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An iceberg from the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914.

Two new studies are adding to concerns about one of the most troubling scenarios for future climate change: the possibility that global warming could slow or shut down the Atlantic’s great ocean circulation systems, with dramatic implications for North America and Europe.

One study, by three scientists from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, uses computers to model how Greenland’s rapid thawing could affect the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, the system that pushes cold, dense saltwater into the deep ocean and helps transport warm water northward, helping to warm Europe’s climate

A second paper, by a team of Texas scientists, sheds new light on how the Earth’s climate responded during a similar thaw from the planet’s geological past. About 12,000 years ago, rising temperatures at the end of the last ice age released huge volumes of cold freshwater, disrupting the ocean’s circulation systems and sending parts of the Northern Hemisphere back in to the freezer. Scientists refer to the era as the Younger Dryas period.

The Washington Post, Sept. 7, 2015

MSNBC, Sept. 10, 2015

Featuring: Jud Partin, research scientist, Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences

Gulf of Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Now that Mexico’s potential oil and gas riches are open to outside investment, how does the industry figure out what’s there?

North of an east-west line across the Gulf of Mexico are United States waters, where the bedrock deep below the ocean floor has proved to hold vast reservoirs of oil and gas. But south of that line, there is very little information.

Geologists suspect that Mexico’s Gulf waters hold similar resources, but they lack the crucial first step in oil exploration, the seismic data that allows them to develop a picture of what lies beneath.

Until now, whatever seismic data existed was closely held by Pemex, the state-owned oil company, which commissioned the studies for itself. But that is all starting to change.

Oct. 7, 2015, New York Times

Featuring:  John Snedden, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics.

Room with a view: Milliken drilling Nankai mud on the Chikyu (with Arito Sakaguchi).

While not wanting to be dismissive of the current downturn in the oil and gas industry, Kitty L. Milliken – winner of AAPG’s Robert R. Berg Outstanding Research Award and co-recipient of the Wallace E. Pratt Memorial Award for best AAPG Bulletin article – points out that had she not been laid off during the 1980s’ oil glut, she might be applauding others for groundbreaking research benefitting the nation’s shale energy boom.

Today, Milliken works as a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) in Austin, Texas, and is a global authority on sedimentary petrography, the microscopic description and classification of sedimentary rocks.



AAPG Explorer, May 2015

Featuring: Kitty Milliken, senior research scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences

UT researchers studied Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, along with five other glaciers in Alaska and Greenland. U.S. Geological Survey

UT researchers studied Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, along with five other glaciers in Alaska and Greenland. U.S. Geological Survey

The story starts with six scientists and six glaciers. They set out to Alaska and Greenland to study earthquakes caused by glaciers breaking up. To do this, they hooked seismic sensors up to these big pieces of ice. However, when they pulled this data down, they heard something new: the sound of melting glaciers.

Tim Bartholomaus, a postdoctoral fellow at UT’s Institute for Geophysics, says the melting glacial water makes a buzzing, whirring sound. It’s a sound that the research team found completely by accident.

Bartholomaus says they initially intended to study the quakes that happen when iceberg calving, when sheets of ice fall off glaciers into the water. When they collected the data, however, there was a background noise in the calving recordings, and the sound wave, he thought,  resembled the shape of a sound wave from a glacier river. A dead giveaway was that the sound was louder in the summer and softer in the winter.

KUT, Aug. 13, 2015

Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine, Aug. 10, 2015

Featuring: Tim Bartholomaus, postdoctoral fellow, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences



The searing Sahara Desert is getting even hotter, at a rate two to four times greater than the rest of the tropics, say scientists in a new study.

That puts it on par with the Arctic which is also exceeding the global warming average. But whereas the widely studied Arctic “amplification” melts sea ice and permafrost, the Sahara warming could be reducing the huge outflow of dust that blows off Africa and be causing big changes to regional weather — and local people.

“A lot of people live there – three million or so,” said researcher Kerry Cook of the University of Texas at Austin. “And it’s adjacent to the Sahel region, which has many more people.”



