Monday, July 23, 2012

"The Latest News from Mars": free public lecture in Tucson

Dr. Philip Christensen of Arizona State University will give a free, non-technical public lecture on "The Latest News from Mars," Monday evening, August 6th, from 7:30 to 9 as in the ballroom at the Double Tree Hotel in Reid Park, (445 South Alvernon Way, Tucson) as part of the 124th Annual Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, taking place at the same hotel from Aug. 4 - 8.

There is no charge for admission, but seats will only be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Christensen will describe the landing site for the Mars ScienceLaboratory (nicknamed Curiosity) and the landing events, together with any initial observations the probe makes about the intriguing Gale Crater, its landing site. [Right, artists view of Curiosity.  Credit, NASA/Caltech/JPL] He will also touch briefly on the current prospects for the general exploration of the solar system. (This public talk will be held the day after the Curiosity lands on the surface of the red planet).

Philip R. Christensen is a Regents Professor of geological sciences and the Ed and Helen Korrick Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He completed his Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics at UCLA in 1981. His research interests focus on planetary surfaces, with an emphasis on Mars and the Earth.

[taken from the ASP announcement]

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Major US fires since 2001; Arizona had hottest spot

There's a great blog I found that gathers and displays geospatial data in innovative ways.    The IDV User Experience (uxblog) posted "Major Fires Since 2001" that includes wildfires, prescribed burns, and agriculture fires (such as the annual prairie fires in Kansas).   He followed up with a fire 'flipbook' (below) that layers maps for each year.  The heat values are taken from NASA satellite thermal anomaly data.
The mapmaker, John Nelson with IDV Solutions, says "each dot represents a moment of pretty extreme heat, down to the one square kilometer level (I only retained fires greater than 100KW and of those only fires that the system was more than 50% confident of)."

The single momentarily hottest square kilometer on the map is in central Arizona, on June 28, 2005.    It looks like it might be in the Cave Creek fire.   That fire burned 244,000 acres.

There are a lot of other fascinating maps on the blog including one on global earthquakes, and several tornado tracks.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Science questions for the presidential candidates

"Whenever the people are well-informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government."  
Science now affects every aspect of life and is an increasingly important topic in national policymaking. invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail.  

ScienceDebate then worked with the leading US science and engineering organizations listed at left to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012.

The questions cover the areas of  Innovation, Climate Change, Research and the Future, Pandemics and Biosecurity, Education, Energy, Food, Fresh Water, The Internet, Ocean Health, Science in Public Policy,  Space, Critical Natural Resources, and Vaccination and Public Health

Other participating organizations include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the
American Society of Chemical Engineering, the Council on Competitiveness, the US Institute of Electricians and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences,, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Scientific American magazine served as the media partner for the endeavor.

[taken from the Science Debate and AGI announcements]

Subsidence around Holbrook sinks

Subsidence maps over the recently identified subsidence features in the Holbrook basin are now available from the Arizona Dept. of Water Resources.  ADWR has started collecting regularly scheduled InSAR data  for monitoring these features.

The subsidence areas are the bright colored areas (indicating amount of subsidence over a 4-year period) at right center in the map.

AZGS and ADWR have been working together to identify, characterize, and monitor activity in the area.

The area is underlain by the Holbrook salt deposit, which is undergoing subsurface dissolution along its western margin, resulting in collapse of the overlying sediments, with the folded layers forming the Holbrook anticline.

Big increase in Rosemont copper and moly resources

Augusta Resource Corporation  announced completion of an updated National Instrument ("NI") 43-101 compliant mineral resource for its Rosemont Copper project ("Rosemont") in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson [right, land status map of proposed mine area.  Credit, Rosemont Copper]

The company reports that its updated mineral resource estimate is comprised of:
  • Measured and indicated sulfide mineral resources of 919 million tons, representing an increase of 232 million tons or 34% when compared to the 2008 mineral resource, with average grades of 0.41% copper and 0.014% molybdenum for a total of 7.5 billion lbs of copper and 256 million lbs of molybdenum;
  • Inferred sulfide mineral resource of 139 million tons, representing a decrease of 106 million tons or 43% when compared to the 2008 mineral resource which is a result of successful drilling and model upgrading of a significant portion of the inferred resource to measured and indicated.  Average grades are 0.40% copper and 0.012% molybdenum for an inferred resource of 1.1billion lbs of copper and 35 million lbs of molybdenum. 
The company noted that  their assessment used a total of 266 drill holes, representing 342,700 feet of drilling, to update the geologic block model.

