Who says asphalt isn’t natural?

Given this revelation, I expect someone to argue soon that this climate monitoring station in Tremonton, Utah is in a natural environment. ;-)

Tremonton UT COOP-A Climate station looking-south

From the University of California, Santa Barbara

Scientists discover underwater asphalt volcanoes

Impressive landmarks hidden for 40,000 years rise from sea-floor.


Click for larger images

From left, UCSB's Christopher Farwell, Sarah Bagby, and David Valentine with asphalt recovered from underwater volcanoes during a dive on the research submarine Alvin. Credit: George Foulsham Office of Public Affairs

High-resolution bathymetry of one of the extinct asphalt volcanoes, collected using the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry. Credit: Dana Yoerger

<a href= #description>Full description below. †††</a>

A schematic diagram shows the formation of an asphalt volcano and the associated release of oil and methane to the surrounding environment. Credit: Jack Cook

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– About 10 miles off the Santa Barbara coast, at the bottom of the Santa Barbara Channel, a series of impressive landmarks rise from the sea floor. They’ve been there for about 40,000 years, but they’ve remained hidden in the murky depths of the Pacific Ocean –– until now

UC Santa Barbara scientists, working with colleagues from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), UC Davis, University of Sydney, and University of Rhode Island, say that they have identified a series of asphalt volcanoes on the floor of the Santa Barbara Channel. The largest of these undersea Ice Age domes is at a depth of 700 feet (220 meters) –– much too deep for scuba diving –– which explains why the volcanoes have never been spotted by humans.

“It’s larger than a football field long and as tall as a six-story building,” said David Valentine, professor of earth science at UCSB and the lead author of a National Science Foundation-funded study published online this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. “It’s a massive feature, completely made out of asphalt.”

Chris Reddy, director of the Coastal Ocean Institute at WHOI and a co-author of the study, has studied oil spills his whole career. “These volcanoes are an astonishing display of nature,” Reddy said. “And they underscore one little-known fact: Half of the oil that enters the coastal environment is from natural oil seeps like the ones off the coast of California.”

Valentine, Reddy, and their colleagues first viewed the volcanoes during a 2007 dive on the research submarine Alvin, though Valentine credits Ed Keller, professor of earth science at UCSB, with guiding them to the site. “Ed had looked at some bathymetry (sea floor topography) studies conducted in the 1990’s and noted some very unusual features,” Valentine said.

Based on Keller’s research, Valentine and other scientists took Alvin into the area in 2007 and located the mystery features. Using the sub’s robotic arm, the researchers broke off samples and brought them to labs at UCSB and WHOI for testing. In 2009, Valentine and colleagues made two more dives to the area in Alvin and also did a detailed survey of the area using an autonomous underwater vehicle, Sentry, which takes photos as it glides about nine feet above the ocean floor.

“When you fly Sentry over the sea floor, you can see all of the cracking of the asphalt and flow features,” Valentine said. “You can see all of the textures of a flowing liquid that solidified in place. That’s one of the reasons we’re calling them volcanoes, because they have so many features that are indicative of a lava flow.”

But tests showed that these aren’t your typical lava volcanoes found in Hawaii and elsewhere around the Pacific Rim. Using a mass spectrometer, carbon dating, microscopic fossils, and comprehensive, two-dimensional gas chromatography, the scientists determined that these are asphalt and were formed when petroleum was flowing from the floor of the channel about 30,000-40,000 years ago.

The researchers also determined that the volcanoes were at one time a prolific source of methane, a greenhouse gas. The two largest volcanoes are about a kilometer apart and have pits or depressions surrounding them. These pits, according to Valentine, are signs of “methane gas bubbling from the subsurface.” That’s not surprising, Valentine said, considering how much petroleum was flowing. “They were spewing out a lot of petroleum, but also lots of natural gas,” he said, “which you tend to get when you have petroleum seepage in this area.”

The discovery that vast amounts of methane once emanated from the volcanoes caused the scientists to wonder if there might have been an environmental impact on the area during the Ice Age. Valentine found two high-profile studies, one in the journal Science and the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which examined events from that time, including a period in which water in the channel became anoxic. “It became a dead zone,” Valentine said. “We’re hypothesizing that these features may have been a major contributor to those events.”

While the volcanoes have been dormant for thousands of years, the 2009 Alvin dive revealed a few spots where gas was still bubbling. “We think it’s residual gas,” said Valentine, who added that the amount of gas is so small that it is harmless because it never reaches the surface.

