Taxonomy term


Seattle's landslide risk greater than thought

Landslides have been part of Seattle’s history “from a time to which the memory of man runneth not back,” wrote famed city engineer Reginald Thomson in 1897. A new study shows that landslides will also play a central role long into the future. They will be “extensive and potentially devastating, causing direct losses and impeding recovery,” reported a team in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

17 Mar 2014

Harvesting fog could bring water to millions

In northern Chile, as in many other parts of the world, freshwater is a limited commodity, but heavy fogs are a regular occurrence. For at least two decades, people in such areas have turned to fine mesh nets to harvest moisture from fog, but to date the nets have never been terribly efficient. Now, new research could greatly improve the nets’ efficiency, increasing the amount of water they’re able to capture.

14 Mar 2014

Sudden gas eruption shakes the ground near Rome's airport

On Aug. 24, 2013, visitors arriving at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, located in the Fiumicino municipality, flew over a surprising hazard: a gas emission that suddenly exploded from the ground a few meters outside the airport compound. The expulsion, referred to as the Fiumicino Gas Vent (FGV), occurred about 15 kilometers southwest of Rome and was first noticed by passing motorists. Shortly after the explosion, scientists sought  to determine the gas’ makeup and whether it posed a continuing danger.

03 Mar 2014

GPS measurements of ground inflation help forecast ash plumes

When Grimsvötn Volcano in Iceland erupted in May 2011, northern European airspace was closed for seven days and about 900 passenger flights were canceled. Scientists were charged with trying to read the volcano — to tell how high the ash plume would go and to figure out how long the violent eruption would last. Such features are hard to predict, but in a novel study, one research team has found a correlation between the height and composition of the Grimsvötn ash plume and ground deformation before and during the eruption. The findings, the team says, could improve volcanic plume dispersion models, which in turn could help air traffic managers determine when and where it’s safe to fly when volcanoes like Grimsvötn and Eyjafjallajökull suddenly erupt.

20 Feb 2014

Ocean dynamics speed sea-level rise along U.S. East Coast

Over the past century, sea levels along the East Coast of the U.S. have risen faster than the global mean. This accelerated rise has so far been attributed to nonclimatic factors, such as land subsidence along the Eastern Seaboard, but available tide gauge data don’t fit with such slow and near-constant processes. A new study now links this regional sea-level rise to climate change and ocean dynamics — and the results may bring more bad news for ocean-front properties along the East Coast.

09 Feb 2014

Warring trolls explanation for mysterious basalt pillars revised

Peculiar basalt pillars found in Iceland — attributed in local lore to a pair of angry trolls hurling projectiles at each other — are having their origin story updated. In a rare example of nonexplosive lava-water interactions occurring on land, the hollow pillars likely formed around vertical columns of steam and superheated water venting through lava as it flowed over saturated ground, according to a new study.

02 Feb 2014

Humans are influencing some extreme weather events, but not all

In 2012, the world experienced dozens of extreme weather events, including droughts, heat waves, cold spells, extreme rainfalls, big storms like Superstorm Sandy, and a record-low Arctic sea-ice extent. Teasing apart the factors that create extreme weather is a challenge for scientists, especially when it comes to determining whether human-induced climate change plays a role. Recently, 18 different research teams — comprising 80 scientists — took on that challenge.

16 Jan 2014

Bare Earth Elements: AGU 2013 wrap-up

It’s back to the office this week for several EARTH staffers, including myself, who attended the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week in search of interesting story ideas and fascinating folks in geosciences that we might cover in upcoming issues. With more than 20,000 participants, 7,000 research talks and invited speeches, and 14,000 posters, along with numerous other activities, there was plenty of potential material, and we spent some long days absorbing as much we could. For now, here are a few highlights of AGU 2013.

17 Dec 2013

Comet ISON still intrigues and inspires, even after its demise

Comet ISON is dead, but its memory will live on." That eulogy for the much-discussed “comet of the century" was delivered today by Karl Battams of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., during a series of reports presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, Calif.

11 Dec 2013

Juno salutes its home planet and heads to Jupiter

Thanks to orbital mechanics, a spacecraft heading to Jupiter must go most of the way there, then loop around the sun, zoom back close to Earth, and finally head out again on its mission to the largest planet in the solar system. That's the story of Juno, launched by NASA on Aug. 5, 2011, and due to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Its journey required a boost in velocity, relative to the sun, which it received when it flew as close as 559  kilometers above Earth on Oct. 9, 2013.

11 Dec 2013