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March 4, 2021

Finding the great earthquake of 1900

The largest earthquake on the planet for the year 1900 happened somewhere near Kodiak, Alaska, on Oct. 9. Scientists know it was big, but how big? And could it happen again?

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March 1, 2021

What does that landslide actually look like?

We have no constraints on the age of the slides, but they may reflect logging history in the area. The majority of these slopes were heavily and continuously logged during the past ~150 years, with logging in this area clearly occurring within the past 50 years. The slides may have developed after clear-cuts, with the rapid return of vegetation common in the region quickly making the area look less disturbed than it really is.

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Malaspina Glacier gets up and goes

Massive icefields near the Canada/Alaska border feed Malaspina ice through a slot in the mountains. Freed of mountain walls, Malaspina’s ice oozes over the coastal plain like batter on a hot griddle. Near the Gulf of Alaska about 30 miles northwest of Yakutat, the glacier is — on clear days — visible from a window seat on an Alaska Airlines flight from Southeast Alaska to Anchorage. But the dirty-white blob on the cheek of Alaska is not as large as it used to be, which is why glaciologist Martin Truffer and his colleagues are studying it.

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February 24, 2021

Lidar-derived imagery of 1949 debris flows on North Fork Mountain, Grant County, West Virginia

Debris flow events present a significant hazard to life and property in all parts of the Appalachians. The 1949 event that created the features shown here caused 8 fatalities and displaced a tremendous number of residents. Detailed mapping…along with analysis of detailed surface imagery, can greatly enhance understanding of where debris flows begin and where they travel. This understanding, in turn, can potentially reduce the human impact of these particularly dynamic and mobile slope failure events.

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February 19, 2021

‘Ghost forest’ got run over by a glacier

A “ghost forest” exposed as La Perouse Glacier in Southeast Alaska retreated. In the past, the glacier ran over the rainforest trees. Two people are also in the photo. Photo by Ben Gaglioti.

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February 8, 2021

Blue beads in the tundra: The first U.S. import from Europe?

Glass beads the size of blueberries found by archeologists in a Brooks Range house-pit might be the first European item ever to arrive in North America, predating the arrival of Columbus by a few decades.

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January 29, 2021

Bowhead whales: A recent success story

Bowhead whales are true northern creatures, swimming only in cold oceans off Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Svalbard and Russia. These bus-size whales have the largest mouths in the animal kingdom, can live for 200 years and can go without eating for more than a year due to their remarkable fat reserves. Bowheads are also a rare wildlife rebound story, with the population north and west of Alaska now numbering more than 16,000. That’s up from the 1,000 or so animals Yankee whalers left behind in bloody waters at the turn of the last century.

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January 21, 2021

Alaska’s all-time cold record turns 50

Jan. 23, 2021, is the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s all-time cold temperature: minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded by a weather observer at Prospect Creek Camp. Now a clearing in the woods, Prospect Creek Camp was located near the confluence of Prospect Creek and the Jim River, just north of the Arctic Circle and about 160 miles north of Fairbanks.

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January 11, 2021

The Ray Sponaugle well: A 13,000-ft lesson in Appalachian Valley and Ridge structure

“To the surprise of the drillers and geologists involved with the project, the well bore never got anywhere close to the Cambrian quartzite. At 10,000 ft (3,010 m) below the surface, the well passed through a thrust fault and entered a tight, nearly recumbent syncline cored by the same Ordovician shale unit into which drilling began.”

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Giant storms, big waves and chilly winds

…the Howard Pass weather station in the western Brooks Range recorded an air temperature of minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, the wind was blowing 47 miles per hour. That’s a windchill of minus 78 degrees. That inhumane condition is not unusual for Howard Pass, a relative low spot (2,062 feet) in Alaska’s farthest-north mountain range.

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