National Geographic : 1990 Nov
Ash from a Volcano: It May Remain Aloft The 1982 eruption of Mexico's El Chich6n volcano sent vast quanti ties of ash high into the strato sphere (GEOGRAPHIC, November 1982). If a University of New Mexico scientist is correct, what went up hasn't all come down just yet. Most scientists assume that volcanic ash falls to earth within a year or two after an eruption. But Frans J. M. Rietmeijer says there is evidence that tiny particles collected in 1985 by a bal loon above Palestine, Texas, had been ejected by El Chich6n. What's more, he believes that because volcanic parti cles are flat and fall more slowly than GUILLERMOALDANAE. spherical particles, they may remain aloft for a hundred years or more. In a study led by James Arnold of the University of California at San Diego, the balloon was designed to collect par ticles of meteoric origin. It took sam ples of the air at an altitude of 35 kilometers-near the top of El Chi ch6n's plume of ash. Rietmeijer says the particles he analyzed chemically match the ash from the volcano. Kuwait: An Economic Oasis Watered by Oil When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August, it expanded its shore line on the Persian Gulf from 18 to nearly 200 miles, gained four refin eries and six ports, such as Shuaiba (above), and added nearly 95 billion barrels of petroleum reserves to its own stock of 100 billion barrels. Iraq's designs on its tiny, 6,880 square-mile neighbor are nothing new. Kuwait came under British protection in 1899 and gained full independence in 1961. The new country was immedi ately claimed by Iraq, which contended that it had held sway over the region during the Ottoman Empire, before British intervention. Although Iraq eventually recognized Kuwait's auton omy, clashes on the border continued throughout the 1970s. Business savvy has distinguished Kuwait among Persian Gulf countries (article and foldout map, GEOGRAPHIC, May 1988). It invested in foreign real estate and broadened its industrial STEPHENJ. KRASEMANN,DRK PHOTO SUSAN MAYTELL, PICTUREGROUP base with the use of imported managers and workers. An influx of Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and other for eigners has made Kuwaitis a minority in their own nation. A broad array of educational and social welfare pro grams have given them one of the world's highest standards of living. In Least Auklet Society, Color Matters Most From May to August large colonies of robin-size birds called least auklets gather on the rocky shore lines of Alaska's Pribilof Islands to breed. During this breeding season the feathering on their underparts ranges in color from almost white to nearly black (lower left). Ian L. Jones, who has been studying the birds for several years with support from the National Geographic Society, thinks he knows one reason for this variation in color. It is, he says, a signal of a bird's status. Jones, who conducted the study as a graduate student at Queen's Univer sity in Kingston, Ontario, found that the lighter the plumage, the more dom inant the bird. Those with whiter underparts were more likely to obtain nesting sites and were more successful in defending those sites in fights with other auklets with darker plumage. "The auklet with lighter plumage won more than 75 percent of the time," Jones said. In fact when model birds with white underparts were placed on nesting sites, auklets with darker plum age tended to avoid them. Scientists have found a few other species of birds in which color serves as a signal of social status. But least auk lets are unique, says Jones. In all other known cases the dominant birds were those with darker feathers. Suggestions for GEOGRAPHICA may be submitted to Boris Weintraub, National Geographic Magazine, Box 37357, Washington, D. C. 20036, and should include the sender's address and tele phone number.