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natural hazards

Human-induced earthquakes shake less

Occurrences of earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States have increased since 2009 — a phenomenon that many scientists attribute to the growing use of hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction. Most agree that it’s not the fracturing itself, but the reinjection of wastewater into wells for containment beneath the surface that tends to induce seismic activity. Now, new research looking at the effects of induced seismic activity suggests that human-made earthquakes and naturally occurring tectonic earthquakes are felt differently at the surface.

21 Aug 2014

Oso landslide report yields some answers

Early on March 22, 2014, the most damaging landslide in U.S. history devastated the community of Oso, Washington. Forty-three people perished, most inside their homes, when a saturated hillside nearby gave way and a massive mudflow swept over their neighborhood. On July 22, a search crew recovered the last of the 43 bodies, exactly four months after the landslide, and coincidentally on the same day, a team of scientists and engineers released an exhaustive report detailing the event and its implications.

01 Aug 2014

Shifting winds blow away Taupo's 'Ultraplinian' title

The eruption of New Zealand’s Taupo volcano about 1,800 years ago is the stuff of legends. With an ash plume estimated to have reached an astounding height of 50 kilometers — substantially higher than any other known eruption — Taupo was once thought to justify its own volcanic explosivity category: Ultraplinian. But new research looking at the effects of changing wind patterns on the eruptive deposits left by Taupo may lead scientists to downgrade the event to Plinian, effectively making the term Ultraplinian obsolete.
 

01 Jul 2014

Longmenshan fault zone in the spotlight after two major quakes in five years

In May 2008, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck near Wenchuan, China, killing more than 80,000 people in the country’s biggest quake since 1950. Then, in April 2013, the magnitude-6.6 Lushan earthquake hit just 90 kilometers to the south — also within China’s Longmenshan Fault Zone, which separates the Tibetan Plateau to the west from the Sichuan Basin to the east — and caused another 200 deaths. Now, scientists have found that a roughly 60-kilometer segment of the fault zone between the epicenters of the two big temblors could be the next to rupture, although no one knows when or how big it might be.

05 Jun 2014

Comment: Preparing for the death of Earth

About 5 billion years from now, Earth will meet its end in a fiery blaze as it is swallowed by the expanding sun. What happens between now and then, in large part, is up to us and our ability to prepare for the distant future.

22 May 2014

Faking quakes at full scale: Giant shake tables simulate earthquakes to make buildings safer

At a few select facilites around the world, engineers are able to shake full-size buildings to learn how to make them safer during earthquakes. Take a look at the massive shake tables that make it possible.

23 Apr 2014

Resolving a misplaced source of volcanism in the Galapagos

Geological models have long suggested the mantle plume that built the Galápagos islands lies below Fernandina Island. Using a novel combination of seismic techniques, however, scientists have found a mantle anomaly that appears to be the Galápagos plume located 150 kilometers southeast of Fernandina Island. The new findings better explain the ongoing volcanic activity and also shed light on interactions between the mantle and crust, researchers say.

07 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

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

Massive earthquake strikes Chile

A massive magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 95 kilometers north of Iquique on Tuesday night at 6:46 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Because the quake occurred underwater along a thrust fault in the subduction zone, a tsunami warning was issued for several cities along the Chilean coast and around the Pacific Basin. A 2.1-meter wave was reported in some Chilean cities. Preliminary reports indicate several deaths and some damage; power is out in many areas and landslides have also been recorded, according to news reports. So far, widespread destruction — which could easily accompany such a large quake — has thankfully not been reported.  The quake followed weeks of increased seismic activity, including dozens of earthquakes up to magnitude-6.7 that have struck since March 16. It is now clear these were foreshocks. 

02 Apr 2014

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