News stories about BGS

A selection of recent news, that includes mentions of the British Geological Survey, reported in online news websites. Click on a heading link to read the full article.

At the same time, a second study reported, even the most aggressive timetable for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will need a big boost from largely untested carbon removal schemes to cap warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Above that threshold, say scientists, the risk of climate calamity rises sharply. Earth is currently on a 4°C trajectory. Both studies, coming months before 195 nations meet in Paris in a bid to forge a climate pact, conclude that deep, swift cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are crucial. Planetary-scale technical fixes - sometimes called geo-engineering - have often been invoked as a fallback solution in the fight against climate change. But with CO2 emissions still rising, along with the global thermostat, many scientists are starting to take a hard look at which ones might be feasible. Research has shown that extracting massive quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere, through intensive reforestation programmes or carbon-scrubbing technology, would in theory help cool the planet. But up to now, little was known about the long-term potential for these measures for restoring oceans rendered overly acidic after two centuries of absorbing CO2. Increased acidification has already ravaged coral, and several kinds of micro-organisms essential to the ocean food chain, with impacts going all the way up to humans

Scientists led by Sabine Mathesius of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany used computer models to test different carbon-reduction scenarios, looking in each case at the impact on acidity, water temperatures and oxygen levels. If humanity waited a century before sucking massive amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere, they concluded, it would still take centuries, maybe even a thousand years, before the ocean would catch up. In the meantime, they researchers say, corals will have disappeared, many marine species will have gone extinct and the ocean would be rife with dead spots. "We show that in a business-as-usual scenario, even massive deployment of CO2 removal schemes cannot reverse the substantial impacts on the marine environment -- at least not within many centuries," Mathesius said. Even in a scenario in which large-scale carbon removal begins in 2050 - assuming such technology is available - the ocean does not fare well. "Immediate and ambitious action to reduce CO2 emissions is the most reliable strategy for avoiding dangerous climate change, ocean acidification, and large-scale threats to marine ecosystems," the researchers conclude. Scientists commenting on the study said it should sound an alarm. "The threat of ocean acidification alone justifies dramatic and rapid reduction of CO2 emissions," said Nick Riley, a research associate at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

4 August 2015

Professor Rob Ward, Director of Groundwater Science at the BGS, commented on the research: “This study has for the first time estimated the amount of phosphorus entering the environment directly from leaking water pipes. Whilst the addition of phosphorus to drinking water is beneficial to our health by reducing our exposure to lead from old pipes, its leakage can have a very damaging impact on the environment by affecting the ecology of streams, rivers and estuaries.” Dr Daren Gooddy, a scientist at the BGS who led the research, said: “Previous studies considering inputs of phosphate to the environment have not considered leaking mains water. Consequently, considerable efforts have been put into reducing phosphate inputs from agriculture and, in particular, from waste water treatment plants. This means that as we reduce phosphate loading from these sources, under the current practice, the relative contribution of phosphate dosed drinking water will increase.” The research has recently been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology

4 August 2015

Dubbed the 'Magna Carta of geology', William Smith's 1815 map of England and Wales was the first to detail the geology of the UK, and represented the culmination of a lifetime's work for Smith, who was shunned by the scientific community and banished to a debtor's prison. However today it takes pride of place at Cambridge's Sedgwick Museum, as the only such map on public display in the world. Museum director Ken McNamara said: "This is the world's earliest geological map. Smith was working from a position of no knowledge when he began.

"Nobody had ever attempted this before and it's really quite staggering what this one man achieved over 10 or 15 years, travelling up and down the country as a canal surveyor. "It's incredibly accurate, even now in 2015. "If you compare the current geological map of Great Britain today there are amazing similarities. "The British Geological Survey still uses the same colour scheme that Smith devised. Chalk is green. Limestone is yellow and it's still done like that to this day. This started geology as a modern science. "It's like the Magna Carta of geology, the beginnings of geology as a modern science and that's why it's so important." For many years the museum knew it possessed two of Smith's great maps, but two years ago a third copy was rediscovered in the collection. Found folded in a box with other early maps, staff believe it had not seen the light of day since Queen Victoria was on the throne. The faded map was then conserved by experts in Duxford, who worked to clear the 19th-century grime and dirt. The museum, on the university's Downing Site, is open six days a week

1 August 2015

Global warming has seemingly slowed because the top 100 metres of the Pacific Ocean has cooled − or it could be because natural climate cycles keep the atmosphere relatively cool for three decades and then warming accelerates for the next 30 years or so. But while climate scientists are still trying to understand precisely why the rate of global warming this century has apparently slowed, they predict that the record-breaking temperatures in 2014 will be surpassed this year. Potential explanations for this so-called pause are like London buses: you wait for a while, and then two come along at once. Researchers from the US report in the journal Science that the planet has absorbed more heat than it has radiated back into space, but the extra warming is trapped, for the moment, somewhere between the 100 metre and 300 metre layers of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. That is, the warming is there, but you just can’t feel it yet.

Average global temperatures have risen 0.9°C since the start of the 20th century. But research scientist Andy Chadwick, of the British Geological Survey, writes: “Anthropogenic emissions are not the only game in town, and that is why the observed temperature variation is more complex.”

