Taxonomy term

timothy oleson

Recovery of 1960s sea-ice satellite images wins dark data contest

Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA who resurrected 50-year-old satellite images of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice from dusty 35-millimeter film reels took home first prize in an international geoscience data rescue contest sponsored by publisher Elsevier and the Integrated Earth Data Applications project at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

25 May 2014

Mix of acid mine drainage and fracking fluid a recipe for remediation?

Mixing contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking, operations with acid mine drainage (AMD) may sound like an ecological disaster in the making. But according to the authors of a new study, such a toxic brew may actually be a recipe for remediation. And, if some hurdles are cleared, researchers say, it could relieve stress on precious freshwater resources by offering companies drilling for natural gas a cheaper alternative to those resources.

21 May 2014

Humans causing California's mountains to grow

Humankind has proven time and again that it can reshape mountains, or even tear them down. Now, it appears, we can make them rise as well. Geologists studying growth rates of the Sierra Nevada and of central California’s Coast Ranges have identified an anthropogenic contribution to the mountains’ uplift that they suggest is tied to the decades-long depletion of groundwater in the state’s Central Valley. What’s more, the researchers report in a new study published in Nature, the long-term water loss may be affecting how stress builds up on faults like the San Andreas.

14 May 2014

Benchmarks: May 6, 1852: Edward Sabine links the geomagnetic and sunspot cycles

At the beginning of the 19th century, little was understood about Earth’s magnetic field, but interest in its workings had begun to grow, especially in Europe. That the magnetic field exists had long been recognized, and magnetic compasses had aided in navigation for centuries, particularly at sea where fixed landmarks are hard to come by. Not surprisingly, the increased attention emerging around the turn of the century came from naval and shipping interests, which recognized that an accurate understanding of the field’s behavior would be a boon to their fleets.

By this time, the underlying physical explanation for the magnetic field had also become a major source of scientific curiosity. In the preceding two centuries, observers had measured differences in the field’s intensity, inclination and declination — the angle between magnetic and true north — between locations, as well as changes in those properties at the same location, both over varying lengths of time. Others had noted the synchronized occurrence of colorful atmospheric auroras with widespread disturbances in the magnetic field, termed magnetic storms.

It was clear the planet’s magnetic field was an inconstant and complex phenomenon, and many eminent scientists saw it as the next great natural mystery to unravel.

13 May 2014

Faking quakes at full scale: Giant shake tables simulate earthquakes to make buildings safer

At a few select facilites around the world, engineers are able to shake full-size buildings to learn how to make them safer during earthquakes. Take a look at the massive shake tables that make it possible.

23 Apr 2014

April 20, 1832: Arkansas' hot springs named the First National "Park"

In March 1872, not long after William Henry Jackson’s photographs from the famed Hayden Geological Survey first introduced the U.S. populace to the rugged majesty of northwestern Wyoming, President Ulysses S. Grant designated Yellowstone as the country’s first official national park. Some 40 years earlier, however, a comparatively small plot of land in Arkansas had garnered a similar designation, albeit in different terminology, from then-President Andrew Jackson.

20 Apr 2014

From boom to bust in Neolithic Europe

As agricultural practices spread from the Fertile Crescent across Europe, gradually expanding west and north starting about 8,500 years ago, they brought increased and localized food production to a continent where nomadic hunter-gatherers had long made their living subject to the whims of climate and the environment. With agriculture, long-term settlements developed, fertility rates rose and, thus, populations grew steadily. Or at least that’s been the conventional wisdom.

20 Mar 2014

Bare Earth Elements: Mars rocks wear manganese coats

Several rocks on the surface of Mars are coated with distinctive dark-colored surface layers enriched in manganese that, while sharing similarities with manganese-rich rock varnish found on Earth, do not appear to be varnish themselves based on differences in trace element levels, according to new research presented Wednesday by Nina Lanza of Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

19 Mar 2014

From field scientist to filmmaker: Doug Prose

Filmmaker Doug Prose’s path to becoming a geo-documentarian wasn’t straightforward (if such a path even can be), despite his now-obvious fit in the profession. An earth science class in ninth grade that stressed rote memorization of rock and mineral samples sitting on tabletops offered little inspiration and left him wondering “why anybody would care about geology.” But a series of chance encounters and opportunities subsequently led him back to the field and eventually uncovered a passion for geologic storytelling through film that he hadn’t dreamt of while growing up.

11 Mar 2014

Down to Earth With: Eric Riggs

Eric Riggs says he often tells students the story of how he got into geoscience as a cautionary tale. That may seem ironic given his current position as assistant dean for diversity and graduate student recruitment and development in Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences. But before returning to school to earn a doctorate in mineral physics and, eventually, settling into geoscience education research, Riggs made forays into English literature, marketing and the printing business. “Don’t do it this way!” he says with a laugh. “It worked out well for me, but it was a long, twisted path.”

09 Feb 2014