Taxonomy term

march 2013

Geologic Column: You gotta have a plan

Early in the 1990 film “Tremors,” the character Earl criticizes his colleague, played by Kevin Bacon, for not having a plan. “Valentine, you never plan ahead. You never take the long view. I mean, here it is Monday, and I’m already thinking of Wednesday,” Earl says. “It is Monday, right?”
Of course, “Tremors” has a lot going for it: funny dialog, great scenery, monster subterranean worms, a female seismologist, and, of course, Kevin Bacon. But the messages about planning ahead whenever possible and improvising when necessary are ones that every earth scientist will appreciate.
17 Mar 2013

Mineral Resource of the Month: Tellurium

A relatively rare element, tellurium is tied with platinum and palladium as the 71st most abundant element in Earth’s crust. Tellurium belongs to the chalcogen chemical family, along with oxygen, sulfur, selenium and polonium. Oxygen and sulfur are nonmetals, polonium is a metal, and selenium and tellurium are metalloids. However, selenium and tellurium are often referred to as metals when in elemental form, and have semiconducting electrical properties that make them suitable in electronic applications. 

13 Mar 2013

Well-healed faults produce high-frequency earthquake waves

Much like our voices create sound waves with a variety of low and high pitches, or frequencies, earthquakes also produce seismic waves over a spectrum of frequencies. The seismic waves’ frequencies determine, in part, how far they travel and how damaging they are to human-made structures. But teasing out the details of how quake-generating faults influence seismic frequencies is no easy task, mainly because faults tend to be buried deep underground.

10 Mar 2013

Benchmarks: March 1913: The first complete geologic timescale is published

Ask a geologist when the Paleogene Period started and odds are very good the answer will be about 65.5 million years ago. Ask about the Carboniferous and you’ll likely hear 359 million years ago. Ask how old Earth is and the answer will almost invariably be 4.55 billion years, give or take a few tens of millions of years. Today, most geologic ages are well established and widely agreed upon. But the geologic timescale wasn’t always so settled.
08 Mar 2013

Releasing a flood of controversy on the Colorado River

Since the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the once warm and muddy Colorado River has run clear and cold, with a drastically altered ecosystem. A new plan to release regular, intentional floods — to resupply sediment and restore species habitat — aims to reverse the damage done to the Grand Canyon’s natural systems over the last 50 years.

03 Mar 2013

Sinkholes: Florida grapples with the wonders of the not-so-deep

This story was printed in August 2010. In response to the tragic sinkhole event in Tampa, Fla., on March 1, we are reposting this story.

Sinkholes are a natural part of Florida’s landscape, forming when rainwater levels fluctuate. They've occurred naturally for millions of years and they haven’t been a big problem for humans until recently: Florida’s population has increased from fewer than 8 million in the 1970s to just shy of 20 million today — and farmers, snowbirds and Mother Nature have begun to engage in an increasingly acrimonious water war. The addition of humans to the landscape has made the situation increasingly volatile. Now, sinkholes open up seemingly — or literally — overnight. When a sinkhole opened up in a cow pasture, few people cared, but now if one opens up under somebody’s house or under Interstate 4, we pay attention.

01 Mar 2013

Where on Earth? - March 2013

Clues for March 2013:
1. The braided channels of this nearly 3,000-kilometer-long river — said to be the highest-altitude major river in the world with an average elevation of about 4,000 meters — drain high mountain glaciers and carry water and sediment to other rivers that discharge into the Indian Ocean.
2. Where the east-flowing river bends sharply around a tall peak and turns south, it passes through a massive canyon — deeper and longer than Arizona’s Grand Canyon — that is renowned as a challenge for adventurous kayakers.

Setting sail on unknown seas: The past, present and future of species rafting

The 2011 Japanese tsunami set adrift tons of debris, some of it carrying live plants and animals that landed in North America more than a year later. It isn’t the first time species have traveled the globe on ersatz rafts, and it won’t be the last. But it is concerning.

24 Feb 2013

Disaster debris hotlines and fast grants

Two years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, debris set adrift by the destructive waves continues to wash up on beaches along the west coast of the United States and Canada.

Beachcombers can report tsunami-related or hazardous debris by emailing or calling 1-855-WACOAST in Washington or 211 in Oregon. As of Dec. 13, NOAA had received 1,432 reports of debris, 17 of which were confirmed as tsunami-related.

01 Jan 2013