The NI-43-101 report is a Canadian standard that is widely used across the mining industry.

The Augusta press release provided additional explanation about Mineral Reserves and Mineral Resources:
This press release uses the terms indicated and inferred resources as a relative measure of the level of confidence in the resource estimate. Readers are cautioned that: (a) mineral resources are not economic mineral reserves; (b) the economic viability of resources that are not mineral reserves has not been demonstrated; and (c) it should not be assumed that further work on the stated resources will lead to mineral reserves that can be mined economically. In addition, inferred resources are considered too geologically speculative to have any economic considerations applied to them. It cannot be assumed that all or any part of an inferred mineral resource will ever be upgraded to a higher category. Under Canadian rules, estimates of inferred mineral resources may not form the basis of feasibility or pre-feasibility studies or economic studies except for certain preliminary economic assessments. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Post-fire debris flow closes Crown King road

Monsoon rains triggered what news reports are calling 'mudslides' that closed the road to the small mountain community of Crown King, north of Phoenix.    The video and photos suggest it was actually a debris flow.   The 27-mile long road is unpaved and was reopened last night, but closed again this morning for additional cleanup work, according to news reports. The slide area was burned in May by the  Gladiator fire causing the town to be evacuated.

FOX 10 News - Phoenix, AZ | KSAZ-TV

 The Arizona [Phoenix] Republic has a short slideshow of the slide area.

Channel 10 news in Phoenix has additional aerial footage along the road after it was reopened.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Copper kills harmful bacteria

Copper alloys may make more hygienic cooking surfaces than stainless steel, according to a recent study by Sadhana Ravishankar of the UA department of veterinary science and microbiology summarized in a news release from UA. Her lab group discovered that copper alloys have antimicrobial effects against the foodborne pathogen Salmonella enterica.

[Right,  Libin Zhu, Sadhana Ravishankar's lab manager, tested the survivability of Salmonella on copper alloys with varying copper concentrations. The bacteria cells sometimes died out on copper surfaces within hours, while they survived for up to two weeks on stainless steel. Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews]

Arizona produces about 2/3 of the copper used in the U.S.

[taken in part from the UA news release]

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Digitizing Arizona's mining maps and files

We've just completed scanning of 10,000 maps of Arizona mining and mineral resources and our technicians will begin georeferencing them and identifying a couple dozen different pieces of information about each map ("metadata") to enter into an online digital catalog. 

For the past year, AZGS has been scanning and digitizing the paper records from the files from the Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources (ADMMR).   ADMMR and AZGS were merged last year and the legislation directed us to convert the extensive files into electronic format for public access.

We've inventoried the rooms full of files, covering 32 separate donated collections with 13,500 folders comprising over 835,000 pages of records, 7,400 historical photos, hundreds of theses, as well as the maps.

Eight of the collections have been fully inventoried and those listings are posted online at the AZGS Document Repository.

As we get the data online, you'll be able to search by title, keyword, location, or do a map-based search, to bring it all to your screen, using your own software or free tools like Google Earth or Microsoft's Layerscape, and at no cost.  The project was funded by a one-time appropriation from the state and partial matching funds from the USGS National Geological & Geophysical Data Preservation Project.   We estimate we are about one-quarter of the way through scanning and documenting the entire set of materials.

We are linking the mining files with other digital data including oil and gas wells, geochemical files, age dates, etc, that we are digitizing under different projects.  Eventually, we will have all our data online for free downloading in interoperable formats that allow you to make mashups of anything we have.   And our data is compatible with digital data formats being deployed by the USGS, other state geological surveys, and a growing collection of organizations and institutions nationally and globally.  There is truly a revolution underway to build cyberinfrastructure.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Controlled floods, Colorado River beaches, and power generation,

There's an interesting twist to the fight between power generators and environmentalists over the Interior Dept. plans to release water from Glen Canyon dam for controlled floods to replenish sand beaches along the Colorado River.   [Right, USGS model of sand replenishment process from "controlled floods"]

NPR's All Things Considered's story about the possible loss of $4 million of electrical generation when the water bypasses the generators notes that when the hydropower is not delivered, customers turn to other electricity sources and in this region, that is often generated by coal and natural gas.

