Mars 2067, the Olympus Mons Expedition (Part II)

Fig 1. Olympus Mons seen from the North-East (uncredited computer generated image, altitude exaggerated) showing the immense ~180 km wide landslide. The escarpment at bottom centre is approximately 8 km high and runs at an angle of between 10 and 30 degrees. The expedition base camp is marked by a white star, the Graf’s cable lift is marked in yellow and the paths taken by the eight rovers are outlined in green. From left, they are referred to as Rover A, Rover B etc. The blue dots indicate the positions of the deployed seismometers. The point where Rover A was lost is marked with a red dot.

Fig 1. Olympus Mons seen from the North-East (uncredited computer generated image, altitude exaggerated) showing the immense ~180 km wide landslide. The escarpment at bottom centre is approximately 8 km high and runs at an angle of between 10 and 30 degrees. The expedition base camp is marked by a white star, the Graf’s cable lift is marked in yellow and the paths taken by the eight rovers are outlined in green. From left, they are referred to as Rover A, Rover B etc. The blue dots indicate the positions of the deployed seismometers. The point where Rover A was lost is marked with a red dot.

This far, the expedition had been a highly successful failure. Five weeks into the exploration with three weeks of intense survey had brought a wealth of data, but not what they had come for. Olympus Mons or Nix Olympica, the Olympic Snows as it was formerly known, had stubbornly refused to accede to human wishes. True, Elena Trofimova had identified the REE-carrying minerals Monazite and Bastnäsite on the very first day, but only in microscopic crystals a few microns in diameter. Of the hoped-for pegmatites and carbonatites where such minerals would collect in small but large-enough pockets to mine, there was no sign.

The weather had held for all but two days of the first ten days with dust devils few, minor and far between, which had allowed Yaema and Adewele to run the tether along the southern slope of the gigantic landslide to a point above of the failure of the mountain. Rover A had been released on the fifth day at a point close to the escarpment from where it had run up as close to it as possible. The images and rock sample analyses it data-linked back over the next few days painted a picture of a very unstable slope of loosely bonded layers of volcanic, basaltic tuffs.

– ‘You have to realise that on Mars, the very low atmospheric pressure means that even minor basaltic eruptions would erupt in violently Strombolian fashion’, Yelena had said as they discussed their findings one evening. ‘Forget lava flows like those video recordings of Earth’s Hawaii show! Anything larger and you’d have Peléean to Plinian eruptions. Take that clip of Etna from 2002 where she sent glowing fountains some 400 to 800 metres high! This baby would send her fountains many kilometres high, possibly even higher than 20 km, and you’d get Nuees Ardentes or pyroclastic flows. As they run down the slopes, they’d form tuffs. But the farther from the summit you get, the cooler they become until they don’t weld at all. Close to the summit, they’d weld strongly and collect thickly. You might even get lava flows from the larger and hotter debris such as lava bombs and they could theoretically have run a very great distance. That’s why it is shaped like it is with the degree of incline increasing the closer you get to the summit. But at a point about 250 km from the summit, they’d not weld at all. That’s why you have this huge scarp. Any major disturbance at all and it collapses and the height from which it does so ensures that the debris avalanche travels hundreds of kilometres. Here, look at this!’ She had called up an image almost a century old.

Fig 2. Aureole deposits from Olympus Mons taken by the Viking Orbiter in 1976. The debris lobes are similar to those on Earth’s ocean floor close to the continental shelf or islands such as Hawaii. The lobes have been heavily eroded by Martian winds and have probably been moved substantial distances. (NASA/JPL, reproduced in Morris:1982)

Fig 2. Aureole deposits from Olympus Mons taken by the Viking Orbiter in 1976. The debris lobes are similar to those on Earth’s ocean floor close to the continental shelf or islands such as Hawaii. The lobes have been heavily eroded by Martian winds and have probably been moved substantial distances. (NASA/JPL, reproduced in Morris:1982)

– ‘But if they knew all that a century ago, what are we doing here?’

– ‘Because this whole area is covered by a layer of fine dust, Adewele.’ Gerry chuckled to himself. ‘It blocks the view of the finest, most sophisticated and high resolution spectrographs even you could dream up. No chance of getting a detailed view of the geology. That’s why we have to eyeball it.’ He squeezed Yaema’s hand.

Yaema gave her partner a quick hug. ‘That reminds me of one of those physics experiments we did when we were kids, remember? We’d have a fan and grab a fistful of sand which we let trickle slowly into the path of the air. The lightest particles were carried the furthest while the heaviest fell closer. Elena, think those distant debris fields might be a better place to look for REEs?’

– ‘Could be. But we’ll have a better idea once we’ve done the seismic survey.’

Each of the rovers carried a video camera, a spectroscopic camera, an infrared camera, a sampling device and miniature lab plus a set of six seismic charges. After being deployed, each would be remotely detonated and fire a hollow charge plasma jet travelling at speeds up to 11 km per second into the ground. The seismic shockwave would travel through the ground to be picked up by a network of seismometers deployed by the rovers, each of which could carry a single one. These would then be left behind to offer continuous monitoring of the giant volcano. Although Olympus Mons probably had been as dead as the proverbial dodo for several billion years, it was better to be safe than sorry if a mining base was to be set up somewhere on her slopes.

