Taxonomy term

february 2014

Tsunamis from the sky: Can meteotsunamis be forecast?

The Great Lakes, along with the U.S. East Coast, the Mediterranean, Japan and many other parts of the world, have a long history of mysterious large waves striking unsuspecting coastlines. Such waves have characteristics similar to tsunamis triggered by earthquakes or landslides. Only recently, however, have scientists unraveled how a storm can create and propagate these far-traveling waves — called meteorological tsunamis or meteotsunamis. 

19 Feb 2014

A tsunami by many other names

Storm-triggered waves have been recognized and recorded around the world, including the U.S. where, in addition to the Great Lakes, they have occurred in New England, on the West Coast and on the Gulf Coast. In some parts of the world, they are common enough to have special names. In Croatia, the phenomenon is called Šćiga; in Malta, it is Milghuba; in Spain, Rissaga; in Japan, Abiki; and in Finland, Seebär. Scientists everywhere call them meteorological tsunamis, or meteotsunamis. Here are a few notable occurrences:

18 Feb 2014

A history of tsunami-like waves on the Great Lakes

Severe and deadly seiche events are rare on the Great Lakes. In the last century, about 10 major waves have hit the shores of the Great Lakes, but smaller anomalous waves occur much more frequently. Many of the deadliest have occurred on Lake Michigan, but Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie have also experienced them. In addition to the June 26, 1954, event, some others were: 

18 Feb 2014

Ocean dynamics speed sea-level rise along U.S. East Coast

Over the past century, sea levels along the East Coast of the U.S. have risen faster than the global mean. This accelerated rise has so far been attributed to nonclimatic factors, such as land subsidence along the Eastern Seaboard, but available tide gauge data don’t fit with such slow and near-constant processes. A new study now links this regional sea-level rise to climate change and ocean dynamics — and the results may bring more bad news for ocean-front properties along the East Coast.

09 Feb 2014

Down to Earth With: Eric Riggs

Eric Riggs says he often tells students the story of how he got into geoscience as a cautionary tale. That may seem ironic given his current position as assistant dean for diversity and graduate student recruitment and development in Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences. But before returning to school to earn a doctorate in mineral physics and, eventually, settling into geoscience education research, Riggs made forays into English literature, marketing and the printing business. “Don’t do it this way!” he says with a laugh. “It worked out well for me, but it was a long, twisted path.”

09 Feb 2014

Benchmarks: February 23 – 24, 1999: Alpine Avalanches sweep through Austrian towns, killing dozens

For skiers, snowboarders and other high-elevation winter adventurers, avalanches pose an ever-present, if difficult-to-anticipate, risk. But tourists and townspeople at the lower elevations and on the flatter terrain of mountain valleys are usually far from such threats. For the tiny Austrian towns of Galtür and Valzur — popular winter destinations for their ski trails and chalets — that was not the case in late February 1999.
03 Feb 2014

Mineral Resource of the Month: Iron and Steel

Iron is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, but it does not occur in nature in a useful metallic form. Although ancient people may have recovered some iron from meteorites, it wasn’t until smelting was invented that iron metal could be derived from iron oxides. After the beginning of the Iron Age in about 1200 B.C., knowledge of iron- and steelmaking spread from the ancient Middle East through Greece to the Roman Empire, then to Europe and, in the early 17th century, to North America. The first successful furnace in North America began operating in 1646 in what is now Saugus, Mass. Introduction of the Bessemer converter in the mid-19th century made the modern steel age possible.

03 Feb 2014

Energy Notes: September 2012-2013

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

03 Feb 2014

Warring trolls explanation for mysterious basalt pillars revised

Peculiar basalt pillars found in Iceland — attributed in local lore to a pair of angry trolls hurling projectiles at each other — are having their origin story updated. In a rare example of nonexplosive lava-water interactions occurring on land, the hollow pillars likely formed around vertical columns of steam and superheated water venting through lava as it flowed over saturated ground, according to a new study.

02 Feb 2014