News stories about BGS

A selection of recent news, that includes mentions of the British Geological Survey, reported in online news websites. Click on a heading link to read the full article.



An earthquake hit parts of Kent in the early hours of Friday morning, shaking houses, rattling windows and waking people in the county. The magnitude 4.2 earthquake was being investigated by seismologists at the British Geological Survey which said tremors had been felt in areas including Margate.

Kent police were inundated with calls. A spokesman said: “It has now been confirmed parts of east Kent has been affected by an earthquake measuring just 4.3 on the Richter scale (British Geological Survey). “Police began receiving reports of the earthquake tremor in the east Kent area at around 2.57am. Police and the fire and rescue service had no reports of structural damage or injuries. We will continue to liaise with our partner agencies to ensure we are providing help and support in any areas needed.” Musician Jake West was in his terraced house in Canterbury when he reported it started shaking. “At 3am it’s normally quiet,” he told the Guardian. “There was silence, then there was shaking. It was very odd. It felt like there was someone very heavy who was stomping down the stairs.”



22 May 2015

By Clive Mitchell, Industrial Minerals Specialist, British Geological Survey Frac sand is composed mainly of quartz grains. It is used in the fracking process, hence the name "frac" sand. The sand is entrained in water and is pumped under great pressure into fractures created in the reservoir rock. The sand is packed tightly into the fractures and props them open, hence they are also referred to as "proppants". This forms a permeable pathway for the oil and gas to escape from otherwise impermeable rock formations, such as shale. Approximately 70% of the proppants used in fracking are naturally-occurring silica sand. Other types of proppants include resin-coated silica sand, and ceramic proppants, which are most commonly comprised of calcined bauxite or kaolin. The current specification for proppants used in fracking in the UK is the British Standard (BS) European (EN) International Standards Organisation (ISO): 13503-2:2006 + A1:2009 Petroleum and natural gas industries. Completion fluids and materials. Measurement of properties of proppants used in fracking and gravel-packing operations. The standard covers the testing and specification of those properties that are important for a good quality proppant, such as frac sand, including particle size distribution, roundness, sphericity and turbidity.

UK frac sand sources Silica sand in the UK is currently produced for several different end markets, such as glass, ceramics, foundry, water filtration and horticulture. In 2012, a total of 3.9m tonnes silica sand was produced in the UK from 39 silica sand workings. However, not all of these workings contain sand of the right specification for fracking. The silica sand product that is the closest equivalent to frac sand, in terms of its composition and physical properties, is foundry sand.



15 May 2015

"We are expecting many, many more landslides," engineering geologist Tom Dijkstra of the British Geological Survey told Live Science. "It (Nepal) definitely received a double whammy." Scientists from groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have already mapped more than 3,000 landslides from satellite images since the magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal in late April. Dijkstra said this earlier shaking primed the region's steep hillsides for further rockfalls by loosening soil and debris.

16 Submit 0 Reddit Swayambhunath, west of Kathmandu, on May 1. Credit: think4photop/Shutterstock.com View full size image A powerful aftershock that struck Nepal today (May 12) has triggered new landslides on slopes already weakened by the April 25 earthquake, experts said. "We are expecting many, many more landslides," engineering geologist Tom Dijkstra of the British Geological Survey told Live Science. "It (Nepal) definitely received a double whammy." Scientists from groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have already mapped more than 3,000 landslides from satellite images since the magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal in late April. Dijkstra said this earlier shaking primed the region's steep hillsides for further rockfalls by loosening soil and debris. "There were eyewitness accounts of large cracks that appeared in slopes," Dijkstra said. "There is now an inherent instability in the landscape." At least 37 people were killed in today's quake and more than 1,100 were injured, according to early news reports.



12 May 2015

The study, led by Dr Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey, published new research in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The research involved 10 members of the Anthropocene Working Group that is chaired by Professor Jan Zalasiewicz of the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester and Gary Hancock, a world expert on plutonium in the environment.

