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19 December 2014

Data from space illuminates Calaveras creep

Scientists have used satellites to more accurately measure the slow creep of land along the Calaveras and Hayward faults east of the San Francisco Bay, a finding that helped the researchers estimate the magnitude of future earthquakes. Both the Calaveras and Hayward faults are part of the San Andreas system, which sits at the boundary of two massive slabs of the Earth’s crust called the North American and Pacific plates. The plates slide slowly past one another, sometimes getting stuck and then slipping, releasing energy and causing the Earth to shake. Along the Calaveras and Hayward faults—smaller cracks on top of the plates—the land also moves steadily, a movement that geologists call creep

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Rocks: the larger they are, the faster they crumble

Sooner or later, mountains crumble into boulders, boulders crumble into rocks and pebbles, and so on, until wind and rivers carry sand and dust into the ocean, completing the geologic rock cycle. “But how [rocks] go from the mountain into that ocean bottom, that’s what is not understood very well,” said Jaakko Putkonen, a geologist with the University of North Dakota. Scientists from UND and other institutions discovered that chunks of rock break off of boulders in Antarctica once every 1,900 years on average, and those smaller chunks break apart once every 510,000 years. Putkonen thinks that heat flow through rocks might be responsible for the dramatic difference in how fast bigger rocks crumble compared to smaller rocks. Knowing how fast boulders break down into smaller and smaller chunks will help geologists understand how the mountains crumble to the sea everywhere.

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11 November 2014

Scientists Engage With the Public During Lava Flow Threat

On 27 June, lava from Kīlauea, an active volcano on the island of Hawai`i, began flowing to the northeast, threatening the residents in Pāhoa. Eos recently spoke with Michael Poland, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) and a member of the Eos Editorial Advisory Board, to discuss how he and his colleagues communicated this threat to the public.

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29 September 2014

As expedition ends, scientists feel the pressure

Amy West is the science writer and outreach and education officer for the JOIDES Resolution, a drill ship operated by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) that is on a two-month expedition studying the Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc in the region where the Pacific Plate is descending under the Philippine Plate to form the Mariana Trench and the deepest point in the ocean–the Challenger Deep.

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26 August 2014

Intrigued by Earthquakes and Volcanoes? It’s Easy to Become Geologically Literate

Meteorologists in general do not know much about Geology, but broadcast mets are usually the first person newsroom producers (and the public) turn to when there is an earthquake, tsunami, meteor showers etc.  I had a couple of great courses in Geology working on my masters, and a field trip to the Washington State was a fantastic learning experience, and it left me with a lifelong fascination of rocks and …

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23 June 2014

The Shoshone Road Cut

I know just enough geology to be dangerous, but I highly recommend a trip through Death Valley NP. Make sure you bring a good roadside geology book, and better yet, read it before you go. I took advantage of the drive back to Las Vegas from the AMS weather conference in Lake Tahoe to spend a Sunday in the park, and it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve …

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10 June 2014

2014 AGU Mass Media Fellow to Report Science for the Los Angeles Times

You could say many geoscientists are in the business of storytelling. They use strata of stone, ice, and other terrestrial ingredients to tell tales of the Earth as it was long ago.

After unlocking stories trapped in ice core bubbles for the past 6 years to earn her Ph.D., geologist Julia Rosen now has the opportunity to polish another set of storytelling skills as AGU’s 2014 Mass Media Fellow.

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10 April 2014

Mapping fantasy: The story behind the Game of Thrones geologic maps

Science fiction can be a really cool gateway for sharing science fact. Earth science is imaginative, and can draw on pop culture, like the HBO show Game of Thrones. My graduate school friend and Generation Anthropocene co-producer, Miles Traer, recently brought science fact and science fiction together over this show in a hilariously awesome and super fun project.

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22 July 2013

Busy beavers capture carbon

A few environmental problem-solvers have proposed drawing carbon out of the air and burying it to reduce greenhouse gasses and curb climate change. Maybe they could take some tips from nature’s own geoengineers – beavers – which have been sequestering carbon for thousands of years in the ponds and meadows created by their dams. A new study finds that, due to decreasing populations, much less carbon is getting tucked away by beavers than in the past.

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19 July 2013

Most of Europe’s extreme rains caused by ‘rivers’ in the atmosphere

Heavy rainfall brought severe flooding last month to swaths of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and other Central European nations, raising water levels in one city to the highest they’ve reached since the 1500s. New research finds that most of the continent’s extreme rainfalls since at least 1979 have spilled from fast flows of warm, moisture-laden air known as atmospheric rivers.

