Taxonomy term

science and society

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

Climate, terroir, and wine: What matters most in producing a great wine?

Weather and climate have played decisive roles throughout human existence — where and how cultures developed, where they migrated and even how some died out. The most successful early civilizations were those that developed strong agrarian systems based on what crops were most compatible with the climate. If conditions changed for one reason or another, people migrated to areas with a more suitable environment to grow a certain crop or raise specific animals.

09 Jan 2014

Hazards abroad: Sent home

On May 19, 2012, seismologist Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado at Boulder landed at the airport in Delhi, India, on his way to Bhutan. He debarked from the plane and was met by Indian customs officials, who declared he was on the “blacklist” and not allowed entry to India, despite having a valid visa. Two hours later, he was on a plane heading back to the U.S.

15 Dec 2013

Be prepared: Navigating the risks of hazards research

Just over a year ago, in a cavernous room of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif., hundreds of geophysicists, seismologists, volcanologists and climate scientists, as well as a few journalists and a lawyer or two, sat transfixed as a panel discussed the manslaughter conviction of six scientists and a public official in Italy a few months earlier.

11 Dec 2013

Think differently: renewable hydrogen generation

Most of the existing solutions for renewable energy storage represent riffs on our current energy infrastructure. They are either inherent to existing fuel sources (concentrated solar power), or linked directly to the grid (flywheels, pumped storage and compressed air energy storage). But what if the future looks radically different from today, as history has often shown it can? What if the future of energy is based on hydrogen produced by renewable energy sources?

29 Sep 2013

Home sweet home for field campers

With a few exceptions — including available meal choices and entertainment options for when students have limited free time — accommodations at today’s field camps haven’t changed all that much, at least in the last few decades. Depending on the camp, however, lodging ranges from log cabins to college dorms to motels to the occasional traveling camps that still live and work out of “tent cities.”

22 Jul 2013

New dates place Spanish cave art as oldest in Europe

But were the artists modern humans or Neanderthals?

Scientists have studied Paleolithic cave art for more than a century, but new research suggests paintings and carvings in some Spanish caves are thousands of years older than previously thought, which would make them the oldest cave art in Europe. The new evidence has left researchers wondering if the artists were modern humans or Neanderthals.

14 Jun 2012

Voices: An old Earth for all Muslims but how does evolution fit in?

It’s no secret that many of the protests and rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East this year have been dominated by globally connected, young, educated Muslims. One of the stated goals of many of these young people is improving the science and technology programs in their countries. They understand that to compete in the global marketplace, strong science and technology programs are necessary. That bodes well for these countries’ futures.

24 Oct 2011

Thinking outside the rocks in the search for ancient earthquakes

The eyewitness accounts, written in columns from right to left, top to bottom, testify that there was no warning of the tsunami, no shaking to drive villagers to high ground before the wave hit, drowning rice paddies and swamping a castle moat. The entries, written by merchants, peasants and samurai, all clearly mark the time and date: just after midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 1700.

25 Aug 2011

A day without Glory

On a warm afternoon in early March, the Taurus XL rocket that was prepped for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California looked more like a giant chopstick standing on end than a potential game changer in the debate over climate change science. The barrel-shaped satellite that the rocket carried — named Glory — was designed to deliver critical information about small airborne particles called aerosols.

19 Aug 2011

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