Slipping point: Snow scientists dig in to decipher avalanche triggers

Scientists are studying avalanche triggers to understand how, where and when avalanches may occur. They’re starting to get a handle on the structure of packed snow and how avalanches fail and propagate.

15 Feb 2016

Revealing potential tsunami inundation on California coast

Earthquakes are well known along Southern California’s coast, and existing hazard maps indicate where quake-triggered tsunamis could flood the coastline. But in a new modeling study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers found that an earthquake-generated tsunami northwest of Los Angeles may reach farther inland than is currently projected.
06 Feb 2016

What are the odds?: Automated system calculates the likelihood that asteroids will hit Earth

By some estimates, Earth is pelted each year by tens of thousands of asteroids — from souvenir-sized nuggets 10 grams and up to the occasional meters-wide boulder. Spotting larger Earth-bound impactors that could cause serious destruction, while they’re still in space, has been a priority of the planetary science community for years. But many space objects are small enough that they can only be detected days or hours before impact — if at all. In a new study, scientists have tested and automated a new technique called systematic ranging that’s intended to rapidly calculate the probability — from only a handful of observations — that newly discovered asteroids will hit Earth.

26 Jan 2016

Subducting seamounts blocked a big quake in Chile

Chile, which lies above a massive subduction zone fault, is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, experiencing nine temblors of magnitude 7 or greater since 2010. In April 2014, a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck 95 kilometers northwest of the city of Iquique, but despite its large size, the event failed to release all the stress thought to have built up along that portion of the fault. A new study reveals that a ridge of ancient underwater volcanoes may have blocked the 2014 earthquake rupture from propagating farther, thus limiting the size of the quake.


20 Jan 2016

Widespread malaria risk from African dams

Large dams cause more than 1 million cases of malaria annually in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the authors of a new study published in Malaria Journal.
17 Jan 2016

Treated water that's too pure lets arsenic sneak in

With California’s water resources dwindling to alarmingly low levels, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) has pioneered a high-tech approach for recycling wastewater into potable tap water instead of discharging it into the ocean. The purification process is so thorough, however, that it might actually make the water too clean: In a new study, researchers have found that the ultra-purified water is vulnerable to contamination by naturally occurring arsenic in underground storage aquifers.
03 Jan 2016

Modeling 'magma mush' could reveal volcanic histories

Volcanic eruptions can spew large amounts of molten rock and ash, putting nearby communities as well as aircraft at risk. Gas emissions and earthquakes sometimes offer clues of when an eruption will occur, but the internal workings of volcanoes are largely unobservable. In a recent study, researchers illuminated these internal processes with a computer simulation that models the flow of the part-liquid, part-solid “magma mush” beneath volcanoes.

18 Dec 2015

Nearly half of Americans in lower 48 at risk for potentially damaging quake shaking

An estimated 143 million Americans in the conterminous 48 states, or about 46 percent of the population, live in areas susceptible to potentially damaging ground shaking from natural earthquakes, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists published in the journal Earthquake Spectra. (The study did not assess hazards associated with human-induced quakes.)
16 Dec 2015

Earthquake changed Po River's course in 16th-century Italy

The Po River runs for 650 kilometers from west to east across northern Italy, tracing the cuff of the country’s famous boot-like shape. But the river has not always followed its present course. Over the past 3,000 years, uplift along a fault gradually moved the river’s course about 20 kilometers north, and new research shows that a magnitude-5.8 earthquake in 1570 catastrophically rerouted the Po River another 40 kilometers north to its present location. 
09 Dec 2015

Narratives from Nepal: Relief and rebuilding after the Gorkha Earthquake

When a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, mountaineer Ben Erdmann was on a climbing expedition on Annapurna; meanwhile, seismologist Susan Hough and engineer Ajay Sitaula were at home in California and Colorado, respectively, watching the disaster unfold. Soon after, all would be on the ground in Nepal, involved in relief efforts or working to assess what happened — especially why the quake did not do as much damage as scientists expected it would.

06 Dec 2015