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.

Back in 2012, Alan MacDonald’s paper in Environmental Research Letters (ERL) revealed that there’s a lot more water beneath the African continent than most people suspected. "Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa" is one of the open-access journal’s most highly downloaded papers, clocking up more than 83,000 downloads and 49 citations to date. The article hit the headlines worldwide, bringing the British Geological Survey researcher and his colleagues to the BBC News website, The Telegraph, AlJazeera, Mail Online, Huff Post, Reuters, Yahoo! News, Spiegel Online, Welt Online,, Le Monde, and more. More than three years later, we caught up with MacDonald to find out the impact of this publicity and where the paper has led.

"When the press release went out I was working on a glacier in Iceland," he told environmentalresearchweb, "so it was quite a challenge to get [mobile] reception to do lots of media interviews. But I was manfully helped by all my co-authors at the time. It was slightly surreal having such media attention when I was in a remote place far away from African groundwater." Immediately after publication, MacDonald found his time went to interviews and enquiries from radio and newspapers; in the following five or six months he became more involved in writing, and contributing to, opinion pieces.

6 October 2015

Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake has organised a public meeting for his constituents after expressing concerns about people becoming misinformed about the impact of shale gas schemes. Mr Hollinrake will chair the meeting, which will include representatives from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, the British Geographical Survey and the Planning Advisory Service. He said he hoped the meeting on Monday (October 12), at Malton School, from 7pm to 9pm, would answer questions he had following a fact-finding trip to the US, which prompted him to call for the shale gas industry to be intensely regulated.

5 October 2015

Hertfordshire County Council has commissioned the study after the hole, which was 66ft (20m) wide, appeared on Fontmell Close in St Albans. A local history society said the Bernard's Heath area was covered in brick makers' clay pits in the 19th Century. The council has spent the weekend filling in the hole with concrete.

A council spokeswoman said the survey work would be non-invasive and detecting equipment could be used to pick up any underground anomalies such as weak spots or voids. She said it could take weeks before the results were known. Once all the concrete was set, it was hoped utilities could be fully restored to the fifty homes which were affected by the end of the week. No-one was injured when the hole appeared, but five homes were evacuated. The council confirmed Fontmell Close had been resurfaced a year ago. What causes a sinkhole? The British Geological Survey says there are several different types of sinkhole, sometimes known as "dolines". ■Some happen as a result of surface dissolution of the soluble rock, by rainfall or acidic groundwater. ■They can occur where a thin covering of loose material such as sand, clay or soil covers soluble rocks beneath. ■In other cases, the gradual collapse of a cave passage at depth can cause a sinkhole. ■Some are caused by the erosion of weak unconsolidated material by flowing water. ■If a giant hole is caused by man-made factors such as a collapsed mine then it is technically called a crown hole, rather than a sinkhole which is formed naturally.

4 October 2015

Researchers from Marine Scotland found the unique ecosystem, made of unique bacteria, corals, unusual anemones and clams that eat methane-munching microbes, on the sea floor near Rockall. It is thought to be the product of a process known as a 'cold seep', where gas from deep in the earth leaks onto the sea bed creating an environment capable of supporting rare and specialist bacterial communities that then form the basis of the food chain. The area was first identified in 2012 when scientists spotted previously unknown creatures brought up from the seabed, and has now been confirmed following an expedition by a survey team onboard the Marine Scotland research vessel Scotia.

The project was a collaboration between Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) and Marine Scotland, Oceanlab, British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science. Efforts will now be made to analyse the samples that have been taken and to establish what types of creatures make their home there. The agency's previous surveys around Rockall caught a frilled shark, an ancient "living fossil" species of shark that dates back at least 90m years and is rarely seen in northern waters along with unusually large adult cod, saithe and haddock, suggesting Rockall's waters were very rich in food.

3 October 2015

Professor John Ludden (Environmental Sciences, 1973, County) has spent his working life “with one foot in the sea and one in old rocks”. What unites the two is the search to understand what the chemistry of the volcanic rocks in the Earth’s crust reveal about the formation of our planet billions of years ago. Today John runs the British Geological Survey, the organisation charged with monitoring and researching the UK’s landmass. But when he arrived at Lancaster, he had no intention of becoming a geochemist. “I loved fishing when I was growing up and thought I would have a career cleaning up rivers,” John says. But a summer mapping project in Scotland captured his imagination and changed the course of his life. “I went off to study volcanic rocks, bringing some back to analyse in the chemistry labs. I became very interested in volcanoes and suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life”. A PhD studying a volcano in the Indian Ocean followed and a few years later John moved to work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA and then to the University of Montreal in Canada .