The standard practice for defining geological time units is to identify a single reference point (or "golden spike") that fixes the lower boundary of the time unit within a succession of rock or sediment layers. The boundary should be characterized by a signature that is both rapidly developed and wide-spread. The proposal led by Dr Waters is that the programme of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing may have generated such a signature. Dr Waters said: "It is sobering to think that the actions of humanity over a few short years in the mid-20th century created such large amounts of artificial radionuclides that scattered across the Earth as fallout, producing a signal in modern strata that, in the case of plutonium, will be a detectable for about 100,000 years into the future". Starting with the 1945 detonation of the Trinity device in New Mexico, the extent of such fallout was initially quite localized. But with the introduction in 1952 of the much larger "thermonuclear" or "hydrogen" weapons tests, the fallout dispersed over the entire Earth surface. The amount of fallout peaked in 1962, the year before the Partial Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty largely drove the nuclear detonations underground. The 1952 rise in abundance of the isotope plutonium-239 is preferred as it is rare in nature, is a significant component of fallout, is relatively immobile in sediments, has a long half-life so will persist long into the future and the rise is broadly coincident with the onset of the "Great Acceleration".



11 May 2015

Ongdi, who has lived in the Borders since 2007, belongs to Nepal’s well-known Sherpa clan, which famously provides the legendary Himalayan mountain guides.

Ongdi, who lives in Galashiels with wife, Alison, and five-year-old daughter, Tamzin, spent 2000 to 2007 working as a mountain guide. His recent trip to Nepal had intended to include his friend from Caddonfoot, Robert Grieve, and another, but the latter two had to cancel for family reasons.

The track of the earthquake was recorded on seismographic equipment at the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) monitoring station at Eskdalemuir, near Langholm. The BGS earthquake seismology team is the UK’s national earthquake monitoring agency and its sensors allow it to monitor both British and overseas earthquakes.



7 May 2015

Gorkha earthquake in Nepal: update on landslide hazard Vanessa Banks, Alex Densmore, Tom Dijkstra, Colm Jordan, David Milledge, Dave Petley, John Rees, Nick Rosser, Jack Williams British Geological Survey, Durham University & University of East Anglia

Status We were working to three objectives: identification of large landslides (1) blocking valleys and potentially causing significant secondary hazards; (2) affecting villages; and (3) disrupting infrastructure, such as roads. The team has undertaken a thorough investigation of available satellite imagery from multiple sources. The imagery has been investigated at 1:5,000 to 1:10,000 scales (with smallest features that can be distinguished ranging from about 5 to 15 m). Image resolution ranged from 2 m to more than 22 m. The team has obtained access to satellite imagery covering c.55,000 km2 with approximately 25% cloud-free. Analysis of imagery from the high Himalayas by the Charter Project Manager’s institution (NRSC-ISRO) has also been evaluated by the UK team. We summarise some preliminary conclusions: Siwalik and Lesser Himalayan regions •We have high confidence that there are few major or disruptive landslides. Most landslides are small; many are re-activations of pre-existing failures whose locations will be known to local populations. •Analysis of villages/infrastructure known to have been damaged by landslides shows that the latter are almost all small (> 10-50 m wide) and extremely difficult to identify using the available imagery. High Himalayan region •We have identified several large valley-blocking landslides (landslide dams) on the basis of satellite imagery (see Appendix 1). We stress that further valley-blocking landslides may still be found as additional imagery becomes available; other valleys in the High Himalayas should be assumed to be at risk until the existence of landslide dams can be confirmed or ruled out. •A zone of relatively intense landsliding and disruption can be mapped in every valley for which cloud-free imagery is available, north and northeast of Kathmandu (red lines in the above map). This zone contains numerous rockfalls and debris avalanches, with many events following pre-existing pathways or channels and having long runout distances (in most cases, all the way to the valley floor). These events are individually localised but together are extremely widespread, and have had catastrophic impacts on roads and villages. It is these small, but widespread, landslides that are likely to have probably caused the largest loss of life due to landsliding. •Cloud-free images are not yet available for all valleys within this zone; until they are, we must expect that similar levels of disruption are present in ALL valleys within the zone, not just those indicated in the accompanying map. •Where visible, high-elevation areas (> 3,500 m) show evidence of some large rockslides, along with extensive avalanching (the latter especially above 4,500 m). Most of these areas are far from permanent settlements or infrastructure, and pose no direct threat to the population. •Large areas of the High Himalaya, including valley floors and also most areas above 2,500 m, have not yet been examined because of cloud cover. We are continuing to monitor all possible sources of data. Entire earthquake affected region •The zone of intense landsliding corresponds to areas with high rates of seasonal rainfall-triggered landslides. We must thus expect that the risk due to continued landsliding in this area will escalate significantly as the rains begin. This continued landslide occurrence will threaten already-affected areas with continued failure, and will wash landslide sediment downstream onto valley floors and floodplains.



