6 p.m., it was clear the bloom was starting to unfurl. The peak bloom probably occurred in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Sedivy said. The blossom didn’t open wide, and horticulturists aren’t sure why. It could be because that’s simply the shape of this particular plant, or it could be because the plant is young and small. [See Photos of the Denver Corpse Flower Blooming]

Of course, small is a relative term. The flower stood 5 feet 3 inches tall as of Aug. 18. It had been barely over a foot in late July. At its fastest, the bloom sprouted up about 4 or 5 inches in a single day, Sedivy said. On average, it grew about 2 inches a day.

Unpredictable plant

Corpse-flower blooms last only about 48 hours. The flower pumps out its rotting-meat smell to draw in insects. Then, the frilly, petal-like structure (called the spathe) begins to close, preventing the insects from flying back out.

The spike in the center of the bloom, called the spadix, is actually made up of thousands of tiny flowers. At the bottom are female flowers, which mature first and capture any pollen brought in by the meat-seeking insects. Then, those female flowers die off, which was already happening to the Denver corpse flower by midafternoon Wednesday (Aug. 19). Next, the male flowers farther up the spadix mature, Sedivy said. The insects trapped inside the flower use the spadix as an escape ladder, climbing up and getting covered with pollen, which they’ll then carry to the next plant.

Denver Botanic Gardens horticulturists have chosen not to pollinate their plant’s bloom, though they will be collecting pollen to send to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where another corpse flower will bloom in a matter of days, Sedivy said.

“We chose not to pollinate ours because it is a small plant — and it’s the first time it’s bloomed, so we don’t want to stress it out any more by forcing it to set seed,” he said.

As a result, it might be a mere three to five years before Denver’s plant blossoms again. Or, it could take up to a decade.

“There’s no way of knowing when it will bloom until it does,” Sedivy said.

 

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SCIENTISTS CREATE 360-DEGREE IMAGES OF HAWAII CORAL REEFS

 Image result for SCIENTISTS CREATE 360-DEGREE IMAGES OF HAWAII CORAL REEFS
Aug 19, 10:37 PM EDT

SCIENTISTS CREATE 360-DEGREE IMAGES OF HAWAII CORAL REEFS


AP Photo
AP Photo/XL Catlin Seaview Survey


HONOLULU (AP) — Alongside the lush and steep windward coast of the Hawaii island of Oahu researchers are creating images of coral reefs that are in danger of dying because of warm ocean waters.

They are taking high-definition 360-degree panoramic images of the reefs and using them to monitor and study the health of corals over time. Scientists working with the team say they are concerned about how much coral off the coast of Hawaii already is beginning to bleach, especially because it’s the second such event in two years.

Coral bleaching occurs when ocean water temperatures rise and cause the coral to lose key nutrients, turning the normally colorful organism white. If bleaching recurs or is severe, experts say the coral will die.

Reefs off the coasts of the Hawaiian islands suffered a rare bleaching event in 2014, and experts say when corals don’t have time to recover from one bleaching they are less likely to survive subsequent events.

Extensive coral bleaching is expected again this year in Hawaii because of record hot weather in the region, a strong El Nino weather pattern and what scientists call “the blob,” a large area of hot water not directly linked to El Nino that is moving westward from the United States mainland.

“Unfortunately, from now on the extra heat is going to be quite damaging, and this is where the mortality of the corals goes up,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and the research team’s chief scientist.

The Hawaii reef mapping is part of a larger project by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey research team to make thousands of images of reef around the world. Researchers are trying to understand why certain species of coral are more susceptible to bleaching than others, and they hope to find organisms that can adapt to warmer waters and remain healthy.

The researchers use GPS tags and facial recognition technology to help identify and organize individual reef systems. As part of the project, the survey team has partnered with Google and uploads the images to Google Street View, allowing people to explore the underwater ecosystem via the Internet.

The Seaview Survey has already gathered data from other reefs including those in the Maldives, Mexico, Indonesia and Australia. The team had baseline images of a section of the Great Barrier Reef that was later damaged by a typhoon. The crew went back to capture the damage, giving researchers a clear view of the loss involved with a major storm.

Dr. Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland and a member of the survey crew, said the team uses similar technology to what Facebook uses to recognize people in photos.

“We apply that to coral,” he said. “We train it in a way so that the machine starts recognizing different types of corals, and it can process about 500,000 images in about a week.”

He said that’s about 30 to 50 times faster than the traditional method of photographing and processing images of coral for research, allowing them to capture larger areas of all the reefs they visit.

