Earth Sciences

Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report.

The report focuses on the Cascadia subduction zone—a giant active fault that slants eastward beneath the Pacific coast of southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

Geologic studies in the past three decades have provided increasingly specific estimates of Cascadia earthquake sizes and repeat times. The estimates affect public safety through seismic provisions in building design and tsunami limits on evacuation maps.
Researchers are searching for a sustainable, environmentally-friendlier source of soil conditioner and crop fertilizer that could reduce costs to farmers -  all from renewable energy waste.

A collaborative project between Stopford Energy and Environment Limited, the James Hutton Institute, Aqua Enviro Limited and the University of Lancaster builds upon Stopford research looking at using a mixture of digestates, derived from anaerobic digestion, and ash, from burnt biomass, as an alternative to existing crop fertilizers.

Transport accounts for an up to 30% of CO2 emissions in the EU, with estimates claiming that emissions from that sector rose 36% between 1990 and 2007. 

A new analysis conducted by Lund University and the University of Surrey takes on the widely-held view that new technologies, such as biofuel and improved aircraft design, will result in carbon reduction targets being met. 


Tokyo is a city of more than 13 million people and they are no strangers to earthquakes. The city, like much of Japan, has been devastated by earthquakes in the past and likely will be again - but when?

Ongoing slow-slip earthquakes can't usually be felt at the surface but they play a role in relieving or building up geological stress and recent research examining plate movements under Tokyo has found that, since the massive magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, recurrence intervals for non-damaging slow-slip quakes beneath Japan's capital have shortened. 

This has led some seismologists to wonder if this aseismic creep could be signaling a countdown to Tokyo's next "big one."


Dusty air blowing across the Pacific from Asia and Africa is playing a critical role in precipitation patterns throughout the drought-stricken western U.S.

The exact chemical make-up of that dust, including microbes found in it, is the key to how much rain and snow falls from clouds throughout the region and knowing this could help better predict rain events, as well as explain how air pollution from a variety of sources influences regional climate in general.


Scientists have reported discovery of a new ancient pterosaur species called Caiuajara dobruskii - and the bones of 47 members to go with it. Caiuajara dobruskii lived during the Cretaceous in southern Brazil, according to the paper.

There may be more among the hundreds of bones. The pterosaur bone bed in the interdunal lake deposit of a Cretaceous desert contains at least 47 individuals, with wing spans of between 0.65 and 2.35 meter. Caiuajara dobruskii is the southermost occurrence of the edentulous clade Tapejaridae (Tapejarinae, Pterodactyloidea) recovered so far.


In quantitative genetics,  genomic prediction is a statistical approach to predicting the value of an economically important trait in a plant, such as yield or disease resistance. The method works if the trait is heritable, as many traits tend to be, and can be performed early in the life cycle of the plant, helping reduce costs.

A research team led by plant geneticists at the University of California, Riverside and Huazhong Agricultural University, China, has used the method to predict the performance of hybrid rice (for example, the yield, growth-rate and disease resistance). The new technology could potentially revolutionize hybrid breeding in agriculture.


A long lasting foreshock series controlled the rupture process of this year's great earthquake near Iquique in northern Chile, according to an international research team

The earthquake was heralded by a three quarter year long foreshock series of ever increasing magnitudes culminating in a Mw 6.7 event two weeks before the mainshock.

The mainshock (magnitude 8.2) finally broke, on April 1st, a central piece out of the most important seismic gap along the South American subduction zone. The study reveals that the Iquique earthquake occurred in a region where the two colliding tectonic plates where only partly locked.


Interpreting snow depth records from past decades is as much art as science. Even into the 1990s, Soviets on Arctic drifting sea ice used meter sticks and handwritten logs to record snow depth. Today, things are a lot more accurate. Airborne measurements are validated by researchers on the ground using automated probes similar to a ski pole. 

Accuracy is important. The public has become concerned about what is happening at the poles, and so research led by NASA and the University of Washington combined data collected by ice buoys and NASA aircraft with historic data from ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists since the late 1950s through the early 1990s to track changes over decades. 


It wasn't explicitly tasked by Congress with assessing the safety culture of nuclear facilities.

Nevertheless, an extensive new report written by the Committee on Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants devoted an entire chapter to the issue.