School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

GeoWorld Spotlight Archive

Who owns that carbon dioxide? Apr 2013

Surely the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, has no owner as such? Not so in the world of carbon capture and storage. A “distinctly different” project to develop a method for fingerprinting carbon dioxide captured from fossil-fuel burning facilities will see Scottish researchers work alongside two pioneering carbon capture and storage (CCS) initiatives in Canada.


The two-year project by scientists from the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) partnership will examine how levels of natural tracers in CO2, such as noble gases like helium or argon, could provide a unique “fingerprint” linking CO2 to its capture facility. This, in turn, could help to identify the source of CO2 in the event of a leakage – an important aspect of the development of multi-user storage sites in the UK and further afield.

The study, which has secured part-funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRCC), will analyse CO2 from different capture facilities in the UK and North America, including CO2 captured from the Boundary Dam power plant in Saskatchewan province, Canada.

At Boundary Dam, the captured CO2 will be fingerprinted prior to its injection at the nearby Aquistore project’s saline aquifer storage site. A comparison of CO2 recovered from a monitoring well will show whether the CO2 has retained its fingerprint after movement through the aquifer.

Dr Stuart Gilfillan, research fellow with Edinburgh-based SCCS, who will lead the study, said: “Ongoing debate about the possibility of CO2 leakage from storage sites includes concerns over reliably identifying ownership of CO2. Research to date has failed to identify a cheap and effective means of unambiguously identifying leakage of CO2 injected, or a viable means of identifying ownership of it.

“Our research will show if this is a viable technique for tracking the movement of CO2 in future storage sites, particularly offshore saline aquifers that will be used for storing large volumes of the UK’s CO2 emissions.”

Dr Gilfillan’s project was highly rated by EPSRC and was awarded funding for the project on the grounds that it demonstrated a “distinctly different” approach from other proposals, and was considered “novel and timely with clear and appropriate aims”.

Canadian utility SaskPower is currently building at Boundary Dam what could be the world’s first full-scale CCS project at a coal-fired power plant. Meanwhile, Aquistore is a four-year research and monitoring project by Canada’s Petroleum and Technology Research Centre to demonstrate that storing CO2 deep underground is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Antarctic rocks help uncover clues about sea level changes Nov 2011

Ancient rocks embedded in the West Antarctic ice sheet could help scientists improve predictions of rising sea levels.

Click on an image for a larger view

Researchers will use sensor technology and chemical analysis to measure the cosmic radiation energy from exploding stars in space to which the half-a-million-year-old rocks have been exposed during their entire lifespan.

Their findings will indicate whether the ice sheet melted at the warmest point between the two most recent global ice ages, some 120,000 years ago, when sea levels rose by up to six metres. Melting ice would have exposed the rocks to more cosmic radiation than if they had remained embedded in the ice sheet, where they are now.

The research, led by the University of Edinburgh, will shed light on whether the ice sheet played a role in rising sea levels between the ice ages.

Understanding how the West Antarctic ice sheet behaved between ice ages will enable scientists to improve their models of past climates. This in turn enables more accurate predictions of how sea levels will change as climates continue to warm.

The three-year study will be funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and will be carried out in collaboration with the Universities of Northumbria and Exeter, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, the University of Cologne, and the British Antarctic Survey.

Dr David Sugden of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who will lead the research, said: "Studying these half-a-million-year-old rocks will help us discover whether they have always been where they are now - stuck in the ice sheet or if the ice sheet melted in warmer climates. This will help us predict whether we are heading for major sea level rises in the next century or so, as we head toward warmer climates."

For more information please contact:
Dr David Sugden, School of GeoSciences, +44 (0)7709 430758;
Dr Andy Hein, +44 (0)7973 779195;
Catriona Kelly, Press and PR Office, 0131 651 4401;

Nature: Seasonal changes in movement of the Greenland Ice Sheet Jan 2011

Results from a study investigating links between surface melt and the movement of the Greenland Ice Sheet were published online in the journal Nature on 26 January 2011.