Other co-authors of this study are Christopher Farwell, Sarah C. Bagby, Brian A. Clark, and Morgan Soloway, all from UCSB; Robert K. Nelson, Dana Yoerger, and Richard Camilli, from WHOI; Tessa M. Hill, UC Davis; Oscar Pizarro, University of Sydney; and Christopher N. Roman, University of Rhode Island.

High-resolution bathymetry of one of the extinct asphalt volcanoes, collected using the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry.
Credit: Dana Yoerger
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84 thoughts on “Who says asphalt isn’t natural?

  1. Having seen this article, the thought occurs that if humans didn’t drill for oil it would leak out and pollute the environment anyway.

  2. Well at grazing incidence that a***fault looks pretty much like ice does; so it is just another component of polar albedo.

    But I can see the resemblance Anthony; that owl box location looks like it was copied from teh one at ASU outside the Environmental Science building; they had an asphalt reference surface as well.

    Monkey see; Monkee do !!

  3. I want to be a bit serious. Do we know of a greenfield site that will have a factory/military base built around it?

    Could we not persuade some one to have a pair of thermometers in screen placed in and outside the projected building site and then monitor the change in temperatures during construction and afterward and nail this UHI for good.

  4. The work you folks have done exposing these ridiculous weather stations is fantastic. I have recently come across something which may be of interest to you. The organization is NEON, found at

    http://www.neoninc.org/

    Here’s a little breakdown ( http://www.neoninc.org/about/overview ) of their goal:

    NEON has partitioned the U. S. into 20 ecoclimatic domains, each of which represents different regions of vegetation, landforms, climate, and ecosystem performance. Data will be collected from strategically selected sites within each domain and synthesized into information products that can be used to describe changes in the nation’s ecosystem through space and time.

    The data NEON collects and provides will focus on how land use, climate change and invasive species affect biodiversity, disease ecology, and ecosystem services. Obtaining integrated data on these relationships over a long-term period is crucial to improving forecast models and resource management for environmental change.

    These data and information products will be readily available to scientists, educators, students, decision makers, and the public. This will allow a wide audience, including members of underserved communities, to use NEON tools to understand and address ecological questions and issues. The NEON infrastructure is a means of enabling transformational science and promoting broad ecological literacy.

    Does this sound rather odd to you? As if these folks will now be the wholesalers for data we can all use to get results needed by someone for something – who? What? No need for scientists to get their own data here, NEON will do it for you – from ‘select sites’. Why does this sound so similar to what happened with Climategate and the weather station mess you folks exposed.

    Anyway, thought you and your readers would be interested.

  5. A new debate is forming… which is the worst for the environment… Natural Asphalt or Anthropogenic Asphalt?

  6. Robert A. Heinlein once noted it always seemed odd to him that when a beaver makes a dam for a beaver’s purposes that’s considered “nature”, but when a man does something similar for a man’s purposes, somehow it becomes “unnatural”.

  7. Seriously. Is that Utah weather station a joke? Are its readings actually included in any data set?

    And aren’t the oil sands of Alberta sort of like asphalt? They have been leaking into that ecosystem since the ice melted, and before the ice was there. There have been nonstop scary stories about them, all of them either grossly exaggerated or just plain false. But they are such a huge potential cash cow that the greens are extorting as much as they can from them.

    Black Sabbath – What you describe is the more integration between the pseudoscience driving the AGW story and the pseudoscience called Conservation Biology. The EPA is the vortex of this junk in the US, of course.

    REPLY: Sadly, it is real, and part of NCDC’s data set. -A

  8. @Bill Sticker “the thought occurs that if humans didn’t drill for oil it would leak out and pollute the environment anyway”
    ———–
    Nonsense. If it leaks out naturally, it isn’t pollution; it *is* the environment.

  9. Bill Sticker (16:26:46) :

    Of course it does. You don’t think the earth’s mantle is hermetically sealed like Tupperware, do you?

