Monday, September 28, 2009

Therizinosaur coming to Mesa

The Museum of Northern Arizona's therizinosaur display opens on Octboer 3 at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, and if you haven't seen, you have to go.

AZGS published a popular cover story in our newsletter Arizona Geology on the exhibit when it first opened at MNA in the Fall of 2007.

The mystery of how this land dinosaur ended up in marine deposits 100 miles offshore read's like a CSI-Cretaceous episode. It's a great way to get kids engaged in analytical thinking.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Arizona legislature Ad Hoc Committee on Climate Initiatives

The Arizona Senate's Ad Hoc Committee on Climate Initiatives is holding a hearing tomorrow that garnered some harsh words about its chair, Senator Sylvia Allen in the online Arizona Guardian. They reference a press release in which Sen. Allen says federal plans to slow global warming are advancing "without consideration for scientific evidence" and that "we are going after problems that do not exist."

Two prominent state senators, Chuck Gray and Russell Pearce were added to the Ad Hoc Committee on Friday, suggesting a higher profile role for the committee.

Sen. Allen was in national spotlight earlier for her comments about the Earth being 6,000 years old so reporters are watching for more provocative statements.

Review article on thermochronology and landscape evolution

There have been a plethora of new scientific articles, discoveries, grant awards, and accomplishments coming out of Arizona universities in recent weeks, and I hope to catch up on them soon, but let me make a quick note that Pete Reiners at UA with co-author David Shuster at UC Berkeley, have a nice review article in the current issue of Physics Today (Sept 2009) on how thermochronology techniques are being used to decipher the evolution of the Earth's surface, which in turn "express how the surface affects dynamic deep-Earth processes such as mantle convection." The full article is only available to subscribers but the abstract is public. [right, apatite (U-Th) He ages in the Cascades. Credit, Peter Reiners]

Ref: Thermochronology and landscape evolution, Phys. Today 62, 31 (2009)

California abolishes geology board

The president of the California Board for Registration of Geologists and Geophysicists, Richard Blake released this statement:
Recent legislation (Assembly Bill No. 20, 4th Extraordinary Session) will abolish the Board for Geologists and Geophysicists (Board) effective October 23, 2009, at which time all Board Member and Executive Officer positions are also abolished. The Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BPELS) will then assume “…all the duties, powers, purposes, responsibilities, and jurisdiction previously vested in the Board…” along with “…two personnel years…for performance of the board’s responsibilities...” under the Geologist and Geophysicist Act.
The Association of Engineering and Environmental Geologists (AEG) has alerted it's members with an email blast that says,
This transfer, which had no impact whatsoever on the budget, was not accompanied by the resources or structure necessary for BPELS to fulfill its new mission. As it stands now, there will be no geologists or geophysicists on BPELS, there will be no name change to reflect its new mission, and BPELS will not have the manpower to perform its new functions - only two personnel years were reallocated from BGG. Early discussions with BPELS personnel indicated that none of the standing committees, including the Exam Committee, will be continued. BPELS has since declined to meet with us until after the October 23 elimination date to discuss the many serious issues that have not been addressed. The net effect of all this is that geologists will soon be regulated by an agency that is ill equipped to handle the responsibility and arguably hostile to its new licensees.

The good news is that there is something that can be done - we can seek an injunction against implementation of AB4X 20. The BGG was abolished suddenly and without due process, eliminating any open, fair and transparent review of the potential consequences. Existing law that carefully and deliberately outlines the specific measures and the timetable necessary for the elimination of boards and commissions was ignored entirely. The injunction will hopefully stop this action and require legislators to follow established procedures where informed voices can be heard in the formation of a board responsible for public safety.