Fig 3. A 40 km long landslide in Valles Marineres at latitude -9.982, longitude -69.609. The very high albedo and visual appearance is suggestive of a not inconsiderable amount of water ice. (ESA/DLR/FU Berlin; G.Neukum)

Fig 3. A 40 km long landslide in Valles Marineres at latitude -9.982, longitude -69.609. The very high albedo and visual appearance is suggestive of a not inconsiderable amount of water ice. (ESA/DLR/FU Berlin; G.Neukum)

On the eighth day, there had been an accident. Rover A had been deployed as soon as the Graf’s tether had reached the closest exposed part of the scarp and had explored it visually for a distance of some twelve kilometres. In order to test the Seismic Survey System, the Triple-S, a charge had been set close to the exposed face of the scarp after which the rover had been parked about 250 m downhill. One reason they had parked so close was that they had wanted a visual of the event. As the charge had gone off, so had a tiny portion of escarpment and Rover A was now buried under a few hundred metres of debris. Because of the landslide, the data had seemingly been too muddled to interpret.

Fig 4. High-resolution of the Eastern slope, escarpment and landslide of Olympus Mons. From its visual appearance, it is obvious how highly unstable the escarpment is in several places where it has not yet completely failed. (ESA/DLR/FU Berlin; G.Neukum)

Fig 4. High-resolution of the Eastern slope, escarpment and landslide of Olympus Mons. From its visual appearance, it is obvious how highly unstable the escarpment is in several places where it has not yet completely failed. (ESA/DLR/FU Berlin; G.Neukum)

Ten days into the expedition, the cable tether had been ready and the fleet of seven remaining rovers were deployed by the Graf driven by Yaema. Even if the rovers could theoretically cover between 25 and 40 km, dependant upon the terrain, per Martian solar day or sol of 24h 39m 35.24409s, the automated search pattern and frequent investigations along their respective paths had slowed them down to between five and ten km per day. They had sent back amazing images of the upper slopes that seemed to be covered by tens of thousands of small yet very long “flows” of debris matter that had coalesced in a manner reminiscent of the images they had seen of Earthly lava flows at Emi Koussi, a tall pyroclastic shield volcano at the southeast end of the Tibesti Mountains in the central Sahara of northern Chad, the most Mars-like of Earth’s volcanoes. Rover E had encountered what looked like the exit of a lava tube at the highest point. Unfortunately, the rough terrain had precluded a closer look, so a tantalising glimpse from almost a kilometre away was as close as it got.

Fig 5. “Lava tube” on Pavonis Mons, the middle of the three aligned giant shield volcanoes of Tharsis. Because of the atmospheric pressure being too low to allow for this type of eruption, “lave tube” may be a misnomer. It is more likely the result of the explosive exit of either a magma dike or a hydrothermal vent (compare with the visual appearance of the Ubehebe Crater https://peripateticbone.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/ubehebe-2.jpg ). Photograph by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

Fig 5. “Lava tube” on Pavonis Mons, the middle of the three aligned giant shield volcanoes of Tharsis. Because of the atmospheric pressure being too low to allow for this type of eruption, “lave tube” may be a misnomer. It is more likely the result of the explosive exit of either a magma dike or a hydrothermal vent (compare with the visual appearance of the Ubehebe Crater https://peripateticbone.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/ubehebe-2.jpg ). Photograph by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

– That has to be a primary target for a follow-up expedition! Imagine for how long that could run!’ Adewele was over the moon with the discovery and equally frustrated that he could not get the rover inside.

– ‘Moemo ljubov,’ Elena gave her mate a playful hug. Adewele’s obsession with driving remotely operated vehicles was a standing joke with them. But he was the most skilled operator of the colony, that’s why he and they were on this expedition. ‘I’m certain that had it got in there, you wouldn’t have noticed if the rest of us had packed up and gone home. Besides, it’s not a lava tube but the crater left behind as a dike came close enough to the surface to explosively decompress. Your malenkoe little rover would probably not get more than a hundred metres in before it got terminally stuck.’

In locations where erosion had removed the ubiquitous landslide topsoil to reveal hints of the underlying geology, the mineral sampling had confirmed Elena’s initial hypothesis of pyroclastically deposited tuffs that were decreasingly less welded the farther one got from the summit. Only Rover F had encountered what was definitely identified as the final tendrils of an ancient lava flow and a sample returned contained large enough grains of Zircon for Elena to tentatively identify them as “low” or metamict zircon via IR-spectroscopy, crystals where the radioactive decay of the minute amounts of Uranium 238 and Thorium impurities present had altered the crystal structure. For this to take place, at least 4.5 x 10^18 decay events per gram of zircon must have occurred, something that takes billions of years. Should X-ray diffraction back at Olympia confirm this analysis in the field, it would be definitive proof that Olympus Mons had been extinct for several billion years.

