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Geomedia: Books: 'Floodpath' recounts the deadly collapse of California's St. Francis Dam

The catastrophic collapse of the St. Francis Dam, located 80 kilometers north of downtown Los Angeles and east of the town of Santa Clarita, just before midnight on March 12, 1928, claimed more than 400 lives when towering floodwaters destroyed homes, bridges and farmland, as they swept through downstream communities. The disaster was initially blamed on the failure of the west abutment, anchored in soft conglomerate rock. Additional studies have revised this explanation, with recent research citing other geologic and design factors that likely contributed. Regardless, the collapse effectively ended the career of William Mulholland, the self-taught engineer whose 1913 Owens Valley Aqueduct made the explosive growth of Los Angeles possible. Yet, despite the magnitude of the disaster and its impact on local and national policy, it has been almost entirely forgotten, except by a few historians.

08 Jun 2016

Mesa Arch's 'hum' measured to track health of rock structure

For decades, structural engineers have listened to the tiny vibrations of buildings and bridges to detect internal damage or weakness. In recent years, geoscientists have begun employing this technique, called “structural health monitoring,” to discover the hidden inner workings of natural rock features. In a new study, researchers have applied this method for the first time to examine a rock arch — Utah’s famous Mesa Arch — to determine whether this delicate structure is stable or soon to collapse.

12 May 2016

What are the odds?: Automated system calculates the likelihood that asteroids will hit Earth

By some estimates, Earth is pelted each year by tens of thousands of asteroids — from souvenir-sized nuggets 10 grams and up to the occasional meters-wide boulder. Spotting larger Earth-bound impactors that could cause serious destruction, while they’re still in space, has been a priority of the planetary science community for years. But many space objects are small enough that they can only be detected days or hours before impact — if at all. In a new study, scientists have tested and automated a new technique called systematic ranging that’s intended to rapidly calculate the probability — from only a handful of observations — that newly discovered asteroids will hit Earth.

26 Jan 2016

Aquifers contaminated by Supertyphoon Haiyan storm surge

Supertyphoon Haiyan, which battered the Philippines in November 2013, was the most powerful hurricane to make landfall ever recorded. A new study has quantified damage done by the resulting storm surge to the fragile coastal aquifers that residents of one town rely on, and how long it might take for the aquifers to recover.

09 Jul 2015