Saturday, 27 March 2021

Icelandic Volcano Videos

Icelandic Volcano Videos 

There are a plethora of videos of the ongoing eruption in Iceland. But, as yet, I have not seen one by a geologist. The video below has very little geologic commentary but shows the "communal" aspects of the eruption. But there is some spectacular footage amidst the guff.

The next video is much more professional and even has some talking heads, some mentioning the dangers. There are even more videos all showing the same stuff if you go to and search for "iceland volcano".

Down to Earth Extra - April 2021

Down to Earth Extra - April 2021 

The latest edition of Down to Earth Extra is HERE.

And you can read it below.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

As Expected, Icelandic Volcano Erupts

As Expected, Icelandic Volcano Erupts 

On 5th March I blogged that a volcano near Reykjavik showed signs of erupting.

And it has! There is mention of it everywhere but what I enjoyed most was a quote in the Financial Times:-

“I can see the glowing red sky from my window,” said Rannveig Gudmundsdottir, a resident in the town of Grindavik, only 8km from the eruption. “Everyone here is getting into their cars to drive up there,” she said."

As I said on the 5th March, Iceland is one of the best places to be if a local volcano erupts.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

The Great Dying

 The Great Dying

A correspondent has brought THIS ARTICLE to my attention. The author looked at food webs over the Permian - Triassic period in North China. There were three extinction events over the period and their relative severity was measured.

The events were the Guadalupian-Lopingian extinction event (259.1 million years ago), the End-Permian mass extinction (251.9 million years ago) and the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event (201.3 million years ago). And the conclusion reached was that the End Permian was the most serious one. 

It took 10 million years for life to recover from that one, much less for the others. The difference was, as Mike Benton explains, 

"We found that the end-Permian event was exceptional in two ways, First, the collapse in diversity was much more severe, whereas in the other two mass extinctions there had been low-stability ecosystems before the final collapse. And second, it took a very long time for ecosystems to recover, maybe 10 million years or more, whereas recovery was rapid after the other two crises."

The article is based on a research paper in "Proceedings of the Royal Society B" reading of which gives one a measure of the amount of work which went into this research.

Very interesting stuff and I get to show a picture of a sabre-toothed gorgonopsian!

The plant-eating pareiasaurs were preyed on by sabre-toothed gorgonopsians. Both groups died out during the end-Permian mass extinction, or "The Great Dying." Credit: © Xiaochong Guo

Tuesday, 16 March 2021



For every 0.1°C rise in temperature, the number of sinkholes increases by 1%-3%. That is the statistic which intrigued me when I read THIS ARTICLE.

Sinkholes occur naturally when minerals in the Earth beneath us dissolve in rainwater, forming cavities. The sinkhole appears when rainwater loosens the soils around the cavities enough for the ground to fall in.

But this has been made much more common by human activity. The biggest culprit being, of course, climate change. This often leads to heavier rainfall and the subsequent sinkholes.

The article goes into a lot of detail, especially about a particularly large sinkhole in Naples. Incidentally there is a link (copied HERE) to underground Naples - next time Dave Green goes to Naples he should follow this up!

The author describes current means of strengthening ground which can cause rather than ameliorate danger. And mentions research into more novel means of ground engineering.

 Rescuing a farmer and his quad-bike from a sinkhole in Cumbria. 
Pic: Twitter/@CumbriaFire

Monday, 15 March 2021

The, Not So, Good Old Days

The, Not So, Good Old Days 

As geologists we know that the Earth changes over time. If it didn't geology would not exist! But THIS ARTICLE gives some indication as to how much it has changed.
The author, a geochemist at Cambridge, describes her conclusions from analysing very old rocks from South West Greenland.

And she concludes that for a long period the Earth did not have a solid crust - it was an ocean of molten magma. The article describes the conclusions and tells us that these came from measuring isotopes of iron. You can read all about these in THIS PAPER. Some of you may understand it!

An important mineral in the paper, and the lower mantle, is bridgmanite - a mineral with which I was not familiar. Apparently it is what I knew as perovskite. Perovskite is a structure rather than a mineral and a mineral can only have a name if it exists on the surface of the Earth. Then it was found in a meteorite and it could be named! You can read all about it HERE.

The Earth is now composed of the inner core, the outer core, the lower mantle, the upper mantle, and the crust. AlexLMX/Shutterstock.
The very early Earth was not like this at all!

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Global Warming Gone Mad!

Global Warming Gone Mad! 

Very little to do with geology, very little to do with the Earth but still very interesting!

THIS ARTICLE tell of the hottest planet ever found - Kelt-9 b. So hot that metals, in vapour form, are in the atmosphere! 

To get a planet that hot, start with a gas giant and move it, probably by collisions, into an orbit around its star much closer than that of Mercury round our Sun. It helps if the star is twice as hot as the Sun. And you get temperatures of 5,000°K.

The data which led to these conclusions came from the Hubble Space Telescope and is publicly available. Two methods of finding the composition of the atmosphere were used. In the transit method the light of the star passing through the planets atmosphere is used. In the eclipse method when the planet goes behind its star, its (very small) contribution to the total light is removed and its light contribution can be determined. I suspect some this process is a bit beyond my powers!

The authors look forward to the launch of other space telescopes - NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Ariel Space Mission - which will be able to extend the study of exoplanets.