Work carried out by Andrew Shepherd and colleagues at Leeds University, Pete Nienow in Edinburgh Geosciences and collaborators from the University of Sheffield and the Vrije Universiteit Brussels studying the dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet have revealed a close link between summer ice melt and ice movement. In summer, surface meltwaters drain to the bed of the ice sheet, lubricating the ice-bed interface and enabling the ice sheet to slide more easily - at times, more than twice as fast in summer compared with winter. The extent of the summer velocity enhancement is not only dependent on the amount of summer melt but also on the rate at which hydraulically efficient subglacial drainage channels become established at the glacier bed each summer. These observations demonstrate that assessments of the impact of melt-induced acceleration on Greenland’s flow must account for the seasonal development of the subglacial drainage system.

The observed behaviour, which is similar to that found in Alpine glaciers, provides a better understanding of how the ice sheet responds dynamically to changes in air temperature. The results, when incorporated into numerical ice sheet models, should help improve projections of sea level rise in response to climate change

For further coverage, see:

Climate class for business schools Jul 2010

Lessons on the risks and opportunities of climate change should be directed at future executives, given that many companies rival nations in greenhouse-gas emissions, writes Genevieve Patenaude in Nature

Businesses play a huge part in climate change. Direct greenhouse-gas emissions declared by 409 of 500 of the world’s biggest companies in 2009 added up to 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents1 — about the same as annual emissions from the European Union.

Read the full article:

Delivering REDD+: from Copenhagen to Cancun May 2010

..a Special Session organised by Dr. Patenaude
within the 18th Commonwealth Forestry Conference
Edinburgh. 28 June - 2 July 2010

The potential to mitigate global carbon emissions through the management and protection of forests and woodlands is huge. Forests cover about 30% of the global land area, store 45% of the terrestrial biosphere’s carbon and more than 1.6 billion people, including a significant numbers of the world’s poor, rely on them for their livelihood. Yet, forests are being degraded and destroyed at an alarming rate. The largest losses are observed in tropical forests of the developing world. Between 2000 and 2005, roughly 13 million hectares of forest disappeared annually. REDD+ is an attempt to provide a policy framework addressing this crisis.

While the need to reduce global deforestation and forest degradation is urgent, addressing this need poses numerous challenges. These stem from the complexity of the problem itself, the different national circumstances and the multiple drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. The failure to reach an agreement on REDD+ at Copenhagen exemplifies this. To stimulate innovative thinking for reaching a global consensus on REDD+, cross-fertilisation and the breakdown of disciplinary barriers is needed. To do so, platforms aiming at engaging actors with diverse interests and perspectives are needed.

The Commonwealth Forestry Conference, which brings researchers, business leaders, and policy makers in one single location provides such a platform. I therefore propose to capitalise on this to facilitate discussions and collaborations on REDD+ across institutions and disciplines. The aim of the day will be to summarise, explore and stimulate innovative thinking by building on available expertise, resources, networks, and technologies. The focus will be on delivering REDD+ now. To achieve this aim, the day will be structured as follows:

Session 12:
In this session, various country perspectives will be given including those from Norway, the leading nation in this field;

Session 13:
In this session, REDD+ is discussed from thematic perspectives. The session is divided into two parts. The first entails thematic presentations mirroring key REDD+ challenges:

  1. Finance and investments
  2. Forest ecosystems and services
  3. Governance, socio-economy and the law
  4. Earth observation and technologies for MRV.
In the second part of session 14, the audience is invited to bring in additional expertise; present examples from successful case studies; contribute to the discussions; and engage with panellists (two panellists per theme).

Sessions 14&15:
The two morning sessions will lead to an afternoon of working groups (divided into the four themes introduced above). Based on the morning sessions and the thematic discussions, the working groups will be tasked to draft recommendations for the delivery of a policy brief: Delivering REDD+ at Cancun.

