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kate s. zalzal

Venezuela, Central Africa are Earth's lightning hot spots

People who live around Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo call it a “lighthouse.” The lake’s “never-ending storm” has been written about for centuries, and the incessant lightning there has even helped guide Caribbean sailors. Data from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) has now confirmed that Lake Maracaibo is Earth’s top lightning hot spot.

24 Apr 2017

Maui reef degradation linked to contamination in coastal groundwater

Submarine groundwater discharge — the flow of fresh and brackish groundwater from land to sea — can transport contaminants to coastal ecosystems. But little is known about the direct impacts of this process on marine communities. In a new study published in PLOS ONE, researchers examined links between land use, water quality and coral reef health at coastal sites around Maui, finding that anthropogenic contaminants delivered via submarine groundwater are a source of chronic stress to nearshore marine ecosystems.

31 Mar 2017

White Cliffs of Dover on the retreat

England’s iconic White Cliffs of Dover tower 100 meters over the English Channel and, historically, were often the first and last view of England for sea-faring travelers. New research investigating the erosion history of the steep chalk cliffs suggests that they have been retreating far faster over the last 150 years than they once did.

23 Mar 2017

Geomedia: Radio: "The Infinite Monkey Cage" takes listeners to the edge of the universe and beyond

“Science is not about finding the right answer, it’s finding the least wrong answers,” quips physician and science writer Ben Goldacre, a guest on “The Infinite Monkey Cage,” a BBC radio show and podcast that casts an irreverent eye on big scientific questions. Goldacre was commenting on the definition of science, but this philosophy — that science is a constantly evolving pursuit, in which all ideas are valid until data and time prove them wrong — is also the refreshing and approachable premise of this witty show.

22 Mar 2017

Pyroclastic flows, not caldera collapse, caused Santorini tsunamis

The 1650 B.C. eruption of the Greek island volcano Santorini, located in the Aegean Sea, triggered tsunamis that heavily damaged coastal towns and disrupted vital shipping and trade operations, events thought to be important factors in the demise of the ancient Minoan culture.

17 Mar 2017

Benchmarks: March 11–13, 1888: The Great Blizzard of 1888 Paralyzes New York City

On Tuesday, March 13, 1888, the streets of New York City were nearly unrecognizable. What had been well-lit homes and storefronts, bustling with shoppers, families, workers and businessmen just two days before, now looked like a frozen battlefield, pummeled by a blizzard whose force had taken the city by surprise. The streets were clogged with deep snow and debris from signs, broken wires, downed poles, trees, and carts that had been abandoned as people fled to shelter. The few people who were out stumbled through deep snow drifts, fighting against a brutal icy wind; some never made it to safety.

11 Mar 2017

To cool the planet, volcanoes of the future will need more firepower

Explosive volcanic eruptions can spew sulfur gas into the stratosphere — the layer of the atmosphere above where most clouds and weather occur — where it forms sulfate aerosols that reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet. Now, researchers investigating how volcanic plumes could be affected by projected anthropogenic warming have found that, as temperatures rise, it becomes more difficult for volcanic plumes to reach the stratosphere.

06 Mar 2017

Down to Earth With: Cave scientist and paleoclimatologist Kathleen Johnson

Paleoclimatologist Kathleen Johnson has some advice for anyone interested in tropical cave science: befriend experienced cave guides and beware of venomous snakes, ubiquitous bats and Frisbee-sized spiders.

24 Feb 2017

Down to Earth With: Mountain biking geologist Kurt Refsnider

Growing up in Minnesota, Kurt Refsnider spent a lot of time exploring old clay and limestone quarries along the Minnesota River, where he collected marine fossils. While on a camping trip with his family at age 8, he visited the Burgess Shale in Banff, Canada, and learned about the exquisitely preserved soft-body fossils of Precambrian marine fauna. The experience initially made him want to become a paleontologist. But as he grew up, the glacial landscapes of the upper Midwest drew his attention and he decided to study geology instead.

09 Feb 2017

Benchmarks: February 5, 1931 and February 20, 1935: Antarctic firsts for women

We can only guess what Caroline Mikkelsen was thinking on Feb. 20, 1935, as she sipped her coffee, resting on a rocky hillside surrounded by the noise and stink of thousands of Adélie penguins. Minutes before, she had become the first woman to set foot in Antarctica and had helped hoist the Norwegian flag into place atop a rock cairn, claiming Norway’s influence in the land. Was she thrilled? Proud? Did she care about the significance of her presence there? We don’t know — little was recorded about the event; and most of what was recorded was lost for decades, resigning the episode, for a time, to footnote status amid the annals of a continent shrouded in mystery and a culture of polar exploration enraptured by the heroic and masculine deeds of the male explorers who had come before.

05 Feb 2017

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