To get started, the California Sections of AEG are forming the California Association of Professional Geologists, which will file the injunction. We hope that other organizations representing geoscientists, including AEG’s national organization, will join in down the road. AEG, however, cannot fund this effort alone. We need your help! The estimated cost for this is $15,000 to get through filing the initial complaint and up to $100,000 to see it through to the end. Noting the early estimate of $15,000, one geologist pledged $100 and challenged 149 other geoscientists to match his gift. A great way to put it! We, of course, will gratefully accept all contributions, of greater or lesser amounts, based on your ability to give. Contributions may be sent to:
AEGSC-Political Action Fund
1772-J E. Avenida De Los Arboles, PMB #304
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

The other side to this effort is an approach to legislators. We will be asking you to write letters at the appropriate time and with the appropriate message. We are in the process of consulting with legislators to elicit their advice and support in reinstating the BGG or repurposing BPELS into an agency that is fully equipped to fulfill its mission. With your help we can reach this important goal!
Peter Thams, Chair Bill Godwin, Chair John Pfeiffer, Chair
Southern California Section San Francisco Section Sacramento Section

Public evaluation of AZGS programs invited

We invite you to evaluate our programs to help us decide what will be eliminated in the next round of state budget cuts.

By October 9 we have to submit to the Governor's Office of Strategic Planning & Budget a plan for an overall reduction of 30% of the appropriation for the second half of the fiscal year to take effect in January, and to transfer to the state treasury, 15% of our publication sales revenues, indirect costs from federal contracts used to provide technical and admin support, and 15 % of the total value of all non-federal contracts and grants. OSPB will review our proposals along with those from other state agencies before deciding which to implement to meet the estimated remaining state budget shortfall of $1 billion.

Because of previous cuts and current fixed costs, we anticipate this level of cuts will result in the elimination of 3/4 of the funding for AZGS geology programs authorized or mandated by state statute. The AZGS web page lists 24 programs we currently carry out, with statutes, brief descriptions, and approximate state fund allocations.

We need your input on the value and importance of each program. The results will be shared with an external panel from the Arizona geoscience community (business, industry, government, academia) scheduled to meet in our offices on October 6 to review all our programs and make recommendations to us on what to keep and what to eliminate.

Please take the survey and let us know what is important to you! Your additional comments are strongly encouraged at the end of the survey.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arizona Mines historical photos and documents

A diverse set of historical maps, reports, letters, and photos on mining in Arizona from the AZGS archives is now available online in the new "Arizona Mines" section of the Arizona Memory Project. [right, Morenci Mine, ca 1930]

"The Arizona Memory Project is an online effort to provide access to the wealth of primary sources in Arizona libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions. This initiative provides the opportunity to view some of the best examples of government documents, photographs, maps, and objects that chronicle Arizona's past and present." [from their website]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

M5.1 Baja quake ripples through Yuma

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake hit just before 4 pm this afternoon in Baja California about 23 miles south of Mexicali and 65 miles WSW from Yuma. The intensity felt in the Yuma area was in the III range, considered weak, and unlikely to cause structural damage.

A half dozen aftershocks have been recorded since then with the largest at magnitude 4.2.

At least 150 Yuma residents have reported feeling the quake so far.

Comments sought on BLM EIS for uranium lands in northern Arizona

BLM is accepting public comments on the scoping process for withdrawal of 1 million acres from mining claims until October 26, or as I read the Federal Register, until 15 days after the last public hearing, which is set for Oct. 15.

The announcement of the public meetings is on the BLM website:
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is hosting public meetings on September 30 and October 15 to provide information and receive input on the recent Department of Interior proposed withdrawal (temporary segregation) of almost 1 million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon. The segregation will prevent the location of new mining claims for 2 years while the Department evaluates whether to withdraw these lands for up to an additional 20 years. During this two-year segregation period, various studies will be conducted and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared.

The BLM will be the lead agency, working in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service to prepare an EIS used to support a final decision on the withdrawal. The EIS will disclose the potential impacts the proposed action would have on the human environment and natural and cultural resources, as well as determine what measures would be necessary to mitigate or reduce those impacts. In addition to analyzing the potential impacts, the EIS will also identify and analyze alternatives to the proposed action.

The first meeting will be held on September 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Fredonia Elementary School Cafeteria, 221 E. Hortt, Fredonia, Arizona. A second meeting will be held in Flagstaff, Arizona on October 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the High Country Conference Center, 201 West Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, Arizona. An open houseformat will be used for both meetings. This will provide an opportunity to learn about the EIS process and for the public to submit written comments and discuss ideas with agency officials.

