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november 2014

Travels in Geology: The inspiring, globe-trotting rocks of Scotland

As the birthplace of both modern geology and the sport of mountaineering, Scotland is home to some incredible, inspiring, diverse rocks. Whether climbing in the Highlands, wandering through the Lowlands or hiking the Southern Uplands, Scotland is a geo-traveler’s paradise.

16 Nov 2014

Bag your first Munro

One of the founding members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, Hugh Munro, compiled a list of all the mountains in Scotland taller than 3,000 feet (914.4 meters), which are now called Munros. At present, there are 283, although this number has changed over time due to improvements in surveying and mapping. Munro-bagging is a national pastime in Scotland; for some dedicated Scots, summiting all the Munros is a lifelong project.

16 Nov 2014

Rome's lead water pipes likely not a health risk

Ancient Rome was renowned for its vast and advanced plumbing system that brought freshwater to the city through viaducts and distributed it to the population via metal and clay pipes. But Rome’s civil engineers didn’t know about the neurological effects of lead in drinking water as we do today.

15 Nov 2014

Massive icebergs scoured Arctic seafloor

In August 1990, the R/V Polar­stern departed Tromsø, Norway, to investigate the ocean bottom bathymetry of the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. More than 20 years later, marine geologist Jan Erik Arndt and his colleagues at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, were reviewing data from the cruise when they discovered something new — the deepest evidence of iceberg scouring ever found.

13 Nov 2014

Seismic friction causes fault iridescence

Although iridescent spots on rocks in Utah’s Wasatch Fault Zone were first recognized two decades ago, scientists haven’t understood their origin, until now. New research shows that the iridescence appears on fault surfaces subjected to flash heating from friction and that the spots can provide clues to ancient seismic events. 

11 Nov 2014

Solar storms cause spike in electrical insurance claims

On March 13, 1989, a geomagnetic storm spawned by a solar outburst struck Earth, triggering instabilities in the electric power grid that serves much of eastern Canada and the U.S. The storm led to blackouts for more than 6 million customers and caused tens of millions of dollars in damages and economic losses. More than 25 years later, the possibility of such a catastrophe still looms, and the day-to-day effects of space weather on electrical systems remain difficult to quantify. Now, a new study correlating electrical insurance claims with geomagnetic data suggests that even moderate space weather may play a significant role in destabilizing the power grid.

09 Nov 2014

Benchmarks: November 8, 2013: Super-typhoon Haiyan tests Philippines warning protocols

On the morning of Nov. 8, 2013, Super-Typhoon Haiyan struck the east-central Philippines with sustained wind speeds exceeding 300 kilometers per hour. In a mere eight hours, the storm cut a path of total devastation over an area of 300 square kilometers, an area roughly the size of Seattle. More than 7,800 people were confirmed dead or missing and 27,000 injured; more than 4 million were displaced from their homes. Economic losses to homes, infrastructure and agriculture reached more than $12 billion (U.S.).

08 Nov 2014

Geologic Column: Geography as destiny: How glaciation led to the Civil War

It intrigues me how geography — a product of dynamic processes shaping Earth’s surface — influences our lives, culture and even plays a hand in the affairs of nations. Take, for example, the last glacial maximum, which shaped parts of North America roughly 20,000 years ago, and in doing so contributed to factors that eventually led to the American Civil War.

07 Nov 2014

Red Planet Roundup: November 2014

As Curiosity and Opportunity rove around Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Express and Mars Odyssey orbit above, and scientists on Earth study the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

06 Nov 2014

Comment: IPCC faces challenges in communicating climate science

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released piecemeal over the last year, reports “unequivocal” warming of the climate system due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, further emphasizing the need for global mitigation and adaptation schemes. But not everyone is ready to curtail carbon emissions, and the increasing clamor from skeptics and deniers — along with potential overstatements and even understatements by scientists — creates a polarized political environment that complicates efforts to communicate science effectively.

05 Nov 2014

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