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Veteran geophysical tool preps for new horizons at Europa

4 hours 56 min ago
Jupiter’s moon Europa has tantalized scientists with its potential for harboring life ever since Galileo first spotted the icy satellite in 1610. If living matter is bubbling anywhere in our solar system, they suspect, it would be below the moon’s icy shell, where a presumed ocean of salty water meets a mineral-rich interior. But because scientists can’t peer beneath the ice, they must rely on data beamed back by passing spacecraft. A proposed NASA mission called Europa Clipper could be sent to the moon in the next decade—and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA want their instrument to be onboard.

All warmed up and nowhere to go: The missing El Niño of 2014

5 hours 9 min ago
In 1997, a record-breaking El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean brought rain to California, flooding to Peru, and drought to Africa. Earlier this year scientists said that warm currents in the Pacific Ocean presaged the biggest El Niño event since the record-breaking 1997-1998 season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the likelihood of a major Northern Hemisphere El Niño at 80 percent. But despite high expectations, the predicted El Niño of 2014 has ultimately fizzled. In a talk entitled "Who Killed the 2014 El Niño?" at the American Geophysical Union conference Thursday, NOAA oceanographer and past president of AGU Michael McPhaden laid out the leading suspects in this climatic whodunnit – including weak westerly winds, contrary trends elsewhere in the ocean, and overall climate-related ocean warming.

Picture Perfect and Water Wise: Images May Someday Predict the Hazards of Volcanic Gas

5 hours 31 min ago
Earlier this year, superheated water within Japan’s Mount Ontake triggered a hydrothermal explosion. Scientists monitoring the volcano had seen no signs of impending danger. The resulting steam-triggered eruption killed 57 people. Clusters of earthquakes often precede major eruptions of lava and ash. The same is not true for smaller steam-triggered eruptions of gas like the Ontake event. But those are the sorts of events that Társilo Girona would like to predict, and he believes that cameras may be the key.

Digitate stromatolites

6 hours 37 min ago
Want to see something cool? Itty bitty stromatolites… like baby’s fingers! There’s a big weathered-out stylolite at the base of this stromatolite-bearing layer, too.   These elfin stromatolites are part of the boulder in the lower left (foreground) of this GigaPan, taken at the Icefields Center parking area in Jasper National Park, Alberta: [gigapan src=",hidetitle/iframe/flash.html" height="250" scrolling="no" width="100%"] link

Guest Post – Natural Hazards Education and Communications

7 hours 22 min ago
Welcome to the first-ever guest post on the GeoEd Trek blog, focusing on the teaching of landslides and earthquake dynamics in the Himalayas and the EGU 2015 session on Natural Hazards Education and Communications

Eleven Years of Hard Work for A Few Frantic Days of Science

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 10:41pm
I’m eating lunch and talking with my friend Bud Ward (Yale Climate Connections) at the AGU meeting in San francisco Wednesday, when I see a gentleman with a sticker on his lap-top that says “MY OTHER VEHICLE IS ON THE WAY TO PLUTO”. Now, I had to find out more, so here is a short clip using my iPhone talking with Michael Buckley of the New Horizons mission to Pluto. …

Self destruction of a shale boulder

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 2:21pm

AGU Fall Meeting: Day 4

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 7:39pm
Thursday was a really exciting day. In the morning I sat in on a session about the hydrology of landslides, and especially how water storage in pore space affects landslide dynamics and discharge.

Dr. G’s #AGU14 Spotlight – Citizen Science

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 5:12pm
The AGU Fall Meeting called attention to the growing opportunities and benefits of citizen science - especially work at the global level. Read about high altitude citizen science and the work of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.

..and That’s What Science is all About Charlie Brown

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 1:44am
I am just back from a whirlwind trip to the AGU Meeting in San Francisco. 25,000 Earth scientists in one place, and it’s among the largest science meetings on the planet. I shot some videos that I will post over the weekend, but in the meantime here is a talk I made in October 2013 (in Washington) as part of the AGU Science Speaker series.