Discovery News, Aug. 17, 2015

Featuring: Kerry Cook, Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences

The world’s first undersea carbon storage project is off the coast of Norway. (image: Stanford University/Statoil)

The U.S. Department of Energy, which has been researching carbon dioxide storage for years, announced $12 million in new research grants this month to learn the potential of the Atlantic sea floor to sequester carbon along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast.

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is among the technologies both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the federal government see as one of the best solutions to control greenhouse gas emissions without forcing utilities to fully quit using fossil fuels.




Alternet, July 23, 2015

Featuring: Tip Meckel, research scientist, Gulf Coast Carbon Center, Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences


This week, Generation Anthropocene goes on a continent-hopping tour of the invisible water that drives planetary processes. Producer Mike Osborne kicks things off by chatting with Jenny Suckale, a Stanford geophysicist who has been tracking melting in Antarctica and how it may contribute to global sea level rise.

Finally, Osborne talks with Kaustubh Thirumulai from the University of Texas, Austin as part of an ongoing series, Convos With Kau. Thirumulai recently returned from India, where he was part of a team collecting rocks and sediment from the ocean floor around the Indian subcontinent. Their data should reveal more about the history of the South Asian monsoon and how this major player in the freshwater cycle is being affected by climate change., July 14, 2015

Featuring: Kaustubh Thirumalai, doctoral student, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences

Photo: Ramon Espinosa, STF

Photo: Ramon Espinosa, STF

As we rode around Havana in late May with a Cuban friend, his excitement was palpable.

He had recently opened a highly successful paladar, or restaurant, was driving around in a shiny new car, constantly fielding calls on his cell phone and talking nonstop about starting more businesses in the crumbling, but still beautiful Cuban capital.

“Things are changing,” he said. “There is still much that needs to be done, but things are changing.”



The Houston Chronicle, July 3, 2015

Featuring: Jorge Piñon, Director, Latin America and Caribbean Program, Jackson School of Geosciences

Coral tells big tales of earthquake history and can help scientists make certain predictions, researchers say. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Coral tells big tales of earthquake history and can help scientists make certain predictions, researchers say. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

In a clear sign that all is connected, particularly to our terrestrial coral reefs, researchers who were studying uplifted coral along the eastern coast of one of the western Solomon Islands (Ranongga) found evidence of six earthquakes in the region in the past 3,000 years. This was a significant learning, because the western Solomon Islands were a region thought to be free of large earthquakes until an 8.1 magnitude quake hit in 2007, according to a release.






Nature World News, July 1, 2015

Featuring: Kaustubh Thirumalai, Ph.D student, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences

STEMFORCE-fig-1The ever-growing age gap within the oil and gas industry workforceis a phenomenon that companies are all too aware of. It is projected that within five to seven years, roughly 50 percent of the industry’s workforce will be retired. STEMFORCE, funded in part by Drillinginfo and founded by the organization GeoFORCE Texas, is a new program that aims to encourage students to pursue careers in the geosciences by exposing high school students to geologic fieldwork.

Last week I took our first STEMFORCE cohort of 36 students from the Dallas and Austin areas to Florida to learn about river and coastal processes. For many of these students, this was their very first time on an airplane as well their first time travelling to another state. Over the first two days of the trip I could tell that many students were having trouble grasping the “big idea” concepts of geology, such as the processes that change the Earth’s surface. Once we were out in the field however, and the students were able to physically see modern beach processes occurring on the Florida coast, I began to see my students having “Aha!” moments as they connected the dots. Showing the students how the Earth’s surface is constantly changing and how these processes are reflected in the rock record is fundamental to their understanding of the foundations of geology.

Over this six-day field course the students expanded not only their knowledge of the geosciences but also their ability to work within a team. At each beach stop I watched as they learned to collaborate with each other, divide up work and delegate roles so they could finish each assignment on time. These beach profiling activities forced students to think like scientists by making observations, and, as the National Academy of Sciences states, by “using evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena.” Having the students perform the same type of field work and record the same type of observations that geologists might do is another important way we are able to expose students to careers in the geosciences.

Forbes, July 6, 2015

Featuring: Bridget Haby, GeoFORCE Texas coordinator

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