29 July 2015

The grants totalling £4.7M were funded in the first round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), which was developed by BBSRC and NERC, together with industry, to support innovative projects that will provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors. Among the funded studies is work to improve the drought tolerance of wheat, research to determine the best foodstuffs for ruminant animal health and production, and a project focused on optimising the use of buffer strips to enhance hydrology and water quality. Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “These studies will help address important challenges for the UK’s farming industry, which is worth billions to our economy, and help progress towards sustainable agricultural systems for the future. “The collaboration between industry and the Research Councils as part of SARIC will streamline the translation of findings from these studies into tangible benefits for producers and consumers, and help us meet the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing world population.”

28 July 2015

The project seeks to confirm the presence of petrochemicals in the voltaian basin that stretches across Volta, Northern, Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo and Eastern regions. It is being jointly spearheaded by the Ghana National Petroleum Company and the Petroleum Ministry. A stakeholders' meeting to sensitise the chiefs in the Asante-Akim North District and collate their views ahead of the preliminary seismic work has been held at Agogo. Ananekrom, a farming community near Agogo, is one of the 66 communities in 24 districts, where the seismic line passes and therefore the need to engage the people. Mr Seth Foli, Environmental Engineer of the GNPC, said the project would take off in March, next year, and would be carried out for two years. Previous works done by the Geological Survey Department, British Geological Survey, Water Resources Institute and other researches pointed to a potential discovery of oil in the basin. He said mitigation measures had been put in place to control the impact on the people - land, crops and the ecosystem, adding that, a committee would be set up to ensure that those affected by the activity are adequately compensated. He gave the assurance that GNPC would do everything to collaborate with relevant state agencies to uphold best international practices. Mr. Peter Anarfi, the Ashanti Regional Minister, welcomed the project and said it was in the nation's best interest. He underlined the need for the country to focus on onshore oil and gas exploration and urged the people to cooperate with the GNPC.

26 July 2015

The British Geological Survey has recorded a small earthquake just south of Caldbeck. Measuring 1.6 in magnitude, it happened around 11am on Friday. Anything under two on the Richter Scale is classed as a microearthquake and is usually never felt. The last one previously recorded in Cumbria by the BGS was on June 30, in Aspatria, measuring 0.6 on the Richter Scale.

20 July 2015

Minecraft has taken its virtual world and dimensional maps to a whole new level at the British Geological Survey with the creation of 3D geological representations of the UK. London, York and Ingleborough are among the areas showcased in the models' natural geographic behaviours including land overlaps and folds at different levels of depth. Players will also be able to see the other side of the map, enabling the users to see rocks and soil below ground level. The creators of Minecraft at BGS used the free models to convert the below-ground scenery into transparent Minecraft blocks, giving users a more realistic feel and easy comprehension of geological theories of how ground layers are formed. The map has been tested by Iain Stewart, Professor of geosciences communications at Plymouth University. “This is what we geologists always have in our minds when we map and model the rocks of the UK, this is a fantastic tool for young people to see the interaction between the above and below ground,” he said. Rosie Wildman, age 8, had the opportunity to give it a go. “It’s really cool," she said. "You can find your way around the world and see what it’s like underground.”

17 July 2015

The new agreement is the latest in a series of the School’s initiatives to address one of the most pressing issues for world leaders today, the low carbon and sustainability agenda. The University of Texas at Austin, The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and US energy generator, Southern Company Services (SCS) have committed to collaborate with China’s Guangdong CCUS Centre. The partners will collaborate on joint research and development of new technologies aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions through the capture and storage of CO2 emissions from industry. The collaboration will assess CO2 capture technologies and evaluate the viability of novel and safe storage facilities, such as offshore geological formations. The Guangdong CCUS centre was officially founded in 2013 as a joint project between UK and Chinese engineers and scientists, including researchers from the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) research partnership, of which the University of Edinburgh is one partner. Dr Xi Liang, Director of the Centre for Business at Climate Change at University of Edinburgh Business School, signed the agreement in his capacity as Secretary General of the Guangdong CCUS Centre.

He said: "Through the Guangdong CCUS Centre, we are making great progress in demonstrating the benefits of CCUS in China. This is the latest milestone on our journey to develop technologies with potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions from energy production and key industries worldwide. We are very pleased to have these new US partners backing the project, and hope this will lead to further collaborations between the three countries." In 2011, the School created the world’s first MSc in Carbon Finance to develop responsible low carbon investment leaders. It also recently developed a strategic partnership with Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management – to integrate its world-leading expertise in carbon finance, management and strategic leadership with the leading Chinese business school’s financial innovation and economics capability. The University of Edinburgh was one of the founding partners of the SCCS research partnership, which also includes British Geological Survey, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Strathclyde

11 July 2015

The igneous rock has historically been widely used across the region for building everything from bridges to mansions.Now scientists are looking at ways to tap the hot water that naturally flows through the rock deep underground and use it to provide heat for an entire town.The Hill of Banchory Geothermal Energy Project will see surveys undertaken at three locations in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, by Aberdeen University and the University of Glasgow.A team of geologists plan to identify hotspots where groundwater is naturally heated by the granite and which could be extracted using a drill rig and pumped to local homes.If the research proves successful, the heat could be harnessed through a distribution network across the entire area.A positive result could also help the launch of similar projects across the wider region and turn the north-east into a geothermal goldmine.The project is a joint venture between Jigsaw Energy, Hobesco Cluff Geothermal Ltd, the British Geological Survey, the universities, Town Rock Energy, and Ramboll.

9 July 2015