Fig 6. Mars HRISE high-resolution image of the escarpment just to the south of the area of exploration with the upper slopes of Olympus Mons to the left. This image gives an idea of the terrain encountered by the rovers. The lack of heavy cratering is thought by some to be indicative of volcanic activity as late as 200 – 2 million years BP but could equally well be explained by the effects of erosion and landslides over the past 3.5 GY (billions of years). Once you start looking at the image, scores of heavily eroded craters become apparent. Scale of the image was not available. (NASA/ESA)

Fig 6. Mars HRISE high-resolution image of the escarpment just to the south of the area of exploration with the upper slopes of Olympus Mons to the left. This image gives an idea of the terrain encountered by the rovers. The lack of heavy cratering is thought by some to be indicative of volcanic activity as late as 200 – 2 million years BP but could equally well be explained by the effects of erosion and landslides over the past 3.5 GY (billions of years). Once you start looking at the image, scores of heavily eroded craters become apparent. Scale of the image was not available. (NASA/ESA)

When the seismometers had been emplaced by the rovers, these were turned back and the Triple-S charges deployed at least ten km distant from any sensor. Once the rovers had returned to the collection point – waste not, want not – the charges were set off at intervals of five minutes to allow for easy separation of the data amidst high tension amongst the crew. But the data returned had proved to be disappointing. Instead of revealing possible locations of solidified and well-fractionated magma chambers with bodies of mineable ore beneath the mountain, the data had been jumbled as if reflected from a myriad of different strata within the first few kilometres.

– All we can say from this data is that Olympus Mons is a basaltic, pyroclastic stratovolcano that masquerades as a shield volcano and that it has been extinct for billions of years’, Gerry concluded. ‘There’s no sign of anything deeper than a kilometre or two. Even if we know that the point of neutral buoyancy is at ten km and that any magma chamber thus has to be ten km below the summit and at least ten km up vertically as counted from the base of the escarpment, we cannot locate it. We’ve drawn a blank. Time to go home, crew!’

– ‘Hello? What is this? Look at it!’ Yaema had been driving the Graf down the tether, loaded with the recovered rovers. The early summer morning sun shone on the escarpment and the point where the recent landslide that buried Rover A. The reflection was so bright it blinded the blimp’s forward looking camera, which had to be turned away.

– ‘Elena, are you thinking what I’m thinking?’

– ‘Yes! There can only be one explanation, water ice! Bozhe moi! No wonder it’s so fragile. Thin glaciers, covered by pyroclastic deposits not hot enough to brew chai on. Then another layer of glacier and so on. No wonder the Triple-S returned meaningless data!’

– ‘Yes, but consider the amounts and accessibility! And what are the odds that it’s laced with helium too, possibly even isotopic, the Helium 3 required for fusion? Not only do we have drinking water and rocket fuel. With any luck, we have unlimited power too!’

– ‘Yes Gerry, but there’s also the possibility to extract minerals dissolved in that water, especially the lower layers at the bottom of the scarp. We have to get samples of this!

Gerry embraced Yaema, then turned to Elena and Adewele. ‘I don’t know about you guys, but to me that escarpment means children and a safe future for them. Hopefully, we’ll find those REEs too. If not, there’s always tomorrow.’

Man has come to Mars to stay indefinitely.


 

Henrik & Albert

 

This episode is dedicated to our friend Sissel who would not wish us to dawdle with its publication.
(In Part III, we will look at all the facts upon which this work of fiction has been based, the “Science behind” even if science should always take precedence over the dramatic effect.)

115 thoughts on “Mars 2067, the Olympus Mons Expedition (Part II)

    • Wonderful and captivating, there are 8 rovers on Mars???
      Then I came back to earth, thank you for writing this.

      And big THANKS to Hobbes for taking time out of his busy schedule
      so I can keep up with things, it is so appreciated

  1. Very much agreed. Should this, like other items in sci-fi come to pass, the pessimistic attitudes in the JHE articles will be proven quite wrong.

  2. Thank you Henrik and Albert for the great imaginative piece. What a fun way to learn.

  3. oh my! i read it while not seeing the year in the headline. I thought i missed a big mission with many rovers on mars. So i took it like an actual mission report. I did not suspect a thing until the comments. N1ce !

    EDIT: Rescued from the dungeons. /H

    • Got ya beat, at the time you posted that I was out driving around with absolutely no sleep last night.

      Coffee is your friend…

      (my guess is that I was sweating tonights wind storm and a tree that has been worrying me. The tree is gone now, and as soon as these guys get paid, I’m going to sleep. If a tornado comes, I’m pretty sure the wife will be beating me senseless to get up. That or I won’t have any need to worry about it. Wait, I just remembered… the dogs will be going nuts as well. In all likelihood, I will be awake during the worst of it.)

      • Yikes.

        Stay safe kiddies

        Ryan Maue Retweeted
        NWS Mobile ‏@NWSMobile 5m5 minutes ago

        820pm – Escambia County 911 Center says they have a report of tornado crossing the I-10 bridge over the Pensacola Bay a few minutes ago.

        • That’s about right. The rotation area was still up in the air as it went by here… about a mile from bridge. According to Annecdotal info, it snatched a house off its foundation as it went by.

        • The same source also states that there is one known fatality do far.

        • Err.. “ow”. Got a good info on where the damage was at. This location took a lot of damage in Ivan. Back then, the leftover storm surge had gutted the lowest floor and left only the residences up on the 2nd floor and higher alone. This time the whole dwelling got ripped apart. Its about 3/4 mile north of the Pensacola Bay Interstate Bridge near the GE birdchipper plant. Personally, I would have thought that it would have been somewhat shielded by the 15 meter hillside directly to its west. So much for that bit of folklore.