  10. These volcanoes sound very interesting and unique ,but I think there is a more vital issue that should concern us more.
    . Volcanic records for the last 10,000 years for the entire globe shows that there have been about 56 eruptions of level 6[VEI] and higher including 6 eruptions at level 7 and another 4 at level+6.The records also shows that you can have level 6 eruptions of two per year, 2 in 10 years, two per 35 years and so on.
    The area that I am most concerned about is the North West Pacific rim, namely the Kamchatka Peninsula and specifically Kurile Lake caldera area which is at the very southern tip of the Peninsula. There are about 300 volcanoes in this general area of which about 28 are active. There have been about 100 eruptions on Kamchatka during the last 10,000 years. Kurile Lake erupted last 6440 BC at a level 7 and was the largest Holocene eruption in the area and ranked with eruptions like Tambora [Indonesia] and Crater lake[US] both at level 7 also. The entire Pacific plate which has been quite active recently is pushing under the Eurasian plate and there is a pinch point in this area . This is a subduction type of an area .Kurile Island area immediately south has had 12 eruptions mostly level 4 since about 1800. There has not been an eruption on Kamchatka of level 6 since 240 AD and prior to that it was in 5700 BC. There were 8 eruptions of level 4 and higher during the past Century. The last one was in 2001.
    I see this region as a high risk area currently. Level 5-7 eruption may happen here any time and not necessarily detectable until it blows or becomes more active. I may be the only one flagging this area at this time but I feel that this may be much bigger than the Icelandic eruption and deserves more attention .

  11. This just in: Ice Age 7-11 also found embedded in undersea asphalt along with several Flintstone-type vehicles.

  12. geo (16:47:10) :

    “In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the ‘Naturist’ reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e., his own self-hatred.”

    -Robert A. Heinlein

  13. “Shub Niggurath (17:09:47) :

    Asphalt under the sea?

    Maybe Cthulhu is sleeping there?”

    Oh, R’lyeh?

  14. OT
    Youtube have been hard at work. ALL the hitler on global warming voice overs taking skeptic point of view have been banned by youtube. They cite copyright infringement. But all the AGW ones have been left alone. Skeptic hitler vids had much higher hits rates, but now a search for hitler global warming only brings up AGW point of view. Also they’ve completely left alone hitler voice overs that have nothing to do with GW, of which there are many.

    This is the only relavent vid that comes up now ( AGW point of view)

    Got a lot of hits, but now they’ve banned it.

    ‘All your base are belong to us’ one is still here!

  15. bubbagyro (17:09:59) :

    Of course not. Everything leaks. Eventually. I merely meant that if oil is going to leak out anyway, controlling where and when oil leaks from the Earths crust by drilling is not such a bad idea, environmentally speaking.

  16. Funny how a tiny fraction of a bit of anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 will kill us but the stuff coming out of those vents is harmless.

  17. Al Gored (16:53:52) :
    I worked on a huge Tar sands project in the late 70’s and fished in the Athabasca river since there was little else to do in Fort McMurray. The banks of the river were totally covered with a tar like substance that obvously leaks into the river. I think it is essentially a form of asphalt mixed with lots of sand.
    The Canadian folks call the tar substance Bitumen when it was being processed. It appears that the tarlike substance can have a range of viscosity and in fort Mcmurray it was viscous enough to be mined with mechanical means along with the sands. The plant I worked on now produces 425,000 barrrels of synthetic crude/day. There are 42 gallons in a barrel.

    An interesting fact about the Syncrude tar sands is that the sand does not fit back into the hole in the mine after removal of the bitumen since the mixture is more tightly packed with the lubrication of the tar and the volume has increased.

    It is claimed that the oil reserves of the Alberta tar sands is on the order of Saudi Arabia. This is a major source of gas and diesel that significantly postpones the peak oil claims. One big problem, Pelosi wants to ban the use of synthetic crude from the canadian tar sands in the US and the Chinese are moving in to take the product. Her concept is suicidial to our economy since the largest provider of imported oil to the US is our friends in Canada.

  18. […] Chris Reddy, director of the Coastal Ocean Institute at WHOI and a co-author of the study, has studied oil spills his whole career. “These volcanoes are an astonishing display of nature,” Reddy said. “And they underscore one little-known fact: Half of the oil that enters the coastal environment is from natural oil seeps like the ones off the coast of California.” […]

    Half the oil? How do we know that percentage is remotely accurate?

    Any time I hear that “it’s a little known fact,” I’m reminded of an old Charlie Brown strip that went roughly like this.

    Charlie Brown and Lucy at a drinking fountain:

    C.B. “I wonder how they get so much water into those things?”

    Lucy: “It’s a little known fact that they use compressed water in them.”

    C.B. “Oh.”

    Lucy, aside: “They’re so little known ’cause I make them up.”

  19. “”” Steve in SC (17:07:00) :

    La Brea Tar Pits Submerged.
    Wonder if there are any fossils trapped therein? “””

    Steve; I can only conclude that you are largely unaware of what the La Brea Tar pits really are.

