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geology

Social sciences improve tornado warnings

In 2013, 55 people in seven states were killed by tornadoes. Now, scientists behind a new report analyzing the effectiveness of tornado-warning processes are hoping to help reduce tornado fatalities in the 2014 storm season by combining the latest storm-tracking technology with a better understanding of how communities and people respond to tornado warnings.

03 Apr 2014

The Chesapeake Bay gets some good news

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is the largest on the Atlantic seaboard, encompassing most of Maryland and Virginia, along with parts of Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. More than 150 rivers flow into the system, carrying pollution and nutrient runoff from a 160,000-square-kilometer area into the bay ecosystem. A new study tracking long-term effects of the Clean Air Act has some good news about the often-poor water quality in some areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but the overall picture may be complicated by hydrology.

02 Apr 2014

Volcanic lightning generated in a bottle

volcanic lightning

Lightning was captured in images of the erupting Sakurajima Volcano in southern

06 Apr 2014

Data security: freezers, floppies and flash drives

In the olden days, many of us protected our field notes, lab records and draft manuscripts by making multiple photocopies, storing them in different places, and perhaps keeping one in the freezer in case of fire. Today, much of our data is collected and stored electronically. What strategies do we use now to protect against catastropic loss?

23 Mar 2014

Scientists go to extremes to monitor Arctic permafrost loss

Researchers are studying coastal erosion in the Arctic — where sea-ice extent has recently reached record lows, permafrost soils are rapidly thawing and the coast is retreating at an astonishing rate of 15 meters per year, more than double the rate of several decades ago.

24 Mar 2014

IPCC: A failure in communicating the impact of new findings

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Summary for Policymakers (SPM) to accompany the report of Working Group I on the physical science evidence for a warming planet. The SPM is designed to be the headline-grabbing addendum to the main report, written in plain language for nonscientists: policymakers, the media and the public. It is supposed to explain the findings of the unwieldy main report in a clear, concise manner. It fails to do so.

10 Mar 2014

Sudden gas eruption shakes the ground near Rome's airport

On Aug. 24, 2013, visitors arriving at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, located in the Fiumicino municipality, flew over a surprising hazard: a gas emission that suddenly exploded from the ground a few meters outside the airport compound. The expulsion, referred to as the Fiumicino Gas Vent (FGV), occurred about 15 kilometers southwest of Rome and was first noticed by passing motorists. Shortly after the explosion, scientists sought  to determine the gas’ makeup and whether it posed a continuing danger.

03 Mar 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

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

Brooks Ellwood and the unusual applications of magnetism

The call came out of the blue. Geophysicist Brooks Ellwood was sitting in his office in the geology department at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1990 when the telephone rang. On the other end was Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, who was calling to ask for Ellwood’s help to find the grave of “Wild Bill” Longley. Little did Ellwood realize that this seemingly straightforward request would set him off on a 10-year quest and a career he never anticipated.

10 Mar 2014

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