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Benchmarks: September 8, 1900: Massive hurricane strikes Galveston, Texas

Everyone said it couldn’t happen. City leaders saw no need for an expensive seawall, trusting local meteorologist Isaac Cline when he claimed that it was “impossible for any cyclone to ... materially injure the city.” And so, on the morning of Sept. 8, 1900, when the skies over Galveston, Texas, darkened with rain and the winds blew strong, residents of this booming barrier island community believed their city could weather any storm. By the next morning, the city lay in ruin, blasted by a Category-4 hurricane that killed an estimated 10,000 people — a quarter of the island’s population — and more than the combined death tolls of all other landfalling U.S. hurricanes since.

08 Sep 2016

Benchmarks: August 25, 1916: The National Park Service is established

The U.S. national parks are sanctuaries where one can find refuge in nature and marvel at its grandeur — from the glacially sculpted granitic monoliths of California’s Yosemite to the watery wilderness of Florida’s Everglades. This August, the agency that works to ensure the parks’ preservation for future generations, the National Park Service (NPS), celebrates its 100th anniversary.

25 Aug 2016

Geomedia: Books: 'FORE' helps you project the future, with a laugh

What if we could project the future of nearly everything with a single type of mathematical equation? In “FORE and the Future of Practically Everything,” a book replete with humor and keen insight, retired civil and geotechnical engineer Richard L. Handy valiantly attempts to demonstrate the projective power of mathematics by exploring an eclectic assortment of examples.

12 Aug 2016

Down to Earth With: National Park Service Geologic Resources Division chief David Steensen

When David Steensen started working in Redwood National Park in 1986, he did not think he’d be working for the National Park Service for more than a few years. He had been hired into a four-year fixed-term position to help restore the local watershed from the destabilizing effects of logging that occurred prior to the park’s establishment, and he knew that the park service rarely hired geologists into permanent positions.

05 Aug 2016

Geomedia: Film: A glimpse into the geology of 'Star Trek Beyond'

After a three-year wait by anxious fans, “Star Trek Beyond” hit theaters nationwide July 22. The third installment of the latest series of “Star Trek” movies, directed by Justin Lin and co-written by Simon Pegg, features more than two hours of action, stunning scenery and witty banter among the USS Enterprise crew — plus a bit of geology.

28 Jul 2016

Benchmarks: July 26, 1905: The rising Salton Sea swamps the Southern Pacific Railroad

On a scorching summer day in 1905, in the middle of a desert, the Colorado River, which had broken free from an irrigation canal and found its way to the lowest point around — the Salton Sink — swamped the Southern Pacific Railroad. Bounded by the Mojave Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south, the sink lies 70 meters below sea level at the bottom of the Salton Trough. By the time the railroad sealed the breach 18 months later, the Salton Sea stretched 58 kilometers long and 42 kilometers wide, making it California’s largest lake.

26 Jul 2016

Down to Earth With: Planetary scientist Steven Squyres

By age 6, Steven Squyres already considered himself a scientist, and, with his father’s help, would conduct rudimentary experiments with a chemistry kit. By the time he was 10, he had become fascinated by meteorology and erected a weather station in his backyard. He vividly remembers building an anemometer out of funnels, and realizing that his device would need to be calibrated in order to accurately measure wind speed. So, he asked his father to drive the family car up and down their street. While perplexed neighbors looked on, Squyres excitedly hung the instrument out the window, shouting to his dad to drive 5 miles per hour as he counted how many times the kitchen funnels spun around. Next, Squyres asked his dad to drive 10 miles per hour, and then even faster, repeating his counts at each speed until the calibration was complete.

28 Jun 2016

Geomedia: Television: 'NOVA' for the earth science enthusiast

“NOVA,” the weekly prime-time science series that airs on PBS, is known for producing high-quality TV documentaries on subjects ranging from espionage and the military to ancient civilizations and nature. Naturally, much “NOVA” programming touches on topics in geoscience, so we decided to review several recent hour-long episodes that might be of particular interest to our readers.

15 Jun 2016

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

Benchmarks: June 4, 1783: The era of aviation launches with the first balloon flight

In the small French town of Gonesse in August 1783, a large, spherical and nebulous object painted with red and yellow stripes fell from the sky and began fluttering about on the ground. The town’s peasants, fearful, attacked the object with pitchforks, and then tied it to a horse’s tail to be dragged through the streets.

04 Jun 2016

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