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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

Benchmarks: January 3–5, 1982: 18,000 landslides wreak havoc on the San Francisco Bay area

When a storm battered California’s San Francisco Bay Area in early January 1982, the rain was intense, but not without precedent. The region had historically endured heavy rains during the winter months, with individual storms sometimes bringing more than half the annual average rainfall in a single 36-hour span. But a collection of unique factors in 1982 created a recipe for a landslide disaster. First, two weather fronts merged, bringing copious amounts of rain to an already saturated region. Second, the rising population had resulted in a construction boom in the iconic hills of the Bay Area. During three days of relentless rain from Jan. 3–5, 1982, a record 18,000 individual landslides occurred, killing at least 25 people.
 
02 Jan 2012

Benchmarks: December 16, 1811-February 7, 1812: The New Madrid earthquakes strike the Heartland

This winter marks the bicentennial of a series of powerful intraplate earthquakes that occurred in the central United States over a two-month period beginning on Dec. 16, 1811. Named for New Madrid, one of the settlements on the Mississippi River, these tremors were among the largest historic earthquakes to occur east of the Rocky Mountains.

16 Dec 2011

Down to Earth With: Pat Pringle

After finishing a master’s degree in geology at the University of Akron in 1982, Pat Pringle left the relative flatlands of Ohio’s Allegheny Plateau and went west to pursue his passion. More specifically, he went northwest, to the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Cascades Volcano Observatory, lured by the steaming vents and layered debris flows of the recently awakened giant, Mount St. Helens. He was smitten.

 
12 Dec 2011

Down to Earth With: Matt Kuchta

Matt Kuchta is the geology program at the University of Wisconsin at Stout (UW-Stout), located in Menomonie, Wis. It’s a young program: Kuchta is in just his second year as a tenure-track assistant professor, after working as an adjunct instructor at the undergraduate instruction-focused school for two years while pursuing a doctorate in geology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which he received in 2009.

15 Nov 2011

Benchmarks: November 7, 1940, and November 25, 1990: Washington suffers a pair of debilitating bridge failures

Washington’s Puget Sound comprises an intricate network of rivers, lakes, inlets and islands, many of which are traversed by bridges that safely carry more than 100,000 cars each day. With November upon us, however, civil engineers and Department of Transportation officials in Washington must be holding their collective breath. Historically, the 11th month has not been kind to area bridges.
 
07 Nov 2011

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