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Desperate Measure Yields Insights for Delta Restoration

In late spring 2011, one of the largest pulses of water in recorded history traveled down the Mississippi River, threatening the ports, industries, farms and towns of the river’s lower reaches, including New Orleans. To avert disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway and diverted from 10 to 20 percent of the total river flood discharge into Lake Ponchartrain. Jeffrey Nittrouer, a National Science Foundation post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, studied the impacts of the diversion shortly after the floodwaters subsided. Surprisingly, he found that 31-46% of the total sand load carried by the river during the 6 weeks the spillway was open was carried through the spillway. The location of the spillway was not intentionally chosen for delta restoration. But Nittrouer determined its land building power came from the … Read entire article »

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Field Update: Drilling Through the Japan Earthquake Fault

After successfully reentering the wellhead on the edge of the Japan Trench on the seafloor 6926 meters (4.3 miles) below the ship, we began drilling. The goal: to drill ~850 meters (2800 feet) below the seafloor across the plate boundary and through the fault that slipped more than 50 meters (164 feet) at this location during the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake causing the enormous tsunami. We will then try installing a temperature observatory down into the hole to measure the remaining frictional heat across the fault. Instead of using the standard top-drive drilling system on the ship to rotate the entire drill stem and create the torque on the drill bit 7-8 kilometers below, as in the previous drilling at the site, this time we used a mud-motor located just above … Read entire article »

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Field Update: Like Threading a Needle from 7 kilometers away

The goal we are working towards on the JFAST2 expedition is to install an observatory of temperature sensors across the fault zone that slipped more than 50 meters during the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The temperature sensors will allow us to measure the frictional heat and determine the strength of the fault.  To accomplish a critical step of the installation, we must first find the wellhead we installed last May on the seafloor 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) below the ship, reenter it with the drill bit, and then drill down about 850 meters (2800 feet) through the plate boundary fault. The only way we are able to reenter the wellhead on the seafloor, which will allow us to install the observatory into the hole after drilling across the fault, is by … Read entire article »

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Field Update: Return to the Japan Trench

[Editor's Note: Patrick Fulton is a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. He was part of an expedition last spring aboard a deep sea drilling ship to study the fault near Japan that unleashed one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history in 2011. That expedition ran into technical difficulties and so now the team has returned to finish the job. For the next few days, Fulton will be sending updates from the ship on the progress of the follow-up expedition. This is his first installment.] Greetings from the scientific deep sea drilling vessel Chikyu and the second part of the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project: JFAST2 – IODP Expedition 343T. The focus of the JFAST project has been to quickly drill into and study … Read entire article »

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