Taxonomy term

may 2014

Humans causing California's mountains to grow

Humankind has proven time and again that it can reshape mountains, or even tear them down. Now, it appears, we can make them rise as well. Geologists studying growth rates of the Sierra Nevada and of central California’s Coast Ranges have identified an anthropogenic contribution to the mountains’ uplift that they suggest is tied to the decades-long depletion of groundwater in the state’s Central Valley. What’s more, the researchers report in a new study published in Nature, the long-term water loss may be affecting how stress builds up on faults like the San Andreas.

14 May 2014

Geologic Column: Riding the rails to Omaha with Rudolf Clausius

It was the German physicist Rudolf Clausius who, in 1850, dressed the Second Law in a tuxedo to show us that the pigpen was infinite. He said, “the entropy of the universe strives to reach a maximum.” That is a beautifully concise vision of our fate with the clear message that in the grand scheme of things, there is no escape. We’re all doomed and can do nothing about it. All order in the universe will degenerate into chaos.

14 May 2014

Benchmarks: May 6, 1852: Edward Sabine links the geomagnetic and sunspot cycles

At the beginning of the 19th century, little was understood about Earth’s magnetic field, but interest in its workings had begun to grow, especially in Europe. That the magnetic field exists had long been recognized, and magnetic compasses had aided in navigation for centuries, particularly at sea where fixed landmarks are hard to come by. Not surprisingly, the increased attention emerging around the turn of the century came from naval and shipping interests, which recognized that an accurate understanding of the field’s behavior would be a boon to their fleets.

By this time, the underlying physical explanation for the magnetic field had also become a major source of scientific curiosity. In the preceding two centuries, observers had measured differences in the field’s intensity, inclination and declination — the angle between magnetic and true north — between locations, as well as changes in those properties at the same location, both over varying lengths of time. Others had noted the synchronized occurrence of colorful atmospheric auroras with widespread disturbances in the magnetic field, termed magnetic storms.

It was clear the planet’s magnetic field was an inconstant and complex phenomenon, and many eminent scientists saw it as the next great natural mystery to unravel.

13 May 2014

Mineral Resource of the Month: Selenium

Selenium, a relatively rare element with diverse uses, is widely distributed within Earth’s crust, but it does not occur in concentrations high enough to justify mining solely for its recovery. Selenium is recovered as a byproduct of nonferrous metal ore processing, principally from the anode slimes associated with electrolytic refining of copper. Slimes from primary copper refining can contain as much as 10 percent selenium, but are generally much lower.

 
12 May 2014

Energy Notes: December 2012-2013

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit www.api.org.

12 May 2014

Geomedia: California's climatic catastrophes detailed in "The West Without Water"

The 2013-2014 California drought has impacted everything from wildfires to food prices across the country. Politicians and the media called this the worst drought in California history, but scientists know that intense multiyear droughts are a regular feature of California’s climate. Fortunately, B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam have put drought into context for everyone in their new history of California’s droughts and floods, “The West Without Water.”
 

12 May 2014

Travels in Geology: From beaches to bush: Tramping in New Zealand

With its stunningly beautiful landscapes, adrenaline-boosting attractions, renowned wines and craft beers, and easy logistics, New Zealand is one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations. It is especially well known for superb hiking, locally referred to as “tramping” or “bushwalking.” From short strolls through lush temperate rainforest to challenging alpine tracks, New Zealand offers a lifetime’s worth of outstanding walks.

Follow the author and her family on some of New Zealand's Great Walks: multiday backcountry hikes that highlight the awe-inspiring terrain found on this ancient scrap of Gondwanaland.

09 May 2014

Getting there and getting around in New Zealand

Auckland, on the North Island, has the country’s largest airport and is the primary international arrival point. The South Island’s largest airports are at Christchurch and Queenstown, but neither hosts direct flights from the U.S. Getting around will likely involve a car.

09 May 2014

Naturally occurring methane found in groundwater in New York

In 2008, when dangerously high levels of methane were found in drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa., fingers were pointed at nearby hydraulic fracturing operations as the source of the contamination. Six years later, the debate still rages over whether the town’s methane problem was exacerbated by drilling operations or if it was there all along. Now a new study is adding some much-needed baseline data for methane levels in groundwater in the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale region of New York. The results suggest that, in some cases, methane occurs at naturally high levels in groundwater, without the influence of gas exploration and production.

07 May 2014

Comment: The Oso landslide shows need for insurance and better planning

The deadly landslide that struck near Oso, Wash., in March killed more than 40 people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, most of which was not covered by insurance. The landslide was not a surprise to geologists. Could this disaster have been prevented — or can future disasters be prevented?

06 May 2014

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