Artist’s impression of Kelt-9 b orbiting its parent star. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Keep the Geol. Soc. in Burlington House!

Keep the Geol. Soc. in Burlington House!

You may have seen this reported in the papers. See below. 

It has always seemed to me that it was appropriate that learned societies should be at a prestigious address. For over a century they were there rent free. The proposed rent increases would be ruinous for the societies, chicken feed for the government.

Who would occupy the place? I presume it is listed. It would be expensive, but convenient for Fortnum and Mason and Bond Street. Possible occupiers are few and I doubt that they would be better for society than the present residents.

Read what Jean Sippy has to write below.


Dear Members,

You may already know the following news of  Burlington House where the Geological Society and other learned societies are based. This affects us directly as The Geological Association, of which we are a Local Group, is also based within the Geological Society and we have monthly and other meetings there and also occupy offices in the basement.

“Burlington House Under Threat

Rents of the Learned Societies in Burlington House have risen 3000% since 2012 and are set to bankrupt them.  Burlington House was originally conceived to bring together major cultural and scientific learned societies.  Unless they can come to a reasonable agreement on affordable rents with the government, they will have to find alternative accommodation that will divert their precious resources.  The Geological Society, the Linnean Society, the Astronomical Society and the Antiquarian Society are all under threat.  An article in the Observer on Sunday 28 February highlighted the problem:, and the Geological Society of London launched a campaign with the other societies to reverse the rent rises. Conservative MP Tim Loughton is leading a cross-party group of MPs trying to secure a long-term deal for the societies with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Geological Society outline ways in which members of the public can help with the campaign and anyone interested should follow the link:”


The following are extracts from the Geological Society’s web site.


“The Geological Society moved to Burlington House in 1874 by agreement with the Government of the day. Up until the first lease period (2005) the Society’s Burlington House ‘apartments’ bore no rental costs or external upkeep responsibilities.

In 2004, HM Government challenged in the High Court the legal basis of occupation of Burlington House by the five learned societies, including the Society of Antiquaries, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Astronomical Society and Linnean Society. The case concluded in 2005 with court-directed, fast track mediation under which the societies agreed terms of occupation under new leases. With effect from January 2005, after a 2-year rent-free period, rent was initially minimal.

Following a 2012 lease valuation resulting in an appreciable rent increase, a collective arbitration was initiated reflecting concerns around the valuation process and comparators being employed. In late 2016 the arbitrator found comprehensively in favour of the Landlord, concluding that the mechanism for the determination of rental value was being followed properly and the valuations used were not wholly unrealistic or negligent. Given the absence of independent valuation, the tenants were not entitled to dispute matters of valuation judgment exercised by the Landlord. 

Last year the rent for the Geological Society was £217,000 and under the current agreement rents will rise by c. 8% p.a. for at least the next five years. This means a 50% rise in five years and a 100% rise in the next nine years. 

The Society is asking the Government to recognise the value of having the learned societies and historically important libraries, archives and collections situated at Burlington House. We are asking Government to work with us to agree an affordable long-term arrangement for the Society to remain at its home, ensure that we and our fellow societies continue to deliver value to the UK economy and society.

Government originally brought the Society to Burlington House under a bespoke arrangement which has delivered immense public value as a hub of cultural and scientific discovery. Historical circumstance places a duty upon the Government to find a workable, affordable arrangement which recognises the value of the Society’s activities, its library and collections to the nation. 

If an affordable arrangement cannot be agreed, we will have no choice but to seek alternative accommodation. This will divert crucial funds from our core activities, adversely impacting our science, policy, education, outreach and professional standards work .

We ask those in support of the Society remaining at Burlington House to write to their MP to ask for an affordable, long-term agreement to be put in place, and to help raise further awareness of the campaign by retweeting @GeolSoc, and by using the hashtag #SupportGSL.”


Jean Sippy

Hon. Secretary

Harrow and Hillingdon Geological Society

Tel: 020 8422 1859


Friday, 5 March 2021

North West Highlands Geoparks Zoom Lectures

North West Highlands Geoparks Zoom Lectures 

As a supporter of the North West Highlands Geopark i came across this Zoom Lecture which is fascinating. It is by a Bristol PhD - Frankie Dunn, now at Oxford Museum, talking about the Cambrian Explosion and what can be seen of it in the Cambrian of the Assynt area. She is introduced by Pete Harrison, whom many of us know from WEGA's excursion in April/May 2019. 

You can listen and watch the lecture HERE. A very interesting lecture and the audience includes a magnificent beard and moustache wearer. Absorbing lecture but I suspect not all the listeners were awake at the end!

They have an stimulating programme arranged. You can see it HERE.

Iceland Eruption Coming?

Iceland Eruption Coming? 

THIS ARTICLE tells us that there has been many small earthquakes beneath the Reykjanes Peninsula, west of Reykjavik. There are fears that the Krysuvik volcanic system might erupt. You can read all about the volcanic area HERE.

As the article says, Iceland is one of the best places to be if a local volcano erupts. You need to be very unlucky to be harmed by an Icelandic volcano erupting - unless you are an air traveller!

This is something to watch - it might get interesting.

Present day activity at Krysuvik

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Down to Earth Extra - March 2021

 Down to Earth Extra - March 2021

The latest edition of Down to Earth Extra is HERE.

And you can read it below.