Geology

Hawaii to suffer most as global sea levels rise, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 21, 2013   View Article

Melting ice in Greenland, Antarctica and elsewhere will push up seas unevenly around the world, according to a new study that finds some of the highest waters will inundate Honolulu, Hawaii.

At the poles, sea levels will actually fall because of the way sea, land and ice interact. For example, the sheer mass of water held in ice in Greenland and Antarctica generates a gravitational field that pulls in the surrounding water. As ice there melts, the gravitational pull weakens and the water is redistributed.

Earth Spun Faster in 2009 Due to Ocean Current?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 22, 2012   View Article

Did it feel like time flew in November 2009? It turns out the days were actually going a wee bit faster for part of that month, according to a team of NASA and European scientists.

Earth spun about 0.1 millisecond faster for a two-week stretch, said study co-author Steven Marcus, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The planet’s speedier spin appears to have been due to a slowdown in an ocean current that whips around Antarctica.

An invisibility cloak for earthquakes? It’s possible

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: February 16, 2012   View Article

For several years, scientists have worked on real-world invisibility cloaks akin to the one that shields boy wizard Harry Potter from light waves. While that’s neat-o and all, a research group in Potter’s homeland thinks a similar trick can protect buildings from earthquakes.

The group, led by mathematician William Parnell at the University of Manchester, has shown that cloaking components or structures in pressurized rubber would make them invisible to the powerful waves produced during a temblor.

3-D model mimics volcanic blast

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 1, 2011   View Article

A new 3-D model that realistically mimics the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens is helping scientists understand the dynamics of such blasts and may help them map potential blast flows at dangerous volcanoes around the world.

The eruption of the volcano in Washington killed 57 people, leveled forests and sent a torrent of mud and debris down rivers that wiped out hundreds of homes and dozens of bridges.

The damage stems from a fast-moving current of superheated gas and hot rock and debris that was blasted out sideways from the volcano, Barry Voight, an emeritus professor of geology at Penn State, explained to me today.

Supervolcano plume sized up

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 11, 2011   View Article

The volcanic plume beneath Yellowstone is larger than previously thought, according to a new study that measured the electrical conductivity of the hot and partly molten rock.

The findings say nothing about the chances of another cataclysmic eruption at Yellowstone, but they give scientists another view of the vast and deep reservoir that feeds such eruptions.

Robots to the rescue in Japan

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 15, 2011   View Article

As the search for survivors and grim recovery of bodies continues following the devastating one-two punch of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, researchers are weighing what types of robots could be most helpful.

There are ground-based robots, for example, designed to climb up and down piles of rubble and slither into otherwise inaccessible cracks to look for survivors. Other robots are designed to work underwater, looking for survivors in cars that fell off bridges and to check the integrity of infrastructure.

Could big quake happen here? Yes

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 11, 2011   View Article

As the world tunes in to the disaster following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan today — and with waves rattling nerves along the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii — a question rises to the fore: Could such a disaster happen here?

The short answer is yes. It already has. Major quakes of a similar style rupture along the 680-mile-long Cascadia subduction zone, a fault that runs from Northern California to British Columbia, every few hundred years. They trigger tsunami waves reaching up to 15 feet high that hit the shore about 10 to 15 minutes later.

The fault last ruptured in 1700 – a magnitude-9 event that sent tsunami waves crashing into Japan. Experts believe it is a matter of when, not if, the next one will happen, according to Brian Atwater, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington and an expert on the 1700 event.

“There’s no reason to question the history here,” he told me today.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach