Fish pic and a blog program note

Fish Pic: I caught this King Mackerel this weekend fishing with some old buddies off Sunset Beach, North Carolina.  It is unclear how large the large mackerel was because the captain did not want to weigh the large fish — and I was taking orders.   He said it was around 23 pounds, though several experts tell me this is a ridiculous insult.

Program Note: We have changed the email notification for the blog to “weekly,” from “per post.”   All of us are wanting to blog more and this would probably amount to more than one blog per week, and thus more than one email per week to you.   We think a weekly email from RS is plenty.  But let us know, and we would be happy to reset you to “per post,”  “monthly,” or you can unsubscribe altogether using the anonymous link in the notification email.

We appreciate your patience as we continue to test WordPress and experiment with the best ways to communicate what we do with you.


Nanodiamonds and Carbon Spherules from Tunguska, the K/T Boundary, and the Younger Dryas Boundary Layer

I’m looking forward to my 2nd year defending a poster at the Fall AGU in San Francisco., December 14-18, 2009.   I put the other presentations for our 2009 session here :  “Younger Dryas Boundary:  Extraterrestrial  Impact or Not? (Caution: A Firefox browser will probably display this page incorrectly).

I’ll put the finished poster up as soon as  I can.

Here is the PBS-NOVA episode this spring on our theory.

Fall AGU \ San Francisco, CA. Dec. 13 -15

Nanodiamonds and Carbon Spherules from Tunguska, the K/T Boundary, and the Younger Dryas Boundary Layer

SESSION: Younger Dryas Boundary: Extraterrestrial Impact or Not?

AUTHORS (FIRST NAME, LAST NAME): James H Wittke1, Ted E Bunch1, Allen West2, James Kennett3, Douglas J
Kennett4, George A Howard5

1. Dept. of Geology, Northern Arizona Univ., Flagstaff, AZ, USA.
2. GeoScience Consulting, Dewey, AZ, USA.
3. Dept. of Earth Science and Marine Science Institute, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
4. Dept. of Anthropology, Univ. of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.
5. Restoration Systems, LLC, Raleigh, NC, USA.

Body: More than a dozen markers, including nanodiamonds (NDs) and carbon spherules (CS), occur in a sedimentary layer marking the onset of the Younger Dryas (YD) cooling episode at ~12.9 ka. This boundary layer, called the YDB, has been found at nearly forty locations across North America, Europe, and Asia, although not allmarkers are present at any given site. Firestone et al. (2007) and Kennett et al. (2008, 2009) proposed that these markers resulted from a cosmic impact/airburst and impact-related biomass burning. Here we report features common to the YDB event, the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T) impact, and the Tunguska airburst of 1908. In sediments attributed to each event, we and other researchers have recovered NDs either inside or closely associated with CS, which appear to be the hightemperature
by-products of biomass burning. CS range in diameter from about 500 nanometers to 4 millimeters with a mean of ~100 microns, and they typically contain NDs, including lonsdaleite (hexagonal diamonds), in the interior matrix and in the crust. To date, CS and NDs have been found in the K/T layer in the United States, Spain, and New Zealand. Similarly, CS and NDs have been found in the YDB layer in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Thus far, every site examined contains NDs and/or CS in the K/T and YDB layers; conversely, we have yet to detect CS associated with NDs in any non-YDB sediments tested. Five allotropes of NDs have been identified in association with CS: cubic diamonds, lonsdaleite, n-diamonds, p-diamonds, and i-carbon, which are differentiated by slight variations in their crystalline structure. All allotropes have been identified using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), high-resolution electron microscopy (HREM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) with confirmation by selected area diffraction (SAED). Lonsdaleite is found on Earth only in three instances: (1) in the laboratory, where it is produced by shock synthesis under a high-temperature-high-pressure regime (~1000°C to 1700°C at 15 GPa) or by carbon vapor deposition (CVD) under a very-high-temperature-lowpressure regime (~13,000°C at 300 Torr) (Maruyama et al., 1993); (2) after arrival on Earth inside extraterrestrial material; and (3) as a result of high-temperature cosmic impact/airbursts. Lonsdaleite associated with CS has been found in sediments only at the K/T, the YDB, and Tunguska, consistent with the hypothesis that all three events have cosmic origins, although the nature of the impactors may have been different.

KEYWORDS: [1605] GLOBAL CHANGE / Abrupt/rapid climate change, [3662] MINERALOGY AND PETROLOGY /
Meteorite mineralogy and petrology, [6022] PLANETARY SCIENCES: COMETS AND SMALL BODIES / Impact
phenomena, [6240] PLANETARY SCIENCES: SOLAR SYSTEM OBJECTS / Meteorites and tektites.
Previously Presented Material: 20% presented at AGU, 2008

Regulators Deserve Our Praise, and They Need Our Collaboration

Posted by:  Randy Turner

The Section 404 and Section 401 regulatory staff in North Carolina deserve a sincere pat on the back. Having been part of the regulated community for over two decades, I can honestly say that the taxpayers are getting good value for their investment. Almost without exception, these men and women are single-minded in their application of regulations that are designed to protect the aquatic resources of the state. I admire them for their commitment and dedication.