New Zealand watersheds show the dirt on logging and grazing

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:33pm
Grazing animals and logging trees in New Zealand could affect water quality there, according to scientists working to determine how water quality problems in the country relate to land use. The results could help guide water-friendly policy in New Zealand and other parts of the world, according to Jason Julian, a geographer at Texas State University.

Electromagnetic imaging helps scientists locate underwater methane

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 1:26pm
A simple compound found in underwater structures could generate warmth below the ocean, inside homes, and in the atmosphere. The location of the compound, methane, determines whether it’s dangerous, welcome, or world-changing. Now, a team from GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany and the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom has used electromagnetic images to more accurately identify and characterize a source of methane beneath the ocean floor.

Lightning strikes Venus

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 12:42pm
Scientists have detected electromagnetic signals emanating from Venus’s thick cloud layer, bolstering the case for lightning on the planet. The Venus Express spacecraft, which recently ended its mission after eight years, recorded electromagnetic pulses about 217 miles (300 kilometers) above the planet’s surface, said Richard Hart, a graduate student at the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California at Los Angeles.

AGU Fall Meeting 2014: Day 3

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 12:30pm
Wednesday was a bit of a break in terms of activities for me. I had the chance to sit down and listen to some talks about multiparameter monitoring at volcanoes (including hearing about Diana Roman's "BENTO Box" instrument platform, which reminds me of the 'spiders' that the USGS uses to get seismometers out to difficult field sites).

Data from space illuminates Calaveras creep

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 11:49am
Scientists have used satellites to more accurately measure the slow creep of land along the Calaveras and Hayward faults east of the San Francisco Bay, a finding that helped the researchers estimate the magnitude of future earthquakes. Both the Calaveras and Hayward faults are part of the San Andreas system, which sits at the boundary of two massive slabs of the Earth’s crust called the North American and Pacific plates. The plates slide slowly past one another, sometimes getting stuck and then slipping, releasing energy and causing the Earth to shake. Along the Calaveras and Hayward faults—smaller cracks on top of the plates—the land also moves steadily, a movement that geologists call creep

Computer models simulate asteroid impacts

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 11:16am
An asteroid impact 100 miles (170 kilometers) off the coast of Maryland would send waves up to 50 feet (15 meters) high onto the shore an hour later and massive flooding would occur three hours after impact, according to a new computer simulation of hypothetical asteroid impacts. The model is the first of its kind and federal agencies have used it to assess potential hazards arising from such impacts in an effort to increase U.S. emergency preparedness, planning and management, the scientists say.

Friday Fold: Mist Mountain Formation in Canmore, Alberta

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 7:03am
Let’s journey to the Cretaceous today, to see sandstones, shales, and even some coal strata that have been folded during the eastward thrusting that built the Canadian Rockies. Here’s the same fold, in context, shot in GigaPan on a different day, from a different angle. Can you match it up? [gigapan src=",hidetitle/iframe/flash.html" height="250" scrolling="no" width="100%"] link Ben Gadd showed me (and my field class) this site last summer. It’s a …

My latest paper: Patterns of movement at the Ventnor landslide on the Isle of Wight

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 3:10am
In my latest paper, just published in the journal Landslides, my co-authors and I examine monitoring data for the Ventnor landslide in southern England

Dr. G’s #AGU14 Spotlight – Union lunchtime forums

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 2:24am
For some, lunchtime is focused on food. For many at the AGU Fall Meeting, lunchtime is spent feeding ourselves with inspiring and innovative ideas presented during the Union General Sessions.

Sterilizing for Mars

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 7:53pm
“Leave no trace.” It’s a central ethic of wilderness exploration. Pack your supplies in, pack your waste out, and leave the natural landscape unspoiled. But when it comes to the newest frontier of exploration—visiting alien worlds to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life—the challenge of avoiding contamination with traces of life from Earth is a huge challenge.