Dr. Genevieve Patenaude
Lecturer, Forests and Carbon Management

School of GeoSciences
University of Edinburgh
Drummond Street
Edinburgh EH8 9XP
Tel: 0131 651 4472

Leafy Methane Aug 2010

The results of a new study of plant methane emissions was published online in the journal New Phytologist on 28 April 2010 combining expertise from the School of GeoSciences, the School of Biological Sciences and the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

The study combines results from laboratory experiments with satellite data on the leaf coverage of the Earth’s surface, ozone in the atmosphere, cloud cover, temperature, and information on sunshine levels to help work out the amount of methane produced by all plants on Earth.

The results suggest that plant leaves account for less than one per cent of the Earth’s emissions of methane –which is considered to be about 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at global warming. The results refine previous studies that had indicated that the quantity of methane produced by plants might have been much higher. The findings confirm that trees are a useful way of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, as their output of small amounts of methane is far outweighed by their capacity to store carbon from the atmosphere in their leaves, wood and bark.

Dr Andy McLeod, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Our results show that plant leaves do give rise to some methane, but only a very small amount – this is a welcome result as it allays fears that forestry and agriculture were contributing unduly to global warming.” Future research will examine methane production from parts of plants other than leaves, and the amount of methane given off by different species of plants in different regions of the Earth.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and Forest Research.

Read the abstract: In the news: See also:

Contact: Dr Andy McLeod, School of GeoSciences, tel 0131 650 5434;

What's going on with Eyjafjallajökull..? Sep 2010

After several months of precursory unrest (small earthquakes and ground swelling), a volcanic eruption began on the 20th March 2010, a few kilometres east of Eyjafjöll. The eruption generated relatively small lava flows and with minor ash emissions. Around the 7th April, activity waned at this location, but signs of unrest continued.

At 23:00 on 13th April, a swarm of small earthquakes indicated further unrest beneath Eyjafjöll itself, and at midnight, further seismic signals confirmed the onset of new eruption. The eruption is now located under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, and so presents more hazards than the earlier phase. The heat produced by sub-glacial eruptions melts the ice, potentially generating large floods (known as jökulhlaups). The water also interacts with the magma, resulting in a more explosive type of eruption, generating larger amounts of ash and sending the plume higher into the atmosphere.

In both a global and an Icelandic context, this is a relatively minor eruption, involving only small amounts of magma. This is a very typical eruption for Iceland, made slightly more notable by the location under the glacier, and the current meteorological conditions. As has happened during previous eruptions of Eyjafjöll, there is a possibility that the current eruption could evolve into a more explosive event, involving a different composition of magma, or could lead to activity at the neighboring volcano, Katla. Both scenarios could result in further ash production and disruption to air traffic. It is very difficult to say how long the current eruption could last; it is quite possible that activity (and disruption) could continue for weeks or months.

- Dr Andrew Bell and Rhian Meara

See Also:

In the news..

ESA’s Ice Mission Oct 2014

ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat-2 mission, launched on 8 April 2010, is dedicated to precise monitoring of the changes in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that overlie Greenland and Antarctica and variations in the thickness of the marine ice floating in the polar oceans. Pete Nienow has led three field campaigns to the middle of the Greenland Ice Sheet to help calibrate the CryoSat radar. The work, supported by NERC and ESA in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge, Leeds and University College London has involved in Edinburgh two NERC funded post-docs (Santiago de la Peña and Julian Scott) and one PhD student (Dr Vicki Parry).

Cryosat-2 was launched at 13:57 GMT on Thursday 8 April 2010 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

Animation © ESA /P.Carril

Smoking Legislation & Health Inequalities Mar 2010

Recent research in the School of Geosciences on the implications of the implementation of smoking legislation for health inequalities has received media interest.

Health Geographer Dr Jamie Pearce was part of a team of researchers considering the impact of the introduction of legislation in New Zealand that restricted the places where people can smoke. The results of the study suggest that whilst the introduction of the smoking legislation has reduced the rate of hospital admissions due to heart attacks, this effect may be greater in males, older age groups and those living in more affluent neighbourhoods. The research was published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Reports on the findings have appeared on the BBC, ITV, national newspapers as well as various international media outlets.