          30°30’58.60″N 87° 9’54.65″W

          • That blue building was located behind the treeline at the arrow on this screen cap of the damage path in the drone footage. The large building is the GE birdchipper plant. (they make wind turbines) As far as I know, it was undamaged. Work crew are still spread out in those neighborhoods removing damage, that that section of Scenic Highway is still closed to all traffic. The bridge that was mentioned earlier can be seen in the background of the screen cap. It’s still there and open to traffic. During the storm, a car on the far end of the bridge was tossed into the water.

            Whether authorities have approached the photographer for violating FAA controlled airspace is unknown. This area in on the approach flight-path to the airport.

    • Actually, that is a very good analogy for plate tectonics. In fact, that sort of thing is what prompted someone to actually propose it.

      …in 1912 the meteorologist Alfred Wegener amply described what he called continental drift, expanded in his 1915 book The Origin of Continents and Oceans and the scientific debate started that would end up fifty years later in the theory of plate tectonics.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plate_tectonics#Development_of_the_theory

    • And I think the video is best described as a proxy for terrane accretion. (Think Wrangellia Terrane… the “bugs on a windshield” article I wrote quite some time ago.)

  4. Thank you Henrik & Albert. What duo! A wonderful read that even I could understand! Sharing this with my step son, Kyle, who is so into astronomy . Maybe he may just get addicted to Volcanoes very soon!

  5. We’ve Made the Front Page!

      Late last week, I was contacted by journalist Marcus Wallén of Expressen, Sweden’s largest evening newspaper, who wanted to run an article on their web edition about our NDVP list. Apparently, it received such attention that it has now been promoted to their front page. For those of you not able to read Swedish, even with the help of an online translator, Carl and I can tell you that he, Marcus Wallén, has done an excellent job. 🙂

      For those who wish to see it for themselves, here is the link:

      http://www.expressen.se/?ar=true

    • Also note that it’s part of the content you have to “log in” to access (meaning you become a registered reader and “”get access”” to all their and their partners lovely promotions via email). They obviously think that highly of the subject matter we cover as an attraction factor.

    • I can just chime in and say that Marcus did a very good job on volcano-journalism 🙂
      I especially love that he made a point that Mt Cameroon has no monitoring equipment. So not only good journalism, but journalism done with the heart.

    • There is actually a minute swarm running there. Only one earthquake so far has a clear solution, and that was SSW of Vatnafjöll volcano and is as such not a Hekla earthquake.
      Fedgar picks up unrest at both Torfajökull and Hekla, so untill someone gets around to handcalculate those tinsy winsy popcorns we do not know.
      There is nothing on the borehole strainmeters, and I can’t see anything noteworthy on the GPS-stations.

      It is not untill we see a smattering of M2s directly under Hekla that anything will happen, but when we do see it an eruption should not be far away. But, so far I do not see anything pointing towards it.

      • Is there anywhere to find a permanent log of small iceland earthquakes? I like the running log, but I would love to do some analysis of all the earthquakes over the last 10 years or so. Hard to do without anywhere to find this data.

      • Also – Askja area has been fairly interesting recently. Lots of deep quakes, and the plot is covering a bit of a wider area than the usual small quake swarms that used to occur below and south of Herdubreid.

        • What I find a bit surprising is that although there has been a lot of deep earthquakes nothing shows on the GPS-trajectories (except Grimsvötn that is uplifting at a steady pace).

          • Comparing it to Holuhraun, I don’t believe the GPS started doing much of anything until it was fully ready to start erupting / rifting. At least, I don’t think there was much change in the GPS values during the few months prior to the Holuhraun eruption where we saw a good bit of deep quakes (correct me if I’m wrong of course).

            Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that just because a magma chamber gets new magma injected doesn’t necessarily mean it will expand by an equivalent amount. We need to keep in mind that there is likely a certain element of compression here – where the magma density within the magma chamber increases without expanding the size of the chamber (at least not right away or in equivalent proportion). Think of it like a compressed air tank or hydraulic tank, you can keep pumping fluids into the chamber, but the chamber will not expand, it will just pressurize. Given, this is a very simplistic model that doesn’t account for nuances of a much larger and more complex system, but it would offer a reasonable explanation for lack of GPS expansion during a magma injection event.

            One thought on this is that perhaps the way many volcanoes in Iceland work is that they are fairly GPS-neutral, until the magma chamber reaches a certain pressure threshold which exceeds the strength of the surrounding rock. Once this critical threshold is reached, you would get one of two results.

            My first thought on rifting eruptions is that the pressure of the magma chamber wanting to expand causes the rift to fracture open in fairly quick manner. In essence, you get more punctuated expansion of the rifting process, which we more or less know is the case instead of gradual GPS changes.

            The other option is for a more simple eruption similar to the Grimsvotn 2011 eruption, where the pressure is simply alleviated by shooting magma through the roof in a more traditional explosive eruption.

            Sort of thinking out loud here, but always enjoy the theorizing / ruminating.

