Assessing how well earthquake hazard maps work: Insights from weather and baseball

Seismologists can gain insights about how well earthquake hazard maps work and how to improve them from other forecasting applications, like weather forecasting and baseball statistics. 

28 Feb 2017

Comment: Atmospheric rivers increase water supply in California — but only to a point

Atmospheric rivers can cause floods; their absence can cause droughts. How can water managers adapt to capture and store floodwaters brought by these enormous storms for later use?

10 Feb 2017

Burning grass releases more nitrogen pollution than burning wood

Smoke from fires — whether from wildfires or from residential and agricultural grass and crop burning — carries pollutants into the air that affect climate and can be toxic to humans and ecosystems. According to new research, smoke from crop and grass fires appears to contain higher levels of some hazardous nitrogen-containing chemicals than wood fire smoke. The work also calls into question whether certain chemicals commonly used as distinctive signatures of biomass burning are still valid.

06 Feb 2017

Temblor: An app that brings home your seismic hazard

The public has a serious thirst for seismic knowledge. But the language that matters to homeowners is dollars and safety. Temblor was founded with the goal of making seismic resilience personal and the language accessible.
30 Jan 2017

Initial earthquake behavior does not predict outcome

Can seismologists tell from the first few seconds of recorded seismic data how big an earthquake is going to be, or does it take longer and require data that come in after a quake rupture has progressed along the fault? The answer to this question underpins the usefulness of earthquake early warning systems and has perplexed scientists for decades. In a new study, researchers looking at near-source seismic recordings from shallow crustal earthquakes have found that, within the first few seconds of rupture, large and small earthquakes appear indistinguishable from one another, hinting that initial rupture behavior may be universal among variously sized events.

26 Jan 2017

Road salt may be a larger problem for lakes than thought

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that approximately 30 million tons of road salt were applied to U.S. roads during 2015 to speed up the melting of snow and ice. Recently, scientists have observed increasing impacts on ecosystems and water quality linked to its application. New research, for example, finds that road salt influx is geochemically disrupting the ecosystem health of urban lakes in Michigan, and it may even lead to rising methane emissions from the lakes.

19 Jan 2017

Scientists map U.S. geoelectric hazards

During solar storms, electrons and protons collide with Earth’s atmosphere, disrupting the geomagnetic field and sometimes creating the flashing waves of colorful light in the night sky we know as auroras. But these same storms — if strong enough — have the potential to severely damage power grids.

19 Jan 2017

Tornadic storms fed by perfect spirals

Sometimes, large thunderstorms called supercells spawn tornadoes; sometimes they don’t. Predicting whether supercell drafts will spiral into a tornado is tricky, with false-alarm rates running as high as 75 percent. In a new study using helium balloons to study tornadogenesis in supercells, researchers have shown that wind patterns in the lowest 1 kilometer of a storm may play a major role in forming twisters.

17 Jan 2017

Earthquake-resilient pipes aim to keep L.A.'s water flowing

Southern California is notoriously dry, and the city of Los Angeles imports its water from Northern California. But there’s a potentially disastrous hurdle to cross: The San Andreas Fault runs just north of Los Angeles, slicing across all four of the major aqueducts that deliver water to the city. In the event of a major earthquake, water supplies to 4 million people could be cut altogether. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is working to disaster-proof the aqueducts as well as the 12,000 kilometers of pipelines that run throughout the city. A recent round of testing of a new type of earthquake-resilient pipeline at a specially designed laboratory at Cornell University is reassuring the LADWP that they’re on the right track.

08 Jan 2017

Active Japanese volcano due for large eruption?

In January 1914, Japan’s most active volcano, Sakurajima, erupted violently, covering the nearby city of Kagoshima in a layer of ash. The lava flows from this event filled the strait between the mainland and the island volcano, transforming it into a peninsula.

04 Jan 2017