GeoSciences Masters Mar 2010

The School of GeoSciences offers Masters Degree Programmes studying Earth's natural environment, from perspectives of ecology, geography, earth sciences, resource management, atmospheric sciences, and human society. Our flexible, inter-disciplinary programmes offer high-quality training for a wide range of careers, such as GIS, research, or environmental consultancy.

Although a relevant background is often useful, applications are encouraged from graduates in physical or social science, engineering, maths, business, Humanities & Arts, or even those looking to return to education from the workplace.

Iberdrola Scholarships Mar 2010

Application Deadline - 07-Mar-2010

Up to 40 scholarships are now available for postgraduate study in the area of Energy Sustainability. These Masters and PhD Scholarships, provided by the Iberdrola Foundation, are available in the following areas:
  • Renewable energies
  • Sustainable energy system
  • Environment and biodiversity
  • Clean carbon technologies, emissions management and carbon capture
  • Energy efficiency
  • Energy storage
  • Electric vehicles
  • Smart distribution networks

Carbon Capture in SCIENCE Oct 2009

The capture of carbon dioxide at the point of emission from coal- or gas-burning power plants is an attractive route to reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. To commercialize carbon capture, as well as transport of liquified carbon dioxide and its storage in exploited oil fields or saline formations, many technological, commercial, and political hurdles remain to be overcome. Urgent action is required if carbon capture and storage is to play a large role in limiting climate change
..wrote Stuart Haszeldine in Science this week..


Listen to the Podcast:

Carbon Capture and Storage: How Green Can Black Be?
R. Stuart Haszeldine
Science 25 September 2009:
Vol. 325. no. 5948, pp. 1647 - 1652


Find out More:

Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage
CCS Global Sites Map
Subscribe to the SCCS News feed
SCCS Short Courses
CO2 Storage: Geology for Engineers (04-Mar-2010)
Risk and uncertainty in the geological storage of CO2 (05-Mar-2010)
"Carbon capture has a sparkling future"
'Solubility trapping in formation water as dominant CO2 sink in natural gas fields' Nature 458, 614-618 (2 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07852; Received 24 June 2008; Accepted 22 January 2009

Seismic shift in methods used to track earthquakes Sep 2009

Scientists have developed a new technique to monitor movements beneath the Earth’s surface, helping them better understand how earthquakes behave.

The team, led by scientists Andrew Curtis, Heather Nicolson and David Halliday from the University of Edinburgh, says that the new method, which uses data collected from earthquakes in a new way, potentially allows the Earth's seismic activity to be mapped more comprehensively.

Scientists currently monitor underground movements, such as earthquakes and nuclear tests, using seismometers – instruments that measure the motion of those events at the Earth’s surface. This helps to indicate where the events took place.

Now, by analysing the seismic waves produced during previous underground events, the team has been able to project how the site of each earthquake is affected by other earthquakes.. This has become possible by using earthquakes themselves as virtual seismometers that record passing waves from tremors that happen elsewhere in the world.

Using earthquakes in this way substantially increases the number of locations that could be used to detect seismic activity. And since earthquakes occur deep inside the earth, using them also allows scientists to monitor seismic activity from far deeper than previously possible.

Andrew Curtis, Professor of Mathematical Geoscience at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This turns the way we listen to seismic movements on its head. By using earthquakes themselves as virtual microphones which record the sound of the Earth’s internal movements, we can listen to the Earth’s stretching and cracking from directly within its most interesting, dynamic places.”

The research, published in Nature Geoscience, was carried out in collaboration with the British Geological Survey and Utrecht University.

Dr Brian Baptie, Seismology Team Leader at the British Geological Survey, said: “This discovery shows how we can measure strains deep inside the Earth and helps improve our understanding of the processes driving earthquake activity.”

The Earth’s surface is tiled by tectonic plates that move constantly relative to each other. The picture shows one tectonic plate subducting (descending) beneath another. The plates rub together, stretch and crack, causing earthquakes in the deep Earth. The researchers use those earthquakes as virtual microphones, to record real sound waves from movements in the deep Earth. (Picture reproduced with permission from the British Geological Survey).

