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22 December 2016

Maine Shake Map Using Surficial Geology and Crowd-Source Responses

Researchers in Maine (Marvinney and Glover 2015) have created a clever earthquake risk shake map using readily available surficial geology maps and online responses from state residents. Did you feel it? That is the name of a USGS Earthquake Hazards Program interactive website that “collects information from people who felt an earthquake and creates maps that show what people experienced and the extent of damage.” I first became interested in …

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28 June 2015

The World’s Beaches (Book Review)

For your summer reading edification, this is a wonderful book to take to the beach. Or, if you can’t make the trip, it’s a vicarious journey to beaches around the globe, and an invitation to appreciate their beauty, idiosyncracies, and vulnerability. The full title is The World’s Beaches: A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline by Orrin H. Pilkey, William J. Neal, Joseph T. Kelley, and J. Andrew …

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2 January 2014

Dams and Demand for Sand Threaten World Beaches

Documentary filmmaker Denis Delestrac has recently completed the movie Sand Wars, which looks at the intense demand for what may seem like an abundant natural resource. In some cases worldwide, the sand business has taken on a dangerous criminal dimension. In a TedxBarcelona Talk called Let’s talk about sand, Delestrac introduces the complex subject of beach sand, including erosion and exploitation, with style and charisma. There are also some good …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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7 July 2011

USGS Raises World Lithium Estimate

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons). As a college student around 1976 I took a general ecology class taught by Jim Strayer. There was much discussion of non-renewable resources and the inevitable prospect of running out of gas. We’d already experienced gas shortages in 1973-74. Mr. Strayer wanted us to think forward and prepare for significant changes in our consumer lifestyle. At some point, someone suggested electric cars …

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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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1 May 2011

Iceberg Drag Marks on the Bottom of Glacial Lake Agassiz

The linear streaks shown on the aerial photograph to the right are believed to have been gouged by icebergs dragging on the bottom of wind swept Glacial Lake Agassiz. The streaks (Lat. 48 50′ 45″ N; Lon. 97 16′ 30″ W) are up to several miles long, hundreds of feet wide and several feet deep. Glacial Lake Agassiz, named after the 19th Century naturalist Louis Agassiz, was the largest of …

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2 March 2011

Upbound on the Detroit River

“Upbound” photo by Mark J. Burrows, International Joint Commission, December 2010. I was struck by this photo of the Detroit skyline taken from across the river in Windsor. The river looks so calm when I’m used to seeing it wind swept and turbulent – a rough river for a rough city. Perhaps counter-intuitively, Detroit, Michigan is north of Windsor, Ontario. The French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de …

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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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1 April 2010

A Look at Rivers from Space

The above photo is a false-color image taken from the Landsat 7 satellite in 2000. The Lena River Delta is frozen most of the year but, during the summer, thaws into an enormous wetland complex of about 11,000 square miles. It’s a wildlife refuge. The Lena River flows into the Laptev Sea, on the north coast of Russia. Here’s a view of the Lena River Delta taken near the ground. …

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