Taxonomy term

benchmarks

Benchmarks: April 22, 1995: GLOBE is launched

Studying the global environment requires collecting numerous detailed observations. And although it may seem today like we’re awash in such data, relevant observations — collected at the right time and place — are often unavailable. For example, scientists studying precipitation must rely on just a handful of sampling stations: All of the world’s raingages gathered together would only cover an area the size of two basketball courts.

22 Apr 2016

Benchmarks: March 17, 1944: The most recent eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Four-and-a-half years into World War II, the residents of San Sebastiano, Italy — a Neapolitan village on the western slopes of Mount Vesuvius — had already endured much misery: dictatorial rule, invasion, occupation and bombings. In mid-March 1944, they faced yet another catastrophe, this one a natural disaster that would destroy their town.

17 Mar 2016

Benchmarks: February 1962 and 1984: John Glenn and Bruce McCandless make space flight history

On the morning of Feb. 20, 1962, John H. Glenn sat inside the Mercury Friendship 7 space capsule, perched atop a rocket that had initially been designed to deliver nuclear warheads to the far ends of the world. That rocket would propel Glenn into space, and into the history books, as the first American to orbit Earth. 
 
07 Feb 2016

Benchmarks: January 10, 2013: Pinnacles National Park is founded

On Jan. 10, 2013, when President Barack Obama signed legislation granting national park status to the former Pinnacles National Monument — designated as such by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 — the land became the country’s 59th national park. Tucked away in California’s Coast Ranges about an hour’s drive inland from Big Sur, Pinnacles covers almost 11,000 hectares of wilderness near Paicines, Calif., and is one of the main refuges for the critically endangered California condor, which nearly went extinct in the 1980s. Recently, with conservation programs like the one that exists at Pinnacles, the birds are on their way toward recovery.
 
10 Jan 2016

Benitoite: A rare gemstone

The tectonic forces that formed Pinnacles also helped form one of the world’s rarest gemstones: benitoite. Gem-quality specimens are only found in San Benito County where Pinnacles National Park is located. Benitoite, which is California’s state gemstone, has a deep azure color, a pyramidal crystal habit, and a light-blue fluorescence under ultraviolet light. 
 
10 Jan 2016

Benchmarks: December 10, 1930: Seattle’s Denny Hill disappears

Few cities in the United States can rival Seattle for the scale of reengineering to its landscape. Not only did its citizens make more than 890 hectares of new land in its harbor, but they also replumbed the city’s largest lake, completely changing its drainage pattern and drying up its main outlet, and regraded tens of millions of cubic meters of its hills. The most famous of these projects was the elimination of Denny Hill, a 73-meter-high hill that stood at the north end of Seattle’s central business district.
 
10 Dec 2015

Public improvements, private funding

Seattle city engineer Reginald H. Thomson may have been the driving force behind the Denny Hill regrades, but they could not have occurred without public support. In order for a regrade to proceed, at least 50 percent of the people who lived in the affected areas had to sign a petition. For example, the Second Avenue regrade needed the signatures of 67 property owners. A completed petition triggered the next phase, which was a city council ordinance that defined the boundaries of the regrade. A second ordinance then provided the funding mechanism, or what was known as a Local Improvement District (LID). 

10 Dec 2015

Benchmarks: November 1, 1755: Earthquake destroys Lisbon

Today, the Carmo Convent in Lisbon, Portugal, stands half destroyed; the walls remain, but the roof has been gone for 260 years. On the morning of Nov. 1, 1755, the church was packed with people attending mass for All Saints’ Day, a Catholic holiday. At about 9:30 a.m., the ground heaved, and the church’s roof fell. A magnitude-8.7 earthquake had struck. Churchgoers not crushed by falling debris fled into the streets. Across the city, candles, stoves and oil lamps fell, igniting fires that eventually burned down about half the city. Along with the shaking, the fires drove people to the banks of the Tagus River — Lisbon’s main river — and to the city’s harbor, where many boarded ships in search of safety. About 45 minutes after the shaking began, however, a 5- to 10-meter-tall tsunami entered the Tagus from the Atlantic Ocean, smashing ships against one another and against the sea walls surrounding the city.
 
01 Nov 2015

The quake's impact on western thinking

The quake occurred on All Saints’ Day, and it destroyed almost every major church in Lisbon. This sparked debate among theologians about whether disasters like earthquakes were acts of divine judgment, or whether they should be seen more as indiscriminate natural phenomena.
 
01 Nov 2015

Benchmarks: October 4, 1915: Dinosaur National Monument Founded

While moving across the country from California to Michigan two years ago, I stopped at Dinosaur National Monument, or “Dinosaur,” which today covers 85,000 hectares and straddles the northern portion of the border between Colorado and Utah. I camped at the Green River Campground on the Utah side, and from there, Split Mountain, on the western margin of the east-west-trending Uinta Mountains, glowed violet-pink in the sunset light. 
 
04 Oct 2015

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