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timothy oleson

Seismic citizens: Volunteers host home-based seismometers to help assess earthquake threat

A network of volunteer hosts and home-based seismometers around Washington’s Puget Sound region report earthquake data to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) through the volunteer-powered NetQuakes program. Driven by a desire to to help the area better prepare for future large earthquakes, to be part of a group effort, and by an abiding (though not necessarily professional) interest in science and technology, the members of this unusual family are part of a growing movement in earthquake research and monitoring that is making use of the explicit support of citizen scientists.

27 Aug 2012

Behind the scenes with NetQuakes' Doug Gibbons

Doug Gibbons, a research assistant in the University of Washington’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences and a NetQuakes technician, is one of several people involved in managing and maintaining the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network’s (PNSN) portion of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) NetQuakes program. Having installed many of PNSN’s NetQuakes seismometers, he is a point man for outreach and interaction with current and prospective volunteers.

27 Aug 2012

On the web: Shake, rattle and roll: What does an earthquake sound like?

The sounds we associate with earthquakes tend to be those induced aboveground. Low-pitched rumbles, rattling windows and car alarms might be heard during small temblors, while more terrifying sounds like the crumbling of concrete and the cacophony of people trying to reach safety sometimes accompany large earthquakes. But what does an earthquake itself sound like, as rock grinds against rock in a rupturing fault and large amounts of energy are released? Thanks to some recent efforts, we may be starting to get an idea.

08 Aug 2012

Bare Earth Elements: Let the real Curiosity begin

This has been a year of scientific milestones. In just the last few months, we have witnessed the first successful launch of a privately built spacecraft — SpaceX’s Dragon capsule — which docked with the International Space Station in May, as well as the announcement in July that the Higgs Boson, the lynchpin particle in the Standard Model of physics, had at last been confidently detected. And by now, you have surely heard that Curiosity — the latest model in NASA’s lineage of robotic Mars-exploring rovers — has successfully landed on the red planet. In case you hadn’t, here is your official notice:


06 Aug 2012

Bare Earth Elements: Welcome to the GEOlympics


A geological decathlon through Great Britain

The games of the 30th Olympiad officially kick off on Friday with the opening ceremony in London. Befitting Britain’s diverse landscape — both above and below ground — and its history as the birthplace of much of modern geology, EARTH’s staff has pulled together a decathlon of must-see geological sites across the host country. If you find yourself in the United Kingdom during the Olympics, or anytime for that matter, you can’t go wrong with this list as a base for your travel itinerary. We’d better give fair warning, though: It might take more than two days to complete this decathlon.

27 Jul 2012

Karakoram glaciers buck global, regional trends

When it comes to glaciers, stability represents a refreshing change of pace. In contrast to regional and global trends — which, scientists say, have unambiguously indicated ice loss in recent decades — a team of French glaciologists has confirmed that glaciers in a portion of the northwestern Himalayas remained stable on average, or may have even grown slightly, in recent years. The results have implications for local water supplies and glacial hazards and, the team says, underscore the value of high-resolution monitoring in accurately determining regional-scale glacial changes.

09 Jul 2012

Blogging on EARTH: Rarity the only reason for Venus transit fever?

If you read one or more stories leading up to yesterday’s transit of Venus across the face of the sun (or if you followed #VenusTransit on Twitter), you likely learned that the transit is akin to a solar eclipse — when the moon crosses directly between Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking part or all of the latter from our view — with the caveat that Venus only blacks out a small dot of the sun because of its distance from Earth. So what was all the fuss about? What was it about the celestial equivalent of watching a marble roll slowly across a dinner plate that brought people out in droves, from professional and amateur scientists to casual observers and families with young children?

06 Jun 2012

Sumatran strike-slip earthquakes challenge seismologists

Events may shed light on regional tectonics, alter stress on nearby megathrust

After the magnitude-8.6 earthquake and magnitude-8.2 aftershock that struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia on April 11, scientists quickly identified why no tsunami followed either one: The earthquakes had occurred on strike-slip faults more than 400 kilometers offshore rather than on the Sunda megathrust fault that has been responsible for a series of large earthquakes since 2004. For all that can be explained, however, the earthquakes took most scientists by surprise. The combination of their size — they're the largest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded by most accounts — and their location is challenging the paradigm of strike-slip earthquakes and is raising new questions about the region’s tectonics.

11 May 2012

Blogging On EARTH: Wisconsin's microquake mystery

On the list of earthquake-prone states, Wisconsin does not rank highly. Yes, occasionally, America’s Dairyland is subjected to light rumbles emanating from its neighbor to the south, Illinois. But Wisconsin is hardly where you’d expect to find much excitement, let alone fear, over the possibility of homegrown seismic activity. And yet, that's exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when hundreds of people in Clintonville, Wis. began dialing 911 with reports that their homes were being inexplicably shaken overnight by terrifying booms.

11 Apr 2012

Astronomy under the ice: Scientists use Antarctic ice to study some of the tiniest particles in the cosmos

Deep below the glacial surface at the South Pole, where the Antarctic ice is crystal clear yet pitch black, a 3-D array of more than 5,000 custom-built and precisely positioned sensors, each about the size of a basketball, lies frozen in place. The sensors keep watch for thousands of momentary flashes of blue light that zip by every second, some the result of collisions between neutrinos — nearly massless subatomic particles with no electrical charge — and the relatively large atomic nuclei in the frozen water.

01 Jan 2012