          • I think there was a report that uplift was seen over a larger area in the months before the Holohraun eruption, but it was only noticed afterwards. It showed up in satellite radar. I believe.

          • Cbus05 would not GPS show more movement with more evolved magma’s rather than more fluid basalts?

          • Would the basalts tend to fracture through the rock and the more viscous magma create a more balloon like inflation at shallow depth?

          • uplift over larger areas would point at a deeper magma chamber that is inflating. Shallow chambers would have a more local impact.

          • “Cbus05 would not GPS show more movement with more evolved magma’s rather than more fluid basalts. Would the basalts tend to fracture through the rock and the more viscous magma create a more balloon like inflation at shallow depth?”

            Geyser, as I’ve said before, you’re way fixated on the idea of evolved magma. It’s a normal part of volcanism , with most volcanoes having a range of magmas that span from evolved to very juvenile. It’s more a matter of how much of specific varieties of magma they have as well as a ton of other factors that come into play. Also, simply having evolved magma doesn’t necessitate a large eruption – you need a lot of it. There are monogenetic volcanoes in california that emit highly rhyolitic VEI-1-2 eruptions in monogenetic formations.

            It is a good thing to be aware of, but I can’t help but get the impression that your focus on evolved magma has skewed your perspective.

            To answer your question however, I would actually give examples to which the exact opposite is more common. We have few examples of rhyolitic eruptions in recent history, and if we were to step the scale down a notch to dacitic eruptions, we similarly do not have many examples. But from the examples we do have, the rhyolitic eruptions occur extremely suddenly without a ton of precursors (this has also been shown to be historically true based on analysis of past rhyolitic eruptions). The andesisitc and dacitic eruptions behave more traditionally, with extremely noisy months of precursor large quakes (think of the holuhraun seismicity before the caldera started dropping, except even longer and more energetic). The precursor seismicity of Pinatubo and St. Helens was enormous to say the least.

            If we’re talking pre-eruption GPS activity for non-rhyolitic volcanoes, we know that there is a tendency to see intense, but localized bulging in the short-period before an eruption. In essence, this would be more similar to the brittle, intense, and localized uplift similar to the uplift seen local to the cone around Pinatubo or the dome of St. Helens. Holuhraun was not too similar to this.

            As for gps based activity of rhyolitic volcanoes, we really have no data. Chaiten and Cordon Caulle were not equipped with the proper equipment to measure this accurately, and the eruptions came on too quickly. Other eruptions historically with highly evolved magma were before the time of active volcano monitoring systems (Novarupta comes to mind here).

            All things being said, the volcanoes we are discussing are extremely different from Iceland volcanoes, in many ways other than magma composition. Albert stated it pragmatically – a deep and wider inflation implies a deeper chamber. It’s simple mechanics, nothing more. When you see dramatic localized gps uplift that is relatively narrow, that may imply bradeism (fluid dynamics) or a narrow conduit pushing into the ground above the magma chamber. I would personally hypothesize that the Hakone activity from 2015 was a stalled vertical dike emplacement as an example of this.

          • CBUS, there was indeed discrete movements on the GPSes before the eruption started, but it was spread out over 3 months and over a large area. On the other hand this was less of an intrusion than a rifting episode, and those do not come with uplift.

          • Cbus05 i was just putting forward a very basic child like question for the purposes of discussion,you obliged,with your well formulated and articulate reply.

          • Thanks Carl – so are we simply not seeing any discreet movement right now, or are we just not able to measure it at this point?

          • I have been doing my darnedest to model that.
            Problem is that Holuhraun bungled up all long term data, but if you go further out and look at for example Höfn you will see something really intriguing, the pattern that started before Holuhraun is still going at the same rate indicating that the inflation is very slow, very steady, and covers a very big area.

          • @ Geyser, 11.52
            I think what Cbus may have had in mind isn’t that this hasn’t been the first time that you floated your ideas or raised questions about evolved magmas in relation to Bárðarbunga – in fact you’ve aired them on many occasions, both here and elsewhere.

            I am no scientist but even I can understand from what many well-qualified conributors have said that your idea(s) in relation to BB have a vanishingly small chance of being relevant to understanding what’s going on there. So perhaps the reason you feel misunderstood is actually mutual and maybe it’s time to pursue another hypothesis whilst you’re still getting a patient hearing.

          • But Holmes was a fictional coke-fiend (iirc) and his creator a spritualist, and their beliefs don’t have a great track-record. Volcanoes ain’t fictional.

            Perhaps it’d be better to ask how one could in principle falsify a theory that is already known to be inconsistent with any available data that might falsify it.

          • The big problem wiyh that quote is knowing what is actually impossible😃

          • And one of the more common tools of charlatans is to construct an unfalsifiable theory.

            Trying to prove a negative is not a sound way to base a theory.

          • First of all,I do not see anything in my comments above that is trying to be theory and second these are comments in the comments section of a blog ,more ideas than theory,so to accuse one of falsely representing ones self is really out of line.

          • The graphic at 17:17 infers that one should grasp at straws to explain the more vexing issues. Rather than accepting on blind faith, one should question the problem in that case.