Opponents of fossil fuels for power generation raise concerns about air quality and CO2 releases.   How do you balance that against rebuilding sand bars on the Colorado to recreate the natural system?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tourism award to AZGS

AZGS received the Governor's Tourism Award for Special Arizona Centennial Recognition, presented at the gala dinner on Wednesday night at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism.   AZGS was one of about 8 organizations to be recognized.  Mike Conway and Randi Bellasai accepted the award for AZGS.

The award is in recognition of our work creating the virtual Arizona Experience website.  If you haven't been to it lately, check out the new design -

Kudos to everyone who contributed to the success of this incredible project!  It has been an amazing collaborative effort by AZGS staff and our growing list of over 500 partner organizations. 

AZGS map used to support mineral resources bill

When Congressmen Paul Gosar (R-AZ) spoke in favor of the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (H.R.4402) on the House floor, he used the Mineral Resources of Arizona map (AZGS Map 33) to make his case.   You can watch his House speech in the video below. H.R. 4402 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 256 to 160.  Mr. Gosar is the first co-sponsor of the bill.

Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research to Julio Betancourt

The Geological Society of America has honored USGS Senior Scientist and University of Arizona Adjunct Professor Julio Betancourt [right, credit USGS] with the Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research, named after Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Research Professor and Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University. 

Among his many accomplishments, Dr. El-Baz helped NASA assist in the planning of scientific exploration of the Moon, including the selection of landing sites for the Apollo missions and the training of astronauts in lunar observations and photography. In keeping, one of the shuttlecrafts in Star Trek: The Next Generation was named El-Baz. 

The Farouk El-Baz Award comes with a $10,000 prize and is given annually to an earth scientist for a body of outstanding work in the field of desert research. The award will be presented at the GSA Annual Meeting Nov. 4-7, 2012 in Charlotte, NC. 

Of the 14 El-Baz Awardees since 1999, one is a current faculty member (Jay Quade), and two others obtained their Ph.D.'s (Les McFadden, Ph.D., '82 and Yehouda Enzel, Ph.D., '90) from the University of Arizona's Department of Geosciences.

[taken from the announcement by UA Geosciences]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Potash projects press forward

Observers are noting with interest the news that Prospect Global Resources, parent of American West Potash, sold 15.4 million shares of common stock at a price to the public of $2.60 per share for net proceeds of approximately $36.8 million.   The money is intended to pay for the acquisition of the Karlsson Group's 50% interest in American West Potash LLC, "to fund the preparation of a bankable feasibility study, and for permitting and environmental, engineering and general corporate purposes."   This is considered a key step towards development of a proposed 2 - 2.5 million tonnes per year underground potash mine in the Holbrook area.  [Right, cross section of Supai salt with potash layer in red. From AZGS Open-file Report 08-04]

Meanwhile, in a promotional interview with Passport Potash Chairman David Salisbury, he advises that the company is waiting completion of a Preliminary Economic Analysis (PEA) for their project. "Upon completion of the PEA, work will begin immediately to advance the PEA into a pre-feasibility study."   Salisbury offered that a bankable feasibility study could bring in the investments leading to potash production in early 2016.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Impacts of proposed cuts to national earthquake hazards program

On June 28, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved a budget for the USGS that will cut the USGS Natural Hazards budget to $107.4 million, which is $27.1 million below the FY 2012 enacted level of $134.5 million or a
20% reduction.  The Earthquake Hazards Program, which is part of the Natural Hazards line-item was also cut by 20% ($11 million).  For more details
(including budget actions on other USGS programs), see
Kris Pankow, Associate Director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, briefed us on what this will mean to seismic monitoring in the U.S.   This level of reduction takes the Earthquake Hazards Program to pre-Loma Prieta days (1989 "World Series" quake in the Bay Area) in absolute dollars and to pre-NEHRP (National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program - which includes a federal-state cooperative) days when considering inflation.  Kris warns that this is potentially a huge blow to the National Seismic System and to earthquake science in the U.S.

