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mary caperton morton

Inland earthquake triggers distant tsunami

On Sept. 24, 2013, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck southern Pakistan, killing more than 800 people. The quake made global headlines in part due to the birth of a small island it triggered just off the coast — a mound of mud dubbed Quake Island that has since washed away. A new study has found evidence of another curious event linked to the quake: a small tsunami that appears to have been remotely triggered by a submarine landslide far from the earthquake’s inland epicenter.

26 Nov 2014

Travels in Geology: The inspiring, globe-trotting rocks of Scotland

As the birthplace of both modern geology and the sport of mountaineering, Scotland is home to some incredible, inspiring, diverse rocks. Whether climbing in the Highlands, wandering through the Lowlands or hiking the Southern Uplands, Scotland is a geo-traveler’s paradise.

16 Nov 2014

Bag your first Munro

One of the founding members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, Hugh Munro, compiled a list of all the mountains in Scotland taller than 3,000 feet (914.4 meters), which are now called Munros. At present, there are 283, although this number has changed over time due to improvements in surveying and mapping. Munro-bagging is a national pastime in Scotland; for some dedicated Scots, summiting all the Munros is a lifelong project.

16 Nov 2014

Living mountains and wild places

Mountains often boast a strong literary tradition, and the legendary Cairngorms are no exception. Two of the Highlands’ most geo-minded authors are Nan Shepherd and Robert Macfarlane. Shepherd was born in 1893 and spent her whole life in Aberdeen, exploring the Cairngorm Mountains. Among the first female mountaineers, Shepherd also wrote novels, poetry and one nonfiction ode to the Cairngorms called “The Living Mountain.”

 
16 Nov 2014

Getting there and getting around Scotland

To visit Scotland, fly into Edinburgh or take a train from London. Arthur’s Seat is within walking distance of the Royal Mile and downtown Edinburgh. Scotland has a good train and bus system with routes to the Highlands, but traveling between the smaller villages is easier by private car, if you can handle driving on the left-hand side of the road. The Cairngorm Mountains are best approached from Braemar, Tomintoul, Aviemore or Kingusse, all small towns with hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists visiting the park.

16 Nov 2014

Solar storms cause spike in electrical insurance claims

On March 13, 1989, a geomagnetic storm spawned by a solar outburst struck Earth, triggering instabilities in the electric power grid that serves much of eastern Canada and the U.S. The storm led to blackouts for more than 6 million customers and caused tens of millions of dollars in damages and economic losses. More than 25 years later, the possibility of such a catastrophe still looms, and the day-to-day effects of space weather on electrical systems remain difficult to quantify. Now, a new study correlating electrical insurance claims with geomagnetic data suggests that even moderate space weather may play a significant role in destabilizing the power grid.

09 Nov 2014

Tiny ants are heroic weathering agents

Over geologic timescales, weathering of silicate minerals — which account for more than 90 percent of all crustal rocks on Earth — plays a significant role in decreasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as carbon dioxide is consumed in chemical weathering reactions and the resultant carbonate becomes sequestered in the form of limestone and dolomite.

Now, a new study has identified an unsung all-star of weathering agents: ants, which appear to be among the most powerful biological agents of mineral decay yet observed. Whether the weathering prowess of the ubiquitous tiny titans can be harnessed to draw down carbon dioxide levels, however, remains to be seen.

02 Nov 2014

Past penguin populations not dependent on ice extent

Penguins’ lives revolve around ice, so it seems they might be particularly vulnerable to changing ice conditions and ice loss. But a new study charting the rise and fall of penguin populations over the last 30,000 years suggests that past populations have actually increased during times of climate warming and retreating ice.

21 Oct 2014

Triggered tremor along the San Andreas Fault

The San Andreas Fault (SAF) in California is one of the most active in the U.S., but the 1,300-kilometer-long strike-slip fault seems to only be susceptible to small-scale dynamic triggering. After the magnitude-9 Tohoku quake in Japan in 2011, the SAF experienced an elevated incidence of tremor up and down its length. The tiny tremors were recorded at depths between 16 and 30 kilometers, below the fault’s seismogenic zone.

19 Oct 2014

Casting a seismic shadow

In the week or two before the magnitude-8.6 Indian Ocean earthquake in 2012, Earth was unusually quiet, with few large quakes over magnitude 5. Afterward, seismic activity all over the globe was elevated for more than a week. Then, suddenly, global seismicity dropped off precipitously: Beginning two weeks after the mainshock, no earthquakes of magnitude-6.5 or greater occurred for 95 days.

19 Oct 2014

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