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13 December 2012
The crumbling volcanic islands of the southern Pacific Ocean could be a major source of undocumented – and potentially dangerous – tsunamis.
7 December 2012
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.
Erosion takes the “beach” out of beachfront property. And when the sand drifts away, so do the property values. With climate change predictions that include rising sea levels and more intense storms, the beaches won’t get better.
Whirlpools created at the edges of breaking waves can influence how ocean nutrients – and pollution – get mixed about in the ocean.
Scientists have recently developed a technique for sharpening the accuracy of detailed tundra snow-depth maps critical to issues ranging from climate modeling to figuring out where to herd grazing caribou. “Budgets for observing the snow are comparatively small, and the area to observe is comparatively large,” said geophysicist Chris Polashenski with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “So, efficiency is key.” One innovation in snow-depth measurements has been the …
Two of the strongest knobs on Earth’s thermostat sit in the Arctic: sea ice and permafrost. Both spur feedback loops that can ripple down to lower latitudes and alter global weather patterns. Oliver Frauenfeld, a climatologist at Texas A&M University, thinks he has found another important knob on Earth’s thermostat that has hitherto been overlooked.
6 December 2012
The Laguna del Maule volcanic field in the Chilean Andes Mountains lies in the heart of volcano country. The region is a well-known subduction zone, where the friction of one crustal plate sliding under another heats rock to form magma. But for the last 2,000 years, Laguna del Maule has been a quiet water-filled caldera. Now, scientists are recording rapid deformation of the land around the caldera, suggesting that a magma reservoir is inflating below the surface.
Bacteria dependent on light may have found refuge from encroaching glaciers in inland seas some 600 million years ago, when Earth was a giant ice ball.
When glaciers have rock to cling to, they hold on tight. Luckily for us, a ridge of rock lines the edge of an expansive Antarctic glacier that might otherwise – without the ridge – be rapidly retreating and raising global sea level.
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.
Tornadoes are being betrayed by their lightning in a way that could help save lives, according to researchers who made an accidental discovery.
5 December 2012
Vulnerable to Earth’s changing climate, people living on small, low-lying islands dread the day when rising seas will swallow up their homes for good. But new findings predict that some islands will become uninhabitable long before they’re submerged. Some island habitats will be destroyed up to 10 times faster than current models project, scientists reported Tuesday at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
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 …
Swarms of tiny, repeating earthquakes often precede volcanic unrest, as they did prior to the 1989 eruption of Alaska’s Mount Redoubt. New research at Mount Rainier in Washington state finds that glaciers produce similar low magnitude seismic shocks that are not predictive of volcanic activity, and that could be interfering with efforts to predict when a dangerous eruption is imminent.
High in the sky seems like an unusual place to look for a tsunami, a natural disaster created deep beneath the ocean’s surface. But an international team of researchers is scanning the atmosphere for signs of these hazards. Looking at the sky, they say, could help scientists and emergency response agencies improve warning systems before they see any problems on land.
When a storm looms in a hurricane-prone area, coastal residents want to know its strength. Will it be a monster Category 5? A meager Category 1? One research team is taking a low-tech approach to try to give people better advance warning.
4 December 2012
Volcanic eruptions conjure up images of huge fiery explosions, searing hot magma and charred, decimated landscapes. But some eruptions also create something very different: ice crystals. In a poster presented at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting Monday, atmospheric physicist Arthur Few of Rice University in Houston tied these ice crystals to volcanic lightning, and figured out how they form
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” often voice concerns about chemicals leaking into the groundwater supply and making people sick. But what about the microbes that call fracturing fluid their home?
Large asteroids typically hit Earth with enough force to vaporize the entire rock. One asteroid the size of San Francisco formed the 40-mile-wide Morokweng crater in South Africa – but puzzlingly, in 2006, scientists discovered a solid piece of the space rock the size of a bowling ball. The discovery spurred a scientific mystery: How could any of it have survived?
10 December 2011
Our Earth is a Goldilocks planet. It’s neither too cold nor too hot but right in the habitable zone. Add another parameter that’s needed to be just right to incubate life on our world: plate tectonics. A team of geophysicists is modeling conditions that favor cruising plates on planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets, which might clue scientists into which of those worlds harbor complex life. “We …