Broken bits and slow progress for deep-drilling mission

Broken bits and slow progress for deep-drilling mission

Posted on behalf of Nicola Jones The Chikyu — the first research ship designed to drill far into the Earth in deep waters, using oil-rig-style risers — is running a bit behind schedule, thanks to high operating costs and some technical problems. At a poster presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting this week, Yuichi Shinmoto, an engineer with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, reported on how they have had to redesign the drill bit several times. The ship’s mission to drill into an underwater fault line in the Nankai Trough off the coast of Japan –  … Read more

Scientific Integrity, Coming Soon

Scientific Integrity, Coming Soon

Fans of honesty and transparency don’t have to wait much longer. In March 2009, Barack Obama pledged his commitment to scientific integrity in government through a memorandum, and he called on the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to issue a set of guidelines within 120 days to achieve that goal.  Read more

Spilled oil is spreading in hidden plume

Spilled oil is spreading in hidden plume

The US government has acknowledged what scientists first reported nearly 2 months ago–that a deep plume of diffuse oil was spreading away from the leaking Macondo well and that oxygen concentrations in the vicinity were below what is expected in that region. The Joint Analysis Group, or JAG, today announced that elevated oil concentrations could be found up to 25 kilometres from the wellhead at depths between 1,000 metres and 1,300 metres. The report notes that some natural oil seeps are in the vicinity of the wellhead but that the “subsurface oil concentrations are highest near the wellhead and become more diffuse farther away from the source,” according to a NOAA release. The JAG did not say anything about the environmental consequences of the oil spreading

The report also documented a depression in dissolved oxygen below 1,000 metres, which could be caused by microbial consumption of the oil and methane spreading away from the wellhead. But the JAG also said that the oxygen levels are not low enough to be of concern.

Scientists on board the R/V Pelican first reported finding a deep plume of spreading oil as well as depressed oxygen concentrations during a cruise in May.

Living in earthquake country

Living in earthquake country

At 5:04 this morning, an earthquake woke me and thousands of other people in the Washington, DC area. It was a small one, just magnitude 3.6 centered under Germantown, Maryland, according to the US Geological Survey. But seismic waves travel far through the strong rock of the Eastern US and so it should have been felt by residents more than 50 km from its epicenter. It may have even jolted President Obama awake.

I’ve reported on hundreds of quakes during my career but this is the first time I’ve been woken up by one and only the second time I’ve felt a quake. The first was in 1989, when a magnitude 6.3 quake happened nearly 2,200 km away in northern Quebec. I was in a restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut when the table started gently shaking. I thought my brother was shaking the table until I noticed that all the tables in the place were shifting.

Arctic ice’s disappearing act

Arctic ice's disappearing act

In a sadly familiar refrain, the Arctic has set another record for losing sea ice. Last month, the extent of sea ice in the Arctic hit the lowest mark for any June since satellite records started in 1979, according to a press release from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Climate researchers are watching carefully to see if the record rate of loss continues throughout the rest of summer.

US science advisors gather

For science policy wonks in the United States, it doesn’t get much better than a meeting of PCAST, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology . That group of scientific luminaries is having its fourth meeting today in Washington, which is being webcast. PCAST is led by John Holdren, president Obama’s science advisor, and by co-chairs Eric Lander and Harold Varmus.  Read more