When a landslide tore through a remote Alaskan valley in July, no one was there to bear witness. But hours later, geoscientist Colin Stark of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory spotted the event in the pattern of seismic waves passing through the Earth’s crust. Within days, using data from earthquake sensors and satellite images, he and colleague Göran Ekström were able to estimate, from their lab in New York, the landslide’s size, and even determine its path.
A yellow splash of light from Bogdan Onac’s headlamp bounces around the dripping orange walls of a cave like a frenetic firefly. At the other end of the beam, the University of South Florida paleoclimatologist explains that the walls of this cave, on the Mediterranean island of Majorca, have collected a bathtub ring of minerals as brackish water washes in and out. “Majorca is like a Gruyère,” Onac says, its underlying limestone filled with holes just like the cheese. Continue reading
In the atmosphere, soot traps heat like carbon dioxide does. But unlike CO2, soot stays near its source and falls to Earth in weeks, so it’s considered low-hanging fruit in the fight against global warming. The first step to reducing atmospheric soot is to find it, which scientists have been doing since the 1980s with a particle-measuring tool called an aethalometer. Continue reading
Last month, aerial photographer and biologist Matevž Lenarčič flew a single-seat airplane across 2000 kilometers of airspace between Easter Island and Totegegie Airport in French Polynesia (right). That lonesome leg was one hop on a 3-month journey around the world, during which Lenarčič and his tiny, lightweight aircraft, a Pipistrel Virus (inset), also touched down on Antarctica, a rare solo feat. Between piloting the plane and collecting photographs for an upcoming book on water, Lenarčič has also collected data on black carbon, or soot, concentrations in the atmosphere. His 290-kilogram plane carries a much-lighter-than-normal Aethalometer, designed by aerosol scientist Griša Močnik of Aerosol in Ljubljana, Slovenia, that measures the optical absorption of the atmosphere and converts it to a rough estimate of soot concentration. Continue reading