Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Massive iceberg breaks off after a New Zealand Earthquake

Yesterday a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand causing a large iceberg to shear off a glacier!  The iceberg, estimated to weigh 30 to 40 million tons, then landed in a lake causing waves up to 3 meters high.

Potential Earthquakes in Eastern US

Have you ever experienced the ground shaking from an earthquake?  Scientists are concerned that there is a potential for a major earthquake in the future of the Mississippi Valley.  This area is the New Madrid seismic zone. Severe ground shaking would occur in areas such as Memphis and St. Louis.  It has been brought to the media's attention because some scientists believe that the stress on the Earth in this zone has been decreased and therefore the zone is being shut down.

Source: USGS
The evidence for this predicted earthquake is based on decades of research in the area. They have found evidence from the geologic record and Global Positioning System (GPS) data.

In the years of 1811-1812, 3 major earthquakes were recorded of magnitudes 7.7, 7.5, and 7.7.  For more information on what these magnitudes mean click here.  These past earthquakes are a good indication that there will be more in the area.

Research shows that there will be large future earthquakes in the area and people should be prepared.  Building codes are required to help lessen the blow of a major earthquake on both public safety as well as potentially decreasing the economic strain in the region after an earthquake occurrs.  People need to be aware of this high potential hazard as well.
To gain more information you can read the following article: Earthquake Hazard in the New Madrid Seismic Zone

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Landslides in Brazil

Friday, January 14, 2011 Source:AP

Last month, north of Rio de Janero in Brazil was overcome with mudslides that seems to have been triggered by heavy rainfall.  It is being said that this is the greatest natural disaster in Brazil's history.  It is estimated that greater than 1300 people were killed in these landslides and severe flooding.

Mudslides outside Rio de Janero, Brazil Source: The Seattle Times

Houses being built in the areas where these landslides occurred also contributed to the slides by putting more force on the unstable earth.  This goes to show that there needs to be studies done before constructions of houses or buildings are built.  These engineering studies should show that the land was not stable and houses or other buildings probably should not have been Other techniques besides aviodance include building a wide range of barriers at the bottom of the slopes.  There are three main ways to help stablize a slope including:
- Changing to shape of the slope
- Lowering the level of the groundwater or lowering the amount of water present in the earth material by drainage
- Mechanical methods such as barriers or anchors (see the picture below)

Stabilizing the slope.  Source: The full wiki.
For more pictures of the flooding and landslides in Brazil: Disasterous photos from 2011 Brazilian landslides

Monday, February 7, 2011

How will they study?

University of Buffalo's campus where the Geological Hazards Facility will be built.
As mentioned in my previous post, pyroclastic flows are unpredictable and therefore are hard to get measurements on.  You can not set up measurements in a pyroclastic flow in a controlled way; where the conditions that cause pyroclastic flows are known.  Some methods are being developed that would allow measurements to be taken from a distance.  However, when tested on a live volcano, we don't know the what source of the pyroclastic flow was like, what the initial  velocity was, or any information on the inner structure of the flow. So how then will the future Geologic Hazards Facility study these flows using experiments?  
The experimental field station will model pyroclastic flows on a scale large enough to illustrate most of the physical processes.  By being in control of the conditions, the instruments needed to take accurate measurements could be set up along the path of the flow.  Measurements could also be taken from a distance just as in a real volcano but now there will be additional information.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blog Self Interview

What is the purpose of this blog?
The purpose of this blog is to become a better writer by communicating science effectively.  I would also like to inform readers about what type of geological hazards are going on in the world today. 

Who is the imagined audience(s) of this blog?
The imagined audience is those not in the science field. 

Have my posts matched up with my purpose/audience?  What/Who might I be overlooking in defining my purpose/audience this way?
I think that I still have improvment to be made with this.  I want readers to be able to understand what I am trying to get across and still find it interesting.  I may be overlooking those who are in my same field, and would like updates on news that is going on in our field.

What can I do to encourage more reader participation with my blog?
I think changing the tone so that it is not always scientific would encourage readers to participate.

How can I expand my audience in this class?  Outside of this class?
Posting on a wide range of subtopics would get more peoples interest both inside this class and outside.

How would I characterize the tone of my blog?
I would charcterize the tone of my blog right now as serious and scientific.  I hope to change this and be able to lighten the tone up as part of my posts.
What do I hope to get out of writing this blog?
From this blog I hope to be able to engage readers and keep them interested in my topic.  Science communication is difficult to grasp and I hope that I can get better at this by keeping to write.
What would I like others to get out of it?
I would like others to gain some knowledge of geological hazards so that they can be more informed when these events happen.
What are the strengths of my blog/my blogging?
I think that a strength of my blog is that they are easy to read.
What are the weaknesses?
One of my weaknesses in my blogging is that I need to provide more information with my posts.  Readers are left with questions after reading them.  I hope that I can improve on this weakness.  Another weakness is that there could be more pictures and links for readers to click on to get more detailed information.
Have I used a deficit model in my writing, or something else?  How would I know?
I think that there is some deficit modeling in my posts and then not in others.  One way to know, is the comments that people have left about my posts.
How have I characterized (implicitly or explicitly) science, engineering, and/or technology in my blog?
I have characterized science and engineering as mostly explicitly in my blog.
How have I characterized myself?
I characterize myself as someone who wants to learn new information in my field and wants to share it with others.

Self Evaluation

I think that I have been posting a good amount of posts.  I have tried to post at least two a week.  My posts have been on events or news that have been happening recently in the world of geology and geologic hazards.  I have stayed focus on my topic of geological hazards as well as trying not to use jargon so that a wider audience can gain from my blog.  I have also been reading the comments that other people have left on my posts, and I feel I have done a good job responding to them, taking the advice and answering questions that they have.  I have also tried to post pictures so that the posts are not boring and links so that more information can be found easily.

Feedback on Science Communication Readings

Our class has been assigned to do some readings to better understand how to communicate science efficiently.  One reading that has had an impact on how I will blog is section 2.2 from Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age (Holliman, Whitelegg, et al.).  I found myself thinking of ways that I could engage the public.  How communicating with readers should help them be interested in science.  I am going to try and accomplish this with my blog about geological hazards.  I want the public to care about these hazards.

Section 2.2 mentions that the public understanding of science program did nothing to improve peoples understanding.  The publics education was the same after 10 years of the program.  Researchers analyzed why the program did not have an impact and came up with several ways.  The first one being that the program was too simplistic and used a "deficit model" for the public.  A "deficit model" portrays the public as ignorant of science and not capable of understanding.  Just telling people the facts about science was not the way about getting the public to understand.  The information needed to be related to the public and their opinions should be considered.  Eventhough the public may not be knowledgeable about a specific scientific topic does not mean that they are ignorant of all of science.  

Therefore, I will try to relate my topic with the public so that they have a reason to keep reading.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pyroclastic Flows

Here is some more information on pyroclastic flows, which is the type of lava flow that the new facility in New York will be studying.

Pyroclastic flows are considered dangerous because they are fast moving and explosive.  They contain  hot gas and fragments of rock.  These flows can travel at speeds up to 450 miles per hour, flow downhill, may spread out laterally, and can extend for miles.  The speed of the flow depends on the slope of the ground and the size of the flow.  A cloud of ash rises above the flow that hugs the ground.

Here is a video of a pyroclastic flow, using Mt. St. Helens as an example of how unpredictable and disastrous these flows are.