Kris is the Intermountain West rep on the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) and has been talking with the USGS which is currently preparing revised budgets and assessing the impact of such cuts.  While the extent of the impact is not yet known, she says potential outcomes include, in the short term: zero funding of 2013 USGS NEHRP external research grants; major cuts to (and possibly elimination of some) externally funded regional seismic and geodetic networks; and cuts to internal USGS seismic networks.

AZGS, which runs the Arizona Broadband Seismic Network, asked the USGS four years ago for help in running our state network, but was turned down due to lack of funding at that time.  So, the federal cuts will not directly affect the Arizona seismic network, but we are continuing to look for funding to keep the system running.  We get no state funds to support it.  A generous anonymous corporate donation is funding the Arizona network this year.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Why not just mine the oceans?

The battle in Arizona over developing copper mines, often elicits demands that the mining be done elsewhere, because Arizona is too environmentally fragile.  In today's New York Times, they look at mineral exploration in the Pacific Ocean that proposed to do just that:  

"Today, increasingly, mines on land lack rich supplies of copper, a staple of modern life found in everything from pipes to computers. Many commercial ores have concentrations of only a half a percent. But seabed explorers have found purities of 10 percent and higher — turning the obscure deposits into potential bonanzas."
But they report that the opposition appears to be as strong as that in our own backyard:

"Environmentalists have expressed growing alarm, saying too little research has been done on the risks of seabed mining. The industry has responded with studies, reassurance and upbeat conferences."
[Right, report issued by group opposed to ocean mining.  Credit, Deep Sea Mining Campaign]

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Development impacts on Tucson's dark skies

The Los Angeles Times weighed in on the Rosemont copper debate, focusing on the potential impacts of round the clock lighting for mining operations to the regions astronomical observatories.   An innovative lighting plan prepared for Rosemont by the former head of the International Dark Skies Association, would reduce the estimated visible light from 21.7 million lumens, or the equivalent of about 12,000 houses, down to about 5.1 million lumens according to the Times, a 76% reduction.  Using their numbers, this would be equivalent to the light from about 2,820 homes.  The plan relies in part on using LED lights and focusing the light downward.  [I've suggested that such an approach could be used at other mine sites as well]   [Top, standard lighting approach demonstrates spill light in background and excessive sky glow above.  Focused lighting system with high performance optics illuminates only the simulated waste rock dump area. From Monrad Engineering report on Rosemont]

The comparison raises the question as to how this compares to increased lighting in the Tucson area from the annual increase in number of houses.  The Pima Association of Governments lists building permits in the Tucson metro area from going from 12,465 in 2005 to 3,331 in 2008 (latest numbers I could find).    Construction is obviously down since then although I don't have the details.  This also doesn't count business or industrial lighting additions.  So, it looks like the Rosemont mine would add as much lighting as one-quarter of the new houses added annually prior to the recession, and perhaps as much as current construction would add.

In searching for a count of new housing in the area, one of the links that popped up was from the Green Valley News about plans to build 19,000 new housing units in the Sahuarita and Green Valley area, converting the world's largest irrigated pecan farm into a master community, west-northwest of the Santa Rita Mountains, where the Rosemont mine site is located.    Using the numbers in the Times article, that would be equal to the lighting from 6.7 Rosemont mines. 

Green Valley gave approval to the first phase of the project in March, although the news reports don't mention lighting concerns from the astronomical community being raised.

Interestingly, the developer is Farmers Investment Co. (FICO) which is one of the most vocal opponents of the Rosemont mine.

A Blueprint for Geospatial Data Sharing Policy in Arizona

The Arizona Geographic Information Council is circulating a draft Blueprint for Geospatial Data Sharing Policy in Arizona.      Yeah, this is pretty geeky, but it's long overdue and could offer tremendous resources and opportunities for agencies, businesses, and the public.

The policy addresses recent changes in state statutes that in my opinion, had hindered Arizona for the previous decade.    Although well intentioned, laws passed early on to require agencies to collect fees for commercial use of government data, effectively stymied agencies because they couldn't figure out how to enforce the statutes, and businesses didn't know what the costs of data would be.

The Legislature changed the laws two years ago, putting Arizona more in line with the rest of the country, and industry.  As for what innovators might be able to do with all this geospatial data (ie, any information with a location associated with it), think about what businesses are doing with Google Earth and Google Maps.

