Arizona road hazard has surprising source

Blowing dust is one of Arizona’s deadliest weather-related hazards. Between 1955 and 2011, brownout conditions created by dust storms caused more than 1,500 motor vehicle accidents across the state, resulting in 157 fatalities and more than 1,300 injuries, according to a 2016 NOAA Technical Memorandum.

25 Jan 2018

Climate change linked to specific weather events for the first time

Three extreme weather events that occurred in 2016 would not have been possible in Earth’s pre-industrial climate, according to the sixth annual report on the attribution of extreme weather events issued Dec. 13 by NOAA and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). This marks the first time that researchers have concluded that a specific weather event would not have been possible without the influence of humans.

14 Dec 2017

Both urban flooding and rural drying to intensify

In a comprehensive global analysis, including data from more than 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring stations in 160 countries, researchers report that global rainfall is increasing, likely due to warming air temperatures that allow more moisture into the atmosphere, causing more intense rainfall. Rural areas tend to absorb excess water during storms, preventing widespread flooding in rural zones, but between storms, rising temperatures also mean more evaporation from exposed soils, creating drier conditions over the long term, the team noted in Scientific Reports. Meanwhile, in urban environments, more intense rainfall often overwhelms stormwater catchments in places with less exposed soil, leading to a higher incidence of flooding.

11 Dec 2017

Seismic patterns help forecast eruptions from quiet stratovolcanoes

Earth is home to more than 1,500 potentially eruptive volcanoes on land, each with a unique character and history. Predicting when and how a particular volcano may erupt is notoriously difficult, in large part because each eruption is unique. Recent work tracking pre-eruptive seismic behavior beneath two dozen reawakened volcanoes has revealed a distinctive pattern that seismologists may be able to use to assess when — and how violently — a rumbling volcano could blow its top.

24 Nov 2017

Opportunist organisms rafted across the Pacific on plastic

Since World War II, fiberglass and plastic — which are stronger, lighter and require less maintenance than wood — have become the materials of choice for coastal infrastructure like docks. An unforeseen consequence of this transition, however, is that when structures built from these durable materials break free from their moorings and drift out to sea, they can serve as resilient rafts for opportunistic organisms. 

21 Nov 2017

Desktop seismology: How a maker-inspired device is changing seismic monitoring

The Raspberry Shake — a personal seismograph invented in 2016 and named after the computer that powers the instrument (the Raspberry Pi) — was intended for hobbyists. But the device’s usefulness quickly became apparent to a much wider audience, including scientists and educators around the world. 
16 Nov 2017

Volcanic activity contributed to first of the "Big Five" mass extinctions

During the Ordovician, between about 488 million and 444 million years ago, plant life first emerged on land, while primitive fish and a variety of marine invertebrates flourished in the oceans. Toward the end of the period, however, a mass extinction — the first of the so-called “Big Five” Phanerozoic extinctions — wiped out roughly 60 percent of all marine invertebrate genera. In a recent study, researchers shed new light on a possible cause of the Late Ordovician extinction: volcanic activity.

15 Nov 2017

Troubled waters: Lead lurking in U.S. water supplies

In 2014, Flint, Mich., started drawing its drinking water from the highly corrosive Flint River, which leached lead from old pipes, exposing the population to lead poisoning. Such aging infrastructure exists in towns across the nation, leaving many to wonder if what happened in Flint could happen to them. The answer in many cases is yes.
30 Oct 2017

T-A-P (Testing, Awareness, Prevention)

Not all water corrosivity issues are obvious. For this reason, Ryan Gordon, a hydrogeologist at the Maine Geological Survey, recommends that regular tests be conducted at least once every three years.

30 Oct 2017

Geomedia: Books: Vivid anecdotes abound in "Eruption: The untold story of Mount St. Helens"

The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a pivotal event in the geologic careers of many volcanologists. Maybe it drove them to the geosciences, maybe it opened a door for more monitoring and research jobs in the United States, or maybe it was just an excellent example that the lower 48 states are volcanically active. However, as seminal as the 1980 eruption was, it happened almost 20 years before most of today’s college students were even born. To them, the eruption is another example from history, like Pelée or Vesuvius. They likely don’t have the same visceral reaction to it as those who remember it (even if, like me, you were still in preschool when the eruption occurred.)

26 Oct 2017