Comments may also be mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Strip District, 345 East Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790, by sending an email to . Additional Information can be found at

USGS Council on Data Integration

The USGS held the first meeting of their newly created Council on Data Integration in Denver this past week and I presented an overview of the Geoscience Information Network we are building on behalf of the state geo surveys, USGS, DOE, and others.

What I saw was a strong dynamic across all four disciplines in the USGS (geology, geography, water, and biology) towards systemic data integration. The Secretary of Interior's announcement last Monday of a department wide climate initiative, with USGS as the science drivers, is going to push data integration even further and faster.

Some USGS programs are converting to the GIN concept already - web-based, distributed, open-source, and interoperable. Others were looking for just such a vehicle. As with state surveys, academia, and everyone else, many of the biggest challenges are cultural and not technnological.

The USGS has been developing a vision for data integration as a cornerstone of their science strategy for the past few years. It looks to me like they have a dynamic plan coming together with buy-in from across the country and across the disciplines. Co-organizers Linda Gundersen, Chief Scientist for Geology (and co-chair with me on the GIN Steering Committee) and Kevin Gallagher, Geographic Information Officer for USGS, did an amazing job in pulling together influential leaders and key participants from across USGS's 10,000 employees to develop a strategy and course that appears to be transformational.

Energy industry testing data integration mechanism

The Geoscience Information Network (GIN) which AZGS is developing on behalf of the State Geological Surveys (AASG) and the USGS and for the Dept. of Energy-funded National Geothermal Data System (NGDS), is being adopted as the prototype data integration mechanism in the upstream petroleum industry. The upstream side covers exploration and production, in contrast to the downstream side of refining and marketing.

The petroleum industry consortium Energistics, announced the release on Thursday of a white paper 'roadmap' for data integration, and a plan overview.

An open meeting is being held on September 30 in Houston to solicit comments on the proposal including a review of GIN and NGDS. AZGS Geoinformatics Chief, Dr. Steve Richard, is a member of the working group steering committee and a contributing author to the white paper.

What should we eliminate in next round of budget cuts?

The Arizona Geological Survey, along with other state agencies, has been instructed to identify programs to permanently eliminate by January to meet another budget cut of 15% - 20%. This latest round is on top of a cumulative set of cuts amounting to about 30% over the past 15 months.

We need your advice and input on what programs will be shut down.

A difference between this round and previous cuts is that we have to identify state-supported programs to eliminate. There are no options for furloughs, salary reductions, or spreading cuts among programs. In addition, the cuts would not take effect until January 2010, halfway through the state fiscal year. So in reality we will have to cut 30-40% for the remainder of the year to meet a year-long target. These are permanent cuts, so it will really be a 30-40% reduction in our funding overall starting in January.

AZGS has weathered the cuts so far by increasing revenues from contracts and grants to subsidize state operations, judicious program reductions, and by not filling vacant positions. However, our fixed costs of rent, insurance, phones, etc have not been reduced and now consume a much larger percentage of the state budget. The administrative workload has not gone down, and in fact, we spend a lot more time dealing with budget cuts and keeping things functioning. As a result, the combined previous cuts of 30% with new cuts of 30-40% mean there could be little left but our fixed infrastructure costs and staff who are funded solely by external contracts and grants.

We are asking our stakeholders, our community of data and service users, and our partners, to let us know what are the most critical functions that we should try to preserve. In the next few days we will be releasing a list of all programs and the budgets assigned to them. We want your evaluation and prioritization of programs, services, products, and data. I'll be blogging, we'll post materials on the AZGS website, and we'll be contacting many of you and your organizations directly.

The Governor's Office of Strategic Planning and Budget, has advised that we can keep a program running if we find non-state funds for it but the current plan is to sweep up a portion of the funds we raise outside as well. We expect that even some non-state funded services that we have kept running will go away as the state takes those funds from us. So, at this time, it appears that we will have even less funds to subsidize state functions than we do now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Struck by lightning

One of our biggest saguaros at home was struck by lightning last Saturday night during a monsoon thunderstorm. It was hit at the base, leaving a seared entry, and blew out a big section of the cactus on the opposite side [left]. The next day, the top 8 feet of the 20 foot high plant, snapped off. [right, before the top section snapped off. Note the debris on the driveway from the strike.]