Researchers were out on Hawaii’s Kaneohe Bay near the famed hat-shaped island of Mokolii last week. Along with the survey team, three scientists went to two different locations about a mile off shore on the north edge of a reef that runs along a sandbar. While the Seaview Survey crew dived with a specially designed camera and sea scooter system, which houses three wide angle lenses pointed in different directions, the scientists snorkeled and inspected the condition of the organisms near the surface.

“What sort of surprised me is how many corals have already started to bleach,” said Malia Chow, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s superintendent of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, who was with the survey crew last week.

Typhoon lifts Boeing 747 off the ground

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 (Screenshot of MrOutofcontrolvideos YouTube videos)

A video has captured the incredible moment when a Boeing 747 was lifted off the ground by Typhoon Soudelor in Taiwan.

The typhoon is shown repeatedly lifting the nose wheel of a China Airlines Cargo jet in a MrOutofcontrolvideos YouTube video.

Soudelor made its first landfall in Taiwan on Aug. 8. The Typhoon’s top wind gustin Taiwan was 143 mph along the country’s northeast coast, according to The Weather Channel.

Popular Mechanics reports that a flight-ready cargo Boeing 747 could weigh more than 970,000 lbs. or around 400,000 lbs without fuel or cargo. It typically takes an airspeed of about 180 mph to get a Boeing 747 airborne, although 130 mph could lift a lighter version of the plane, according to Popular Mechanics.

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Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts freezing temperatures, more snow

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March 25, 2014: U.S. Postal employee Janeen Long salts and sands the sidewalk in front of the Exmore, Va. Post Office during a heavy snow fall. (AP/Eastern Shore News)

Just when you thought you had gotten over last winter, be warned: The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don’t usually see too much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.

If you don’t want to read about those four-letter words, there’s plenty more to peruse in the folksy, annual book of household tips, trends, recipes and articles, such as animal jealousy, the history of shoes and anticipation for the biggest Supermoon in decades in November 2016.

Otherwise, look for above-normal snow and below-normal temperatures for much of New England; icy conditions in parts of the South; and frigid weather in the Midwest. The snowiest periods in the Pacific Northwest will be in mid-December, early to mid-January and mid- to late February, the almanac predicts.

“Just about everybody who gets snow will have a White Christmas in one capacity or another,” editor Janice Stillman said from Dublin, New Hampshire, where the almanac is compiled. It’s due out in the coming week.

The almanac says there will be above normal-rainfall in the first half of the winter in California, but then that will dry up and the drought is expected to continue. “We don’t expect a whole lot of relief,” Stillman said.

The weather predictions are based on a secret formula that founder Robert B. Thomas designed using solar cycles, climatology and meteorology. Forecasts emphasize how much temperature and precipitation will deviate from 30-year averages compiled by government agencies.

No one’s perfect, and some meteorologists generally pooh-pooh the Almanac’s forecasts as too unscientific to be worth much. The almanac, which defends its accuracy for its predictions overall, says its greatest errors were in underestimating how far above normal California temperatures and Boston-area snowfall would be, although it did predict both would be above normal.

The record-breaking winter in Boston dumped more than 110 inches of snow on the city. The almanac doesn’t call for as much this year.

The 224-year-old almanac, believed to be the oldest continually published periodical in North America, is 26 years older than its closest competitor, “The Farmers’ Almanac,” published in Maine and due out later in August.

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Study: Phoenix is slowly sinking

Study: Phoenix is slowly sinking

Phoenix is a few inches lower than it was when this photo was taken in 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

Researchers say that while there’s no need for residents of Phoenix to panic, parts of their city are slowly and unstoppably sinking into the ground. Land subsidence caused by the extraction of huge quantities of groundwater over the decades is to blame, and the Arizona State University researchers say it’s causing some parts of the metropolitan area to sink by roughly 0.75 inches a year, Sonoran News reports.

Residents may not notice much change year to year, the researchers say, but over time, the problem will affect things like canals, utility lines, and sewers and, eventually, the foundations of buildings.

The depletion of groundwater has changed the sediment under the area, so the drop is irreversible. The lead researcher tells the Arizona Republic that the subsidence has “the potential to cause costly structural damages, and is something to keep an eye on.” The sinking is happening at an uneven rate—with some areas actually rising a little—meaning floodwaters could cause major problems in affected areas.

Another problem, the lead researcher warns, is that the sediment changes have left the ground unable to store as much water as it used to. “We live in a desert, and our underground canteen is getting smaller,” she tells the News.

The Republic notes that the problem is widespread across the US, with Denver, parts of California, and the New Jersey coast among the many areas starting to sink.

This major East Coast city is sinking, too.

