Taxonomy term


The Burgess Shale bestseller

The Burgess Shale owes much of its fame to a book called “Wonderful Life” by the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Published in 1989, the book was a bestseller. The title is a reference to the scene in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which George Bailey’s guardian angel replays the tape of life as if George had never been born, to dramatic effect.

01 Jan 2013

Getting there and getting around the Burgess Shale

Traveling to the Burgess Shale requires a plane ticket, a guide, and the legs and lungs to hike high into the Canadian Rockies.

01 Jan 2013

Disaster debris hotlines and fast grants

Two years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, debris set adrift by the destructive waves continues to wash up on beaches along the west coast of the United States and Canada.

Beachcombers can report tsunami-related or hazardous debris by emailing or calling 1-855-WACOAST in Washington or 211 in Oregon. As of Dec. 13, NOAA had received 1,432 reports of debris, 17 of which were confirmed as tsunami-related.

01 Jan 2013

Here comes the solar maximum: What we know - and don't know - about solar storms and their hazards

As solar science continues to advance, researchers are finding new ways to study and forecast the behavior of our star, whose whims endanger our technology-dependent way of life. But what the upcoming peak means for solar storms, and how those storms will affect Earth, remain to be seen.

17 Dec 2012

The long road to understanding our star

The earliest written records of sunspots date back to 165 B.C. in China, but human understanding of the sun didn’t begin making leaps forward until the early 1600s, shortly after the invention of the telescope. That’s when Galileo Galilei, Thomas Harriot and others began drawing sunspots in detail and tracking how they moved and changed.

17 Dec 2012

Highlights of 2012: Outlook on natural gas

Natural gas’s bright future in the United States

Thanks to new developments, we now can affordably produce natural gas from rock formations that previously were inaccessible. And thanks to these developments, we now have more natural gas than ever before. The glut has decreased prices for at least a little while. If recent trends continue — namely if those prices stay low and various political, environmental and economic pressures to transition to a cleaner, domestic source of energy remain in place, it’s likely that over the next decade or two, natural gas will overtake petroleum to become the most popular primary energy source in the U.S.
09 Dec 2012

USArray: Geoscientists' "Earth Telescope"

Big science often requires big tools. Particle physicists use huge particle accelerators. Astronomers need enormous telescopes to peer to the edge of the cosmos. Earth scientists, by contrast, normally probe the planet individually or in small groups using comparatively inexpensive instruments. This “small science” approach has served us well; using it, we have learned a great deal about how Earth works. But now, we have our own big science tool: USArray, a "telescope" for earth scientists to peer deep into the subsurface.

28 Oct 2012

Bigfoot education and outreach

USArray has offered an unprecedented opportunity for earth scientists to explain to the public how we conduct experiments and test hypotheses, and what we aim to learn from the results.

28 Oct 2012

Blame it on the rain: The proposed links between severe storms and earthquakes


The U.S. Geological Survey’s website states it in no uncertain terms: “There is no such thing as ‘earthquake weather.’” Not too surprising, right? After all, how could the seemingly insignificant stresses imposed on the planet’s surface by mere weather instigate seismic shaking far underfoot?  Earthquakes and heavy rainstorms do occasionally produce comparable results on the planet’s surface, devastating landscapes and impacting humans, but it’s hard to imagine any more of a connection between such disparate phenomena. Yet, from at least the time of Aristotle, some people have professed links between atmospheric conditions and seismic shaking. And as the ability to record Earth’s rumblings has continued to improve, efforts to demonstrate such links scientifically have persisted into the present century.

23 Oct 2012

Risky business: Modeling catastrophes

Natural hazards — earthquakes, tropical cyclones and thunderstorms, for example — occur with considerable frequency around the world. Fortunately, most events are either not intense enough or too remote to cause damage. But the probability that a given natural hazard could become a natural disaster is higher today than at any previous point in history.

30 Sep 2012