I've been on the road since then but my wife Ann took lots of photos that I finally saw tonight. The whole cactus is tilting so I temporarily braced it with 2x6's until we see if it's going to survive. If it falls across the driveway, it's going to be a challenge to move the estimated 2-4 tons it weighs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interior sets up National Climate Change Response Center

On Monday, Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar [right, surrounded by senior DOI officials] issued an Executive Order establishing a National Climate Change Response Center with the USGS providing science leadership, to focus on climate change adaptation and away from the debate over existence or cause of the changes. Among the goals of the NCCRC are to develop and execute management actions with monitoring and feedback. One statement that caught my attention is their goal to moderate harm or exploit beneficial changes.

I’m at the first meeting of the USGS Council on Data Integration, where we were briefed this morning on the new executive order and the critical need for data and data integration.

The NCCRC will come out of a revamp of the year-old National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The prototype organization will be a small national office in Reston VA, with an estimated 8 Regional Climate Change Response Center hubs to be set up, at cooperating agencies facilities around the country. The new Climate Change Response Council, composed of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary and the heads of the Interior agencies, meets next week for the first time.

The Council will be looking for input on where to put the regional centers. It sounds like each center will have 5-8 USGS science employees but will support local expertise depending on the specific needs of that region.

In the briefings and discussions here, we’re hearing that geology and related data sets are key elements to be integrated into the system, including surficial geology and soils that were specifically mentioned.

The University of Arizona has reportedly been preparing to compete for one of the anticipated regional hubs although until Monday, it was expected that only 3 or 4 would be set up. UC Davis is rumored to be the strongest competitor.

Monday, September 14, 2009

House bill would revamp federal energy and mineral leasing

The U.S. House is holding hearings on the “CLEAR” act (Consolidated Land, Energy, and Resources – HR3534) this week which would dramatically change the way federal land agencies lease energy and mineral resources. Among the provisions, BLM and MMS would be stripped of their leasing authority. [right, federal lands and Indian reservations. Credit,]

Our government affairs contacts in DC say this bill seems unlikely to have much traction. They speculate the House is maintain a presence on the topic in response to the bipartisan Bingamen – Murkowski energy bill in the Senate. The Senate bill has a strong component on subsurface geosciences, particularly in the area of oil and gas.

Even fewer geologists now in the National Park Service

One of my pet peeves is the lack of geologists in professional roles in the National Park Service. The NPS Geologic Resources Division was not established until the late 1990s and instead of growing, they are shrinking. They are now at 20 people, down 9 in the past few years. Most parks that were designated so because of their geologic attributes do not even have a single geologist on staff. Compare this to something like 800 biologists in the NPS. [right, "geologic wonders in the national parks." Credit, NPS]

GRD budgets are not keeping pace with rising mandated costs, so in the next few years, the program will have to downsize even more unless there is a dramatic turnaround.

Recently passed legislation on paleontology resources is putting further pressure on NPS-GRD as they struggle to find the expertise and time to develop the new required regulations on fossils. A Park Service official we talked with this morning is hopeful that their rules and regs can be developed to be compatible with those on other federal lands managed by BLM (also in Interior Dept) and US Forest Service (in the Dept. of Ag.)

Changes coming to National Map

In a strategic planning session with USGS leadership this morning we heard about a new viewer coming in December for the National Map that will dramatically revamp the look of the web site, with a friendlier Google-like interface. They also expect to release 18,000 new maps with contours and hydrography in Fiscal Year 2010 (starting Oct 1). [right, beta digital map of Cat Mountain, AZ, from National Map]

Mineral resources at USGS

The State Geologists met with senior officials from the US Dept of Interior and the USGS this morning to discuss strategic initiatives in the geosciences. One of the issues we covered is the growing demand for certain minerals that are critical to renewable energy and other ‘green’ technologies.

One piece of good news is that Interior recognizes the national security and economic importance of the USGS Mineral Resources Program. So, we should not expect another attempt to eliminate the program in the federal budgeting process. In fact, part of our discussion today was on ways increase support for the program to meet the nation’s needs.

An interesting side note: Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of Interior for Water and Science, is married to a hardrock mining geologist who specializes in ore reserves and is working on uranium projects in Russia, South Africa, and elsewhere overseas.

