HAZARDS

hazards

Peeling North American Plate causing East Coast earthquakes

On Aug. 23, 2011, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck near Mineral, Va., shaking the Piedmont region and damaging several historic buildings in Washington, D.C. The quake caught many people by surprise because the eastern U.S. lies in the interior of the North American Plate, more than 1,500 kilometers from the nearest plate boundary. In a new study, researchers peering beneath the southeastern portion of the North American Plate may have found an explanation for why parts of the region experience more quakes than expected.

31 Aug 2016

Firefighting gets a leg up from earthquake sensor networks

Seismic networks monitor ground motion in earthquake-prone regions like California and Nevada. Now, they may also help combat other natural hazards like wildfires, which are especially common in drought-stricken western states where parched landscapes create ideal conditions for fires to spread.

19 Aug 2016

Helium escape may help predict volcanic activity

Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, rises 3,300 meters above the island of Sicily, which lies just off the coast of Italy’s “toe.” Within 100 kilometers of more than 3 million people, Etna frequently rumbles and occasionally belches. As recently as last May, explosions accompanied lava fountains and ash erupted from one of the volcano’s craters over several days. This was just one of many eruptions in a long line of events, with historical documents dating similar outbursts back to 1500 B.C. Scientists cannot pinpoint when Etna will next erupt, but in a new study in Geology, researchers have identified a clue that may help them better understand how the volcano’s inner plumbing system changes just prior to an eruption.

17 Aug 2016

Vibrations make large rocky landslides flow like water

There is a rule of thumb in geology for how far a landslide will run out: Most landslides travel roughly twice the vertical fall distance from where they fall off their parent slope. But certain types of dry landslides, called sturzstroms, can travel 20 to 30 times farther, without water or mud to lubricate the flow. Scientists have long hypothesized about exactly how this occurs, and new computer models seem to back up their hypotheses: that vibrations generated by dry rocky landslides can cause the slides to flow like a fluid and spread out across surprisingly large areas.

06 Aug 2016

Sand shouldn't stand in for volcanic ash in jet engine tests

In 2010, the ash cloud produced by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano grounded trans-Atlantic and European flights for six days due to fears that the high-flying ash could damage — and stall — jet engines. The eruption, which snarled international air travel and led to billions in economic losses, spotlighted the need for more study of the effects of volcanic ash on jet engines. Many such studies have been done using sand as a convenient stand-in for ash. But a new study shows that some types of volcanic ash behave very differently from sand at high temperatures, suggesting sand is an inadequate analogue.

31 Jul 2016

Sea-level rise a risk for millions in the United States

One of the most obvious consequences of human-induced global warming is glacial melting and the sea-level rise that will occur as a result. Yet, few studies examining the potential toll of sea-level rise in the United States have factored in continuing population growth, according to the authors of a new study in Nature Climate Change. Using population projections for the year 2100, researchers led by Mathew Hauer of the University of Georgia projected how many people in the U.S. would be displaced by then due to sea-level rise of either 0.9 meters or 1.8 meters.

21 Jul 2016

Geoscience on Film: Innovation meets tradition for earthquake safety

Doug Prose and Diane LaMacchia have produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences since 1992. At work on a project delving into the complex interplay of tectonics, natural hazards and humanity in the Himalayan region, LaMacchia and Prose traveled to Nepal and Bhutan in June to investigate recovery and resilience in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Prose wrote about their recent experiences while there, and filed the following series of posts upon returning home.

11 Jul 2016

Geoscience on Film: Soaking in beautiful Bhutan

Doug Prose and Diane LaMacchia have produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences since 1992. At work on a project delving into the complex interplay of tectonics, natural hazards and humanity in the Himalayan region, LaMacchia and Prose traveled to Nepal and Bhutan in June to investigate recovery and resilience in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Prose wrote about their recent experiences while there, and filed the following series of posts upon returning home.

07 Jul 2016

Earthquakes can jump long distances

Earthquakes are known to “jump” from one fault to another, with the ground ­shaking from one rupture triggering movement on nearby faults. However, evidence for earthquake transference between faults separated by more than a few kilometers has been scarce. Now, researchers looking at two closely timed earthquakes that struck Pakistan in 1997 suggest that earthquakes can jump between faults more than 50 kilometers apart, a finding that may have implications for hazard projections in Southern California and elsewhere.

04 Jul 2016

Geoscience on Film: The view from outside Kathmandu

Doug Prose and Diane LaMacchia have produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences since 1992. At work on a project delving into the complex interplay of tectonics, natural hazards and humanity in the Himalayan region, LaMacchia and Prose traveled to Nepal and Bhutan in June to investigate recovery and resilience in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Prose wrote about their recent experiences while there, and filed the following series of posts upon returning home.

29 Jun 2016

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