    For a start; they are just right there in down town LA; there’s probably a Starbucks where you can sit and drink your Pike’s Peak and sniff the asphaltic hydrocarbons.

    The tar pits are accompanied by a sizeable museum, that is jam packed witht the recovered skeletons; of Sabre Tooth Tigers, Dire Wolves, Mastodons; and all manner of critters that wandered into that Venus fly trap. Just imagine you are a Sabre tooth tiger, and you see this mastodon sort of stuck in the mud; wow a free meal just for the taking; so you go and join your last meal in the tar pits, and become anew museum exhibit. They actually have some pseudo trapped animal in the bubbling much so you don’t even have to imagine it;

    And if you are dumb enough to go in there; you too will end up in that museum.

    Yes much of what is known of the animals of ancient America comes from the fossils unearthed; make that untarred at la Brea. Definitely worth a visit for anyone visiting LLA even shortly; aka for a short time.
    And for my money; any kind of wolf is rather Drire; so I am not sure what that is all about.

  20. Of course Asphalt is natural. In the Bible its called brimstone. The Dead Sea is full of it. It was used by the Egyptians as part of mummification. Mummy comes from a word for asphalt. The Mediterranean seafarers use asphalt to caulk there ships.

  21. This is a good one: “the amount of gas is so small that it is harmless because it never reaches the surface.” The only harm methane does, apparently, is cause global warming.. Water around a benthic methane source will have a high chemical oxygen demand, and probably be a little anoxic.

    The asphalt volcanoes themselves could host an interesting array of bacteria, adjusted to that unique evolutionary niche, with unusual abilities in modifying complex hydrocarbons.

  22. Very interesting find! However, other than the ‘volcano’ shape and apparently large volume, this should not be considered unusual for this area. Here’s a little bit of background and context.

    The Santa Barbara Channel is the westward extension of an oil producing district known as the Ventura Basin. Combined with the Los Angeles Basin located to the southeast, this area was the primary petroleum producing district in the world during the 1920’s.

    Petroleum products from this area have been used by humans for many centuries. The Chumash indians ‘mined’ tar from surface seeps along the coast at Carpenteria (located about 20 miles to the east of the ‘volcano’) and traded it to other tribes across California.

    Twenty or so discrete oil fields are located in the area dating back to the late 19th Century. Several small fields are located along the immediate coast from Point Conception east to Ventura. The Summerland Field is reported to be the location of the first offshore (from a pier) oil drilling in the world. A tank farm at one of these fields, I think the Elwood Field in Goleta (located immediately onshore from the ‘volcano’), holds the distinction of being the only site on the US mainlaind targeted by Japanese guns (a deck gun of a submarine) during WWII. Today, a string of drilling platforms are located along in the channel. A significant nearby oil spill into the channel 1969 is the primary reason why no new offshore drilling has been allowed in California for the last 40 years.

    In the nearby mountains, early oil development included simply channelling the discharge from surface seeps into tanks or pipelines and/or digging shallow inclined galleries to improve gravity ‘drainage’ of the petroleum from the adjacent rocks . Today, there are numerous still active seeps (onshore and offshore) along the south coast of Santa Barbara County. Anyone who has walked the beaches of Santa Barbara County is well aware of the sticky globs of oil that are constantly washing ashore and sticking to feet, clothing and dogs! Many true believers incorrectly attribute this tar to ‘anthropogenic’ sources.

    At a location near Pt. Conception, petroleum fills fractures in the siltstone exposed in the face of the coastal bluff just above the beach. On warm sunny days the temperature of tar gets high enough for it to flow a little.

    Also consider the La Brea Tar Pits in the middle of the City of Los Angeles. These voluminous surface oil seeps are unique in the world for the vast numbers of Pleistocene bird and mammal fossils trapped by the tar. These seeps were active up into the latest Holocene as indicated by some human remains that were found there. I imagine the main difference between La Brea and the ‘volcanos’ is the onshore location where temperatures higher than the chilly waters at the bottom of the Santa Barbara Channel allow the petroleum to flow into lagoons rather than just piling up into ‘volcanos’.

  23. Steve in SC (17:07:00) :

    > La Brea Tar Pits Submerged.
    > Wonder if there are any fossils trapped therein?

    While some fish have be found at La Brea, I think the vast majority are critters that walked into the asphalt and got stuck (including predators trying to take advantage of another critter’s misfortune). It’s a process that’s still happening, though not with Sabretooth Cats and Dire Wolves.