Anne told us that Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar is a “huge fan of the USGS” and realizes the value of the science they bring to table for effective decision-making and dealing with critical issues facing the nation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Asarco - it ain't over

Last week's recommendation by the bankruptcy judge in the Asarco case to go with Grupo Mexico's bid, caught me as much as it did anyone, by surprise. All the signs seemed to be pointing to Sterlite as the buyer of choice.

Yesterday, Sterlite raised it's bid to $2.565 billion in cash from $2.135, according to a company statement reported by Sterlite and Asarco reportedly also filed objections with the court over the Grupo recommendation.

[Thanks to Syver More for alerting me to this news]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NAU's new School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability

NAU has launched the new School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability which combines the Department of Geology with the Center for Sustainable Environments to combine educational programs and outreach in environmental sciences, environmental studies and geology, and graduate programs in environmental sciences and policy and geology.

NAU says its vision for the new school is for it to be "the premier school for research, outreach and education in Earth sciences and environmental sustainability" in the Mountain West.

Hydrologist Abe Springer is director of the School.

Field testing for Rosemont mine reclamation

Jeff Conoyer, geologist at Rosemont Copper forwarded a description of a 7-year, $377,000 study they are funding at the University of Arizona to identify best native plants & options for land reclamation. The field test is on private ranch property owned by Rosemont Copper and because it is visible from Rte 83, it has prompted concerns from mine opponents that mining has started. According to the announcement,

Previously, Jeffrey Fehmi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and his team evaluated 29 different native species from around the Rosemont site compiled into four seed mixes. The local seed mixes were tested in the University of Arizona greenhouses using three types of soil from the proposed mine site, with several soil amendments and fertilizer combinations, and watered to simulate low, average and high rainfall years. The field testing is to verify these greenhouse results under real-world conditions.

The field testing is the third phase of the project, which will evaluate the established native species seed mix and methods, as they are exposed to the actual environmental conditions of the site. The field testing will involve test plots where numerous reclamation options will be evaluated. These include differences in site preparation (how smooth the surface is at the time of planting) and the use of mulch (none, mulch placed on the soil surface, and mulch incorporated into the soil). These differences in practice will be tested on two soil types expected to be used in the mine reclamation.

Establishing vegetation on the plots will help to hold soil in place and prevent soil erosion and loss while retaining water and air quality. Roots reach down into the soil and bind the soil beneath, while the plant cover helps to intercept the rainfall impact and to allow it to infiltrate the soil.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

You can sit in on planning at ASU for Mars exploration

ASU is hosting the National Academy of Science's Planetary Decadel Survey for exploration of Mars during the 2013-2022 period and the proceedings are open to the public. You can watch the webcast of events at Audio is at (866) 606-4717; use access code 7078222. [right, gullies at edge of Hale Crater. Credit UA HiRISE camera]

The meeting is chaired by ASU geologist Philip Christensen and runs through Friday.

No furloughs at UA this year

UA President Robert Shelton informed faculty and staff by email this morning that the influx of federal stimulus funds means that furloughs will not be necessary this year. The entire message is below:

To: All Faculty and Staff
From: President Robert N. Shelton

I write to inform you that employee furloughs will not be necessary this year.

In the spring, when we were preparing for the current fiscal year, it was unclear whether the state would accept federal stimulus funding. In anticipation of further budget cuts for the FY10 year, furloughs became a necessary component of efforts to balance our budget. We notified all faculty and staff at the time to plan on furloughs but not to schedule any until at least September. This strategy allowed us time to determine the exact impact of the state cuts and the level of any federal aid that we would receive.

The furloughs would have provided an opportunity for temporary budget savings this year. The federal stimulus funding that has been allocated to the UA, coming through the Governor's Office as State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, are also temporary, one-time funds. While critically important to our budget for this year (and I cannot overstate how grateful we are to President Obama for initiating the program and Governor Brewer for securing the funds), they do not resolve the more fundamental, long-term issues that result from the state appropriation reductions. They do, however, make it possible to eliminate the furloughs that had been planned for this year.

We are very appreciative of the efforts of Governor Brewer to secure the federal funding, and are pleased that we can relieve faculty and staff of the hardship that would have resulted if the furloughs had been implemented.

