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Benchmarks: June 10, 1886: New Zealand’s Mount Tarawera erupts

On June 10, 1886, Mount Tarawera on New Zealand’s North Island erupted catastrophically, killing more than 100 people. With few warning signals, the explosive basaltic eruption caught many people by surprise as it rocked the mountain, forming fissures that extended for 17 kilometers into the adjacent Lake Rotomahana and Waimangu Valley. 
 
04 Jun 2012

Down to Earth With: The Geographers of the Solar System

Certain government officials have super cool titles: for example, Planetary Protection Officer (NASA's Catharine Conley) and Oceanographer of the Navy (David Titley). I think Geographer of the Solar System would be right up there. Alas, no one actually has that title, but in a little-known office of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) nestled in the hills above Flagstaff, Ariz., I met a dozen or so people who could reasonably qualify for it.

13 May 2012

Benchmarks: May 15, 1909: The Northern Great Plains earthquake

In Culbertson, Mont., at a quarter past nine on a Saturday evening, Ralph Bush and H.G. Walsh were resting in the third-floor apartment of the Reed Cash Grocery when the floor began to rock, vibrating a small penknife right off their table, and sending a candle lamp clattering to the floor. At the nearby Evans Hotel, confusion reigned as the quake shook the two-story brick building, causing frightened guests to flee into the streets. On the second story of the Farmers & Merchants bank, a piano player was entertaining a social gathering at the home of Professor Dale when the shaking sent a vase crashing to the floor. The 15 seconds of quivering was so pronounced at Skelley’s barbershop that, “It rang up a 50-cent cash sale on the cash register, and it has been keeping me guessing how I can balance the darned thing,” Skelley told a reporter from the Culbertson Republican.
 
02 May 2012

Down to Earth With: Volcanologist Stephen Sparks

From the Caribbean to Iceland to the Andes, volcanologist Stephen Sparks has spent a lifetime studying volcanoes. As a professor of geology at the University of Bristol in England for more than 20 years, Sparks has devoted much of his time to figuring out where the next eruption will occur and how to respond to it. His latest effort is a project that will connect experts and technology in a global network to improve volcanic risk assessment.

13 Apr 2012

Benchmarks: April 1, 1946: Hawaii tsunami ushers in a Pacific-wide warning system

On the morning of April 1, 1946, children were on their way to school in the small peninsula community of Laupahoehoe on the island of Hawaii (the Big Island). Curious about the fish that were flopping around in the sand on the beach, the students were too busy to notice the ocean sucking all the water out of the bay. Minutes later, a large wave — about 15 meters high — struck the peninsula and swept 16 children and five teachers out to sea.
 
01 Apr 2012

Down to Earth With: Glaciologist Richard Alley

If you don’t know who Richard Alley is, stop reading for a minute and search for him on YouTube. Go on, this can wait. Back? What you likely saw was Alley singing his rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” in which he explains subduction zones, or another similar song. In addition to being something of an Internet sensation for his energetic lectures and songs about geologic processes, Alley is a glaciologist who studies the effects of climate change.

13 Mar 2012

Benchmarks: March 1961: Project Mohole undertakes the first deep-ocean drilling

Since its inception in the 1960s, the ocean drilling program — an international research program that explores the world’s ocean basins — has logged hundreds of thousands of hours of ship time traveling the world’s oceans, drilling boreholes and retrieving cores of sediment and rock that have revealed Earth’s deep history and structure.
 
05 Mar 2012

Down to Earth With: Geologist Kyle House

Kyle House, a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Geology and Geophysics Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., gravitated to scenery at a young age when he moved from Oklahoma to western Washington and beheld the Cascade Range for the first time. He learned that rocks and landscapes can tell fascinating stories, and he developed a passion for explaining the events that shape them. While earning degrees in the geosciences, he became attuned to the value of collaboration. Any scientist working in isolation can tell only an incomplete version of a phenomenon or event, he says.

24 Feb 2012

Benchmarks: February 7, 2009: Deadliest day of fire ever recorded in Australia

On Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, John Brumby, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, warned the public of the high risk of wildfires that weekend: “It’s just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow.” He was right. The next day, more than a dozen major fires and hundreds of smaller ones tore across the region, fueled by record temperatures and high winds. The so-called Black Saturday fires released more energy than 1,500 Hiroshima bombs, according to one fire expert. Together, the fires cost billions in damage and killed 173 people — the deadliest day of fires recorded in Australia.
 
06 Feb 2012

Down to Earth With: Lee Allison

Lee Allison was head of the Arizona Geological Survey. EARTH interviewed him in 2012 and spoke with him about the latest issues in Arizona geology and the complicated politics of potash and uranium mining.

27 Jan 2012

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