The draft policy addresses sensitivity (confidentiality) levels of data, data steward, integrator and custodian roles, metadata, configuration options for sharing geospatial data on the Web, and guidelines for sharing data on the Web.

"The mission of AGIC is to coordinate the development and management of geographic information in Arizona.  The vision of AGIC is to facilitate the provision of credible, timely and accurate geographic information for widespread use by decision-makers and the citizens of Arizona.  Sharing geospatial data reduces duplication of effort and cost among agencies, is necessary to fulfill public records requests and promotes good government."

House proposes cuts in federal science budgets

We got updates from a number of professional societies summarizing the House Committee on Appropriations  fiscal year 2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that includes funding for the Department of the Interior including the USGS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, and various other agencies.

The American Geophysical Union reports that, "Overall, the bill provides $28 billion in funding – $1.2 billion below FY12 funding and $1.7 billion below the President’s FY13 budget request. The bill includes significant budget cuts for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and for the EPA. Cuts to the USGS total 9.5 percent below FY12 levels while cuts to the EPA total 16.5 percent below FY12 levels.  USGS budget cuts were not uniform, with some branches such as Water Resources and Core Science Systems receiving an increased budget from FY12."

The Senate has yet to act on these budgets.

In other actions, AGU reports that the committee "approved amendments prohibiting the EPA from applying greenhouse gas standards to new fossil fuel energy plants. The bill also restricts the scope of EPA research on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality by disallowing funds for studying environmental justice impacts."
In other committees, the House approved a substantial cut to DOE's Energy and Environment program (-7.7%) while the Senate committee supports an increase (+2.8%).  Both the Senate and House are supporting increases for the National Science Foundation of 3.3% to 4.3% respectively overall.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

UA scientist reports underground methane lake on Titan

 A research team led by planetary scientist Caitlin Griffith of the University of Arizona, reports in the journal Nature, that they discovered a 2400 square kilometer methane lake in the tropical region of Saturn's moon Titan. An accompanying news story in the journal says "Any surface liquid there should evaporate and be transported to the cooler poles, where it should condense as rain."   Caitlin is quoted "Lakes at the poles are easy to explain, but lakes in the tropics are not."

The discovery suggests the possibility that subsurface "oases" of methane are replenishing the lake, which offers tantalizing possibilities for nurturing life on the moon.

 [Right, Titan mosaic from the Huygens probe and Cassini orbiter radar image. The landing site is marked by the red X.  Credit, ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS]

Are Tombstone streets sagging into old mine workings?

Residents in the historic mining town of Tombstone think that small depressions formed in streets after monsoon rains are due to the ground sagging into underground workings that crisscross the area.  

Tucson's Channel 13 news offers video and interviews with residents who say this has occurred for many years. The city is using ground penetrating radar to search for suspected mine workings under the streets.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Gauges to warn of post-fire hazards from Whitewater-Baldy fire

The USGS has installed 6 rain and stream gauges in the upper reaches of the Gila National Forest water shed in New Mexico where the burning from the Whitewater-Baldy fire was most severe.   "Now that the fire is largely contained, attention has shifted to preparing for post-fire flooding with the onset of monsoon season. Communities downstream from burned watersheds are at risk of flash flooding and debris flows because of the loss of vegetation and the burned soil’s reduced ability to absorb water."  [Right, USGS hydrologist installs rain gauge at Hummingbird Saddle, Gila National Forest. Credit, USGS]

The Whitewater-Baldy fire is the largest in New Mexico history at nearly 300,000 acres.  It is currently about 87% contained.

Although the fire did not burn into Arizona, the drainages do extend into the eastern part of the state, raising concerns that flooding and debris flows could do damage here.   AZGS geologist Ann Youberg has been collaborating with federal, state, and county officials from both Arizona and New Mexico to assess the hazards and develop mitigation plans.  The new rain gauges will help assess the potential for flooding on the San Francisco River, and the town of Clifton in particular, in Arizona.