    On my “pilgrimage” there (I’m a software engineer, see http://my.safaribooksonline.com/0201835959 ) I asked about that and the guide mentioned on one tour a pigeon tried landing on what looked firm, but was floating asphalt. Someone on the tour was quite distressed that the folks there didn’t try to rescue the dumb bird.

    Interesting place – I had no idea it was in the middle of LA. Surrounding buildings vent methane from their basements, and seeps start and stop in sub-geologic time. When I was there part of the parking lot was blocked off because of a new seep.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some active asphalt volcanos waiting to be discovered.

  24. Don Shaw (17:55:05) – Thanks for that info. I read Alexander Mackenzie’s ca. 1792 mention of them but had no idea how extensive that was.

    There was a story about increased cancer rates downstream that made international news. But it was proven to be false. No news coverage of that.

    Then a few years ago the Syncrude (I think?) system for scaring off ducks from their tailings pond was temporarily down and during some severe weather – which froze all the water – some mallards and coots landed on it… which turned into international news hysteria that went on and on. Hasn’t happened since, but no news about that fact either.

    there are about 15 million mallards in North America and more get shot ebvery hour in hunting season than in this kill but…

    Interesting you note how many gallons in a barrel of oil. The coverage of that spill in the Gulf of Mexico by the BBC is using 42,000 gallons instead of 1,000 barrels to make it sound worse (but not mentioning that its a BP well, of course). But just in case that doesn’t sound bad enough a Canadian news channel (CTV) I just checked was using liters.

    ———

    Lazarus Long (17:26:23) wrote:

    geo (16:47:10) :

    “In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the ‘Naturist’ reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e., his own self-hatred.”

    -Robert A. Heinlein

    And beavers cut down trees!!! Even ‘old growth”!!!

  25. George E. Smith (18:01:12) :

    “”” Steve in SC (17:07:00) :

    La Brea Tar Pits Submerged.
    Wonder if there are any fossils trapped therein? “””

    Steve; I can only conclude that you are largely unaware of what the La Brea Tar pits really are.

    For a start; they are just right there in down town LA; there’s probably a Starbucks where you can sit and drink your Pike’s Peak and sniff the asphaltic hydrocarbons.

    George let me be clear, I was thinking of sharks, whales, seals, crabs, fishes of all sorts or skeletal remains of same entrained in the tar. Also I don’t patronize Starbucks as I don’t care for stylized, way overpriced, bad coffee. Then again that may be just me

  26. lots of media advocacy in both pieces, however….

    27 April: ABC Australia: Labor shelves emissions scheme
    It was once a centrepiece of the Federal Government’s election strategy, but now the emissions trading scheme (ETS) has been relegated to the shelf until at least 2013…
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/27/2883282.htm?section=justin

    NYT DotEarth Blog: Andrew C. Revkin: Is China Chortling at Senate Climate Stasis?
    Senator John Kerry is trying to tamp down the advance obituaries on his effort, with two colleagues, to cobble a passable Senate energy and climate bill. He just listed three reasons for climate optimism on Talking Points Memo. The first was that he and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham had invested enormous amounts of time and effort; the second, that a very variegated coalition (from oil companies to environmental groups) was behind the effort; and the third, that everyone recognized China would celebrate if the effort failed…
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/is-china-chortling-at-senate-climate-stasis/

  27. “One World, One People, One giant slab of Asphalt”
    T-shirt a Highway Engineer Family friend gave me…

  28. Now that explains why when I go through Tremonten Utah, it’s to damn hot in the summer. If they just moved the weather station to a better spot, there’d be cool temps at the bottom of the hill.

    As it is now, every time I tow trailer through there in summer, the temp gauge is in the 100’s.

    I’m just kidding – not about the temps, but about the station location….

    Mike

  29. I remember the beach at Carpenteria, near S Barbara, being littered with tarry globs in 1967. It was easy to blame them on the oil rigs visible in the Channel, but the locals said they were always there.

  30. That has to be the best example of a contaminated temp station. Perhaps a best of the best thread would be fun. My god they put it right in the parking lot, next to a building, with an AC unit nearby.

    The thermometer trifecta.

  31. Asphalt is very common and been used for 1000’s of years. Just need a quick search of history to find out all the sources and uses.

    Wondering why this is such a newsworthy story. What lies behind the motivation? Or am I just being pedantic?

  32. A hilarious blast from the past, a 2005 prediction of a 2012 sunspot high leading to world annihilation as predicted by the Mayans. Hilarious.

