Friday Headlines, May 1, 2020

THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES

This week in paleontology (AKA Fossil Friday)

Swimming Spinosaurus

This week in geology

Earthquakes in Salt Lake City

This week in the environment

COVID improves the environment

New fossils rewrite the story of dinosaurs and change the appearance of Spinosaurus

For a blessed few days, the chatter on Facebook was about something other than COVID-19. A paper was published in the journal Nature describing the tail of the dinosaur Spinosaurus, a curious, fin-backed dinosaur featured in the movie Jurassic Park III.

In recent years, scientists have come to the conclusion than Spinosaurus was a semiaquatic dinosaur. This description of its tail – vertically flattened like that of a crocodile – further demonstrates the excellent swimming abilities of this dinosaur.

Quake rattles Salt Lake City, damages Mormon temple

It may be old news that on March 18 of this year, Salt Lake City, Utah was rattled with a magnitude 5.7 earthquake, which knocked the trumpet from the angel Moroni’s hand as he stood atop the Morman temple.

Since then, multitudes of aftershocks have hit Salt Lake Valley, raising the question for many: Why are there earthquakes in Salt Lake?

Much of western North America is a geologic province referred to as the Basin and Range. It is characterized by long, approximately north-south trending mountain ranges separated by valleys in between. Salt Lake Valley is one of these valleys.

These valleys and ranges are formed by stretching of the North American continent, resulting in north-south trending faults that separate the mountain ranges from the valleys between. The valleys fell down as mountains rose.

These faults are still active, including the Wasatch fault system that runs through Salt Lake City. The March 18 earthquake and the following aftershocks are a reminder of this.

Coronavirus and climate: how much impact is the current lockdown really having on our environment?

When countries asked their citizens to shelter in place people stopped traveling. Roads are empty. Stores closed. It’s quiet.

For years we’ve also been told to drive less because that reduces greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere which combats global climate change.

Now we have an opportunity to see if the latter hypothesis is true. Since we have (mostly) stopped driving, are there lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions?

The answer appears to be ‘yes.’ The details of potential alterations to the current trajectory of climate change are unclear, but we have decreased our emissions.

Now, can we get used to this and keep emissions down? Or is this just a temporary shift?

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