For further information, please contact:

In the Americas time-zones, comment can also be obtained from:
  • Prof. Roel Snieder
    W.M. Keck Distinguished Professor of Basic Exploration Science
    Colorado School of Mines
    CO 80401-1887
    tel. 00 1 303 273 3456

CCS Sites Across the Globe Aug 2009

SCCS presents an interactive map showing commercially significant CCS sites (planned or operational) around the globe.

The Map is designed as an interactive resource for the emerging CCS industry. We invite industry members to locate their relevant site on the google map and feed information into the map as their project progresses.

The Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage is an innovative collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Heriot Watt University and the British Geological Survey, making Edinburgh a centre of excellence for research and development in carbon capture and storage. The Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage (SCCS) builds on and extends the established world-class expertise in petroleum and hydrocarbon geoscience based on geology, geophysics, geo-engineering and subsurface fluid flow. The Centre comprises experimental and analytical facilities, expertise in field studies and modelling, and key academic and research personnel to stimulate the development of innovative solutions to carbon capture and subsuface storage and sequestration.

CCS Global Sites Map
Queries or Updates? Email Yasmin Bushby

Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage
Subscribe to the SCCS News feed
SCCS Short Courses
CO2 Storage: Geology for Engineers (27-Aug-2009)
CO2 Injection and Enhanced Oil Recovery (28-Aug-2009)

Nature: Origin of Antarctic ice Sep 2009

Ice sheet development in Antarctica was a result of significant and rapid climate change c. 34 millions years ago.

In today's Nature paper 'The Gamburtsev mountains and the origin and early evolution of the Antarctic Ice sheet', Martin Siegert, David Sugden, and Simon Mudd from GeoSciences, and colleagues from the Polar Research Institute of China and the National Institute of Polar Research of Japan, suggest that Antarctica's first ice sheets formed during a period of significant climate change in the Earth's history.

They suggest that Antarctica's first ice sheets formed on central Antarctic mountain ranges, such as the Gamburtsev Mountains, around 34 million years ago. The authors present Chinese radar information suggesting that the Gamburtsev mountains were initially incised by rivers and later eroded further by ice movement. Their classic Alpine topography is buried beneath up to 3,000 metres of ice. The landscape probably developed more than 34 million years ago when mean summer temperatures were about 3 degrees Celsius, and the authors conclude that it has probably been preserved beneath the present ice sheet for around 14 million years.

Knowing how the polar regions respond to globally forced changes should help us understand the Earth's current changes in climate.

For further coverage, see:

Carbon capture has a sparkling future Apr 2009

One of a number of options available to mitigate the effects of man made CO2 on climate is the burial of emissions from power stations and other industrial sources. But how safe and how efficient is burial? The design and long-term viability of a CO2 storage critically depends on how and where the CO2 is stored.

Naturally-occurring carbon dioxide can be trapped in two ways. The gas can dissolve in underground water – like bottled sparkling water. It can also react with minerals in rock to form new carbonate minerals, essentially locking away the carbon dioxide underground.

Previous research in this area used computer models to simulate the injection of carbon dioxide into underground reservoirs in gas or oil fields to work out where the gas is likely to be stored. Some models predict that the carbon dioxide would react with rock minerals to form new carbonate minerals, while others suggest that the gas dissolves into the water. Real studies to support either of these predictions have, until now, been missing.

To find out exactly how the carbon dioxide is stored in natural gas fields, the researchers uniquely combined two specialised techniques. They measured the ratios of the stable isotopes of carbon dioxide and noble gases like helium and neon in nine gas fields in North America, China and Europe. These gas fields were naturally filled with carbon dioxide thousands or millions of years ago.

They found that underground water is the major carbon dioxide sink in these gas fields and has been for millions of years.

Dr Stuart Gilfillan, the lead researcher who completed the project at the University of Edinburgh said: “We’ve turned the old technique of using computer models on its head and looked at natural carbon dioxide gas fields which have trapped carbon dioxide for a very long time.”