  33. The last sentence is a bit puzzling to me, and may be worth a look. “We think it’s residual gas,” said Valentine, who added that the amount of gas is so small it’s harmless, and never reaches the surface. “…….hmm, gas in water that doesn’t surface?

  34. There are many natural oil seeps, including a big one in the Gulf of Mexico.

    There are also natural gas seeps, with some near Indonesia causing ships to sink when the bubbles rise up and the ship loses buoyancy. A natural gas seep offshore Santa Barbara was so prolific that it reportedly caught fire and burned for some time. An oil company (Chevron, I believe) obtained permission to place a bell over the seep, capture the gas and pipe it to shore for processing and sale.

    The ocean is quite capable of absorbing and disposing of oil, all on its own without any help from man.

    Many, many oil tankers were torpedoed during World War II, and many more cargo ships were sunk. Each contributed substantial amounts of petroleum into the ocean – yet somehow the entire world survived.

    Imagine that.

    source: The Prize by Daniel Yergin, pp. 355-358.

  35. Steve in SC (18:56:34) :

    re La Brea Tar Pits Submerged.
    Wonder if there are any fossils trapped therein? “””

    “I was thinking of sharks, whales, seals, crabs, fishes of all sorts or skeletal remains of same entrained in the tar.”

    They have found all sorts of Pleistocene megafauna in those pits – sabre-toothed tigers, short-faced bears – all terrestrial. I’m sure if you googled it you would find some extensive list of fossils from there.

  36. fhsiv (18:37:10) :

    Thanks for the fascinating information. I was not aware of California’s oily past or of the Japanese attacks. I had believed that only British Columbia had experienced a ship-to-shore attack in WWII, when on June 20, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired 25-30 rounds of 5 1/2 inch shells at the Estevan Point lighthouse on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The shells missed, no causalties were reported, but the authorities decided to turn off the lighthouse lights along the coast, which was disastrous for shipping.

    DesertYote (18:07:46)
    Also fascinating to learn about the ancient uses of bitumen, about which I had been previously oblivious. I checked out your claim that Mediterranean boats were caulked with bitumen, as I had thought that pine pitch was used. What I have learned so far is that the use of bitumen as boat caulking was centred on Mesopotamia and the Arabian peninsula, and not so much the Western or Northern parts of the Mediterranean, where pine pitch would have been used. Appropriate that the multifarious uses of natural asphalt would have originated around one of the great centres of oil wealth. Bitumen was also used by the Babylonians for road surfacing, mortar, to water-proof water tanks and bathrooms, and to water-proof wood for construction, and as an adhesive for flint weapons in Neolithic times. Wow! One learns something new every day!

    See J. Connan. 1999. Use and Trade of Bitumen in Antiquity and Prehistory: Molecular Archaeology Reveals Secrets of Past Civilizations [and Discussion], Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Vol. 354 No. 1379, pp. 33-50. Fortunately, the entire first page which includes the most interesting information is freely available at http://www.jstor.org/pss/56705

  37. They found oil and gas!

    Drill baby drill!

    Mine the asphalt for their roads, no?

    Else they will just become tar heels….

    EJ

  38. Off the Atlantic coast of Spain or Portugal there are also huge tar seeps… Out from the Bay of Biscay.

    They are in several thousand meters of water though… I saw it on a documentary not long ago. Very interesting.

  39. Oil and gas have been generated out of sedimentary basins and have been leaking out onto ancient sea floors since the Archaean epoch (i.e. older than 2,700,000,000 years). Oil and gas seeps have been naturally forming for most of the Earth’s geological history. They are a product of the cooking up of algal and microbial plant matter in subsurface settings and then the migration of the generated hydrocarbons.

  40. So we now know asphalt and humans are natural.

    Seems the only things unnatural are the warmists decrying human usage of the earth’s plentiful gifts.

  41. Don Shaw-” it is claimed that the oil reserves of the Alberta tar sands is on the order of Saudi Arabia” – not even close Don, Saudi Arabia allegedly has reserves of about 250 billion barrels ; the tar sands contain somewhere between 2.5 and 3 trillion barrels – 10 to 12 times as much. if only fifty per cent is recoverable, it’s 5 to 6 times more than Saudi Arabia. it does cost more to produce but Canada is closer and a more reliable ally than Saudi Arabia.

  42. Asphalt that’s like microbial soup that has stopped decomposing due to the troll gene and gone eeek and wwas turned into stone, not like evil tar which is decomposed algae soup which has come back to haunt the greenies as tar zombie blobs….dam dam daaa.

