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mary caperton morton

Social sciences improve tornado warnings

In 2013, 55 people in seven states were killed by tornadoes. Now, scientists behind a new report analyzing the effectiveness of tornado-warning processes are hoping to help reduce tornado fatalities in the 2014 storm season by combining the latest storm-tracking technology with a better understanding of how communities and people respond to tornado warnings.

03 Apr 2014

The Chesapeake Bay gets some good news

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is the largest on the Atlantic seaboard, encompassing most of Maryland and Virginia, along with parts of Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. More than 150 rivers flow into the system, carrying pollution and nutrient runoff from a 160,000-square-kilometer area into the bay ecosystem. A new study tracking long-term effects of the Clean Air Act has some good news about the often-poor water quality in some areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but the overall picture may be complicated by hydrology.

02 Apr 2014

Volcanic lightning generated in a bottle

Scientists know very little about how lightning is generated by volcanic eruptions, in large part because of the danger and difficulty in monitoring the phenomenon in the field. But a new apparatus for generating volcanic lightning in the lab may shed light on the subject.

06 Apr 2014

Ocean dynamics speed sea-level rise along U.S. East Coast

Over the past century, sea levels along the East Coast of the U.S. have risen faster than the global mean. This accelerated rise has so far been attributed to nonclimatic factors, such as land subsidence along the Eastern Seaboard, but available tide gauge data don’t fit with such slow and near-constant processes. A new study now links this regional sea-level rise to climate change and ocean dynamics — and the results may bring more bad news for ocean-front properties along the East Coast.

09 Feb 2014

Witnessing geology in action: A rockfall in the garden of the gods

In lieu of doing a "year in review" issue this year, EARTH asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that grabbed their attention in 2013. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual. In this commentary, EARTH's roving reporter Mary Caperton Morton muses on on how witnessing a rockfall made her think about geologic time.

21 Nov 2013

New subduction zone may close Atlantic ocean

Throughout the history of the Earth, supercontinents and ocean basins have opened and closed over timescales of 300 million to 500 million years. But we don’t tend to see evidence anywhere on Earth of the in-between phase — a previously opening ocean basin beginning to close. Now, thanks to new high-resolution surveys of the seafloor, scientists think they have evidence of that process starting in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Portugal.

06 Oct 2013

Hidden graves give up their secrets to geologists

As of April 2013, more than 61,000 people were registered as missing in Colombia, many of whom are feared to be victims of the country’s narcotics-fueled gang wars and, presumably, buried in clandestine graves. Now a new study comparing the most effective remote sensing tools for finding hidden graves may help bring justice for victims and closure for families.

08 Aug 2013

Hurricane hunters fly toward improved storm forecasts

Hurricanes are one of the few natural disasters that strike with some advance notice. Forecasts can be made hours or even days ahead of landfall, giving communities time to prepare and evacuate. Nevertheless, the forecasts are not exact, and improving their accuracy — in terms of timing, location of landfall and wind intensity — poses an ongoing challenge. Two recent studies detailing the latest advances in data collection and assimilation may help improve forecasting as early as this year.
 
04 Aug 2013

Alaskan volcano doesn’t just huff and puff, it screams

In March 2009, Alaska’s Mount Redoubt awoke from two decades of silence with something to say: A series of small earthquakes leading up to the eruption produced a seismic sound that staff at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory nicknamed “the screams.” Now, two new studies are eavesdropping on Redoubt’s inner workings and quantifying the forces needed to produce the unusual harmonic tremors.

16 Jul 2013

Corn syrup model splits Yellowstone’s plume in two

Yellowstone is renowned for its hot springs, geysers and for hosting one of the world’s most volatile supervolcanoes. Despite its popularity, the origin of all that volcanic activity remains poorly understood. Traditional plume models can’t explain the jumble of volcanic surface features. Now, a new study using corn syrup to replicate the mantle processes underlying Yellowstone offers a more complicated scenario.

14 Jul 2013

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