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mary caperton morton

The Bay Area's next 'big one' could strike as a series of quakes

Californians are bracing for when the San Andreas Fault unleashes the next “big one,” but a new study looking at the paleoseismic history of the San Francisco Bay Area suggests that accumulated stress could also be released in a series of moderate to large quakes on satellite faults, rather than by a single great event on the San Andreas.
 

14 Sep 2014

All the world's glaciers in one global inventory

Earth is home to about 198,000 glaciers, which have now all been mapped. The first global inventory of alpine glaciers, including their locations, extents, volumes and geographic outlines, has been assembled — a feat climate scientists and glaciologists hope will allow for better monitoring of the world’s ice.
 

12 Sep 2014

New off-the-shelf aerial imaging technique trumps lidar

In recent years lidar has become the gold standard for people looking to make high-resolution aerial maps — from archaeologists studying ruins hidden beneath jungle canopies to engineers monitoring dams and levees. Although the technology has many useful applications, it’s often prohibitively expensive. Now, a new technique using an off-the-shelf digital camera is offering an inexpensive alternative for collecting 3-D aerial data.

11 Sep 2014

Ancient shark jaws resemble those of modern fish

Sharks are thought to have one of the most consistent body plans in the animal kingdom; the formidable predators seem to have remained roughly the same for more than 400 million years. But a new study, published in Nature, suggests that sharks are not the unchanging, “living fossils” that paleontologists once thought.
 

07 Sep 2014

In Turkey, the older the fault, the bigger the quake: Good news for Istanbul?

For decades, Istanbul has been bracing for a major earthquake from the dangerously active North Anatolian Fault, which passes just 20 kilometers south of Turkey’s largest city. A new study looking at the age of the fault zone may set a cap on the maximum quake size that could hit Istanbul, suggesting that the older, more mature sections of the zone in the east are capable of bigger earthquakes than the younger sections in the west, which are near the city.
 

05 Sep 2014

Mississippi sand still abundant

Flood control measures along the Mississippi River have likely saved countless lives, but the effects of upstream dams and containment on the river’s delta have been ecologically catastrophic: In the past 80 years, more than 5,000 square kilometers of wetlands along the Louisiana coast have been starved of vital sediment and drowned. Now, researchers have found that the lower river contains a significant reservoir of the sand needed to mitigate land loss at the river’s mouth — if  it can be diverted downstream.
 

01 Sep 2014

Floating nuclear plants may be safer from tsunamis

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake just off the coast of Tohoku, Japan, set off a devastating tsunami that swamped the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex on the coast northeast of Tokyo. Backup generators failed, triggering nuclear meltdowns in three reactors that could no longer be cooled.
 

30 Aug 2014

New model predicts pumice drift patterns

In July 2012, the Havre volcano in the remote southwestern Pacific erupted, creating a raft of pumice that covered more than 400 square kilometers of ocean. Despite the raft’s massive size, the event went unreported for three weeks, until a passenger aboard a New Zealand-bound plane noticed the floating mass from above.
 

22 Aug 2014

La Brea climate adaptation as different as cats and dogs

The La Brea tar pits are famous for being a predator trap. For every herbivore, a dozen or more carnivores are pulled from the prolific Pleistocene fossil site in downtown Los Angeles. Two new studies focusing on the two most common species found at the tar pits — dire wolves and saber-toothed cats — are characterizing how the tar pits’ two top predators coped with the warming climate toward the end of the last ice age, and the results are surprisingly dissimilar: While the wolves got smaller, the cats got bigger.

12 Aug 2014

Are slow-slip earthquakes under Tokyo stressing faults?

More than 13 million people live in Tokyo, a city that has been devastated by earthquakes in the past and is likely to be rocked again. Since the massive magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, recurrence intervals for nondamaging slow-slip quakes beneath Japan’s capital have shortened. And that has left seismologists to wonder if this aseismic creep could be signaling a countdown to Tokyo’s next “big one.”

07 Aug 2014

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