December 10, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Geology Roundup

Wonders under the sea highlight this roundup of recent geology news.  Speaking of seas, the Dead Sea also made headlines, as well as data on the question of whether earthquakes are increasing.

Ocean floor lava flow:  A fresh lava flow five meters thick covering 10 million square meters was discovered off the Oregon coast.  That’s just one of several surprises found by a seafloor mapping robot reported by PhysOrg, which said the device “has had a busy year. It documented a huge lava flow from a three-month-old volcanic eruption off the Oregon coast; it charted mysterious three-kilometer-wide scour marks on the seafloor off Northern California; and it unearthed data that challenge existing theories about one of the largest offshore faults in Central California.

Volcanoes into the abyss:  Can you imagine a volcano falling into a huge chasm?  That’s what the BBC News reported is happening to seamounts near New Zealand.  An accompanying animation from sonar data shows mountains poised on the edge of a huge crack in the Pacific plate, drawing them in at 6cm per year.

Dead Sea fluctuations:  The Dead Sea is apparently a remnant of a once much-larger lake that engulfed the Sea of Galilee to the north, yet also shrunk to near dryness in the past.  That’s what the BBC News reported about drill cores interpreted by geologists to represent large climate fluctuations in the past, including the “coming and going of ice ages.”  Live Science asked, “Could the Dead Sea completely vanish?”  Apparently so, since it has happened before.

Earthquakes on the rise?  The recent spate of major earthquakes in Haiti, Japan, New Zealand, Turkey and elsewhere might make one think earthquakes are increasing in frequency and intensity, but that’s not the case, according to two teams of geologists who reported their statistical analyses at the American Geophysical Union.  The pattern of major quakes is indistinguishable from randomness, and one major quake does not appear able to trigger others at remote distances.  Story at Live Science.

Snowflake puzzle solved:  Atmospheric science is not geology, but overlaps it somewhat.  Snowflakes do fall to the ground and contribute to erosion.  A seasonally-appropriate subject was reported by both PhysOrg and BBC News, along with pretty pictures by snowflake photography wizard Kenneth Libbrecht.  He figured out why snowflakes are flat – razor thin, in fact.  If interested in hearing how they grow faster at the edges, read the articles.  It's worth a click to the BBC article just for the beauty of the photo.  What crystal designer could outdo this?

These stories are offered to pique your interest, in hopes some readers will investigate them further and evaluate their claims.  For those who want to think outside the secular billions-of-years box, Dr. Tasman Walker (BA Earth Science, PhD Mechanical Engineering), a writer for Creation Ministries International, maintains a Biblical Geology Blog with news of interest, informative and attractively presented.

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