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8 November 2011

Coal Ash in Lake Michigan

Last week saw a coal-ash landslide at the Oak Creek power plant near Milwaukee, and congressional action that would allow a car ferry to dump coal ash in Lake Michigan. Both incidents raise questions about regulatory and permitting processes. Full disclosure is in order here. To minimize bias, scientists are supposed to be disinterested (not uninterested) in their subjects. I love Lake Michigan. For a kid who grew up in the “Rust Belt-Corn Belt” …

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12 September 2011

Lake Erie Algae Bloom

This September 3, 2011 MODIS image of Lake Erie reveals a bright green algae plume concentrated in the western basin. The western basin of the lake is the shallowest part and receives discharge from the Maumee River, the largest river watershed in the Great Lakes with 6,354 square miles (16,460 square km) of land drainage. Land use in the watershed is about 85 percent agricultural and growers typically use a …

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1 June 2011

New Soil Blogs

Years ago, a fellow geology major and friend who went on to graduate school to focus on structural geology and tectonics liked to “razz” those of us interested in surficial processes, dismissing it all as “superficial geology.” In rebuttal, someone would remind him that structure and tectonics are only significant to the extent those things are expressed at or near Earth’s surface where we all try to make a living. …

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16 May 2011

MODIS Reveals Major Sources of Sediment

It’s mud season in the Midwest and the MODerate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 250m true color band beautifully displays the tell-tale sediment plumes entering western Lake Erie (left). Updates of Great Lakes MODIS imagery are available here MODIS is a multi-band imaging instrument mounted on two Earth-orbiting satellites, the Terra, and the Aqua, both part of the NASA-led international Earth Observing System. Between the two of them, the entire Earth is …

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19 January 2011

Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan Addresses Nuke Cooling System and Soil Compaction

Barnegat Bay and Oyster Creek Generating Station. Photo by Andrew Bossi CC. Last month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie unveiled a plan to improve the ecologic health of Barnegat Bay, which includes coastal areas of Orange County. According to thegovmonitor.com “The goal is to restore, protect and enhance Barnegat Bay, which has been suffering,” said (Department of Environmental Protection) Commissioner Martin. “We are dealing with problems that have been long …

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20 November 2010

Economic and Ecological Benefits of Perennial Wheat

The Wheat Field, Sunset by Vincent van Gogh (1890). Researchers at Michigan State University, Washington State University and The Land Institute at Kansas State University have been running trials on “perennial wheat.” Perennial wheat gets planted once and is harvested several times, unlike conventional wheat that requires tilling and seeding the soil every growing season. With only a few months to grow, conventional wheat develops shallow roots and soil is …

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20 June 2010

A Tragic Ignorance of Mineral Weathering

Rainwater harvesting offers a safe alternative to arsenic-tainted groundwater. Following up on a report from the British journal Lancet, global news agency AFP reports: “Up to 77 million Bangladeshis have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from contaminated drinking water, and even low-level exposure to the poison is not risk-free, The Lancet medical journal reported. Over the past decade, more than 20 percent of deaths recorded in a study …

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8 April 2010

Coast of Alaska: Accelerated Erosion 2002-2007

A five-year study in Alaska led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that shoreline erosion along a 40-mile stretch of the Beaufort Sea has been accelerating from about 20-feet per year fifty years ago, to 45-feet per year by 2007. The research makes obvious the importance of considering the specific properties of the earthen materials exposed to erosive forces. In this case, the land contains permafrost, a consituent of …

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