Taxonomy term

Features

Releasing a flood of controversy on the Colorado River

Since the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the once warm and muddy Colorado River has run clear and cold, with a drastically altered ecosystem. A new plan to release regular, intentional floods — to resupply sediment and restore species habitat — aims to reverse the damage done to the Grand Canyon’s natural systems over the last 50 years.

03 Mar 2013

Sinkholes: Florida grapples with the wonders of the not-so-deep

This story was printed in August 2010. In response to the tragic sinkhole event in Tampa, Fla., on March 1, we are reposting this story.

Sinkholes are a natural part of Florida’s landscape, forming when rainwater levels fluctuate. They've occurred naturally for millions of years and they haven’t been a big problem for humans until recently: Florida’s population has increased from fewer than 8 million in the 1970s to just shy of 20 million today — and farmers, snowbirds and Mother Nature have begun to engage in an increasingly acrimonious water war. The addition of humans to the landscape has made the situation increasingly volatile. Now, sinkholes open up seemingly — or literally — overnight. When a sinkhole opened up in a cow pasture, few people cared, but now if one opens up under somebody’s house or under Interstate 4, we pay attention.

01 Mar 2013

Setting sail on unknown seas: The past, present and future of species rafting

The 2011 Japanese tsunami set adrift tons of debris, some of it carrying live plants and animals that landed in North America more than a year later. It isn’t the first time species have traveled the globe on ersatz rafts, and it won’t be the last. But it is concerning.

24 Feb 2013

Drinking toilet water: The science (and psychology) of wastewater recycling

Would you drink water that came from a toilet? The imagery isn’t appealing. Even knowing that the water, once treated, may be cleaner than what comes out of most faucets, many people are disgusted by the idea. But in places like Singapore and Namibia, limited supplies of freshwater are being augmented by adding highly treated wastewater to their drinking water. As climate change and population growth strain freshwater resources, such strategies are likely to become more common around the world, and in the United States.

28 Jan 2013

The dangers of solar storms: That which gives power can also take it away

Were a massive solar storm to strike Earth, the impacts could rival or exceed the worst natural disasters humans have ever faced. In last month’s issue of EARTH, we explored what is known about solar activity, the sun and its interaction with Earth. This month, we examine the possible effects of solar activity and the vulnerability of power grids and satellites, as well as what is being done to reduce that vulnerability.

21 Jan 2013

How strong was the Carrington Event?

NASA has described the magnetic field of the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the 1859 Carrington Event, the largest solar storm ever detected, as “extremely intense” relative to other CMEs. The amount of plasma it ejected is difficult to estimate, but more important in determining its strength is how fast it arrived.

21 Jan 2013

Superquakes, supercycles, and global earthquake clustering: Recent research and recent quakes reveal surprises in major fault systems

A number of recent big earthquakes around the world have humbled many earthquake researchers. The March 2011 magnitude-9 superquake off Tohoku, Japan, and the December 2004 magnitude-9-plus temblor off Sumatra were both far larger than what scientists expected those fault systems to produce. Based on these quakes, and on recent research that contradicts long-held paradigms, it is becoming clear that the types and sizes of large earthquakes that a given fault system is capable of producing remain poorly known for most major fault systems.

07 Jan 2013

Travels in Geology: Famous fossils and spectacular scenery at British Columbia's Burgess Shale

Of all the famous fossil localities in the world, perhaps none is as widely celebrated as British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. High in the Canadian Rockies, the Burgess Shale contains some of the oldest and most exquisitely detailed fossils of early life on Earth. Visiting the Burgess Shale requires some preparation — you must hire a guide and hike 22 kilometers at high elevation — but for a fossil enthusiast, the payoff is worth every step.

01 Jan 2013

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

Pages