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Image courtesy of NASA

AUSTIN — The University of Texas and the Lower Colorado River Authority will be utilizing data from a new NASA satellite to better forecast droughts and floods.

NASA launched the $900 million Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite Jan. 31. The satellite orbits the earth approximately every 90 minutes and is capable of measuring the moisture of soil in the ground. Its mission is to vastly improve forecasting for droughts and floods.

UT and LCRA will be working with NASA by working to confirm what the satellite records. The new information comes with a few obstacles.

“It’s challenging on a whole bunch of different levels. It’s challenging from the fact, this data set, that is going to be the first of its kind, and it’s at a fairly large scale and a lot of times we need these estimates, even at a finer scale, say for drought. We need to know if farmer A’s field is more prone than farmer B’s field,” said Dr. Todd Caldwell at the University of Texas.

KVUE, Feb. 6, 2015

NPR’s StateImpact Texas, Feb. 2, 2015

Nature, Jan. 27, 2015

El Paso Times, Jan. 31, 2015

Featuring Todd Caldwell, research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology


greenlandWant to know what the inside of an ice sheet looks like?

A new 3D map and animation of the Greenland ice sheet lets researchers peer into the layers of ice laid down over millennia and see how they have been warped as they flow over time and are put under pressure as newer layers accumulate above. This will help them better understand how Greenland—which holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by 20 feet—will respond to current climate change by showing how it responded to similar changes in the past.

The map will “give people that gut-level feel of what an ice sheet looks like on the inside,” said Joe MacGregor, a glaciologist at the University of Texas and one of the leaders of the mapping effort.

Scientific American, Feb. 3, 2015

Alcalde, Feb. 3, 2015

Lice Science, Jan. 30, 2015

Nature World News, Jan. 26, 2015

Featuring Joe MacGregor, Research Associate, Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences.


UP9A3252_jpg_312x1000_q100State lawmakers are considering a nearly $2.5 million plan to help answer a pressing question in some Texas communities: Why does the ground keep shaking?

An item hidden in House Speaker Joe Straus991-page budget proposal would fund a “TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program,” at the University of Texas at Austin, aimed at helping Texans understand the unexpected surge of earthquakes underneath their feet.

“TexNet would create an improved statewide seismic monitoring network capable of detecting and locating earthquakes more precisely than can currently be done,” said Scott Tinker, director of the university’s Bureau of Economic Geology, which would manage the project. The program “would also improve our ability to respond to earthquakes quickly, if such a response were deemed appropriate,” he added.

Texas Tribune, Jan. 23, 2015

Featuring, Scott Tinker, Director, Bureau of Economic Geology


imgresJamaica has its “Hope Zoo”, in Nicaragua garish yellow sculptures decorate the avenues of Managua called “The Trees of Life”, while Haiti has the “Hugo Chávez International Airport”.

All are monuments to the glory days when Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chávez was still alive, oil prices were high, and revolutionary Caracas, which sits on the largest energy reserves in the world, could afford to send 200,000 barrels per day of subsidised oil to 13 countries, including Cuba, in return for their political support and sometimes repayment with goods in kind — like black beans.

Today, however, with oil prices having halved in six months, Venezuela’s economy in a tailspin and protests rising at home over food shortages, Caracas is having to rethink the Petrocaribe subsidised oil arrangement in order to finance dwindling imports, rebuild foreign reserves and avoid a bond default.

Financial Times, January 14, 2015

Featuring: Jorge Pinon, Director, Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program

 


smokestacks_in_Houston_Ship_ChannelOfficials from countries around the word have met for the last two weeks in Lima, Peru to talk global climate change.   At the heart of those talks is how to limit billions of tons of CO2 that are pumped into the atmosphere every year from coal burning power plants.

But how do we keep track of the CO2 we’re releasing? And just how do we weigh something that floats in the first place?

It turns out there is a venerable history to the science of weighing smoke.

In 16th century England Queen Elizabeth made a bet over the weight of smoke with famed explorer Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh is known for popularizing tobacco at the royal court. One day, so the story goes, he told the queen he could weigh the smoke that came from his pipe.

KUT, December 12, 2014

Featuring: Susan Hovorka, Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology.


The smoke stacks at American Electric PoThe deal that the U.S. and China have struck to curb carbon emissions has been hailed as a breakthrough by many concerned with climate change, and panned by politicians opposed to President Obama. But it’s also captured the interest of a group of researchers — some in Texas — who specialize in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

KUT, November 12, 2014

Featuring: Susan Hovorka, Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology.


622x350When state geologist Scott Tinker visited the Chronicle editorial board last week, he told us that industry regulators and professionals need to improve on the technique to further protect the environment. We agree.

Houston Chronicle, December 8, 2014

Featuring: Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the Jackson School of Geosciences


Frack1Production of natural gas in the United States is climbing rapidly, and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts long-term growth. But studies by the University of Texas (UT) challenge that forecast.

The Texas team made forecasts for the four most productive shale-gas formations, or plays. Those forecasts suggest that gas production will peak soon and quickly drop, a much more pessimistic outlook than those offered by the EIA and several companies, such as Goldman Sachs.

Nature, December 3, 2014

Featuring: Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, the State Geologist of Texas, a professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences and director of the Advanced Energy Consortium


Soil moisture monitors could help predict weather patterns across Texas. Photo by Richard Casteel

Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s.

“It rained and rained and rained,” he says. “Back then we raised turkeys, we lost thousands of turkeys that washed away in the creek.”

The disaster underscores an irony of life in Texas. “You hope and pray that you’re going to get a good rain, [but] on the other side of it, you hope you don’t get a flood,” says Rabke.

A quick walk from where the turkeys met their fate, some new technology that will help manage that risk is being installed — soil monitoring sensors in the ground.

Dr. Todd Caldwell and his team have dug a pit and they’re connecting wires and setting up a tripod monitoring station, but they’ve run into some trouble.

“You see the sensors have about a 15 centimeter-long tine that’s thin metal, and we have to push those into the clay when it’s dry. This is kind of set up like a concert,” Caldwell  says. “So, we have to push really hard to get them in, so we’re struggling a bit right now…”

The tines measure the how much water is in the soil. That information travels on buried wires to the tripod. It gathers more data. then it feeds it on a cellular network back to the landowner, and then to the University of Texas. That’s where Caldwell works, at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

NPR’s StateImpactTexas, November 25, 2014

Featuring: Todd Caldwell, research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology, and Michael Young, associate director of environmental systems at the BEG


What are the best places to work in Central Texas? The Austin American-Statesman is helping answer that question.

After surveys of more than 22,000 workers at 159 companies, the American-Statesman’s 2014 Top Workplaces of Greater Austin project narrowed it down to 100 Central Texas employers worthy of earning Top Workplaces designation.

The Jackson School’s Bureau of Economic Geology ranked No. 15 among midsize employers.

Austin American-Statesman, November 16, 2014


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