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January 6, 1997

Research Update

Earth scientists gathered in San Francisco the week before Christmas for their largest annual confab, the American Geophysical Union meeting. As usual, UCSC researchers represented themselves well, giving about 60 talks and posters. Short summaries of five talks of interest appear below. For the full text of each article, click on the title.

New way to gauge ages of stalactites may yield climate-change tool

The slow but relentless drippings of calcium-rich water in caves may open a new window on earth's past climate, thanks to a precise dating technique under development at UCSC.

Improved techniques needed to measure trace metals in groundwater

Standard techniques for measuring metals in groundwater may drastically overestimate their levels, forcing owners of supposedly contaminated sites to "remediate" problems that may not exist.

Roots of "hot spots" may extend to earth's core-mantle boundary

"Hot spots," the isolated patches of volcanism unrelated to plate tectonics, may spring from surprisingly deep within the planet: the turbulent boundary between earth's mantle and its core.

Recent quakes don't appear to violate seismic gap hypothesis

The seismic gap hypothesis of earthquake recurrence, threatened by four large and seemingly "premature" quakes in the last two years, appears under closer scrutiny to remain valid.

Fluids flow fleetly under the seafloor

Hydrogeologists have taken the closest look yet at the intricate cycle of fluids that flow relentlessly beneath the seafloor. That flow, it now appears, is far more forceful than expected.

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