  43. Makes one wonder whose “ass” is at “fault”! (Ba-da-bing! (Rimshot sound effect))

  44. “”While the volcanoes have been dormant for thousands of years, the 2009 Alvin dive revealed a few spots where gas was still bubbling. “We think it’s residual gas,” said Valentine, who added that the amount of gas is so small that it is harmless because it never reaches the surface.””

    For such an important point, this does not get any attention.

  45. re: near La Brea.

    About 20 years ago when they were building subways in Los Angeles there were some scares about the boring machines hitting pockets of methane.

    I’m not sure how that all worked out. Maybe it set CA afire. From AZ I often see red clouds in that direction at sunset.

    They also had some problems with too much ground water getting into the tunnels.

  46. All of these petroleum products found in the crust, where there is also found heat, pressure, sometimes steam…

    Have we found natural polymers of high molecular weight, aka plastics? It’s not that I expect to find a polystyrene volcano somewhere, but I would think the basic conditions exist for cooking up some really long molecular chains. It would be in the interest of science to search for such and analyze their structure.

    Also the concept of Mother Earth herself making plastics is certain to cause some green heads to explode. But that’s just a happy coincidental side-effect.

  47. DesertYote (18:07:46) :

    Of course Asphalt is natural. In the Bible its called brimstone.
    Isn’t brimstone sulphur (sulfur) as in “Fire and Brimstone”.

    None the less I think that the ancient Mesopotamians used naturally occurring crude oil to water proof mud bricks.

  48. “It’s larger than a football field long and as tall as a six-story building,” said David Valentine, professor of earth science at UCSB”

    Since when did we introduce these new ‘scientific’ units of measure?

    “Dumbing Down” is quite the new thing over here in England, home of Newton and many other giants.

  49. bubbagyro (17:09:59) :

    Bill Sticker (16:26:46) :

    Of course it does. You don’t think the earth’s mantle is hermetically sealed like Tupperware, do you?
    ————————-

    All politicians and many engineering zombies in Europe do think that “the earth’s mantle is hermetically sealed like Tupperware”, because they are spending billions on trials for “carbon capture and storage” projects.

    If you go for post-combustion capture you finish up with liquid CO2 at 200 bar (or 3,000 psi – to take care of pressure drop down the pipeline).
    see: http://tinyurl.com/yecg6k6

    This liquid CO2 is then moved by pipeline across country to a sea shore facility which pumps the liquid CO2 across the sea bed to a rig which then injects the liquid CO2 into the earth’s mantle, and hey presto, the planet is saved from this pollutant.

    EUreferendum has more info, see: http://tinyurl.com/2v4y9xh

    Here is a UK government press statement – “No new coal without CCS – Miliband”

    Quote:- “This will apply to all new gas, oil, biomass, waste-to-energy and also coal power station applications on or above 300MW. The Government will only consider applications if they:

    Confirm sufficient space available to retrofit CCS
    Identify a suitable potential offshore area to store carbon dioxide
    Map a feasible potential transport route from the power station to the storage area and
    Do not have foreseeable barriers to retrofitting CCS.
    Together, these criteria will prove a power station is ‘carbon capture ready’.”

    see: http://tinyurl.com/d3mst4

    We are ruled by lunatics.

  50. The temperature sensor is has only three of the five features required for a Naturally sited sensor. It has asphalt, brink wall and AC exhaust, but it lacks either a burn barrel or a grill. Clearly temperatures readings from this site should be discarded

  51. From the article:
    “The discovery that vast amounts of methane once emanated from the volcanoes caused the scientists to wonder if there might have been an environmental impact on the area during the Ice Age.”

    It occurs to me that since the sea level was far lower back then owing to the quantity of land ice, then there would have been significantly less surface pressure on the volcano’s release point.

    That would have facilitated a greater release of the petroleum.

  52. Cold Englishman (01:18:44) :

    “It’s larger than a football field long and as tall as a six-story building,” said David Valentine, professor of earth science at UCSB”

    Since when did we introduce these new ‘scientific’ units of measure?

    It’s commonly used over here to give people a chance to compare something novel to something within their experience. The recent dome building Mt St Helens eruption was compared to compared to filling a Seattle sports stadium multiple time, it was used in the 1960s to describe the amount of kerosene and LOX the Saturn V rocket pumped (8.9 seconds to drain a 110,000 liter swimming pool).

    People still use the phrase “bigger than a bread box” even though I haven’t seen a bread box since the 1970s.

    Don’t sweat it, there are bigger issues to worry about.