“By combining two techniques, we’ve been able to identify exactly where the carbon dioxide is being stored for the first time. We already know that oil and gas have been stored safely in oil and gas fields over millions of years. Our study clearly shows that the carbon dioxide has been stored naturally and safely in underground water in these fields.” This suggests that models of long-term storage of CO2 waste in similar geological systems need to factor in the potential mobility of CO2 dissolved in water.

Nature 2nd April 2009 Letter p. 614; News & Views p. 583

The cover shows Chaffin Ranch CO2 geyser, Utah, which began erupting when a water-well was drilled into a saturated aquifer in the 1930s; the 2-cm jubilee clip, centre right, gives the scale.

See Also:

Mission to explore buried ancient Antarctic lake Mar 2009

An international team of scientists led by the UK has been given the go-ahead to explore one of the planet's last great frontiers - an ancient lake hidden deep beneath Antarctica's ice sheet.

During the next five years the researchers will acquire and develop the technologies needed for this ambitious project. During the 2012-2013 Antarctic winter season the research team will go 'deep field' into West Antarctica to sample water from the lake in the search for tiny life forms never before seen; and to extract sediment from the lake bed to find clues as to how the climate has changed over many millennia.

Consortium leader Professor Martin Siegert from the University of Edinburgh said, "This is a benchmark in polar exploration - our team will be the first to explore this ancient lake. It is a dark, cold place that has been sealed from the outside world and it's likely to contain unique forms of life. We hope to discover more about how life can exist in extreme environments and how Antarctica has changed in the past - which might help us understand more about other places on earth."

Read More: The University of Edinburgh is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Edinburgh: "Top of the Class" in Nature Jan 2009

Edinburgh 'Earth & Environmental Science' comes out top based on RAE Results, reports Nature:

Permanent mid-latitude northern hemisphere glaciation? Dec 2008

Geologists have long known that the Earth has gone through numerous glacial advances in the last two million years and that, barring interference by human activity, an ice age would "naturally" occur again in the next 20K-50K years.

Prof Tom Crowley has recently combined data and model analyses to suggest that the increase in climate variability over the last million years may be an indication that the climate system may have been evolving to -- not just another glaciation, but permanent midlatitude northern hemisphere glaciation.

Crowley and his co-author, William Hyde from the University of Toronto, base their interpretations upon the fact that increased variability is sometimes an indicator of an unstable system ready to transition to its new stable state.

Testing Classical Enigmas - Homer's Ithaca? Sep 2008

As geoscience edges closer to answering the riddle of "Strabo’s Channel" it may also solve one of the greatest mysteries in western literature, writes John Underhill in Geoscientist.

Methane Emissions from Plants? Jul 2008

The controversial question of how vegetation foliage can emit the greenhouse gas methane under aerobic conditions has been addressed in a paper in the journal New Phytologist by staff from The Schools of GeoSciences and Biological Science.

Read the abstract:

Andy R. McLeod, Stephen C. Fry, Gary J. Loake, David J. Messenger, David S. Reay, Keith A. Smith, Byung-Wook Yun (2008) New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02571.x

Nitrogen deposition and carbon sinks - Nature Geoscience Jun 2008

Rising High, Residentially Apr 2008

This project explores the play of difference and repetition in a global urban form, that being the modernist residential highrise. It investigates two cases that encapsulate the varied fortunes of the highrise: the UK, where the form is routinely condemned, even demolished; and Singapore, where it is embraced enthusiastically and continues to be built at greater heights and densities. The project elaborates an ethnographic and visual methodology, and a theory of relational materiality, to investigate the multi-scaled logics of such divergence and its implications for understanding social and urban space. The study contributes to current debates on in geographies of architecture and materiality, architectural technology, everyday urban life, transnationalism, and high-density living.