          • For example, there is an observed phenomena in thunderstorms that appears to move at faster than light. Related to the sprites and blue jets, it not actually a faster than light particle or wave, it’s just the interface boundary of an EM field interacting with the atmosphere. Only by reframing the question into what known physical model could explain it, would one come up with the explanation. If you took it on face value, it would seem to require a faster than light “thing” to explain it.

            Since an expanding EM field does so in the fashion of an expanding bubble, where it makes contact with and interacts with another sphere like object (top of atmosphere) would seem to expand like a ring at phenomenal speed when the two “bubbles” first make contact.

            A good rule of thumb is that if the explanations don’t make sense, maybe the question itself should be revisited.

          • A 4mag quake is equivalent in energy released of 11000 tons of TNT,which equates supposedly to 12 million Kwh or 12000 MWh,or the output of a nuclear power plant.If you lubricate something such as your brakes you reduce the amount of energy that can be generated by friction,so a lubricated fault would have a lesser energy release than a fault that is locked?The energy for the quakes especially over mag 3 has to come from the earth itself?Expert posters feel free to find fault with this set of ideas as it would be educational😊

          • Geyser, you got a few to many zeros in their, or got a “kilo” in where there should be none.
            It would be about 15 tons of TNT.
            Or in the much more useful Big Mac-scale 19 863 Big Macs of energy.

          • Sorry Geyser, but your source is wrong.
            An M6 is roughly 15Kton.

            If you use the Lillie-formulation:

            A is the maximum ground displacement measured of the P-wave at 0.8Hz (in micrometers) and Delta is the epicentral distance in kilometers.
            Ponder upon it and you will see.

            The destructive force is 12 960 kilograms of TNT +/-5 percent for a M4. TNT is a shitty value to compare with.

            You can if you wish empirically test it with the Tsuboi and Tsumura formulations if you doubt it.

            A joule equivalent table of earthquakes in moment magnitude:
            M3 = 2GJ
            M4 = 64.8GJ
            M5 = 2.1TJ
            M6 = 68TJ

            Now, what is then a KTon in Joule? 1 kT = 4.184 TJ of course.

  6. Watch live: SpaceX’s booster will likely crash, but it’s trying a landing anyway

    → 6:25pm ET ←

    What is interesting, is that storm system that drove through here last night is wafting through south Florida. And they claim the weather is at 60% “go”.

    NOTE: It may have been deferred. The vid stream now says that it will start in one day.

    • Yup.

      “Update: Due to weather concerns SpaceX scrubbed Wednesday’s launch attempt. The company will try again Thursday, when the launch window again opens at 6:46pm ET.”

  7. Found a news webpage that shows that drone footage of the damage from last nights storm. Technically, that drone flight was full on illegal. That area is right on the flight path for the airport… but they weren’t flying. Only a fool would have lifted off in that mess of a storm. He does seem to have kept the drone under the corridor, but the FAA may not appreciate that since it was airborne in an approach region.

    http://www.news4jax.com/news/drone-shows-aerial-view-of-pensacola-storm-damage

    • It was unbelievably windy last night, I can’t imagine having to worry about tornadoes at the same time, my nerves are shot.

      • That’s why I stay on top of what the doppler imagery shows. It will pick off rotation while it’s still up in the cloud systems. Once the main part of the front that can produce that gets past, I settle down for a nice sleep.

        Dunno about your specific area, but around here, almost all tornadoes go east or north, or some where between that. The system that spouted our damage began off-shore and tracked in over Perdido Key up towards our area. Once it got within about 15 miles, the wife and my dogs went nuts and I had to get up to watch it on TV. After it passed, I went back to sleep. My wife finally gave out at around 4 am and dozed off in the chair. Storms drive her nuts. Can’t really say as I blame her, she’s been through pretty much the same ones as I have. In 1992, she had to put up with me barking orders at her and my mom like a drill sergeant. I was ordering them what to do to take shelter before the roof came off.

        That “North and East” rule of thumb doesn’t apply for land-falling tropical storms, their tornadoes will spin up and track with the feeder band’s flow. But, by nature they are usually small and quick to dissipate. They are also just as quick to form.

    • I have little regard for Drone operators who have not one bit sense
      on the operations of the dam’ things around real aircraft. More than
      once this last fire season there were multiple Drone ops that were
      involved in illegally operating on going wildland fires.
      My own solution to the problem is a .12ga magnum…
      But that is the Redneck way.. I tend to run with scissors…
      One of these days someone is going to get hurt…

      • Well, I did think it was quite handy for him to emblazon his name all over the video so that the authorities can track him down.

        The only reason that I know that the area is an air corridor is from the passenger aircraft on final that I usually see going over that neighborhood. Plus, it’s on the charts.

        This is the affected airfield‘s diagram. And runway 17‘s approach pattern. (FAF)”Brent” is about where his drone was at. As a pilot, you would know more about what is going on at that location in an aircraft than I would. My gut feel is that things are pretty busy in the cockpit as it is. Then some dingbat putters his drone up there. Yeah, fun fun. Just from the sheer mass, I don’t think a 737 is a nimble creature while on final.

