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.

Swept away by mudslides, entombed in lava or suffocated under ash, nearly 280,000 people have died in volcanic eruptions during the past four centuries, but only now has humanity managed to quantify the risk posed by these fiery phenomena. The first detailed assessment of global volcanic risk — part of a larger international hazard assessment released on 4 March by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction — aims to save lives by providing better information for risk planners and by showcasing effective response measures.

“We want to showcase what volcanologists around the world are doing,” says Sue Loughlin, a volcanologist at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh and another leader of the survey. In Ecuador, around the Tungurahua volcano, local volunteers serve as a network of vigías or ‘volcano watchers’. They watch for changes in the mountain and radio in to the nearby volcano observatory every evening with their reports (J. Stone et al. J. Appl. Volcanol. 3, 11; 2014). Such initiatives could translate to other volcanically active regions, says Barclay. “We can learn much more by bringing all this knowledge together.”

3 March 2015

An innovative collaboration between universities, research institutions, government funding bodies and the E&P industry promises to change the face of doctoral petroleum geoscience training in the UK. Keith Gerdes, Chair of the Industrial Advisory Board for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)’s Centre for Doctoral Training for Oil and Gas, tells us about this important development...

The opportunity to host the Centre was the subject of competitive tender, won by a consortium led by Heriot-Watt University (HWU) in Edinburgh. The Consortium Management Group consists of seven core partners (HWU, the British Geological Survey and the Universities of Aberdeen, Durham, Imperial College London, Manchester and Oxford), all of which have extensive research programmes across a wide range of disciplines relevant to the modern-day energy industries. A further 11 UK universities (Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter, Glasgow, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Royal Holloway, Southampton and Strathclyde) and one NERC affiliate (the National Oceanographic Centre) are Associate partners of the CDT, bringing diversity and expertise in additional disciplines to it. ..

28 February 2015

What causes earthquakes in this area? Although distant from the nearest plate boundary, which is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, earthquakes occur when crustal stresses within the tectonic plates are relieved by movement occurring on pre-existing fault planes. With regards to stress lines or geological faults, everywhere is criss-crossed with thousands of small geological faults where insignificant (by worldwide standards) earthquakes can occur. Britain has thousands, so it is difficult to pinpoint an earthquake to a particular fault. Unlike when a major world earthquake occurs, these are usually very close to the plate boundaries.

Could we ever get a tsunami here – even a small one? No. The size of earthquakes that occur close to the Channel Islands cannot cause a tsunami. A tsunami will only occur as a result of a bigger earthquake (bigger than magnitude 7) and they generally only happen close to the plate boundaries, and the Channel Islands are nowhere near that.

27 February 2015

To feed the growing global population, food production must be greatly increased. Economists have suggested that food shortages could be alleviated by an agricultural revolution in Africa but what might this mean for Africa’s groundwater? Vincent Casey, WaterAid’s Technical Support Manager – Water Security, explores the question.

Will Africa’s geology constrain groundwater overuse? According to the British Geological Survey, roughly 50% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population lives on crystalline basement geology, where groundwater occurs in fractures and weathered pockets, and therefore cannot be found everywhere. This geology is characterised by highly variable borehole yields. The amount of water that can be obtained from a borehole in the long-term depends on the amount of water storage available in the aquifer, the rate at which water can move through the aquifer into the borehole, the rate at which the aquifer is recharged by rainfall, and demands on the aquifer from other users. All of these factors vary over short distances, meaning the high borehole yields needed for irrigation cannot be found everywhere. Limitations on irrigation potential may mean that efforts to improve agricultural productivity might have to focus on a better, more nuanced understanding of rain-fed techniques and soil water infiltration, as well as groundwater pumping. An increased use of soil water will still have knock on implications for groundwater recharge and therefore water availability.

27 February 2015

An earthquake which rocked the Channel Islands triggered more than 100 reports from shaken residents. The 2.9 magnitude tremor follows a series of quakes in July that reached 4.3 on the Richter scale – the largest in the area since 1933.

