Acid rain triggered deadly Chinese landslide

On June 5, 2009, a catastrophic landslide killed 74 people in southwestern China. But a lack of recent earthquake activity or heavy rainfall left geologists questioning what had triggered the slide. A new study suggests that China’s acid rain may have played a role in weakening the limestone and shale slope in unexpected ways.

13 Apr 2018

Residual strain explains later quakes

The largest earthquake in recorded history struck southern Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 temblor was followed by a tsunami that, combined with the seismic shaking, killed 1,600 people and left more than 2 million homeless. New research suggests that, despite the staggering size of the event, the shaking didn’t dissipate all the strain accumulated at the time on the subduction fault between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. The residual strain left on the fault may explain why a portion of this same section of fault ruptured again — 56 years later — on Dec. 25, 2016, in a magnitude-7.6 event.

26 Mar 2018

Creeping danger: Landslide threatens Peruvian village, especially when the earth quakes

A massive landslide has been encroaching on the village of Maca, Peru, since the 1980s. Today, it provides geologists with a laboratory to study slow-moving landslides, especially how they react to rainfall and earthquakes.
27 Feb 2018

Arizona road hazard has surprising source

Blowing dust is one of Arizona’s deadliest weather-related hazards. Between 1955 and 2011, brownout conditions created by dust storms caused more than 1,500 motor vehicle accidents across the state, resulting in 157 fatalities and more than 1,300 injuries, according to a 2016 NOAA Technical Memorandum.

25 Jan 2018

Climate change linked to specific weather events for the first time

Three extreme weather events that occurred in 2016 would not have been possible in Earth’s pre-industrial climate, according to the sixth annual report on the attribution of extreme weather events issued Dec. 13 by NOAA and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). This marks the first time that researchers have concluded that a specific weather event would not have been possible without the influence of humans.

14 Dec 2017

Both urban flooding and rural drying to intensify

In a comprehensive global analysis, including data from more than 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring stations in 160 countries, researchers report that global rainfall is increasing, likely due to warming air temperatures that allow more moisture into the atmosphere, causing more intense rainfall. Rural areas tend to absorb excess water during storms, preventing widespread flooding in rural zones, but between storms, rising temperatures also mean more evaporation from exposed soils, creating drier conditions over the long term, the team noted in Scientific Reports. Meanwhile, in urban environments, more intense rainfall often overwhelms stormwater catchments in places with less exposed soil, leading to a higher incidence of flooding.

11 Dec 2017

Seismic patterns help forecast eruptions from quiet stratovolcanoes

Earth is home to more than 1,500 potentially eruptive volcanoes on land, each with a unique character and history. Predicting when and how a particular volcano may erupt is notoriously difficult, in large part because each eruption is unique. Recent work tracking pre-eruptive seismic behavior beneath two dozen reawakened volcanoes has revealed a distinctive pattern that seismologists may be able to use to assess when — and how violently — a rumbling volcano could blow its top.

24 Nov 2017

Opportunist organisms rafted across the Pacific on plastic

Since World War II, fiberglass and plastic — which are stronger, lighter and require less maintenance than wood — have become the materials of choice for coastal infrastructure like docks. An unforeseen consequence of this transition, however, is that when structures built from these durable materials break free from their moorings and drift out to sea, they can serve as resilient rafts for opportunistic organisms. 

21 Nov 2017

Desktop seismology: How a maker-inspired device is changing seismic monitoring

The Raspberry Shake — a personal seismograph invented in 2016 and named after the computer that powers the instrument (the Raspberry Pi) — was intended for hobbyists. But the device’s usefulness quickly became apparent to a much wider audience, including scientists and educators around the world. 
16 Nov 2017