2 October 2015

Obstacles were put round the hole last Wednesday and “work was scheduled to complete it today”, the council added, prior to the expansion. And most 50 qualities were without gas and electricity. Based on Peter Hobbs, an engineering geologist using the British Geological Survey, sinkholes are triggered through the dissolution of rock, for example chalk. A council has accepted it understood the other day in regards to a sinkhole that has now opened up up substantially and brought to nearby houses being evacuated. All the citizens within the road have experienced their automobiles blocked in through the sinkhole.

1 October 2015

Twenty residents have been evacuated and dozens more are stranded after a 66ft sinkhole opened up overnight in a suburban street in Hertfordshire. The gaping hole was discovered early this morning in Fontmell Close in the Roman town of St Albans, after spreading across the quiet cul-de-sac and swallowing two front gardens. Now the six families forced to take temporary shelter have been warned they might never be able to return home, amid fears the ground - which was apparently a former rubbish dump - is unsafe. The devastating news came as more than 50 homes - including properties in neighbouring streets - were left without gas, water and electricity. There is currently no access to and from the road, unless marooned residents clamber through their neighbours' gardens

Peter Hobbs, from the British Geological Survey (BGS), said: 'Sinkholes are caused by dissolution of rock such as chalk. Alternatively, they can be caused by collapse into former mine workings (for flint within the chalk). Changes in the water table may affect the stability of underground cavities. 'Recently, the weather in this part of the country has been relatively dry and water tables may have lowered. The strata at the site consist of about 4m (13ft) of sands, silts and gravels overlying chalk. It isn't clear at present which of these factors could be the cause. Sinkholes in this chalk formation are not uncommon.' Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

1 October 2015

Scotland’s National Centre for Resilience is on track to officially launch in March 2016, Environment Minister Aileen McLeod confirmed today. Dr McLeod discussed plans with local delivery partners in Dumfries today as work steps up on a dedicated new centre that will enhance Scotland’s resilience capability. She said she believes the centre will become a 'national asset' once it is up and running.

The centre, which will operate on a network basis with work taking place across Scotland, will enhance Scotland’s resilience capacity by strengthening cooperation amongst academics, responders, and resilience partner organisations as well as communities and individuals operating in the field of resilience, with the aim of reducing and mitigating the impact of disruptive events within Scotland. It will also provide a source of expertise for managing emergency incidents. Some of the Centre’s first operational outputs will include work to identify vulnerable people within the community during emergency incidents and a tool to assist with capacity building by developing and maintaining resilient communities. Other key projects will include the development of science notes supporting science communications and community resilience for specific hazards, starting with landslides and then to include flooding and wind as well as building relationships and cooperation with other resilience partners in the EU. Longer term, new hazard forecasting tools utilising cutting edge science to better predict natural hazards will be developed with key partners such as the Met Office, SEPA and the British Geological Survey through the Natural Hazard Partnership.

28 September 2015

The BGS has a £30 million budget for new test drills and is increasingly focusing its shale survey work in England since the Scottish Government announced a moratorium on shale gas exploration local planning applications in January 2015. The BGS is setting up an industry consortium with the UK shale energy sector, which is due to hold its first meeting on 22 October ‘to engage with public and industry’ Robert Gatliff, Director of Energy at BGS, told the UK Shale Energy Conference: “We need a lot more drilling to distinguish the scale of recoverable reserves from the ‘raw’ resources.

The BGS is taking a central role in shale gas research in the UK and also across Europe by: •Undertaking a baseline groundwater survey of methane concentrations and other relevant chemical indicators in groundwaters across Great Britain; •Evaluating the spatial relationship between different potential shale gas source rocks and the principal aquifers in England and Wales; •Researching the induced seismicity that may be related to fracking; studies of the organic content and the organic make-up of the shales to improve the understanding of how much shale gas they might produce and how the gas is stored within the rocks; •Understanding the distribution and correlation of shale and how the shale layers behave in response to depositional and tectonic controls, and •Giving advice and guidance for Government in trying to understand the amount of gas that may be both in place and possibly recoverable within the shales in the UK.

27 September 2015

Scientists from the U.K. and Brazil will work together to study the formation of ocean minerals essential for new technology, particularly environmental technology such as photovoltaic cells. MarineE-tech is a £4.2 million research program funded by the U.K.'s NERC and Brazil's FAPESP that will assess deep ocean ferromanganese deposits, a major resource of elements that include cobalt, tellurium and the rare earths used in e-technologies.

24 September 2015