        • FAF is the “Final Approach Fix!!!!) for usually some sort of instrument
          approach like say, an ILS (instrument landing system) Imagine being in the soup at oh 400′ agl and some idiot has his drone out there. ILS
          minimums can be as low as 100′ ceilings at even smallish airports…
          “PULL!” (as in trapshooting)

        • Speaking of Domes here is a very cool time lapse by the USGS
          of St. Helens. I used to fly inside the crater rim now it is filled in
          more than it was back in the late 80’s/90’s…:

    • And another M4 in Oklahoma which we are not allowed to attribute to the drilling there (I saw a little man upon the stairs / a little man who wasn’t there / He wasn’t there again today / O how I wish he’d go away). And a tasty M3.6 at Kilauea although not in the caldera.

      • Now the question is, who is drilling in Kilauea? 🙂

        It would be interesting to do a real study on those Oklahoman earthquakes. I do not doubt that the hydraulic fracturing practices can be the factor inducing the earthquakes. But, the size tells me that there must be something more going on down there than the releasing factor of the fracking.
        Sadly nobody will pay me to have that much fun… 🙁

        • That map seems to indicate that Oklahoma is on the tail end of stress zone stretching from the east coast though the new Madrid zone.Maybe stress is building up in the stronger areas further east and being released in Oklahoma?

          • The drilling is triggering earthquakes in regions of Oklahoma where the seismological risks were virtually non-existent. There are two maps of Oklahoma earthquake hazard, once from before drilling started and a recent one which I think included the drilling. Carl’s argument is that for the drilling to have had such a strong effect, there needs to have been a fault underground. Of course faults are completely stable as long as the stress is less than the friction. Putting fluid into such a zone is like oiling your brakes. By making one bit of a fault give, you can increase stress further down the line. Faults have consequences.

          • Yeah sure,but to trigger an earth quake of a certain size ,say 4.0mag,the fault has to move a certain distance and to be caused by facing that is one hell of a powerful pump?

          • “further east and being released in Oklahoma”

            Don’t forget that this was the boundary area for what used to be the Ozark Orogenic region.

          • Albert, you are over-simplifying things here a bit in my opinion.
            I do not debate the possibility that the triggering was caused by fluid reinjection. What I am arguing is that the energy for the earthquakes did not come from the fluid reinjection.

            In my opinion this was an active seismic region that for a long time (at least 250 years) have been under increasing strain at pre-existing faultlines. Just because there has been no significant earthquakes in that time period it does not mean that the area is inactive.

            The world (and indeed continental US itself) is famous for areas were nothing has happened for hundreds of years, and then suddenly a large M7 or bigger strikes seemingly out of the blue. Christchurch is but one example, Hebgen another.
            I am fully convinced that this M7 event would have happened in Oklahoma in due time. If that would have happened soon, or hundreds of years away, is literally written in the soil under the feet of the Oklahomians.

            How do I know that it is an active seismic region? That is simple, there is just to much energy released for it to be caused by fluid reinjection. The energy release at a local scale is just to big for it to be possible. Let us take last weeks debated object, at M5.1, that equals 1.5 kiloton of nuclear yield (give or take). There is no way that the small operation next door would have via fluid reinjection entered that amount of energy into the bedrock.
            The M5.1 was indeed caused by the fluid reinjection, but the sub-sequent faulting was not along the fluid reinjection strata, it was instead along a charged pre-existing faultline.

            However bizarre this may sound, I think that these premature ruptures of faultlines is beneficial in the way that they hinder a far more destructive earthquake down the line. I know this is not the politically correct answer, but I stand for it.
            On the other hand, I have my qualms about fluid reinjection in hydrocarcon well sites due to the very high risk of damaging, destroying and/or polluting aquifers and the watertable itself.

            In this case we are not talking about oiling a brake Albert, we are talking about oiling a flywheel on the verge of seizing up catastrophically, but at the same time we are pouring poison into the ice-cream-machine.

          • Having a bunch of smaller earthquakes will not prevent a large 7+ quake or necessarily delay it as the energy release is considerably larger.For example Christchurch had thousands of quakes after the 2010 and 2011 events yet still just this month had an offshore 5+ mag quake.Maybe causing earthquakes(if that is what is happening) is actually hastening the future occurrence of the large quake,so just causing an event to happen a little sooner than it would otherwise occur,but will occur anyway because the forces that cause it are far greater than anything man could hope to reproduce?

          • One thing is though clear, even if it was hastened it would be smaller.

            The amount of pent up energy is finite. Let us say that the pent up energy right now is M6.2 (this is just a number as good as any for the sake of this argument). If you by chance found the ground-lock of the faultline and lubricated that one this is the maximum releasable energy in the system.
            Now, let us say that the threshold of the ground-lock sans lubrication is M7 you have just released an earthquake 20 times less destructive than what the future earthquake would have been.

            Furthermore, the earthquakes that are currently released is due to localized lubrication of the faultlines. Let us now say that you reinject fluids at the mid point of the faultline causing an M5. What you have actually created is a discontinuity in the faultlines pent up stress field decreasing the likelihood that the entire faultline moves considerably.

            Now over to something else.
            If the oil companies did not reinject fluids all would be spiffing and well would it not?
            Quite the opposite actually. Instead you would have large scale subsidence. This in turn would also cause earthquakes and release the same pent up energy that was in the faultlines. This would in fact insert quite a lot of energy into the seismic equation, remember that the reinjection is done to neutralize the net effect, not to increase it.