The residential highrise is one of the world’s most ubiquitous building forms. Its global spread, uniformity and apparent indifference to local conditions means it is routinely seen as an emblem of globalisation. Conceived within avant-garde continental modernism, then mainstreamed into state building programmes across the globe, it was repeated with a unique rigor in the history of human habitation. Underpinned by standardised production, guided by the concept of an aerated city, and packaged within a functionalist ‘machine aesthetic’, the highrise offered high-density dwelling within parkland settings – ‘healthy’, ‘rational’, ‘efficient’. Read More...

Longannet CO2 Storage Takes Off... Dec 2007

Carbon Capture & Storage hit the headlines this week, as the Longannet storage project becomes a reality:

GeoSciences in the Freezer Nov 2007

A number of subglacial lakes have been identified in Antarctica. These lakes have been isolated from the surface for considerable periods of time and each represents a unique environment. Life in subglacial lakes must adapt to total darkness, low nutrient levels, high water pressures and isolation from the atmosphere. Subglacial lakes thus represent unique biological habitats.

Drilling, sampling and studying subglacial lakes remotely and without causing their contamination represents a considerable physical and technological challenge. In this regard the exploration of ice lakes represents a good analogue for the exploration of planets and satellites such as Europa.

One subglacial lake in West Antarctica, named Lake Ellsworth, is well suited to exploratory research. This website presents information on a UK-led plan to survey, measure and sample this unique environment.

Sunless seas Nov 2007

Martin Siegert reports on the exploration of subglacial Lake Ellsworth in West Antarctica, and the latest expedition..

Emissions' scenarios offers starkly different futures Sep 2007

Dr David Stevenson, University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences, updates our knowledge of what controls the global distribution of tropospheric ozone and methane, and how sensitive these gases are to human influences. More...

Raindrops keep falling.. Jul 2007

For the first time, climate scientists have clearly detected the human fingerprint on changing global precipitation patterns over the past century.

The authors of this new study have demonstrated that human activities have contributed significantly to shifts in global precipitation patterns over the past century, including increased rain and snowfall in northern regions including the United Kingdom, drier conditions in tropical areas north of the equator, and increased rainfall in the southern tropics.

Gabi Hegerl, who joins the School as Reader in Climate Dynamics and Modelling on August 1st, worked closely with the first author, Xuebin Zhang, and Francis Zwiers on the analysis that led to the result, and on the interpretation and publication of the result.

See also News @ Nature, Scientific American, and BBC News.

Zhang, X., F. W. Zwiers, G. C. Hegerl, N. Gillett, H. Lambert, S. Solomon, P. Stott and T. Nozawa: Detection of Human Influence on 20th Century Precipitation Trends

GeoSciences Spinout - Finding Oil without drilling Jun 2007

Edinburgh University / GeoSciences spin-out business MTEM has been purchased by Norwegian group Petroleum Geo-Services.

MTEM's technology has attracted the attention of the oil majors from the day it was launched.

Potential fields are currently explored through seismic surveys followed by drilling. With a strike rate of one in four and at £10 million per well, the costs quickly rack up.

MTEM's technology is capable of distinguishing between oil, gas and water by sending controlled pulses of electric current between electrodes in the soil, and as a result could save oil companies billions - it simply determines whether deep underground reservoirs contain oil or not.

The technology enables oil companies to explore new locations and find hidden oil in mature producing fields.

'Nature' - The human footprint in the carbon cycle of forests Jun 2007

An Edinburgh-led international team of scientists has been studying the carbon cycle in forest ecosystems. One of the main results is published in Nature, June 14th (doi:10.1038/nature05847). The study has settled a long-running controversy and raised many new questions. The study shows the impact of human activities on the rate of uptake of carbon by forests in Europe and the USA. It demonstrates that via the direct effects of forest management and indirectly via the use of nitrogen fertilizers and nitrogen oxide production by cars and industry, human activities have had a profound and largely positive effect on the carbon balance or net ecosystem production. The implications of these findings for practical questions such as the merits of fertilizing forests with nitrogen to create stronger carbon sinks, are considered in the accompanying News and Views article.

