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Bare Earth Elements: Bone up on your spooky geo-vocabulary this Halloween

I simply couldn’t resist writing this post. While I’m hardly a fanatical Halloween guy, I am an impassioned lover of puns and word humor (typically, the more Dad-like, the better in my book). And so when it occurred to me I could crack open my big ol’ “Glossary of Geology” to scour it for some of the eerier sounding jargon within, it seemed a perfect way to acknowledge the day. Fear not … unlike with H.P. Lovecraft’s “Necronomicon,” there are no ancient or evil powers to be conjured from the netherworld by speaking these ghastly glossary entries. You might, however, summon an appreciation for the some of the fiendish creativity and ghoulish humor that’s gone into earth science’s vast lexicon.

31 Oct 2017

New method offers improved monitoring of Kilauea

Kilauea Volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, has been erupting continuously since 1983, mostly releasing relatively slow-moving lava flows, although rare violent eruptions have occurred. Both explosive and nonexplosive eruptions pose risks to tourists, roughly 2.6 million of whom visit Kilauea annually, as well as to island residents whose safety and property have at times been put in jeopardy by flowing lava.

04 Oct 2017

Less-developed countries with high climate risk need better access to weather and climate data

Rising seas, more persistent droughts and more frequent severe weather events are predicted to occur in the coming decades as the planet continues warming. In a new study, researchers who analyzed spending internationally on weather and climate information services (WCIS) suggest that access to reliable WCIS is becoming more vital for communities and governments looking to assess their vulnerability and to safeguard people and property amid changing climates.

22 Sep 2017

Ancient wildfires suggest rising atmospheric oxygen helped end past ocean anoxia

Many times throughout Earth’s history, oxygen levels in the world’s oceans have decreased dramatically in episodes called oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), which have caused massive marine die-offs. In the Early Jurassic, for example, the Toarcian OAE has been linked with the extinction of many ammonite species and other sea life. However, how such episodes end remains largely unclear to scientists.

22 Aug 2017

Bare Earth Elements: Tour brings hurricane hunting aircraft and expertise to the masses

With hurricane season officially getting under way on May 15 in the Eastern Pacific and June 1 in the Atlantic, NOAA has been busy this week publicizing National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which aims to inform the public about what they can do to prepare for potentially damaging and life-threatening storms. This year, the agency is simultaneously hosting its annual Hurricane Awareness Tour, a week-long traveling exhibition starring hurricane hunting aircraft and their crews. EARTH's Tim Oleson dropped by the tour stop in Washington, D.C., on May 9 to check it out and talk with Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center.

11 May 2017

And then there was one: Ceres' disappearing ice volcanoes

Earth has numerous volcanoes, both active and extinct — some of which continue to tower over landscapes long after they finished erupting. On the chilly dwarf planet Ceres, however, scientists have identified just a single volcano — an ice-erupting cryovolcano — raising questions about whether others ever existed there and, if so, what happened to them. In a new study, researchers suggest that Ceres has likely had other volcanoes, but that, over time, their icy slopes have been flattened beyond recognition.

28 Apr 2017

Soil moisture may help predict power outages in hurricanes

Power outages, most often caused by trees and branches falling on electric lines and transformers, are one of the most debilitating aspects of hurricanes, knocking out power to large numbers of people and businesses. In a new effort to improve modeling of where and when power outages caused by falling trees will occur during hurricanes, researchers are making use of frequent measurements of soil moisture provided by NASA’s SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) mission, which began collecting data in spring 2015. 

08 Mar 2017

How soil management could help reduce greenhouse gas concentrations

As scientists continue studying the web of natural and anthropogenic processes that affect Earth’s climate, discussions about how to limit global warming have included proposals both to cut emissions and to increase sequestration of greenhouse gases through a variety of methods. In a recent review published in Nature, Keith Paustian, a soil ecologist at Colorado State University, and his colleagues noted the understudied and underrated greenhouse gas mitigation potential of the world’s soils.

17 Feb 2017

Chaco Canyon: Garden of Eden or salty-soiled pilgrimage site?

The remains of elaborate stone houses, some with hundreds of rooms, and other structures scattered throughout New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon attest to advanced settlements built there by ancestral Puebloans between A.D. 800 and 1250. But how these peoples subsisted amid the arid climate and seemingly infertile ground of the canyon has long puzzled scientists. In a new study, researchers suggest that Chaco Canyon’s salty desert soils may have supported ample agriculture after all.

17 Jan 2017

The path to gypsum is four steps long

Drywall and plasters made from both natural and manufactured gypsum are commonly used in home and building construction around the world, in part because of gypsum’s widespread availability. Despite its abundance, and its seemingly simple makeup, however, relatively little is known about how the calcium sulfate mineral forms in nature. In a recent study, researchers have shed new light on the multi-stage process by which gypsum grows — and the findings could help develop more efficient ways to manufacture the material.

08 Nov 2016

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