Taxonomy term

california

Where will the San Andreas Fault rupture next?

In 1906, the San Andreas Fault Zone ruptured, and the shaking that followed brought the city of San Francisco to its knees. Buildings toppled and fires raged and, in the end, more than 3,000 people died as a result. Since then, Californians have often wondered aloud when and where the next “Big One” will strike. Geologists do not know the answers, but recent research has offered a new clue: Field mapping of the San Andreas’ southernmost reaches, near the Salton Sea, reveals a type of fault structure that researchers think may be just right for triggering a big earthquake.

08 Oct 2018

Sunny Southern California burns, missing its coastal clouds

Coastal Southern California is famous for cloudless blue skies all summer long, but it hasn’t always been that way. A new study indicates that cloud cover has decreased dramatically over the beaches between Los Angeles and San Diego since the 1970s. And that could affect fires in the region.

01 Oct 2018

Geologic Column: Tarnish on the Golden State

After World War II, California's economy and population boomed. Today, the state's economy is the fifth largest in the world, but unreasonably high living costs and numerous natural threats cloud its rosy image as the paradise by the Pacific.

22 Jun 2018

Taking the surprise out of sneaker waves

Since 2005, more than two dozen confirmed fatalities in California and Oregon have been caused by so-called sneaker waves, which surge far ashore with little warning, sometimes catching beachgoers by surprise. Most beaches in the Pacific Northwest and California have posted signs warning visitors of the hazard, but few scientific studies have been done on sneaker waves and, currently, there is no consensus on their definition or origin. 

01 Jun 2018

El Nino "flavors" affect California rainfall

Twenty years ago, the 1997–98 El Niño surpassed the 1982–83 event to become the strongest El Niño ever recorded, contributing to famine and drought in Southeast Asia, devastating floods in Southern California, and other natural disasters. By many metrics, the 2015–16 El Niño bested both to claim the title of the strongest El Niño on record. This most recent event, nicknamed the “Godzilla El Niño,” did contribute to extreme weather in parts of the world, including disastrous fires in Indonesia and the longest, global coral-bleaching event on record. However, it did not have the anticipated effect on California, which, at the time, was in the midst of a severe multi-year drought. In a recent study, researchers suggest the 2015–16 El Niño was the wrong “flavor” to bring heavy precipitation to the state.

13 May 2018

Water weight and surface rebound trigger small quakes in California

On average, a cubic meter of snow weighs less than 100 kilograms, but heavy, compacted snow can weigh more than 500 kilograms per cubic meter, with glacial ice approaching 900 kilograms per cubic meter. In California, as elsewhere, the weight of winter snow and spring runoff pushes down on the landscape, affecting stresses on fault systems, which may trigger small quakes. As the snow melts and the runoff makes its way downstream, land rebounds, setting off more small earthquakes.

12 Oct 2017

Nineteenth-century cows muddied Southern California continental shelf

When offshore ecosystems deteriorate, scientists often look at changing ocean conditions, urban runoff or fishing as potential explanations. Cows usually don’t come to mind. But new research investigating the seafloor off the coast of Los Angeles suggests that 19th-century cattle, despite their terrestrial lifestyle, left a lasting impact on the underwater habitat there.

26 Jul 2017

Comment: Atmospheric rivers increase water supply in California — but only to a point

Atmospheric rivers can cause floods; their absence can cause droughts. How can water managers adapt to capture and store floodwaters brought by these enormous storms for later use?

10 Feb 2017

Robotic mussels track temperature change

Among the crashing waves of rocky shorelines, tiny robotic mussels are providing scientists with insight into climate change impacts on marine life. The battery-powered “biomimics” hide among real mussels, with internal thermometers to estimate temperatures of their nearby living neighbors. Mussels’ body temperatures are changing with solar radiation, cloud cover and wind speed, says Brian Helmuth, a marine ecologist from Northeastern University in Boston. Because of this, the mussels’ body temperatures are generally much higher than the temperature of the surrounding air during exposure at low tide.
 

01 Feb 2017

California drought stops slow-moving landslides

Most people think of landslides as fast-moving events, but many slides creep slowly, advancing over hundreds or thousands of years. In a new study, researchers looking at creeping landslides in California have revealed an unexpected consequence of the state’s ongoing drought: Many of the slides have nearly stopped due to the lack of water in the soil.

27 Sep 2016

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