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Tohoku tsunami may have gotten a boost from submarine slump

When the magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, the mainshock triggered tsunami waves averaging about 10 meters in height by the time they reached the coast of Japan, from Fukushima in the south to the northern tip of Honshu Island. But one mountainous stretch of coastline known as Sanriku, about 100 kilometers north of the main rupture area, saw waves higher than 40 meters. This oddity has led some scientists to suggest that a submarine landslide, triggered by the earthquake, may have contributed to the tsunami’s extreme height in this region.

 
04 Feb 2015

California drying out

Offering another perspective on the ongoing drought in the western U.S., NASA recently released this three-panel image illustrating relative water loss from California’s Central Valley between 2002 and 2014 based on data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites (hot colors indicate greater loss).

03 Feb 2015

New tracers can identify fracking fluids

Hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas has been controversial due in large part to the potential for contamination of ground and surface waters by the pressurized fluids used to force open cracks in deep shale formations and by the so-called flowback fluids that re-emerge at the surface from fracking wells. Now, researchers have developed a geochemical method of tracing fracking fluids in the environment; it’s a tool that could be used to identify hazardous spills in the future and may lead to better use and disposal of fracking wastewater.

01 Feb 2015

North American terranes not so exotic after all

The cordillera of western North America is a patchwork of various landmasses, or terranes, that assembled through collision and accretion to the Laurentian Shield, leaving a complicated tectonic history for geologists to unravel.

 
30 Jan 2015

Mantle plume alternative explains Australian volcanism

Magma often finds its way to the surface along Earth’s crustal boundaries as tectonic plates crash together, rift apart or grind past each other. Less understood is why volcanoes sometimes emerge far away from plate boundaries. Narrow plumes of buoyant mantle rock rising from hundreds of kilometers deep have long been supposed as the source of intraplate volcanoes, but evidence for plumes is lacking in many areas. Now, in a new study, researchers have reported evidence for an alternative process, known as edge-driven convection, which appears to be driving intraplate volcanism in southeastern Australia.

 
29 Jan 2015

Scientists complete a global inventory of lakes

How many lakes are there in the world? Until recently, the exact number was anybody’s guess. Now, a new global inventory conducted using satellite imagery has placed the count at 117 million. The GLObal WAter BOdies database (GLOWABO) includes all lakes greater than 0.002 square kilometers, which combined, cover a surface area of 5 million square kilometers, or 3.7 percent of the Earth’s nonglaciated land area.

28 Jan 2015

California: A profusion of drought restrictions with varying results

With 100 percent of California experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions last year, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Gov. Jerry Brown mandated the tracking of monthly personal water usage for the first time. In addition, water districts around the state also took up varying degrees of drought restrictions, including such strategies as raising water prices and severely limiting outdoor irrigation. But whether these restrictions will make a dent in California’s water shortage amid the ongoing and historic drought remains to be seen.

25 Jan 2015

Secondary aerosols a primary cause of Chinese smog

Images of Chinese skylines and streetscapes blurred by pollution-fueled hazes have become increasingly common in recent years amid ongoing urbanization and industrialization. According to a new study published in Nature, much of the pollution fogging the country’s major cities is arising not from fine particles emitted directly into the sky, but by gases that react and condense in the atmosphere to form secondary aerosols.

24 Jan 2015

Icebergs were the original Florida snowbirds

A new study shows that between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago, icebergs drifted southward off the coasts of South Carolina and Florida.

Using multibeam bathymetry data, Jenna Hill at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., and Alan Condron of the University of Massachusetts mapped a number of long scars on the seafloor that they attribute to scour marks left by icebergs journeying south.

23 Jan 2015

Modeling a big mess from Yellowstone

In the event of another super-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, few places in the U.S. would be ash-free, according to a new modeling study. The northern Rocky Mountains would be blanketed in meters of ash, and millimeters would be deposited as far away as New York City, Miami and Los Angeles.

15 Jan 2015

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