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November 1, 2022

Blowout landslides, part 2: Material movement, and did anything actually “blow out?”

So, what actually happens when these slides occur? I have not personally witnessed one, but I think that a look at details of failure surface shape and the behavior of saturated soil during failure can be used to figure out why blowouts appear to “blow out” instead of just slide. Lack of disturbance of the slopes below blowouts was remarked upon by both Eisenlohr (1952) and Hack and Goodlett (1960), with Hack and Goodlett going to the length of determining just how small of a sapling tree could survive a blowout strike in their study area.

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October 29, 2022

“Blowout” landslides and the lidar signature of extreme Appalachian rainfall events

On the night of June 27, 1995, the Albemarle County, Virginia, mountainside shown below received an exceptional amount of rainfall. No one knows how much, but a nearby rain gage recorded ~ 11 inches (28 cm) of rainfall with only 2 hours…the rain event continued for several more hours. Unsurprisingly, a tremendous number of landslides resulted. The slides are clearly visible in this lidar hillshade image, and those marked with yellow arrows are of particular interest in the context of the storm’s outrageous precipitation rate and total, which likely reached 30 inches (76 cm).

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October 28, 2022

What lives in frozen soil for 25,000 years?

In October 2022, Josephine Galipon visited Alaska to see if she could tease out genetic information from gray cylinders of permafrost — silty soil that has been frozen for at least two years, but in this case thousands.

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October 23, 2022

Home insulation from wood and fungus

Robbin Garber-Slaght is a Fairbanks engineer who works for the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center. She notes that Alaskans pay more than double the national average to keep their homes warm during the winter and also pay a lot for sheets of foam insulation, which travels a long way to get here by truck and boat. She is teaming with Phillipe Amstislavski to develop insulation boards made of wood fiber bound by mycelium, the root-like tendrils of fungus.

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Sandbox models with high-displacement thrust faults compared to features of some Canadian Rockies sections

Sandbox models don’t always produce the geometry the modeler wants, but with properly scaled materials, a “failed” model run can still produce worthy analog structures. I recently came up short on attempts to model some details of the southern Appalachian Valley and Ridge, instead producing structures reminiscent of some well-known Canadian Rockies sections. Were the model a real thrust belt, drilling through the first anticline of the upper thrust sheet, through the thrust, and into the upturned footwall beds might be interesting, whether you’re into exploration or carbon storage. A hypothetical well is shown here…

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October 15, 2022

The man who knew moose like no other

Vic Van Ballenberghe died on Sept. 22, 2022, at the age of 78. The man who knew moose better than perhaps anyone else on Earth had stood amid their knobby legs for many springs and falls in Interior Alaska. I got to join him in the field once, 11 years ago. Here is my story from that day…

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October 14, 2022

Grains of Alaska made into art

Kelsey Aho works as a mapmaker for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska. She is also an artist who collects earthen materials on her travels around the state. Throughout Alaska, Aho has gathered mineral soils — including clays when she can find them — as well as ash. She has collected from, among other places, the Denali Highway, Hartney Bay near Cordova, the Chilkat River and Murphy Dome in Fairbanks.

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September 23, 2022

Alaska sand dunes hint at ancient past

Sand deposits everywhere in Alaska harken back to a time thousands of years ago when big winds blasted fine particles of glacier-ground mountain a long way. It must have been an unpleasant time to be walking around Alaska, but scientists like Mann are fascinated with what it left behind.

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September 8, 2022

An attempt to de-mystify the mysterious

In this wild place where dump truck drivers once tipped load after load of gravel onto the moss to make roads and building pads, scientists rolled open an iron gate one recent Saturday afternoon. They invited in conspiracy theorists, reality-TV hosts and salmon fishermen from Chistochina to the grounds of a mysterious antenna field.

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August 30, 2022

Adopt a woolly mammoth and win!

Adopt-a-mammoth will allow anyone who donates the radio-carbon dating fee of $350 to receive a digital photo of their tusk, femur or whatever mammoth part it happens to be. Scientists will then remove a collagen sample and send it to a carbon-dating lab in California. Mammoth adopters will get results on the age of their animal shortly after the scientists do.

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