This article originally appeared on Newser: Phoenix Is Slowly Sinking

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Forecasters warn this winter’s El Nino could be historically strong

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The current El Nino, nicknamed Bruce Lee, is already the second strongest on record for this time of year and could be one of the most potent weather changers of the past 65 years, federal meteorologists say.

But California and other drought struck areas better not count on El Nino rescuing them like in a Bruce Lee action movie, experts say.

“A big El Nino guarantees nothing,” said Mike Halper, deputy director of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “At this point there’s no cause for rejoicing that El Nino is here to save the day.”

Every few years, the winds shift and the water in the Pacific Ocean gets warmer than usual. The resulting El Nino (ehl NEEN’-yoh) changes weather worldwide, mostly affecting the United States in winter.

In addition to California, El Nino often brings heavy winter rain to much of the southern and eastern U.S.

It’s also likely to make the northern winters warmer and southeastern U.S. winters a bit cooler, but not much, Halpert said. The middle of the U.S. usually doesn’t get too much of an El Nino effect, he said.

California’s state climatologist Michael Anderson noted that only half the time when there have been big El Ninos has there been meaningfully heavy rains. The state would need 1½ times its normal rainfall to get out of this extended drought and that’s unlikely, Halpert said Thursday.

Still, this El Nino is shaping up to be up there with the record-setters, because of incredible warmth in the key part of the Pacific in the last three months, Halpert said. He said the current El Nino likely will rival ones in 1997-1998, 1982-83 and 1972-73.

NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert said satellite measurements show this El Nino to be currently more powerful than 1997-98, which often is thought of as the king. But that one started weaker and finished stronger, he said.

This El Nino is so strong a NOAA blog unofficially named it the “Bruce Lee” of El Ninos after the late movie action hero. The California-based Patzert, who points out that mudslides and other mayhem happens, compares it to Godzilla.

Economic studies favor the hero theme, showing that El Ninos tend to benefit the United States. Droughts and Atlantic hurricanes are reduced. California mudslides notwithstanding, the U.S. economy benefited by nearly $22 billion from that 1997-98 El Nino, according to a study.

El Nino does tend to cause problems elsewhere in the world. And while El Nino often puts a big damper on the Atlantic hurricane season, that means more storms in the Pacific, such as Hawaii, Halpert said. So far this year, tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific is far higher than normal.

Originally available here

Indigenous tribes in Suriname ask gov’t to protect their lands

By Natalia Bonilla

The Trio and Wayana tribes are asking Suriname’s National Assembly to take steps to protect some 72,000 sq. kilometers (28,000 sq. miles) of land in the south of the country from mining and logging activities that are destroying their habitat.

“For the past 10 to 15 years there has been an expansion of the gold mining industry throughout Suriname and indigenous communities understand that it is important for them to conserve their lands,” the World Wildlife Fund’s country manager for Suriname, Laurens Gomes, told Efe in a phone interview on Wednesday.

WWF and Conservation International have helped the tribes draft an appeal to the government because their habitat and livelihoods have been affected by mining activities that have polluted rivers and forests.

“The use of chemicals such as mercury to extract gold has polluted the rivers and affected the quality of life of the fish” eaten by the indigenous peoples, Gomes said.

The south of Suriname is the least disturbed area of the Amazon biome and is part of the largest near-pristine rainforest, according to the WWF.

It is also part of the Guiana Shield, one of the world’s oldest geological areas, occupying the northeastern part of South America, including areas in Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana and Colombia.

Another challenge the indigenous population faces is that Suriname’s government does not recognize their rights to the land they inhabit.

Gomes said this lack of official title threatens the survival of communities because it means the land can be transferred to foreign investors.

According to the WWF, the region the tribes seek to preserve “generates over 60 percent of the water consumed annually in Suriname.”

The region also includes about half of the nation’s forests, which absorb more than 8 million tons of atmospheric carbon-dioxide per year.

“We need the resources of the planet to live and the forest provides them,” the village captain in Trio of Alalapadu, Shedde, said in a statement addressing local authorities.

“If we think and care about future generations, now is the time to act and work together to preserve nature,” Shedde said, according to a statement released by the WWF.

The indigenous conservation corridor proposed by the tribes would connect to one of the largest networks of protected areas in the tropical forest, including the Parc Amazonien in French Guyana and Brazil’s Tumucumaque.

So far, the tribes’ declaration has received support from several Surinamese government ministries, but according to Gomes, the administration as a whole has not taken a stand on the proposal, which was sent to the National Assembly last week.

Suriname is said to be the “greenest” country in the world and has one of the lowest per capita carbon footprints. EFE

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