Record economic impacts of Arizona copper production

Arizona produced 66% of the copper mined in the U.S. in 2008 with a direct economic impact to Arizona of $3.862 billion, a new high.

The report on the economic impact of the copper industry on Arizona for 2008 has just been released and the rest of the numbers are staggering. The report, prepared by Dr. George Leaming of the Western Economic Analysis Center in Marana, for the Arizona Mining Association, shows copper contributed a combined direct and indirect impact of $10.381 billion to the Arizona economy. This is up from $6.8 billion in 2007, a rise of 53%.

The industry in 2008 produced 949,354 tons of copper and other minerals with a value of $6.925 billion, up 13% from 2007.

One of the interesting calculations reported is that "Arizona copper production directly and indirectly provided federal government revenues of nearly $3.8 billion in 2008. That amounted to $19,400 of federal revenue per acre of land used by the Arizona copper industry in 2008."

Copies of the report are available from AMA or a pdf file can be downloaded from the association's web site at

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Senate bill would eliminate depreciation of minerals

Another update from this months AGI government affairs newsletter describes a new Senate bill (S. 1570) that would eliminate depreciation of mines in the federal tax code due to removal of the minerals.

"The senators argue that the mining companies are receiving double subsidies without providing any revenue to the federal government, such as a royalty, for using public lands."

AGI says the new bill is estimated to generate $50 million per year in increased taxes from minersand half of that revenue would be directed to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Trust Fund to help clean-up abandoned mines.

"Mining industry officials say the logic fails as it does not take into account the high costs of mineral development and refining. The policy will be bad for attracting future mining investment, especially combined with the expected cost increase from changes to the Mining Act of 1872 already proposed in Congress (S. 796 and H.R. 699)." [above, Morenci copper mine. May 2008]

The full text of S. 1570 is available from Thomas:

The full text of the S. 796 and H.R. 699:

Geology degree puts you in top 20 salaries

A degree in geology will place you 19th among college grads with a median starting salary of $45,100 and a mid-career median salary of $84,200, according to [right, Arco Exploration]

The highest earning degree is in aerospace engineering and engineering specialties dominate the top 10 degrees in terms of salary.

Second from bottom in their list is elementary education, with education overall being 7th from bottom.

Deep oil test planned near Kingman

Forest Gate Energy announced today a partnership with Vanterra Energy and plans to drill a deep exploratory oil well in the Sacramento Valley of Arizona, southwest of Kingman.

The press release said, "Forest Gate and Vanterra are planning to drill an 11,000 foot well targeting the Navajo sands at 6000 feet, the Mississippian carbonates at 9,160 feet, and the Devonian carbonates at 10,160 feet.. A drill site has been selected using the results of a seismic program acquired by Phillips Petroleum in 1981 and subsequently licensed to Vanterra."

Forest Gate said they have run geochemical and geophysical surveys over the prospect. They compared the target as similar to the Grant Canyon oil field in Nevada [above, generalized geology of oil fields in Railroad Valley, NV, based on work done by Don French], which occurs in a block of Paleozoic sediments, down-dropped along a basin-bounding fault and perpendicular block faults.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Federal water management council proposed

The latest monthly government affairs report from AGI has an amazing write-up about federal involvement in water resources:
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is drafting a bill that would establish a Water Resources Management Council consisting of Cabinet level members and a director nominated by the President. The bill, called the Sustainable Watershed Planning Act, would establish regional watershed planning boards to work for a comprehensive water management infrastructure of all watersheds. The boards would develop five year plans for water use and conservation, and be comprised of members from stakeholders and local, state, and federal agencies.

The legislation is an attempt to consolidate and coordinate water management so that regional effects from local management decisions can be taken into account. There are some doubts over the legislation, as stakeholders and state water managers are unsure what the specific goals of the council and planning boards are, but water experts agree that the current water management structure needs to be fixed.

My experiences are that dealing with even scientific studies of water across state lines is enough to risk total war with water group and constituencies. I expect a federally-established water management council to be a target from so many quarters that it will never stand a chance of passage.