6 May 2015

History is rubbing shoulders with technology in one of the world’s more remarkable mine revival stories which is within weeks of reaching a climax, as Britain prepares to welcome its first new metal-producing mine in more than 50 years. Hemerdon, in the south-west county of Devon, had briefly been a big name in the armaments industry as a source of the tungsten used to harden steel used in artillery during both the first and second world wars. Between those events, the mine, which can trace its roots back to 1867 as a source of tin, was mothballed, waiting for the next war, or for a time when the world was short of tungsten, an element also used to harden the steel in tools and as a filament in incandescent light-bulbs. What’s driving interest in tungsten today is not the prospect of war, though that’s always an issue, it’s the overwhelming control of production by a single country; China.

Like rare earths, a family of elements with special military uses, tungsten sits high on a “risk list” compiled by the British Geological Survey because of their high economic value, relative shortage and potential for one country to throttle supplies. But, unlike rare earths, which have attracted political interest in the U.S. and other western countries, tungsten has escaped the limelight despite ranking equal first with rare earths on the risk list, sharing a score of 9.5 out of 10. The primary features of tungsten include the fact that it doesn’t corrode, is extremely hard and has the highest melting point of any metal at 6,200 degree Fahrenheit, or 3,420 degree Celsius). There are no substitutes for it in some applications, and China controls the market.



5 May 2015

People in the region were at one stage warned of the possibility of a "hazardous tsunami" but that alert has now been lifted. Dr Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey told Sky News: "This is another thrust earthquake which is the same sort of fault movement as occurred in the earthquake in Nepal. "In this case, it is an ocean plate - the Solomon Sea is being pushed underneath New Britain (Island) - and it is a very active seismic zone … it's produced much larger earthquakes than this one we've had. "A magnitude of 7.1 is probably not big enough to have a large impact. There have been earthquakes as large as magnitude 8 in this area before. "The last big one that we had in this area, of magnitude 8, caused a tsunami that killed about 40 people but this one, I think, is too small and too deep." There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage to property. Rabaul, the town nearest where the earthquake hit, is on East New Britain Island. It lies in the shadow of active volcano Mount Tavurvur - the town was destroyed 21 years ago when the volcano erupted.



2 May 2015

The radar spacecraft is able to sense ground movement by comparing before and after imagery acquired from orbit. Scientists turn this information into an interferogram - a colourful, but highly technical, representation of the displacement that occurs on a fault. The new data confirms an area of 120km by 50km around Kathmandu lifted up, with a maximum of at least 1m. "There's a peak of slip just to the northeast of Kathmandu. Basically, what we do is count the coloured 'fringes' in this interferogram and there are about 34, so that translates to more than a metre of uplift," explained Prof Tim Wright from the UK's Nerc Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET).



29 April 2015

Scientists are now analysing seismic data in an effort to understand the strongest earthquake to hit Nepal in more than 80 years, which has left more than 3,000 people dead. The Earth's crust is made of large tectonic plates. These land masses, which sometimes include whole continents, are constantly moving and bumping into each other. Nepal straddles the fault line between two of these plates; the Indian and the Eurasian plates. These are being forced up against and under each other, at a rate of about 5cm each year. That may not sound like very much, but there is tremendous force behind them and when this builds up, an earthquake results. "This is probably the biggest earthquake to hit Nepal since 1934," Brian Baptie of the British Geological Survey told Al Jazeera. "Earthquakes of this size are capable of causing an incredible amount of devastation."



28 April 2015