Read the article at

Earth Science Video goes Online Jun 2007

The 2007 Edition Earth Science Recruitment Video is now available online (.mov, 11.7MB) - Watch it now, or see the Earth Science Prospectus Page.

Impossible peaks under Antarctica's ice May 2007

Martin Siegert is heading up a team to settle a long standing debate surrounding the formation of a mysterious mountain range hidden a kilometre below the Antarctic ice sheet. Data from the planned radar survey will allow Edinburgh scientist Stewart Jamieson to construct more detailed models of ice sheet behaviour to test Martin's theory, and yield crucial insight into how Antarctica will react to climate change. Read more in The Independent or New Scientist
Use the 'Institutional IP Login' to read the full text of the NS article, if you are inside the UoE domain

Religion in the Public Realm 18 May 2007 May 2007

This one day symposium is devoted to dialogue on the possibilities, potential, and perils of religion in the public realm. Speakers will explore the implications and importance of religion for a diverse range of issues, including: development, identity, democracy, well being, exclusion, and daily life. Through this dialogue, we hope to open a discussion about how to theorize and understand the multi-faceted role of religion in the public realm. Booking: Booking is required as space is limited. Please book with Robert Groves (tel: 0131 650 2527).

Impossible peaks under Antarctica's ice May 2007

Martin Siegert is heading up a team to settle a long standing debate surrounding the formation of a mysterious mountain range hidden a kilometre below the Antarctic ice sheet. Data from the planned radar survey will allow Edinburgh scientist Stewart Jamieson to construct more detailed models of ice sheet behaviour to test Martin's theory, and yield crucial insight into how Antarctica will react to climate change. Read more in The Independent or New Scientist
Use the 'Institutional IP Login' to read the full text of the NS article, if you are inside the UoE domain

Spring-time for sinks Apr 2007

Carbon sinks play a key role in slowing the growth of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. These sinks are at risk as the world warms, but their demise is not inevitable, say Dave Reay and his colleagues. Read the full article in Nature

Poverty reduction must not exacerbate climate change Apr 2007

A dilemma is looming for Governments with respect to their responsibilities towards the two greatest challenges for global society, climate change and poverty. The recent IPCC reports have highlighted the need to reduce carbon emissions, and Governments have turned their attention to the transport sector. However, any attempt to tax or reduce transport use is likely to have serious repercussions on international development and poverty alleviation strategies. Dr Terence Dawson and Dr Simon Allen, members of the Centre for Environmental Change and Sustainability, has raised this issue in a recent correspondence to Nature (Dawson, TP and Allen S, Poverty reduction must not exacerbate climate change, Nature 446, 372, 22 March 2007), which for subscribers, has been published online.

Polar Ice - are we in hot water? Mar 2007

Global Change: Symposium 2007 Mar 2007

Full Details are available on the GC Symposium Pages. (The Symposium is at St Cecilia's on Wednesday 21st March 2007)

Contact Andy Rutherford to register and for more information.

Why does the Moon look like this? Feb 2007

Recreating Moon rocks in the laboratory, simulating asteroid impacts - Dr Stephan Klemme brings us closer to understanding our nearest celestial neighbour... More...

Quest for Ithaca Jan 2007

Homers Iliad and Odyssey are two of the world’s oldest texts. The Iliad describes the events of the Trojan War, 12 Century BCE (Mycenaean era), while the Odyssey tells the story of the subsequent return of Odysseus to his palace on the island of Ithaca. For many years scholars believed that these poems described fictional locations. Three years ago Management consultant Robert Bittlestone proposed the theory that geological changes have altered the landscape. Professor John Underhill (University of Edinburgh) is helping to test the theory by exploring the geological evidence. More...

Antarctic Rivers Jan 2007

Evidence is emerging of large scale water flow beneath the Antarctic ice cap, and the prospect of sea level rise of between 5 and 70 metres. The School expert in this field, Professor Martin Siegert, is quoted in a New Scientist Article of 2 December 2006.

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Jan 2007

A volcanic plume that travelled halfway around the world is visible in the first image released from NASA's CALIPSO satellite. Read more on the New Scientist web site.