Magnitude 3.0 quake near Fredonia

There was a magnitude 3.0 earthquake 7 mile ENE of Fredonia, Arizona about 11 pm last Thursday. I just learned about it this morning. The reported depth is just over 10 miles (17 km) but don't give much credence to that estimate for a small, remote event.

I didn't see any reports of it being felt.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

NASA desert rats returning to Arizona to test lunar robot

NASA's Desert RATS (Research and Technology Studies) team is heading back to Arizona in a week to continue testing equipment for extraterrestrial exploration.

According to a press release posted on Reuters, the test will include "a simulated 14-day mission during which two crew members -- an astronaut and a geologist -- will live inside NASA's prototype Lunar Electric Rover [right]. They will scout the test area for features of geological interest and conduct simulated moonwalks to collect samples."

Erick Weiland appointed to AZ technical registration board

Gov. Jan Brewer has appointed Tucson geologist Erick Weiland to a two year term on the Arizona Board of Technical Registration, replacing Dawn Garcia, who stepped down after serving since 2005, according to the AIPG Arizona Chapter newsletter. There is only one geologist on the board, and Erick will represent Arizona on the Association of State Boards of Geologists (ASBOG) in the development and administration of the Geology test for professional registration.

Previous appointments to AzBTR and ASBOG include Ralph Weeks, Frank Turek, and Bill Greenslade.

UA releases thousands of new Mars photos

The University of Arizona Planetary Lab made their periodic release of hi-res photos from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and there are some spectacular images as usual.

Science Daily has a nice overview of the release.

Arizonans Arctic warming study gains global attention

A study in Science published yesterday by NAU researcher Darrell Kaufman, UA researchers Nicholas McKay and Jonathan ("Peck") Overpeck, and their colleagues, showing that recent warming has reversed a long-term Arctic cooling trend, has attracted massive worldwide news media attention.

The Knight Science Journalism Tracker website picked this story up and commented on how well the various news media outlets treated it and who got it right and who didn't.

KSJT makes an interesting comment on the claims by climate change skeptics that scientists had flip-flopped on earlier claims that the Earth was cooling and perhaps heading towards another Ice Age. This new study indicates that there was indeed a cooling trend and it's only a sudden warming that has reversed it.

Ref: Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling
Darrell S. Kaufman,1,* David P. Schneider,2 Nicholas P. McKay,3 Caspar M. Ammann,2 Raymond S. Bradley,4 Keith R. Briffa,5 Gifford H. Miller,6 Bette L. Otto-Bliesner,2 Jonathan T. Overpeck,3 Bo M. Vinther,7 Arctic Lakes 2k Project Members; Science, 4 September 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5945, pp. 1236 - 1239,DOI: 10.1126/science.1173983

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Geologist to save the day in "Piranha 3D"

The online movie site FearNet interviewed actor Adam Scott, who plays Novak, a geologist brought in to deal with the prehistoric piranha in the movie filming in Arizona, "Piranha 3D." He described it as a horror film with a "Girls Gone Wild subplot." I can hardly wait.

ASU lunar camera shoots Apollo 12 landing site

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) managed by ASU, has captured the Apollo 12 landing site with new photos. Apollo 12 landed on the moon in 1969, only 200 meters from the unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft, in remarkable piece of interplanetary navigating. You can even see the astronaut tracks in the lunar dust in the photo at right. [right, Apollo 12 landing site. Arrows point to astronaut footpaths. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University]

Friday, September 04, 2009

Desert tortoise designation could eliminate mining claims

There's a story on that a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposal to list the Sonoran desert tortoise [right, photo credit Tigerhawkvok on Wikipedia] as endangered would "limit livestock grazing, urban growth and development, mining and international border patrol activities in tortoise areas." As of 2003, there were 1096 active mining claims in the area of Arizona that would be affected.

Mineweb cites the FWS statement in the Federal Register that says,
"The petitioners state that mining activities (both small- and large-scale) adversely affect the Sonoran desert tortoise through habitat fragmentation, loss, and degradation; introduction of contaminants and fugitive dust (dust that cannot be attributed to a single point of origin, such as a smokestack); off-road travel associated with mining activities or roads created for said activities; and entrapment of tortoises in mine spoil heaps."
FWS is carrying out a 12-month long study to determine if listing is warranted.