The British Geological Survey said its epicentre was about 16 miles south-west of St Helier with residents describing a ‘deep rumble’ that sounded like thunder. It ‘started with a faint sound like a car pulling up outside the house then sounded like a large truck’, said one resident. Others reported hearing a 'boom' sound.There are 200-300 earthquakes in Britain every year, but most are so small no one notices them. Between 20 and 30 each year are over 2.0 magnitude and can be felt across a wider area.

A spokesman for the BGS said: 'The BGS has received over 100 felt reports from members of the public across the Channel Islands via an automatic online questionnaire survey. 'Most people described the shaking strength of the earthquake to be weak to moderate, with a trembling effect, and described the sound strength as moderate. 'Around half of the reports stated that windows rattled.' The spokesman added there were noises of 'crockery clinking' and a phone on a table that 'moved several inches as if it was calling on vibrate.'

27 February 2015

...The scope chosen by environmental impact studies also sheds some light onto what researchers view as fracking. The British Geological Survey (BGS), for example, has chosen to take a wider scope in its research. In January of this year, it launched a new study to monitor the impacts of shale gas exploration and production in Lancashire. Lancashire is at the forefront of British fracking; Cuadrilla is currently seeking planning permission for up to four wells. Cuadrilla defines hydraulic fracturing as “only one phase of the well development process” and it is “usually performed at the start of the life of a well.” But as the BGS explained to DeSmog UK, in the context of its study “we refer to ‘hydraulic fracturing’ as the whole process from drilling right through to flow back fluid/waste water disposal including the actual process of hydraulic fracturing itself”...

26 February 2015

Channel Islanders experienced a minor earthquake on Wednesday night. Estimates of the quake's strength have varied but the British Geological Survey said its magnitude was 2.9 on the Richter scale. The tremor occurred at 22:55 GMT on Wednesday about 50km (31 miles) south of St Peter Port, said the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre. There has been no damage in the islands from the quake which follows another last year of about 4.2 magnitude. Weather forecaster Peter Munns, who felt the quake, said: "We are in a low geological energy area. "Yes, we will probably see some more but there is a very, very low likelihood of any real damage being caused."

26 February 2015

Between 1995 and 2000, the British Geological Survey and the Government of Ecuador carried out regional-scale surveys in the Caña Brava area which included an airborne magnetic survey, geological mapping, and rock and stream sediment sampling. The regional airborne magnetic survey (1 km line spacing) outlined a series of structures and large scale geological features including a 5 km-wide east-northeast (NE) trending magnetic low which passes directly through the Caña Brava property. This magnetic low may be due to magnetite destruction associated with hydrothermal alteration along a coincident structure. The Giron Fault is not evident in the airborne magnetic data, however a mapped regional ENE trending fault lies on the north side of this magnetic low. Lineaments related to major structures and twin concentric rings/faults that may represent caldera structures are evident from regional topographic maps, supported by regional volcanogenic studies.

26 February 2015

[VIDEO] Brian Baptie is from the British Geological Survey

26 February 2015

In simple terms ‘geothermal energy is the energy stored in the form of heat beneath the earth’s surface’. Most people will associate it with steam emanating from mineral encrusted fumaroles, but even in non-volcanic regions such as the UK there is great potential for geothermal to contribute to our energy mix. It is carbon free, sustainable and is not subject to intermittent supply as are some renewables, e.g. solar, wind and wave.

The temperature increases in the ground with depth at an average rate of 26°C per km. At depths of 4-5km power generation is possible, but this is mainly consigned to regions with large masses of high heat producing granitic rocks. These granites have very slightly raised levels of the natural radiogenic isotopes of potassium, uranium and thorium, whose radioactive decay leads to a small heat anomaly at depth. Cornwall is the most prospective region for power generation and 2 companies, with the support of the county council, are actively pursuing power projects with generation capacities of between 3 and 10 MWe.

24 February 2015