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17 May 2015

Faults from the air

Sometimes I spend so much time out looking at geological features in the Bay area that I forget to blog about them. But this weekend I had the chance to go for a wonderful tour of the South Bay and Peninsula via Cessna, and I’m convinced that it’s an awesome way to check out geology. (Of course, anyone who’s seen Michael Collier’s photographic work knows that already, but in case you needed convincing, take my word for it. Also, not having to brave security at the airport is lovely.)

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14 January 2015

Mountain monitoring system artificially inflates temperature increases at higher elevations

In a recent study, University of Montana and Montana Climate Office researcher Jared Oyler found that while the western U.S. has warmed, recently observed warming in the mountains of the western U.S. likely is not as large as previously supposed.

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18 December 2014

Tracking wastewater in the ocean with satellites

Scientists can use satellites to track wastewater plumes in the ocean, according to new research presented Tuesday afternoon at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Researchers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other research institutions tracked wastewater plumes from the Los Angeles County and Orange County treatment plants in California during maintenance in 2006 and 2012, respectively. Each plant temporarily diverted wastewater into an older, shorter, shallower pipe. But treated sewage still contains contaminants, so each plant also conducted expensive ocean monitoring.

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Heart Rate Monitors for Shellfish May Help Purify Rivers

In tanks at the University of Iowa, mussels equipped with heart rate monitors are purifying water with their excrement. Like human heart monitors, the gadgets glued to the mussels’ shells provide information about activity and metabolism. But in the mussels’ case, this information is helping researchers understand how mussels cleanse the water of agricultural runoff.

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13 November 2014

Satellite nightlight images show flood exposure increasing worldwide

More people around the world live in flood-prone regions than did 20 years ago, increasing death tolls and economic damage from floods and the chances that flooding will cause similar losses in the future, a new study finds. The increased concentration of human populations in flood-risk zones could exacerbate an already expected upsurge in flood-related destruction in a warming climate, the researchers report.
The study has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Its authors used satellite images to show that a widely used proxy for population—the number of lights seen at night—increased globally along rivers by an average of 1.2 percent each year between 1992 and 2012.

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26 August 2014

Heating up the fishbowl: Climate change threatens endangered Devils Hole pupfish

Climate change is hurting reproduction of the critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish, threatening the survival of the already small population, new research shows.

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5 August 2014

Sea-level spikes can harm beaches worse than hurricane

Unforeseen, short-term increases in sea level caused by strong winds, pressure changes and fluctuating ocean currents can cause more damage to beaches on the East Coast over the course of a year than a powerful hurricane making landfall, according to a new study. The new research suggests that these sea-level anomalies could be more of a threat to coastal homes and businesses than previously thought, and could become higher and more frequent as a result of climate change.

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24 July 2014

Dropped cell phone calls become rain gauges in West Africa

A shaky cell phone connection during a rainstorm can be an annoying nuisance. But now scientists are showing that these weakened signals can be used to monitor rainfall in West Africa, a technique that could help cities in the region better prepare for floods and combat weather-related diseases.

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12 June 2014

Where it burns, it floods: predicting post-fire mudslides in the West

By Alexandra Branscombe WASHINGTON, DC – Just a week after a 21,000-acre wildfire between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona, residents there are already bracing for mudslides that could surge down the burned slopes. These water-fueled flows of burned-out trees, loose rocks and mud can pack enough power to wipe out homes and roads. A new online hazard assessment system could help threatened communities in central Arizona and elsewhere in the western …

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30 May 2014

Sonar could spot oil spills hidden by Arctic ice

By Alexandra Branscombe WASHINGTON, DC –Melting summer sea ice is opening up new shipping and drilling opportunities in the Arctic, bringing with them the potential for oil spills that could become trapped under the remaining sea ice and go unseen by current oil-detection methods. Now, a team of scientists is investigating a way to use sound waves to find this elusive oil. Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts …

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22 May 2014

Applying science to natural resource policy issues: Social science joins natural and physical sciences

By Jana Davis, Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Trust As AGU members, we generally focus on the contribution of physical and natural science solutions to policy questions. But sometimes an issue calls for us to step outside the boundaries of these “hard” sciences to the social sciences. Areas in which many of us tend to be less comfortable. And less trained. Watershed restoration and protection can be just such an issue. …

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23 April 2014

Proposed seawater-based air conditioning could benefit farmers

Discharged seawater pumped from the ocean and used for a renewable air conditioning system would overload surface waters with minerals that could potentially be captured instead for use in agriculture, according to a noted oceanographer.