The USGS also announced that on Friday, July 6, they and the U.S. Forest Service will host a community workshop in Glenwood, New Mexico, to show residents how to access the data provided by the new gages and answer questions about the alert system. The workshop will be held at the Glenwood Community Center and will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The InciWeb site reports a variety of efforts are underway to mitigate flood and debris flow damage:

Stream channel widening and improvement has been completed on Whitewater and Mineral Creeks. This work was done in cooperation with work that Catron County and New Mexico Dept. of Transportation (NMDOT) has been doing in both of the creeks. Work included: channel widening, vegetation removal, improving existing dikes and levees, and creating sediment traps.

Jersey (cement roadway) barriers have been placed around the pump house and below the historic Graham Mill site at the Catwalk parking lot and along the Mineral Creek road by Cooney's Tomb.

Hazard trees along the Bursum Road are being removed by a local fire crew.

Work around the Gila River Bridge over the West Fork of the Gila River has begun. Crews will be removing vegetation within the river channel and riprap (rock erosion barriers) will be installed along the river bank to protect the bridge abutments.

Although the monsoon rains have begun, stream flooding has not been occurring, although black, ash-laden water has been flowing down Whitewater Creek, Willow Creek and in the West Fork and Middle Fork of the Gila River. The communities of Glenwood, Alma, Pleasanton, and Willow Creek are all working hard to be prepared. Sandbagging sessions have been occurring and residents have been placing sandbags around their property. Residents are urged to watch the weather closely and heed issued flood warnings.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

ASU's Lawrence Krauss discusses new book on Colbert Report

Lawrence Krauss, from the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration, went toe to toe with Stephen Colbert on the Comedy Channel's Colbert Report recently, debating the premise of his new book "A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing."   [Right, Colbert promotes Lawrence's book in the final clip of the show]

From the comments posted on the shows website, it seems that each side came away feeling that their view won.

Arizona workshop explores extraterrestrial sand dunes

Planetary scientists gathered in Flagstaff a couple weeks ago for the Third International Planetary Dunes Workshop, entitled "Remote Sensing and Data Analysis of Planetary Dunes", June 12 -15, hosted by Lowell Observatory and organized by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Center for Astrogeology.

In addition to the technical program, there was a field trip to study sedimentary features in the aeolian Navajo and Entrada Sandstones near Page, Arizona, as analogues to dunes throughout the solar system.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Quake swarm continues in northern Baja

There have been 46 earthquakes in northern Baja California since the magnitude 4.6 and 4.7 events yesterday that were felt in Yuma.  The events today are all under magnitude 3.  [Right, location map of epicenters from USGS]

Western wildfires seen from space

Wildfires across the West are prominent from the space station and a variety of satellites.  Wired magazine has pulled together a collection of some of the most dramatic including this one from NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-15, taken on June 28, with smoke from multiple fires across the western U.S. blanketing the Midwest.

Development of northern Arizona uranium mine planned by year-end

 Energy Fuels, Inc. plans to have the Pinenut uranium mine in northern Arizona in production by the end of 2012, and start sinking a shaft for the Canyon mine in the fourth quarter on Forest Service lands, pending regulatory approval.  The Canyon mine location is south of Tusayan. The company's shareholders last week approved acquisition of Denison’s US Mining Division which include those properties. [Right, location map of active and proposed uranium mines in northern Arizona, from the Denison Mines 2007 NI-43-101 report]

Energy Fuels reports that the grade of the ore at the Canyon mine site is 0.98% U3O8, which is the highest of any of their uranium properties across Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming, and is substantially higher than the average grade for breccia pipe deposits of about 0.65%.    The inferred resource at the Canyon mine is 83,000 tons, with expected production of 1,629,000 lbs of U3O8.   Reporter Cyndy Cole describes the history of the proposed mine in a story yesterday in the Arizona [Flagstaff] Daily Sun.

The Canyon project was grandfathered in before the Interior Secretary imposed a 20-year ban on exploration and mining on federal lands in the region.  Permitting began in the 1980s.  The Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality air and aquifer protection applications and permits are posted at   Cyndy says environmental groups are planning lawsuits to halt development.

Denison's "Arizona 1" mine in the region has been producing since the end of 2010.  The ore is trucked to Utah for processing as would ore from the new mines.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Before you invest in that gold mine or oil well....