            I reiterate, the earthquakes would be there whatever you do as long as you extract the oil from the ground. The more pertinent question is though what happens as you push hydrocarbons around, some of it will inevitably find a fracture and follow that into an aquifer.

  8. Oklahoma discussion: is fluid injection like oiling a brake or smoothing a flywheel?

    Static friction versus dynamic friction. Oiling flywheels reduces frictional energy for the moving object. Oiling the brakes of a car at the top of a slope can release a _lot_ of energy, in a rather unwanted way. Fracking reduces the coefficient of static friction, which is what keeps a fault locked in place. The funny thing about Oklahoma is that this induced swarm has now been going for over 6 years (it started when the drilling began) and has had some surprisingly large quakes. That suggests there is a lot of stress down there. Only a minute fraction is being released: I don’t think that the swarm itself will reduce stress significantly (a logarithmic scale can fool you here!).

    The main risk is that something pushes the fault somewhere over the edge, so that instead of a uniform stress along the fault, all the stress becomes foucssed in a smaller area. A much stronger quake could be triggered. This is speculative but should be considered in a risk analysis. Locked faults are probably very common. If no further stress builds up, they could be there indefinitely and you would not know about it – until you start putting fluids down.

    Geyser, Carl is completely correct that the fluid injection does not provide the energy for the quake: it releases energy already stored in the fault. Whether that energy would have been released eventually anyway: in some cases yes, but if the rate of stress build-up is low compared to the stored stress, than it would have been stable prior to the drilling.

    This is a controversial topic! We are not yet very good at geo-engineering. If you would try to defuse a fault, you may come up with a scheme involving fluid injection in strategic places (perhaps lots of them). You would probably not start with a random experiment ‘what would happen if I frack here?’

    Subsidence due to fluid extraction is indeed a real problem. It would not trigger M4-5 quakes though, but could cause structural defects in buildings.

    • I completely agree with what Albert wrote here.
      Geo-engineering are not something that we should dabble with ad hoc. Problem is just that we seem to be dabbling with it if we reinject fluid, or if we don’t. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. 🙂

      Albert, you came up with a profound question here I think. Let me restate it as a question:
      “Can all the stress become focussed in a smaller area instead of being distributed as a uniform stress?”
      To be honest I do not have an answer to this question, and I have never read anything about it, and as far as I know nobody has even asked this particular question. I think that there might be some quite interesting answers to be had in trying to solve this question with ramifications far beyond what we are talking about now.

      Profound on a Friday? Before first beer? Albert, is that even allowed? 🙂

      • Phew, saved by the bell.
        It was a trick question that Albert dished out here. 🙂

        No, in a finite system any release of energy can only lower the total amount of energy.
        But, the stress field could move if it is happening at a transverse or subduction-fault, thusly increasing the stress at another locked part of the fault in question. This means that there can be sub-sequent earthquakes along the same fault, but that they would be smaller since the available energy is less. I guess it was the latter thing that Albert meant.

        • Total energy will decrease from releasing stress. But stress is an energy density, and this can increase locally even when total energy decreases. Imagine a smooth stress along a fault. the fault gives way in one location. The stress there goes down as the fault in this location moves a bit. The movement reduces stress in the fault further down the line in the direction it was moving, but increases it in the opposite direction.

          You should also distinguish total energy from total releasable energy. In principle, only the energy above the stress level corresponding to the coefficient of dynamic friction is available for quaking. (During the quake, you go from static friction to dynamic friction. Motion stops when you drop below the dynamic coefficient, which is lower than the static one.) By moving stress around, so it is higher in some place and lower in others, you can indeed increase the total energy available for the earthquake.

          • And this was the highly more eloquent way of saying what I intended to say but failed miserably at 🙂

          • Yes but the source of the energy driving plate tectonics and therefore earthquakes has been releasing energy for 4 billion years continuously,that on human scale is an enormous amount of energy,therefore in effect “limitless” in output,so anything done on a human scale fades to the background in the greater scene of things.Just the layman’s view?

          • “anything done on a human scale fades to the background in the greater scene of things.Just the layman’s view?”

            Not if your house is built on the fault line in question

    • Here is an example from nature of what I and Albert are having fun discussing.

      A fluid injection earthquake starts fairly shallow and travel downwards as the rupture propagates.
      And what we are talking about is that such an earthquake could increase the stress on an adjacent fault-lock locally increasing the energy. Do note that we do not know if the first earthquake really was downward faulting, it is though probable in this case since the secondary earthquake was deeper than the first. Probable does not equate certain in this case.

      Friday
      26.02.2016 14:33:01 65.173 -16.451 11.8 km 1.2 61.77 4.8 km W of Herðubreið
      Friday
      26.02.2016 14:28:55 65.171 -16.444 6.0 km 1.0 60.01 4.5 km W of Herðubreið

      The first earthquake started as magma moved in what is a probable magma reservoir, this intruding magma is entering sideways (from south) at an angle, this moving magma is filling the function of fluid reinjection in this case. The earthquake then increased the strain on another locked zone and 4 minutes later that lock had it and the next larger earthquake happened.

      Perhaps this made it easier to follow the discussion.

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