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Martian mountains, manmade earthquake detection and more from the U at AGU

December 09, 2016

University of Utah researchers will be among the approximately 24,000 scientists convening in San Francisco for the annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union Dec. 12-16. Attendees gather at the world's largest Earth and space science meeting to share recent findings and navigate the future challenges of their respective fields. Below are summaries of select presentations at the meeting, along with the time and date of the presentation and primary contact information. All times are in Pacific Standard Time.

Utah's "cosmic navel" yields insights about Mars

The Curiosity rover continues its exploration of Mars' Gale Crater and the crater's most prominent feature, Mount Sharp. Scientists hope that Curiosity's study of the mountain will help reconstruct the geological history of the area as the rover studies numerous sedimentary rock layers. The odd moat-like geology surrounding Gale Crater has an analog on Earth, a geologic feature in southern Utah dubbed the "cosmic navel" or also called the "Inselberg pit." According to University of Utah geologist Marjorie Chan, the pit features a carved moat of rock with an internal mound produced by wind erosion. This unusual example can help geologists better understand the forces that shaped Mount Sharp.

EP21A-0848: A Terrestrial Wind Erosion Analog for Mound and Moat Morphology of Gale Crater, Mars

Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, 8 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Moscone South - Poster Hall

Marjorie Chan, professor, Department of Geology and Geophysics, 801-581-6551,

Tell-tale signs of manmade earthquakes

Nuclear tests, mining activity and deep wastewater disposal all cause seismic activity. To discern between manmade and natural earthquakes, researchers at the University of Utah Seismograph Stations compared two measures of an earthquake's power: the local magnitude, or amplitude of the seismic waves, and the coda duration, a measure of the duration of the shaking. Comparing those two metrics in natural seismicity with those in probable mining-related events in Utah, the researchers found a clear difference between the characteristics of deep, natural earthquakes and manmade shallow seismicity. The signature could help international observers identify nuclear test activity and could aid in forensic analysis of suspected manmade earthquakes.

S31A-2721: Magnitude Based Discrimination of Manmade Seismic Events From Naturally Occurring Earthquakes in Utah, USA Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, 8 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Moscone South - Poster Hall

Keith D. Koper, professor, University of Utah Seismograph Stations, 801-585-3669,

Lightning can generate gamma-ray bursts

Gamma rays are the highest-energy photons, emitted from radioactive decay, nuclear explosions and massive hypernova collapses of stars. But these packets of energetic havoc are also formed, albeit briefly and weakly, by lightning. Satellites had previously observed these bursts, called Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes, in upward-propagating lightning high above the surface of the earth, in the lower stratosphere, lasting only a few milliseconds. Now, using the University of Utah's Telescope Array, a cosmic ray detector in west-central Utah, scientists have observed gamma-ray flashes triggered by lightning that often reached the ground. The flashes are short, only a few microseconds, but show that lightning's high energy can generate more than just a flash and bang.

AE32A-01: Ground-Based Observations of Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, 10:20-10:35 a.m., Moscone West - 3001 John Belz, associate professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 801-585-9620,

Sensors on a train

For the past two years, light rail trains crisscrossing the Salt Lake Valley have done more to help the valley's air than just keeping passengers off the road. Sensors placed on the trains by University of Utah scientists continually monitor Salt Lake's urban air, particularly levels of carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and particulate matter. The train-mounted sensors provide repeated sampling transects across the valley, helping researchers to understand the dynamics of urban air pollution. At AGU, the team will present their initial results from methane measurements.

A51K-0247: Evaluating Urban Methane Emissions with a Light Rail Vehicle Platform in Salt Lake City, UT Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, 8 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Moscone South - Poster Hall

Logan Mitchell, postdoctoral scholar, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, 541-207-7204,
More abstracts presented or co-authored by researchers from the University of Utah:

PP53B-2386: Paleoclimate and Paleoecology of Central Utah during the Past ?200,000 Years from Soil Carbonate Pendants
A51K-0248: Testing a high resolution CO2 and CO emission inventory against atmospheric observations in Salt Lake City, Utah for policy applications
H13M-1609: Nitrogen and Phosphorous Uptake in Plant Biomass of Experimental Bioretention Systems in Utah S53C-04: Using a Large N Geophone Array to Identify Hydrothermal Seismic Sources in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park
A23F-0286: Relationships between Tropical Rainfall Events and Regional Annual Rainfall Anomalies
A31I-0175: Integrating wildfire plume rises within atmospheric transport models
A53M-05: Evaluating Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions in the Urban Salt Lake Valley through Inverse Modeling: Combining Long-term CO2 Observations and an Emission Inventory using a Multiple-box Atmospheric Model
B11B-0440: A direct measurement of the stable isotopes of transpired water vapor in a northern Michigan forest
H33E-1588: Evaluation of a low cost wireless heat ratio method system for measuring transpiration
H41A-1278: Application of water quality model of Jordan River to evaluate climate change effects on eutrophication
H43C-1438: A Novel Method for Simulating Stochastic Simulations of Daily Precipitation and Air Temperature at Multiple Sites
S43A-2816: Modal Analysis of Two Bridges, Bryce Canyon National Park
EP21A-0860: Aeolian Sediment Transport on the Bonneville Salt Flat
A51K-0246: A Modeling Framework for Inference of Surface Emissions Using Mobile Observations
H11H-03: Persistent Urban Impacts on Surface Water Quality Mediated by Stormwater Recharge
H33J-1702: Multidecadal comparison of stable isotope and major ion geochemistry in a shallow brine aquifer

University of Utah

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