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Geoscience on Film: The view from outside Kathmandu

Doug Prose and Diane LaMacchia have produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences since 1992. At work on a project delving into the complex interplay of tectonics, natural hazards and humanity in the Himalayan region, LaMacchia and Prose traveled to Nepal and Bhutan in June to investigate recovery and resilience in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Prose wrote about their recent experiences while there, and filed the following series of posts upon returning home.

29 Jun 2016

Saving Mongolian wildlife, 80 million years after extinction

In the time of Velociraptor, 80 million years ago, southern Mongolia looked surprisingly like the Gobi Desert that exists there today. Animals roamed, nested and fought amid an arid climate while sand-soaked winds battered rocky outcrops. Today, walking along the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag, you may only notice one stark difference: Where Velociraptor and other dinosaurs once thrived, there are now only a few fossilized remains. And even those are endangered. Because of this, a small team of scientists, hired staff and volunteers is heading to Mongolia this fall to try to save them. 

27 Jun 2016

Geoscience on Film: Revisiting an earthquake-ravaged region, one year on

Doug Prose and Diane LaMacchia have produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences since 1992. At work on a project delving into the complex interplay of tectonics, natural hazards and humanity in the Himalayan region, LaMacchia and Prose traveled to Nepal and Bhutan in June to investigate recovery and resilience in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Prose wrote about their recent experiences while there, and filed the following series of posts upon returning home.

24 Jun 2016

Mesa Arch's 'hum' measured to track health of rock structure

For decades, structural engineers have listened to the tiny vibrations of buildings and bridges to detect internal damage or weakness. In recent years, geoscientists have begun employing this technique, called “structural health monitoring,” to discover the hidden inner workings of natural rock features. In a new study, researchers have applied this method for the first time to examine a rock arch — Utah’s famous Mesa Arch — to determine whether this delicate structure is stable or soon to collapse.

12 May 2016

Burgess Shale fossil find offers glimpse of early parenting

Parenting behaviors of many modern animals are well known. Marsupials, like kangaroos, keep their young in pouches, and brown bear mothers are famously protective of their offspring, for example. By caring for their young, parents can increase the survival chances of their offspring. But for all we know about animals today, the origins of parenting are much less understood. Now, a new study has shed light on one of the earliest demonstrated examples of parental behavior in animals: brood care among ancient shrimplike arthropods.

10 May 2016

Model targets better understanding of recurring Indian-Pacific storm systems

Scientists have known for decades that the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) — a massive gathering of thunderstorms that forms intermittently over the Indian and western Pacific oceans — impacts regional and global weather. Predicting the impacts, however, has been more difficult because relatively little is known about the phenomenon, at least compared to El Niño and some other weather patterns. But in a new study, scientists have devised a mathematical model that clarifies how the MJO develops and progresses, which may pave the way for more accurate predictions of its effects.

26 Apr 2016

Medieval earthquakes in Nepal may help reveal the region's tectonic future

The magnitude-7.8 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 triggered landslides and damage that killed more than 8,500 people and injured at least 20,000, including many in and around Pokhara, the country’s second largest city. In a new study, scientists have found evidence that the city — also a major center of tourism in Nepal — and its surroundings sit atop debris from several large medieval-age quakes, confirming that the recent temblor is only the latest in a region with a long history of major earthquakes.

21 Apr 2016

Uranium contamination in aquifers could be linked to nitrate

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant life, but plants can only take up so much so fast. When excess nitrogen enters the environment by way of fertilizer and manure runoff, as well as in automobile and industrial emissions, it becomes a pollutant that can leach into waterways, carrying with it unintended — and often undesirable — consequences. In a new study, researchers have found evidence of one such consequence: elevated uranium levels in two major U.S. aquifers.

17 Feb 2016

Fire-fountain carbon sheds light on lunar origins

The moon was once thought to be virtually devoid of water and other volatile materials — a presumed consequence of extreme heating during its formation. But a recent study of lunar volcanic glasses, from samples brought back by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, is adding to the growing stack of recent evidence suggesting the moon is not the volatile-free place scientists once suspected. The findings bring us one step closer to understanding the moon’s origins.

03 Feb 2016

What are the odds?: Automated system calculates the likelihood that asteroids will hit Earth

By some estimates, Earth is pelted each year by tens of thousands of asteroids — from souvenir-sized nuggets 10 grams and up to the occasional meters-wide boulder. Spotting larger Earth-bound impactors that could cause serious destruction, while they’re still in space, has been a priority of the planetary science community for years. But many space objects are small enough that they can only be detected days or hours before impact — if at all. In a new study, scientists have tested and automated a new technique called systematic ranging that’s intended to rapidly calculate the probability — from only a handful of observations — that newly discovered asteroids will hit Earth.

26 Jan 2016

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