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june 2011

Gauging nuclear disasters

A nuclear accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an incident in which people died or property damage topped $50,000. In 1990, IAEA introduced the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) to rate and rank nuclear accidents. INES is a logarithmic scale that consists of seven levels: 0 (Deviation, no safety significance), 1 (Anomaly), 2 (Incident), 3 (Serious incident), 4 (Accident with local consequences), 5 (Accident with wider consequences), 6 (Serious accident) and 7 (Major accident).

31 May 2011

Travels in Geology: Stonehammer Geopark: A billion years of stories

Stonehammer Geopark lies along the rugged Bay of Fundy on Canada’s southeast coast. Centered on Canada’s oldest incorporated city, Saint John, New Brunswick, it is the first North American member of the Global Geoparks Network, 77 parks established over the past decade with the assistance of UNESCO. Geoparks strive to connect people with the landscape, highlighting the intersection of society and geology.

06 Jun 2011

Creationism creeps into mainstream geology

It was easy to miss the part where the field trip leader said the outcrop formed during Noah’s Flood. After all, “During these catastrophic flood flows, turbulent, hyperconcentrated suspensions were observed to transform laminar mudflows” sounds like a reasonable description of alluvial fan processes. And “massive marine transgression” sounds scientific enough. But when creationist geologists use those phrases, they take on a very different meaning.

10 Jun 2011

The Coconino's starring role in the creationist-geologist battle

Arizona’s Coconino Sandstone — a deposit seen in the Grand Canyon and elsewhere — plays a central role in the creationist argument that the upper rocks of the Grand Canyon were deposited during Noah’s Flood. In fact, the posters presented by students and faculty of Cedarville University at the 2010 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Denver, Colo., pushed a consistent narrative: The Coconino did not form in an eolian (wind-blown) environment. Why is this so important? If the Coconino is eolian, it means the Flood did not happen.

10 Jun 2011

Endangered snow: how climate change threatens West Coast water supplies

If you turn the tap on in Seattle, the water flowing from the faucet likely originated as a clump of snow. In winter, snowflakes fall in the Cascades, accumulating in thick snowpack. The snowpack stores water in winter and slowly releases it in spring and summer as temperatures warm and snow melts. As snowmelt flows down the mountains, some of it is diverted and collected in reservoirs — destined to arrive in the homes of more than 1 million people.

17 Jun 2011

Blogging on EARTH: Arsenic provides a G#ALA event in the science world

In reporting what’s new and exciting from the world of scientific and technological innovation, science writers are quick to use expressions like “Scientists say … ” and “According to researchers … ” (Mea culpa.) They are, after all, convenient devices to introduce the sentiments of some subset of the scientific community as opposed to one, or maybe several, individuals.

23 Jun 2011

Travels in Geology: Lassen Volcanic National Park: A volcanic wonderland

For breathtaking volcanic scenery, few places have the variety found in Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Cascade Range of Northern California. The park boasts five varieties of volcanoes: plug domes, cinder cones, lava cones, shield volcanoes and a stratovolcano called Brokeoff volcano (or Tehama volcano). Bubbling hot springs, boiling mud pots and fumaroles in six geothermal fields in the southern part of the park complete the picture.

24 Jun 2011

Travels in Geology: Climbing Mount Shasta

As we neared the top of the West Face of Mount Shasta, my calf muscles felt like they were pulling apart, stretching to the breaking point. My crampons merely dinted the shimmering snow, leaving dainty bird-like tracks. Roped behind our guides, our group of three climbers switchbacked slowly up the 35-degree-angle slopes. Approaching nearly 4,000 meters in elevation, my lungs grasped for air.

24 Jun 2011

Don't forget about the Christchurch earthquake: Lessons learned from disaster

In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, attention quickly turned away from a much smaller, but also highly destructive earthquake that struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few weeks earlier, on Feb. 22.

17 May 2011

Japan's megaquake and killer tsunami: How did this happen?

On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. local time, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake ruptured a 500-kilometer-long fault zone off the northeast coast of Japan. Its epicenter was 130 kilometers off Sendai, Honshu; it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 32 kilometers. The temblor violently shook northeast Honshu for six minutes, and collapsed its coastline by one meter.

17 May 2011

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