New model predicts pumice drift patterns

In July 2012, the Havre volcano in the remote southwestern Pacific erupted, creating a raft of pumice that covered more than 400 square kilometers of ocean. Despite the raft’s massive size, the event went unreported for three weeks, until a passenger aboard a New Zealand-bound plane noticed the floating mass from above.

22 Aug 2014

Human-induced earthquakes shake less

Occurrences of earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States have increased since 2009 — a phenomenon that many scientists attribute to the growing use of hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction. Most agree that it’s not the fracturing itself, but the reinjection of wastewater into wells for containment beneath the surface that tends to induce seismic activity. Now, new research looking at the effects of induced seismic activity suggests that human-made earthquakes and naturally occurring tectonic earthquakes are felt differently at the surface.

21 Aug 2014

Benchmarks: August 15, 1984 & August 21, 1986: African killer lakes erupt

Only three lakes in the world are known to explosively release dissolved gases from their bottom waters. All three are in Africa; two have erupted with deadly consequences.

18 Aug 2014

Africa's impact is one that even the dinosaurs would have seen coming

The crater left by the infamous Chicxulub asteroid responsible for finishing off the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, was more than 19 kilometers deep and 177 kilometers in diameter. Those dimensions correspond to a huge energy release estimated at 100 teratons of TNT, but that’s puny compared to an impact that struck South Africa’s Barberton Greenstone Belt about 3.26 billion years ago. Now, researchers have estimated just how big that massive asteroid was and the catastrophic effect it might have had on Earth and its budding plate tectonic system.

14 Aug 2014

Are slow-slip earthquakes under Tokyo stressing faults?

More than 13 million people live in Tokyo, a city that has been devastated by earthquakes in the past and is likely to be rocked again. Since the massive magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, recurrence intervals for nondamaging slow-slip quakes beneath Japan's capital have shortened. And that has left seismologists to wonder if this aseismic creep could be signaling a countdown to Tokyo's next "big one."

07 Aug 2014

Oso landslide report yields some answers

Early on March 22, 2014, the most damaging landslide in U.S. history devastated the community of Oso, Washington. Forty-three people perished, most inside their homes, when a saturated hillside nearby gave way and a massive mudflow swept over their neighborhood. On July 22, a search crew recovered the last of the 43 bodies, exactly four months after the landslide, and coincidentally on the same day, a team of scientists and engineers released an exhaustive report detailing the event and its implications.

01 Aug 2014

Augustine Volcano's earthquakes and explosive eruption caused by a clogged conduit

New research shows that the explosive eruption in 2006 of Alaska’s Augustine Volcano, and the series of earthquakes that preceded it, were caused by a clogged conduit. The findings may help geologists monitor future eruptions at Augustine and elsewhere. 

29 Jul 2014

Unlocking the Cascadia Subduction Zone's secrets: Peering into recent research and findings

Megathrust earthquake hazards drive much of the research into the 1,000-kilometer-long Cascadia Subduction Zone, which lurks off the coast of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. New studies are helping elucidate what is happening off the Pacific Northwest coast.

20 Jul 2014

People's earthquake reports influenced more by locomotion than location

In this era of high-tech seismic networks and GPS, scientists still rely on low-tech earthquake intensity scales, generated from public surveys like the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Did You Feel It? questionnaire, to characterize ground shaking in places with low instrument coverage. But how accurate are people’s perceptions of shaking? 

15 Jul 2014

Solar wind gives lightning a boost

Strong gusts of solar wind appear to trigger lightning on Earth, according to a new study. Researchers studying patterns of lightning strikes in and around the U.K. over several years found a substantial uptick in lightning after high-speed streams of solar wind reached Earth. Given the regular timing of the streams’ arrivals and our ability to detect them with satellites, the findings could eventually help scientists better forecast lightning activity, potentially mitigating the hazard it poses to humans.

10 Jul 2014