19 November 2014
Time ravages mountains, as it does people. Sharp features soften, and bodies grow shorter and rounder. But under the right conditions, some mountains refuse to age. In a new study, scientists explain why the ice-covered Gamburtsev Mountains in the middle of Antarctica looks as young as they do.
13 November 2014
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.
24 October 2014
When Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. East Coast two years ago, it threatened the survival of a 400-million-year-old crab species and about a million shorebirds that rely on the crabs’ eggs for nourishment during long migrations. Retreating storm waters took with them 60 to 90 centimeters (two to three feet) of sand from the Delaware Bay beaches where horseshoe crabs lay eggs and left behind piles of debris, destroying 70 percent of the crab’s prime nesting zones in the area.
13 October 2014
Researchers from the British Geological Survey have taken the very first comprehensive health check of a rapidly melting glacier. Their latest study reveals that their icy patient, the Falljökull glacier in southeast Iceland, has been dramatically declining as it tries to adjust to recent changes in the climate.
8 October 2014
New research finds that it’s not just the amount of rain that falls on a hillside, but the pattern of rainfall that matters when trying to determine how likely a slope is to give way. This new information could improve forecasts of landslides, which are typically hard to predict, said the scientists conducting the research.
Different rainfall patterns—a short, heavy deluge, a light, steady downpour, or sporadic showers—will trigger different numbers of landslides with varying amounts of debris, according to the new study published today in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
7 October 2014
Researchers have developed a new avalanche monitoring method that uses sound below the range of human hearing to detect and track these deadly and destructive snow slides. The technique can detect an avalanche from the moment it starts, picking up the unheard thump of a rupture in the snowpack that can precede the snow cascade. It can then track the avalanche’s path second by second down the mountain.
In a new study published last month in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, scientists report using an array of infrasound detectors on a mountainside to pick up low-frequency sound waves emitted from one of a series of January, 2012, avalanches in Idaho’s Canyon Creek corridor.
6 October 2014
This December, USGS will release a beta version of interactive computer models created from data collected by that laser-equipped plane—known as the second generation Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL-B)—and other equipment that mapped and monitored the New Jersey coast. The online portal will allow anyone to look at storm intensities and directions, evaluate wave attack scenarios and coastal vulnerabilities, and anticipate the impacts to landscapes ahead of time, said Neil Ganju, a USGS research oceanographer, at a 19 September congressional briefing on the Department of the Interior’s response to Hurricane Sandy.
30 September 2014
Fiber-optic cables like the ones that bring television and Internet into millions of homes are now being used to measure how fast ice shelves in Antarctica are melting, according to new research. Researchers installed moorings containing fiber-optic cables hundreds of meters down into the McMurdo Ice Shelf in West Antarctica to collect temperature information about the base of the ice shelf, where the thick platform of floating ice meets the ocean. The sensors were able to measure mere millimeters of ice loss at the interface, demonstrating that the new fiber-optic method could be used to remotely monitor the ice shelves in real-time.
Thorbjorg Agustsdottir, a Ph.D. student studying seismology at the University of Cambridge, had the rare opportunity to witness a volcanic eruption up close when Iceland’s Bardarbunda volcano erupted while she and fellow researchers were servicing seismometer stations around the volcano.
29 September 2014
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.