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19 June 2013

Core Skills in the Geosciences: A Follow-up

Last April, I had a discussion with some of my fellow graduate students in the geology department here at UB about teaching. One topic raised by those of us working with senior undergraduates was the skills our students would need to have by the time they left the department. We realized that many students take winding paths on the way to finishing a major for various reasons, including that they transferred from another school, they switched majors, or they are double-majoring and have time conflicts. A winding path isn’t necessarily detrimental as long as the students come out of the process with a solid geoscience skillset. But what should that skillset include?

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4 June 2013

Return to Tohoku – Taking a big quake’s temperature

There’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean near Japan, the deepest ever drilled for science. It leads to the heart of one of the world’s most dangerous faults, the one that unleashed the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which devastated Japan’s east coast. The earthquake’s power astonished geologists, who didn’t think the fault was capable of such destruction.To find out why the quake was so massive, an international team drilled through more than 800 meters of rock, seven kilometers beneath the waves, to take the fault’s temperature.

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26 April 2013

Geophysicist challenges fracking’s bad rep

Mark Zoback, a geophysicist at Stanford University, cringes at the word “fracking”. He doesn’t oppose this controversial process of extracting fossil fuels from shale rock, or hydraulic fracturing. He just laments the stigma of its nickname.

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10 April 2013

Core skills for geology majors

A recent discussion that I’ve been having with my fellow grad students lately has been about this question: What are the core skills undergraduate geoscience students should have when they graduate?

Sometimes, because of crazy course schedules, majors joining the department late in their college career, etc etc., it seems like skillsets can be acquired haphazardly or in an order that doesn’t benefit the student. Those of us who teach as grad students sometimes find that it’s necessary to do more review than we’d expect when we’re dealing with a lab or a course. Although review isn’t a bad thing, it can take away time from the main course topics. As a teacher, my goal is to get my students to learn the course material as effectively and efficiently as possible – and make it stick.

So, like any good geoblogger, I’m going to ask for help ‘crowdsourcing’ the answer to this question. If you could put together a guide of core skills for geology students, what would be on it? What do you want them to know before they attempt specific classes? What should they know by the time they graduate to be well-grounded in the field?

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8 March 2013

My experience as a woman in the geosciences

Being deep in the throes of thesis-wrangling has left me little time for blogging lately, but as a woman and a geoscientist I definitely thought it was important to write a little bit about International Women’s Day, and about my own experiences. I first became aware that this was a day of celebration when my graduate advisor and I encountered a parade in downtown Xela when we were in Guatemala doing fieldwork for my thesis. It was a beautiful day and the parade-goers were lively and excited and enthused.

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24 February 2013

So you want to be a volcanologist?

In addition to my blogging and on-again-off-again relationship with Twitter, I like to take my geologizing to places outside the office. Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with a girls’ STEM club at my old elementary school about being a volcanologist. I actually do this fairly often, and I’m always really impressed by the questions the students come up with. They’re always inquisitive and thoughtful, and often catch me off guard – which is good!

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24 January 2013

Where does Earth get its heat?

The other day I got a message asking about where the earth gets its heat. It brings up a number of misconceptions that I thought would be worth spending a post discussing, so here goes: Many people assume the earth to be millions if not billions of years old. Lava is molten, but the earth being only 8,000 miles in diameter has no internal heat source. It is almost like …

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12 October 2012

On the early lives of diamonds

Diamonds may not be forever, but they do last an incredibly long time. The forces in the Earth’s interior that shape these famously durable gems have long been mysterious. A new study looks at teensy chunks of an inner zone of the planet that can get caught within diamonds’ crystal structures. It presents new evidence that diamonds often take a long ride in the planet’s fluidly moving gut before rising to the surface.

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17 August 2012

So you’re a new geosciences grad student…

So you’re a new geosciences grad student…and you’re getting ready to start your first semester! Hopefully you’ve chosen a great department and surrounded yourself with professors and students who will excite and challenge you. You’re probably also plowing through a bunch of paperwork and maybe taking a training course on how to be a teaching/graduate/research/etc. assistant. If, at some point in all this, you say “What the heck did I get myself into?” and start feeling panicky, don’t worry – we all do this. Here are a few things to remember as you dive into the deep end of the pool:

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30 July 2012

The journalistic method: Making the jump from science to journalism

My geology training didn’t cover the use of sedation in dentistry. In my PhD work, I never had to investigate the details of proposed guidelines for hepatitis C screenings, or the difficulties of vitamin D testing. But as the 2012 AGU-sponsored AAAS Mass Media fellow, I’ve reported on these subjects and more for the Chicago Tribune. Working as a health reporter hasn’t been as difficult as I imagined, however. I just used the scientific method.

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