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6 November 2013

Top 5 Reasons You Should Check out AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange, and more information

AGU has launched the Thriving Earth Exchange, a new initiative that supports communities as they protect themselves from hazards, adapt to a changing planet, and create sustainable futures. Featured in this week’s edition of Eos, learn more about the program where AGU members will work with local leaders to contribute their Earth and space science expertise to significant societal challenges. The Thriving Earth Exchange is inspired by a series of …

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26 July 2013

Streamflow and storms at Glen Falls

In between bouts of hottish weather (I don’t count it as hot unless it’s well into the nineties and the humidity is fairly high) and the occasional cool day like today, we’ve been having some fairly spectacular thunderstorms in Buffalo. That’s no unusual thing in the summertime, but after teaching a chunk of an intro course about streamflow and what happens after it rains, I’ve started paying more attention to water features in my area.

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28 June 2013

Carbon-cutting steps like those Obama proposed could improve, and worsen, water woes

As President Obama announced sweeping policies Tuesday aimed at curbing carbon emissions and combating climate change, water resources experts at a Washington, D.C. meeting across town from where Obama spoke discussed the entwined nature of water conservation and energy production .”Saving greenhouse gas emissions saves water too,” said Robert Jackson of Duke University in Durham, N.C., as he and other panelists discussed retrofitting power plants that burn coal or other fossil fuels and turning to alternative energy sources.

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4 June 2013

The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges to Meet Growing Demands

Water and energy are linked resources in ever-increasing demand in the United States.  Energy production requires an abundant, reliable, and predictable source of water, a resource that is unfortunately in short supply already throughout large portions of the U.S.  Additionally, developing water supplies can require large amounts of energy to extract, transport, treat, and distribute.  As such, the water-energy nexus presents a significant challenge for our country’s water resource and …

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19 April 2013

Exploring a changing coast in the face of sea level rise – Galveston, Texas

Over 80 scientists gathered at a conference here this week to share their latest research on past, current, and projected future sea level rise and to discuss how this information can be used to shape policy. Despite their diverse perspectives and expertise, one thing the scientists agreed on for sure: the rates and impacts of sea level rise are local and communities are facing a growing risk.

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7 December 2012

Cosmic ray muons watch for carbon leaks

Out of sight, out of mind – that’s the essence of carbon sequestration, an emerging technology designed to fight climate change by packing liquefied carbon dioxide in underground rock formations. But rocks have cracks, wells, holes, and other surprises that could let that carbon, so painstakingly injected, bubble back up to the surface again. Engineers and scientists need a way to watch for leaks that’s reliable and inexpensive. The solution, one scientist says, is already falling from the skies.

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6 December 2012

Surprising Source of Tsunamis

No one knew what happened when a 7-foot wave hit Lake Erie’s shoreline, sweeping holiday weekend beach-goers off of their feet and swamping boats in their harbors on May 27 of this year. News reporters jokingly called it a tsunami, but explained it was just another wave surge in the wake of windy weather coming from the Canadian border. But it was a tsunami.

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5 December 2012

Measuring groundwater recharge could protect rural farmers’ livelihoods

In the Gangeshwar watershed in Rajasthan, India, farmers are at the mercy of their water supply. They use electrical pumps to capture well water for irrigating fields of wheat, rice, cotton and other crops. But wells often run dry, threatening crops and livelihoods. Melissa Rohde, now a graduate student in civil & environmental engineering at Stanford, in Palo Alto, California is working to find a simple, cost-effective way to measure …

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