What is it about the lure of get rich quick schemes that causes people to check their credibility at the door and buy into any cock and bull story of fabulous gold mines or oil gushers?  Here's another story of investors pouring money into non-existent oil fields and gold mines.

The Arizona Republic reports that "An unemployed Globe cattle rancher has admitted swindling 180 investors as part of a $7 million fraud scheme targeting Christians throughout the United States and Canada" by getting them to buy into a "purported oil company that was supposed to be worth $284 billion" and "gold mine deals."

I'm amazed at the number of questionable or suspicious if not outright fraudulent deals in Arizona that we hear about.    A little common sense may be all that's needed to keep from being swept up into one of these schemes.   [Right, gold photo courtesy of USGS]

Earthquake swarm in northern Baja

A swarm of more than 20 moderate- to small-magnitude earthquakes occurred 35 miles south of Calexico, CA, on the evening of 30 June and morning of 1 July 2012.  The swarm began with a M4.6 temblor at 8:25 pm Saturday; the largest quake was a M4.7 at 11:36 pm later that evening.   Though poorly constrained the depth to focus was approximately 10 km (6 miles).  There were no reports of damage from the nearby communities of Guadalupe Victoria and Mexicali both of Baja California, Mexico.   [Right, June-July 2012 earthquake swarm at south end of Sierra Cucapah in Baja California, Mexico. Blue boxes represent earthquake epicentersMap from Advanced National Seismic System, USGS]

Most of the 20+ events ranged from M1.5 to M3.0.  The swarm occurred at the south end of the Sierra Cucupah along the projection of the Laguna section of the Elsinore fault zone that trends NNW from Baja California to California.  On 4 April 2010, a M7.2 earthquake occurred very near to the locus of this swarm.

 [cross-posted from AZGS's earthquake blog - "Groundswell"]

Baja quake felt in Yuma

Residents from San Diego to Yuma report feeling the M4.6 earthquake that hit northern Baja California last night around 8:25 pm local time.

[Right, shake intensity map. Credit, USGS]

New home for ASU earth and space sciences

The ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) has been moving into their new digs in the recently completed Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV (ISTB4, for short). The monthly SESE magazine SESE Source says "ISTB4 is designed in an entirely novel way that reflects SESE’s dedication to K-12 education and public outreach. The first and second floors of this building are largely devoted to the integration of cutting edge research in earth and space sciences with public education."  [Right, photo credit, SESE Source]

Rosemont copper mine debate goes global

The BBC played up the economy vs environment angle of the proposed Rosemont copper mine in a story run on Friday -  "Arizona copper-mining row pits economy against scenery"   [Right, view of the Santa Rita Mountains. Credit, Rosemont Copper]

A free-lance journalist told me that she's sold her piece on lighting at the mine site to the Los Angeles Times

Last week Tucson tv station, KOLD Channel 13, came out with an editorial  formal endorsement of the mine, saying "It's time to end the fight and start mining."   Mine opponents blasted the station, with some offering the view that the station as a news source had no right to take such an editorial stance.  That surprised me, since mine opponents are arguing that public opinion should be a deciding factor on whether to issue permits.   I figured that the anti-mine forces must have gotten editorial support from other news media.  But the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas web page does not list any.  A cursory web search did not turn up any other formal editorial positions either for or against the mine overall (I'm not counting editorials calling for specific concerns that need to be addressed).  There are individual columnists weighing in but not the editorial boards.  

So, is the KOLD- Ch 13 editorial the first such from a major news organization?

[Update, 7-23-12, 4:30pm:   I heard from Debbie Bush, at KOLD, who presented the editorial. She told me that technically they did not "endorse" the mine, but "did provide an editorial talking about the benefits and why the two sides should work together."     In the original editorial, Debbie says "As a community, let's join forces with Rosemont Copper, benefit from the tax revenue and jobs and, at the same time, work with them to make sure we protect our environment."   I suspect mine supporters are still pleased with that statement even if it is not a formal endorsement.]

100 Days of Arizona Science

Kudos to the Arizona [Tucson] Daily Star and science reporter Tom Beal for their Centennial salute to science in Arizona.   Each day, for 100 days, they are reporting on "a milestone in the state's scientific history."

Two recent stories look at geologic topics - "Mining has been state's bedrock industry"
and today's feature on "Tree-ring study became a science here."