Public Release: 

Science picks - leads, feeds and story seeds (October 2002 edition)

US Geological Survey

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet - A two-mile wide meteorite traveling 60 times faster than a fired bullet crashed into the Atlantic Ocean 35 million years ago, causing the sixth largest known impact crater on Earth. Hidden beneath the Chesapeake Bay, the impact crater is thousands of feet deep and more than 53 miles in diameter. USGS, in cooperation with Prince William County (Va.) Public Schools, will host a live electronic field trip to the Chesapeake Bay impact crater as a satellite-television broadcast for students on October 9. USGS and other scientists will discuss their investigations of the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and how this 35-million-year-old crater affects thousands of people living in southeastern Virginia today. Demonstrations of a drilling rig, seismic surveys, and evidence of shocked quartz, tektites, and fossils will also be featured. For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater and electronic field trip, visit Heather Friesen ( 703-648-4460

World Disaster Reduction Day - October 9 is World Disaster Day, aimed at learning more about the effects of natural hazards on lives, property, and the environment. Check out and learn more about natural hazards. A message from the USGS Director is available online to use as op-ed material: Kathleen Gohn ( 703-648-4460

West Nile Virus Heads South for the Winter - Birds migrating south for the winter may be taking the West Nile Virus with them--enabling this deadly virus to establish a year-round presence in warmer climates. Scientists from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center said that in coming weeks, many birds will be moving to winter homes in the Caribbean and Central and South America and may take the disease with them, even if they are not sickened by it themselves. Some families of birds -- including migratory birds -- are not as susceptible to the virus and may be carriers without becoming ill. There is a strong possibility, according to USGS scientists, that those carrier birds may move the virus to their winter homes and infect local bird and mosquito populations there. For more information, visit Butch Kinerney ( 703-648-4460

Taking a Snapshot of "How Clean is My Water?" - On October 18, 2002, 30 years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, thousands of volunteers will be out across the country on National Water Monitoring Day sampling rivers and streams to commemorate advancements toward cleaner water. Sponsored by America's Clean Water Foundation, the USGS and a multitude of other governmental agencies and environmental groups will mark the anniversary by monitoring streams, holding water festivals, educational expos, and public meetings. USGS highlights include an educational river cruise on the Mississippi River, streamgaging at Lake Tahoe, scuba diving and manatee tracking in Florida, and insect collections in national parks and wildlife refuges. To learn more and get involved in these and other USGS National Water Monitoring Day activities, visit Butch Kinerney ( 703-648-4460

Curious about Water? - The power of water in people's lives is the theme of Earth Science Week (October 13-19, 2002), sponsored by the American Geological Institute. The USGS has open houses, workshops, field trips, and hands-on activities planned across the country from Arizona to Florida to Washington. Check out for what's going on near you. A message from the USGS Director for possible op-ed on "The Power of Water" is also available: Karen Wood ( 703-648-4460

A Whole Lot of Shakin' Going on in Memphis - Blasts detonated deep in sediments along the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn., in late October will simulate an earthquake and help scientists to understand how seismic "waves" move through the deep sand and clay layers of sediment that are characteristic of the Mississippi. The explosions will create seismic waves similar to what happens during a real earthquake. Scientists will use newly installed strong motion seismographs - part of a national first-line of defense network called the Advanced National Seismic System - to read these waves an learn more about how buildings and other infrastructure are affected by ground shaking. People within a few miles of the blasts may feel them, but they will not be large enough to cause damage to buildings. The Memphis area is part of the New Madrid seismic zone, an earthquake hot spot in the country where more earthquakes occur that any other part of the U.S. east of the Rockies. Back in the winter of 1811-12, the central Mississippi Valley was struck by three of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history. Builders, developers and the insurance industry can factor this kind of earthquake shaking information into how and where buildings are built and how building codes and zoning regulations are developed. For more information, visit Carolyn Bell ( 703-648-4460

Earthquake Maps in Minutes - By using data from seismographs with high-speed communication technology through the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), emergency responders can get essential information--in minutes--that can save lives and property after an earthquake. ANSS is a national initiative to install strong motion seismographs in vulnerable urban areas to provide real-time information on how the ground responds when a strong earthquake happens. The strong motion instruments provide emergency response personnel with real-time maps of severe ground shaking, provide engineers with information about building and site response, and provide scientists with high-quality data to understand earthquake processes. More than 200 ANSS earthquake monitoring instruments have been installed across the United States, with 25 instruments in the central U.S. New Madrid seismic zone (AR, IL, IN, KY, MO, TN), and more than 175 instruments in seismically active urban areas, including San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Anchorage, and Reno. For more information, visit Carolyn Bell ( 703-648-4460

Ice is Nice - For Studying Global Climate Change - Glacial ice that was already middle-aged when mastodons roamed the Earth holds clues to what the atmosphere was like hundreds of thousands of years ago -- long before human activities could have had any effect on climate. Carefully preserved at -32 degrees F at the National Ice Core Lab in Denver, Colorado, ice cores from Antarctica, Greenland, and other locations provide an abundance of climate information, such as temperature, precipitation, atmospheric gas composition, volcanic eruptions, and solar variability. Because these properties are all captured in a "moment in time" geologically, ice cores are a powerful tool in paleoclimate research, offering a more complete record than any other natural recorder of climate such as tree rings or sediment layers. The laboratory is jointly funded and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Learn more at: Jon Campbell ( 703-648-4460

National Geography Awareness Week - Mark your calendars for November 17-23, and discover "America's Backyard: Exploring Your Public Lands," the theme for this year's National Geography Awareness Week. USGS is also celebrating GIS Day, November 20, which is part of National Geography Awareness Week. Activities will include speaker presentations, a map/poster contest and gallery, mini-workshops, USGS mapping center tours, and more. Check out the USGS web site,, for updates.


Looking for other science stories? Check out the USGS web site: -- there are a thousand and one stories waiting for you. Contact the USGS Office of Communications, Public Affairs Team at 703-648-4460.

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