I have gotten to know many on the staff at the NCDWQ and the USACOE on a personal level through interactions at meetings, field reviews, countless phone and e-mail exchanges, and the occasional social outings. It didn’t take me long to learn that the culture they operate in is somewhat different from my own. They do not encourage or cultivate strong personal relationships within the regulated community. They cultivate strong and meaningful professional relationships, but they draw the line at fraternizing with the applicant population. That is certainly understandable, but the discipline they exercise and the success they achieve in maintaining a social distance from the applicant is remarkable to witness, as I have over a long period of time. I applaud them for being so scrupulous in avoiding circumstances that would subject them and the regulatory processes to compromising influences. On a personal note, it has been a little frustrating, because I have been close enough to some of these regulators to recognize the kindred spirits we share(d). A number of years back, one of them allowed his guard to drop and accepted an invitation from me to go fishing. We actually used his boat and had a great time, but there was no chance it could happen again. While I was somewhat disappointed, I fully understood what forces were at work.

One other aspect of the regulatory culture is the tendency to discourage and even be disengaging when it comes to informal discussions that deal with regulation and/or guidance. Routine, maybe even spontaneous, or impromptu discussions between regulators and the regulated could be very useful to fostering a better understanding of regulatory processes and mindsets on the part of the applicant community. Regulators might even experience some enlightenment in getting to know what motivates different applicants. The sad fact is, the regulatory culture appears not only to spurn after hours social interaction and development of personal relationships with the regulated community (justifiably so, as pointed out above), but it also seems to foster a lukewarm attitude toward engaging people on my side of the table in broad discussions about regulatory matters. I would surmise that some guidance is in place that discourages such informal discussions because of the potential for misstatements by the regulator(s) that would be present. Any misstatements could result in the propagation of erroneous information throughout the regulated community. Whatever the rules of behavior by the regulatory community, we are losing an opportunity to learn from each other.

If such informal discussion opportunities were encouraged, I can think of numerous topics that could be explored. One topic would be to discuss the distinctions between regulation and guidance, and might there be compelling situations that would allow case-by-case departure from guidance? Are drained silvicultural sites with hydric soils comparable to drained agricultural sites with hydric soils from the view of wetland restoration potential? When is it reasonable to consider stream restoration of a highly unstable, eroding, highly entrenched channel if its riparian buffer zones are healthy? In other words does guidance preclude any possibility of implementing a Priority 1 or 2 restoration design? What about stream guidance that requires the candidate site to exhibit an historical riparian valley before the site is deemed appropriate for stream restoration? The list of discussion topics goes on and on.

I have recently become excited about the possibility of making a dramatic impact on an entire local watershed via stream restoration/enhancement efforts, but am less than optimistic about its prospects of being embraced by the regulatory and environmental community because of existing predispositions regarding disturbance to the existing buffer vegetation. To the project proponent there is a powerful feeling that if a proposed project does not fit into the mold advocated by current guidance, it is not likely to be approved or advocated by those in the regulatory/environmental community even if the proposal would result in significant improvements to the long-term health of the overall watershed. In my opinion, that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If our collective goal is to effect ecologically meaningful mitigation projects, we need to be prepared to step outside our self-imposed boxes to accommodate projects which might not perfectly adhere to the ideal model envisioned by the regulatory and environmental review community. Case-by-case is certainly the way to go.

I cite two examples of projects that could make a significant difference in watershed improvements:

1. A highly degraded stream has been impacted by unrestrained cattle for decades in a pasture setting. Its upstream reaches are also highly degraded with almost vertical and very unstable banks and much incised channels. The upstream portions of the system are fairly well vegetated with vegetation that includes saplings and trees that range from 2” to 5” or 6” caliper trees (the latter size classes being very much in the minority). Any attempt to restore these upstream reaches would require the removal of some of the trees, although substantial numbers could easily be preserved.
2. A hydraulic conveyance, which has been heavily modified by agricultural operations for generations, qualifies as a perennial stream by every legitimate measure, collects surface runoff from nearly 2,000 acres and serves as the headwaters of a major (named) drainage system. The NCDWQ considers it to be a perennial stream for regulatory purposes and would require offsetting compensatory mitigation if impacts were proposed. Since lidar cannot confirm the presence of an historical riparian valley, the existing channel does not qualify as a candidate for stream restoration by the Wilmington District based on existing guidance. This conveyance delivers untold quantities of nutrients and pesticides to a major, named stream/swamp system immediately downstream. A proposed project would restore more than a mile of stream channel and many acres of riparian and non-riparian wetlands, as well as eliminate the agricultural presence in that watershed.

When the regulatory process curtails consideration of worthy projects in order to adhere to the literal reading of guidance, the environment loses. All that is needed is a willingness by the regulatory community to acknowledge there may be compelling circumstances where guidance can be interpreted in the interest of substantial ecological lift.