  53. Shub Niggurath (17:09:47) :

    Asphalt under the sea?

    Maybe Cthulhu is sleeping there
    The great Lovecraft was thinking about the Dark prophet, the other god, the hideous Fatty and Oily Al and his repulsive philosophy, intended to alienate human beigns and take them to the underworld to feed the Asphalt King, the Beast himself…..

    Fantasies apart, there is no bigger stupidity than the rejection by greeny idiots of all “chemicals”, as unnatural. Everything is NATURAL: Did any of these chemicals come from other planet?. NO. It is sad for me to say it, but even the most hideous creature on earth, Al the Gore, is also “chemical”, as IT is composed of natural chemicals, however in strangely associated molecules of the most repulsive and heavy elements.

  54. The picture of the asphalt chunk reminds me of the old Archie comic wherein they find four chunks of stone/concrete at an excavation site with the word fragments:

    KING ZO NO PAR NE

    After they leave to contact an archeologist the little kid watching puts it together the right way:

    NO
    PARKING
    ZONE

    The confusion seems a little like the warmistas interpretations of normal climate activity.

  55. Steve in SC (17:07:00) :

    La Brea Tar Pits Submerged
    Did you know that La Brea means The Tar and refers to a place in northern Peru where tar surfaced in the desert, called La Brea y Pariñas. After that it was found it was exploited by the Standard Oil of New Jersey, for many years. It was the first foregin oil field drilled after the ones drilled in the US.

  56. Most oil fields are found by following seeps back to their source. The fancy testing equipment is then used to find where the oil is within that field.
    Yes, the oil reservoirs in the Earth’s crust are not hermetically sealed. The oil is found in rocks where it didn’t manage to leak out, and often the edges of those same rocks are indeed leaking.

  57. Interesting blog – thanks.

    What I like is the MAGNIFICENT map that those three kids are standing in front of for the picture. I want one like that!!!

    Malcolm

  58. Brownedoff (02:26:58) :

    …This liquid CO2 is then moved by pipeline across country to a sea shore facility which pumps the liquid CO2 across the sea bed to a rig which then injects the liquid CO2 into the earth’s mantle, and hey presto, the planet is saved from this pollutant. …
    _______________________________________________________________________________
    We can all become rich by setting up “sealed” green houses for them to pumps the liquid CO2 into.

    No need to “pollute” the sea with costly CO2 sequestering. Use Joe Snakeoilman’s new patented organic method for getting rid of that unwanted dangerous CO2. Just pay Joe $1000 a gallon and he will turn you CO2 into life giving Oxygen and veggies. Just remember folks Joe Snakeoilman’s patented method is not only enviromentally friendly, its organic too!

  59. Enneagram (05:53:27) :

    ….Fantasies apart, there is no bigger stupidity than the rejection by greeny idiots of all “chemicals”, as unnatural…
    _______________________________________________________________________________

    I hate that incorrect use of the term “chemical” When ever I see something labeled as containing no chemicals, I immediately think “Are they really selling vacuum?”

    It is sort of like hearing someone has a thoroughbred cocker spaniel… I did not know you could cross breed horses and dogs.

  60. It’s the remains of a motorway which once carried heavy traffic through Atlantis. Very sad to see what Atlantian induced climate change caused there. Mass flooding wiped their whole civilisation out. Look, why won’t you guys just agree to pay more taxes to stop the same thing happening to the M25?

  61. You should collect all the tar you can get and also all the feathers you can get, and gently apply it upon green-nuts wherever you could see one.

  62. Xi Chin says:
    April 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

    It’s the remains of a motorway which once carried heavy traffic through Atlantis. Very sad to see what Atlantian induced climate change caused there. Mass flooding wiped their whole civilisation out. Look, why won’t you guys just agree to pay more taxes to stop the same thing happening to the M25?

    Can we not pay more taxes to make the same thing happen to the M25?

  63. If I recall correctly (it has been a while since I read the book), George Vancouver (Captain Cooke’s navigator) upon sailing into the Gulf, noted a “tarry substance on the surface of the water, as far as the eye can see”. (I do hope I have remembered the quote correctly. So, yes, petroleum has been around and has been “polluting” the earth and the waters even before we started drilling for it.

    Unfortunately, my google-fu has failed to locate this quote for me.

    One comment about the oil sands; if the oil exists on the sands, and by mining and extracting the oil we are returning primarily clean sand back to the environment – does that not mean we are cleaning up the world’s largest oil spill? So, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

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