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USGS study shows that injecting wastewater from fracking can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away

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Oklahoma earthquake spike definitively linked with wastewater injection.

More monitoring and mitigation needed, scientists say

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just a small number of wastewater injection wells associated with fossil fuel exploitation can lead to a dramatic increase in earthquakes, U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded in a new study focusing on the spike in Oklahoma earthquakes since 2009. Wastewater injection can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away, the researchers found, far beyond the three-mile radius commonly used as a measure for diagnosing induced earthquakes.

The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells. Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal, said Cornell University geophysics professor Katie Keranen, who led the study. Continue reading

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State, feds warn of increased Oklahoma earthquake risk

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Oklahoma earthquakes are on the increase.

Spike in tremors linked with injection of wastewater from fracking

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal and state geologists say there’s an increased risk of a strong earthquake in Oklahoma after the overall rate of quakes increased by about 50 percent since late 2013.

After statistically analyzing the increased rate of earthquakes, the scientists said they’re fairly certain it’s not just natural variability — deep injection of waste water from fossil fuel exploitation is seen as a likely cause. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists find widespread contamination of food web in Columbia River

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The Columbia River Basin, courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Some chemicals exceed limits set to protect human health

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even the Northwest’s mighty Columbia River isn’t immune to persistent chemical pollution federal scientists said last week, publicizing a new study that found fish with traces of pesticides and PCBs at levels that raise health concerns.

The data have been sent to state health officials in Oregon and Washington who will evaluate the new information to determine exactly how much of the resident fish are safe to eat.

The researchers measured contaminants, including pesticides, flame retardant compounds, and ingredients from common household products in the water and osprey eggs at 10 different locations along the Columbia River. Continue reading

Despite global warming, new permafrost forming

New permafrost is forming around Alaska's Twelvemile Lake.

A USGS study finds new permafrost forming near Alaska’s Twelvemile Lake.

Small local variations in temperatures eyed as factor

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey say they’ve found new patches of permafrost forming in the margins a retreating lake in the interior of Alaska. The findings run counter the conventional wisdom that permafrost will shrink and disappear as the Earth’s climate warms — but don’t jump on the happy train just yet.

The new permafrost patches are small and suggest that the areas of frozen soil are sensitive to small temperature variations and other local factors, the USGS-led study suggests. Especially important is emerging vegetation around the edge of the lake. Thick willows shade the ground to the point that the soil can freeze, the scientists said. Continue reading

USGS study eyes Caribbean tsunami risk

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Could there be a tsunami in the Caribbean?

Guadeloupe seen as focal point for unreleased tectonic strain

Staff Report

FRISCO — The risk of a large earthquake and subsequent tsunami may be greater than previously thought, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say after studying the plate boundary in the Lesser Antilles region, where 20 of the 26 Caribbean islands are located.

The geologists estimate that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated offshore of Guadeloupe to potentially create a magnitude 8.0-8.4 earthquake. A magnitude 7.5 – 8.5 quake in 1843 killed several thousand people in Guadeloupe, and a similar quake in the future could cause several tens to several hundreds of fatalities, and hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars in damages. Continue reading

New map details Iceland glaciers, sub-glacial volcanoes

New map provides valuable information the global warming era

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Iceland’s glaciers are an important source of water for hydropower generation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team effort by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Icelandic Meteorological Office has resulted in a new map detailing all of Iceland’s glaciers, as well as subglacial volcanoes. The map incorporates historical data and coverage from aerial photographs and remote sensing satellites, helping to show recent and historic changes in Iceland’s dynamic landscape.

Iceland has about 300 glaciers throughout the country, and altogether, 269 glaciers, outlet glaciers and internal ice caps are named. The glaciers that lack names are small and largely newly revealed, exposed by melting of snow pack due to warmer summer temperatures. The number of identified glaciers has nearly doubled at the beginning of the 21st century. Continue reading

Study: Bighorn sheep vulnerable to new diseases

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Bighorn sheep gather along the edge of U.S. Highway 6 near Loveland Pass. Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Research to help guide management

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal wildlife biologists tracking population declines in bighorn sheep say the animals may be vulnerable to new threats, including chronic wasting disease, found in ungulates with overlapping habitat in parts of the West.

A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows those diseases are occurring in or near natural bighorn sheep environments. These fatal diseases are caused by mysterious proteins called prions, and are known to infect domestic sheep (scrapie) and non-domestic deer, elk, and moose (CWD). The USGS study is published in the journal BMC Veterinary Research, and is available online. Continue reading

USGS study finds widespread stream degradation

Streamflow modifications, pollution impacts affect majority of waterways in urban and agricultural areas

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Pristine streams like Meadow Creek, which flows out of a wilderness area, are hard to find.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — More than 80 percent of streams in urban and agricultural areas show signs of reduced stream health, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A new report from the agency documents how stream health is being degraded by streamflow modifications and elevated levels of nutrients and pesticides.

The national assessment of stream health was unprecedented. Instead of just measuring chemical or physical properties of water, the study took a more comprehensive look at entire biological communities, as well as measurements of more than 100 chemical constituents in water and streambed sediments. Continue reading

USGS maps potential hurricane impacts

Online toolkit designed to help coastal planners and decision makers

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A NOAA seasonal map shows the path of 2011 Atlantic hurricanes.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a decade of study, USGS scientists are releasing new mapping tools that will help planner and decision-makers address coastal vulnerabilities to storm surges and wave action from hurricanes.

The information could help identify the best locations for coastal defenses, especially when sea level rise is added into the equation. The pinpoint mapping could also help inform decisions ranging from changes to building codes and locations for new construction, to determining the best evacuation routes for future storms.

The two reports assess the coastline from Florida to North Carolina, and  from Virginia to New York, showing that, even during the weakest hurricane, a category 1 with winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour, 89 percent of the dune-backed beaches from Florida to New York coast are very likely to experience dune erosion during a direct landfall.  Continue reading

Study: U.S. could store 500 years worth of CO2

USGS assessment identifies most promising areas by region

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The eastern U.S. and the Rocky Mountain region hold the greatest potential for carbon dioxide sequestration, according to a new assessment by the USGS>

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Geological Survey says there’s potential to store more than 600 years (at 2011 emission rates) worth of carbon dioxide in various geologic formations around the country.

The first-ever detailed national geologic carbon sequestration assessment looked at all sedimentary basins, but 36 were assessed in detail because existing geologic conditions or the available data suggested only these 36 met the assessment’s minimum criteria.

“This USGS research is ground-breaking because it is the first realistic view of technically accessible carbon storage capacity in these basins,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “If enough of this capacity also proves to be environmentally and economically viable, then geologic carbon sequestration could help us reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.”

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