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sam lemonick

Benchmarks: May 12, 2008: Earthquake devastates western China

Just before 2:30 p.m. local time on May 12, 2008, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Sichuan province in Western China. One eyewitness recalls seeing a mountain “blowing up” and boulders two-stories tall crashing into gorges. Another recalls thinking there had been a natural gas explosion, while a third described a hill split in half. It was the country’s largest earthquake in more than 50 years, and it left 18,000 people missing and presumed dead, nearly 375,000 injured and more than 69,000 confirmed fatalities. 
 
12 May 2013

Sahara dust brings rain and snow to California

What triggers the mountain rain and snow that are vital to California’s water and energy needs? The answer, according to new research, is blowing in the wind: dust and bacteria from as far away as Africa’s Sahara Desert.

28 Feb 2013

Drinking toilet water: The science (and psychology) of wastewater recycling

Would you drink water that came from a toilet? The imagery isn’t appealing. Even knowing that the water, once treated, may be cleaner than what comes out of most faucets, many people are disgusted by the idea. But in places like Singapore and Namibia, limited supplies of freshwater are being augmented by adding highly treated wastewater to their drinking water. As climate change and population growth strain freshwater resources, such strategies are likely to become more common around the world, and in the United States.

28 Jan 2013

Down to Earth With: Volcanologist Stephen Sparks

From the Caribbean to Iceland to the Andes, volcanologist Stephen Sparks has spent a lifetime studying volcanoes. As a professor of geology at the University of Bristol in England for more than 20 years, Sparks has devoted much of his time to figuring out where the next eruption will occur and how to respond to it. His latest effort is a project that will connect experts and technology in a global network to improve volcanic risk assessment.

13 Apr 2012

Down to Earth With: Glaciologist Richard Alley

If you don’t know who Richard Alley is, stop reading for a minute and search for him on YouTube. Go on, this can wait. Back? What you likely saw was Alley singing his rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” in which he explains subduction zones, or another similar song. In addition to being something of an Internet sensation for his energetic lectures and songs about geologic processes, Alley is a glaciologist who studies the effects of climate change.

13 Mar 2012

Benchmarks: February 7, 2009: Deadliest day of fire ever recorded in Australia

On Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, John Brumby, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, warned the public of the high risk of wildfires that weekend: “It’s just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow.” He was right. The next day, more than a dozen major fires and hundreds of smaller ones tore across the region, fueled by record temperatures and high winds. The so-called Black Saturday fires released more energy than 1,500 Hiroshima bombs, according to one fire expert. Together, the fires cost billions in damage and killed 173 people — the deadliest day of fires recorded in Australia.
 
06 Feb 2012

Getting There and Getting Around Nova Scotia

Getting to Nova Scotia is easy by plane, car or ferry. Most flights arrive in Halifax, roughly in the middle of the province. If you’re driving from the United States, take New Brunswick Route One from the Maine border to meet up with the Trans-Canada Highway, which meanders through the province; however, it’s an eight-hour trip from Bangor, Maine, to Halifax and there’s not a lot to do or see along the way. A shorter route is to take the car ferry that sails from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Digby, on Nova Scotia’s northwestern coast.

07 Sep 2011

Travels in Geology: Nova Scotia: A driving tour of Pangaea

What’s the quickest way to see the Scottish Highlands and Africa? Take a trip to Nova Scotia. The southeastern Canadian province is a mash-up of continental fragments whose landscape testifies to the power of glacial and tidal forces. Slightly smaller than West Virginia, the province is easy to get around and is packed with geological sites without being overwhelming.

07 Sep 2011

Down to Earth With: Deanna D'Alessandro

Deanna D’Alessandro, a chemist at the University of Sydney in Australia, is working on a new material that may make it cheaper and easier to clean greenhouse gases from power plant emissions. D’Alessandro has developed crystals composed of metals and organic molecules that can trap molecules of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and release them on cue — or even transform them into more useful compounds. Her work won her one of three L’Oreal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships given last year.

 
08 Aug 2011

Benchmarks: July 9, 1958: Megatsunami drowns Lituya Bay, Alaska

The recent disaster in Japan demonstrates the incredible destructive power of a megatsunami in a heavily populated area. But a record-breaking tsunami of a different sort occurred in 1958, in a remote part of Alaska known as Lituya Bay — and was witnessed by only six people, two of whom died. The giant tsunami and the unusual geometry of the bay combined to produce the largest wave run-up ever recorded — deluging the steep forested hills along the edges of the bay to a height of 524 meters. The wave was a powerful reminder of the forces nature can unleash.
 
04 Jul 2011

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