ARIEL: Exploring strange new worlds and boldly observing what no telescope has observed before.

Since the first exoplanet discovery in the 1990s, scientists have learned of the diverse and abundant nature of exoplanets, having now found more than 3700. With such a large and disparate sample set, ESA (European Space Agency) has set its sights on learning how these planets form and what their chemistry is like. A new telescope, or ‘mission’, ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey), has … Continue reading ARIEL: Exploring strange new worlds and boldly observing what no telescope has observed before.

Lightning Strikes Trigger Atmospheric Nuclear Reactions

On February 6th, 2017, four detectors surrounding a nuclear power station in Niigata, Japan simultaneously observed a striking signal. An hour before dawn, the detectors recorded a short burst of light from a lightning strike, which quickly decayed in intensity, and was followed by an afterglow of radiation that lasted for about a minute. These unique signals caused by lightning strikes have been predicted for … Continue reading Lightning Strikes Trigger Atmospheric Nuclear Reactions

Lakes formed from glacial melting may cause havoc on local communities

Glacier meltwater provides a steady source of water for communities that would otherwise lack access during the dry season, but melting glaciers can cause problems beyond raising the sea level and endangering coastal communities. Meltwater forms lakes below the glaciers, and this water is often held in place by natural dams. Rock slides or avalanches can weaken or destroy these dams, causing the lakes to … Continue reading Lakes formed from glacial melting may cause havoc on local communities

Water Beneath Our Feet

Scientists recently estimated the volume and ages of groundwater using a combination of chemical measurements and mathematical models. The authors of the study compiled measurements of levels of tritium, the radioactive form of the element hydrogen, to estimate groundwater age. High tritium levels correspond to water that was exposed to nuclear testing in the past 50 years, or “young” water. The team found that about … Continue reading Water Beneath Our Feet

Natural Gas Leaks Increase Climate Risk of Energy Source

by Jordan Wilkerson figures by Brad Wierbowski The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a new wave of regulations, and they focus on one thing: methane. Due to the EPA’s recent proposal, we have been inundated with stories about methane, its connection to the fossil fuel industry, and its comparison to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas [1,2]. However, the authors often leave out a … Continue reading Natural Gas Leaks Increase Climate Risk of Energy Source

Harmful Algal Blooms Threaten Public Health and Economic Stability Along the West Coast

by Matthew Schwartz A new danger is threatening the economic stability of the west coast of the United States and has the potential to cause a public health crisis. A massive harmful algal bloom has accumulated across most of the west coast and may be the largest toxic algal bloom ever recorded [1]. The bloom is a threat because it is releasing a toxin which … Continue reading Harmful Algal Blooms Threaten Public Health and Economic Stability Along the West Coast

Be Prepared: Little exaggeration in the Pacific Northwest “Big One” Earthquake Article

California has been the focus of most of Hollywood’s disaster films: there are the succinctly named Earthquake (1974) and Volcano (1977), and most recently San Andreas (2015), about America’s most famous fault line. Now a second fault line in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) – the Cascadia subduction zone – is making its way into the public imagination following a much talked about New Yorker article. In … Continue reading Be Prepared: Little exaggeration in the Pacific Northwest “Big One” Earthquake Article

Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment

Presented by Hannah Horowitz Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. For thousands of years, humans have altered mercury cycling in the environment by introducing massive amounts of mercury to surface water, soils, and air, through mining and burning coal. Once in the surface environment, mercury can threaten human and wildlife health, is transported globally through the air, and continues to have an impact for hundreds of … Continue reading Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment

Understanding sea level change by diving into the past

Presented by Jacky Austermann Why does sea level change? Everyone knows that sea level rise is a threat to coastal cities, but the mechanisms of why the change happens are less often talked about. In my talk I will explain why sea level is changing, why it is changing at different rates around the globe, how we can use the measured sea level rise to … Continue reading Understanding sea level change by diving into the past

The Air We Breathe: An assessment of urban air pollution

Presented by Jordan Wilkerson Whether we are in China or here in the United States, the air in major cities is infamous for its unpleasant haze and resulting health problems. There are many ways in which an unhealthy mixture of chemicals can make it into the atmosphere where humans live and breathe. This lecture will discuss some of the most famous of these pollutants, what … Continue reading The Air We Breathe: An assessment of urban air pollution