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Features

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

The Bakken boom and the new wild west: A young geologist's perspective

Like many of my colleagues, I have found myself in awe of the drastically changing energy landscape around me. Both technologically and economically, the world of energy is not what it used to be. Precious resources that allow the modern world to exist are becoming harder to find and much more difficult to extract, but advances in drilling technology, such as directional drilling, are a tribute to humanity’s ability to innovate when needed.

24 Sep 2012

Seismic citizens: Volunteers host home-based seismometers to help assess earthquake threat

A network of volunteer hosts and home-based seismometers around Washington’s Puget Sound region report earthquake data to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) through the volunteer-powered NetQuakes program. Driven by a desire to to help the area better prepare for future large earthquakes, to be part of a group effort, and by an abiding (though not necessarily professional) interest in science and technology, the members of this unusual family are part of a growing movement in earthquake research and monitoring that is making use of the explicit support of citizen scientists.

27 Aug 2012

Behind the scenes with NetQuakes' Doug Gibbons

Doug Gibbons, a research assistant in the University of Washington’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences and a NetQuakes technician, is one of several people involved in managing and maintaining the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network’s (PNSN) portion of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) NetQuakes program. Having installed many of PNSN’s NetQuakes seismometers, he is a point man for outreach and interaction with current and prospective volunteers.

27 Aug 2012

Do–it–yourself lava flows: Science, art and education in the Syracuse University Lava Project

Picture this: You’re walking across the tree-lined quad of Syracuse University, amid brick and stone buildings, when you happen upon a crowd of people. Crowds on the quad aren’t unusual, but this crowd is unusually diverse — students, professors and even parents with kids. You move a little closer and smell something odd: a blend of sulfur and marshmallows. Then you see it — molten lava pouring down the slope of a parking lot.

20 Aug 2012

The Syracuse University lava experiments

Pouring Lava

Melting a batch of the ancient basalt takes about four hours, but we hold the lava above its melting point for much longer to ensure that it is completely melted and to remove unwanted volatiles such as water. The lava is then poured at temperatures of 1,100 to 1,350 degrees Celsius, comparable to eruption temperatures of natural lava. We monitor it with a spot calorimeter and a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera, the same instrument conventionally used at lava flows in the field.

20 Aug 2012

Trash-to-treasure: Turning nonrecycled waste into low-carbon fuel

Americans produce more than four pounds of trash per person per day, amounting to 20 percent of the world’s waste. Although recycling rates have increased over the past few decades — out of the 4.4 pounds of trash (per capita) that we produce in the U.S. each day, we compost or recycle about 1.5 pounds and incinerate another 0.5 pounds — more than 50 percent of our waste still ends up buried in landfills.

31 Jul 2012

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