April 29, 2010

Predicting Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions, An Iris Lecture


WHAT            Annual IRIS Lecture
Predicting Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions, featuring Stephen Malone of the University of Washington.

This weekend’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Mexico with aftershocks that reached Southern California, the devastating earthquake in Chile, and the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland are all reminders of the power of geological events.  Join Stephen Malone of the Department of Earth and Space Science at the University of Washington as he discusses the state-of-the-art technology behind predicting these phenomena. Learn about the advances scientists have made in predicting volcanic eruptions and the many challenges they continue to face while attempting to forecast earthquakes.

Dr. Malone will detail his research about the “warning signs” that volcanoes produce to help estimate eruptions weeks in advance. Learn how this knowledge has led to several successful predictions that have aided in evacuations prior to the eruptions.  Dr. Malone will also discuss why it is more difficult to anticipate earthquakes, despite advances in the field that help scientists pinpoint locations with increased risk.

Introduced by Museum Curator Edward Mathez from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, this lecture is co-presented with IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lecture Series.

WHERE         Linder Theater
Enter at 77th Street
                        American Museum of Natural History

WHEN            Thursday, May 6, 6:30 pm
Wine, coffee, and snacks will be available for purchase at Café on One
from 5:30–6:30 pm.

ADMISSION $10 adults, $8 members, students, seniors

April 27, 2010

Rhode Island-Sized Oil Slick, 11 Dead

Last week's oil rig explosion and sinking that left 11 workers lost and presumed dead may remind us of the risks of offshore drilling. In addition to the human lives lost, as many as 42,000 gallons of crude oil (1,000 barrels) are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico EVERY DAY, and it could be months before BP or Deepwater Horizon is able to turn off the spigot. The oil slick is currently larger than the state of Rhode Island. As many as 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel also went down with the oil rig. That's more than enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The irreparable damage to the environment from the spill, originating just 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, is likely to be severe.

Accuweather.com is predicting that the spill could coat the coastlines of not only Louisiana, but also Alabama, Mississippi and Florida as soon as this weekend, due to 25-mph winds associated with thunderstorms in the forecast late Thursday and Friday. Isn't it time to invest in cleaner sources of power?

April 23, 2010

100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear

Earthly Happenings is NOT getting paid to announce this, but we are impressed by a preview of Newsweek Magazine's new special issue: 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear. 100 photographs from 100 different places around the world in risk of disappearing or seriously threatened by climate change. Through the beauty and uniqueness of each place, Newsweek draws attention to the consequences and significance of climate change.

Some of the most beautiful locales on earth could change radically, or completely vanish altogether. This collection of photos and explanations serves to remind us of what we have to loose. Threatened locations include the Republic of the Maldives, Chicago Illinois, Kauai Hawaii, Zahara De La Sierra in Andalusia Spain, Olympia Greece, Western Hudson Bay Canada, and more.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an electronic version available at this time, just paper. Newsweek sells special issues for $16.95, and promise to ship via USPS standard mail within 2-3 weeks of placing an order. 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear can be previewed and ordered HERE. Sales do not benefit EH.

April 19, 2010

Iceland Volcanic Activity Could Continue for Months

Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano could continue to erupt on and off for several months, and it could trigger a bigger eruption of an even larger volcano nearby. The volcano continues to ground airplanes in Europe and thus disrupt air travel around the globe. Why? Because the volcano is upwind from Europe's busiest air travel coridors.

Volcanic ash can cause extensive damage to jets, even bring them out of the sky. The particles spewing forth are mostly microscopic bits of glass that can easily melt onto jet engine parts, block intake lines, ding windshields and scour aircraft bodies.

Greg Gallina, who works at the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Camp Springs, Md., recently told National Public Radio that the nature of the ash in Iceland is typical. "What makes this one really special is the location at which it's erupting," Gallina says.

According to Morning Edition, "Once a cloud is in the air, forecasters can keep planes away. The trick comes in figuring out what's going to happen next, with the source of these clouds -- the volcanoes themselves. That job is left to the geologists on the ground. Siguhrun Hainsdottir and her colleagues at the University of Iceland have been following the activity of the volcano for three months."

"We wouldn't be surprised if it went on for months, but on and off, like we've seen in the last few weeks, where it comes up in one location and then it comes up on another location," Hainsdottir says. "That didn't surprise us."

Hainsdottir also says she wouldn't be surprised if the magma from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano crept underground just a bit to the east and flowed into the chambers of its much bigger volcanic neighbor, Katla, which has been unexpectedly quiet in recent decades. She she says an eruption there could trigger much more disruption than what's happening now. Meanwhile, many travelers are stranded.

April 6, 2010

NASA May Receive Billions to Study Earth

NASA, the U.S. government organization usually responsible for exploring space, could be spending a lot more time studying Earth in the next few years. The Obama administration has proposed a budget for NASA that includes substantial funding for satellites and other tools to help scientists investigate Earth-bound problems, especially climate change. That represents a major turnaround for NASA's Earth Science Division, which was allowed to languish in the 2000s during the Bush administration. Back then, the division had so little money it wasn't able to replace aging satellites that monitor things such as polar ice, coastal wetlands, ocean temperatures and chemicals in the atmosphere. That sad state of affairs may be about to change. NASA has the expertise and the technology, and may soon have the money to bring some studies of space back down to earth.

April 1, 2010

A Space Voyage to Someone Else's Genesis--Are We Alone?

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team
Is planet earth just an uncommonly habitable place in the universe, an extremely rare exception, or are we really alone? The universe is infinitely big, meaning that we thus far cannot measure its size. Meanwhile, fabulous images are being collected by professional and amateur astronomers that can help us all to understand the galaxy and universe in which we live. They are images (many from the Hubble telescope) patched into a virtual galaxy so we can click our way across the Milky Way to seek out a very particular, very distant star. "What you see here," says author Michael Benson, "is a Genesis. Not ours, someone else's."