Archive for December, 2008

Published by Diana on 27 Dec 2008

A Totally Different Way to Think About House Design

Architects and engineers in Europe have figured out a way to make houses that don’t waste energy at all, even using the heat produced by our bodies to heat the house, without sacrificing fresh air. Check out this article: Houses That Save Energy

Published by Rosalind on 18 Dec 2008

Global Temperatures, 2008

Want to find out the latest research on our warming planet? Several recent reports concur that 2008 was cooler than 2007, but still ranks among the warmest years recorded. Right now we in the Northeast have had an ice storm, leaving many without power for up to a week in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and a snow storm. More snow is forecast tomorrow. All this wintry weather is a good reminder that global climate change doesn’t necessarily mean that every part of the globe will be warmer every day! Read Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth blog post for a good discussion of the four recently released reports: Dot Earth Summarizes 2008 Climate Reports.

Published by Rosalind on 10 Dec 2008

Forty Years of Space Travel – What Have We Learned?


NASA Earthrise Apollo 8, taken December 29, 1968 from lunar orbit.

NASA Earthrise Apollo 8, taken December 29, 1968 from lunar orbit.

In this NASA feature, astronauts and space scientists reflect on what we have learned about our home planet by going beyond earth’s atmosphere: Earth Perspectives.

Published by Rosalind on 08 Dec 2008

Our Changing Planet


Lava flow, Kilauea 2002

Lava flow, Kilauea 2002.Â

An incredible sight to see is a volcanic eruption! I think I would definitely put seeing red hot molten lava ooze out of the earth or flow briskly into the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii Island on my “life list” of amazing natural observations. The lava at Kilauea sometimes flows slowly enough that tourists and visitors can walk right up next to the flow, and watch the lava begin to cool. The bright red lava begins to dull, and then gets a kind of silvery skin on it as it cools down in the air.

Any time you are thinking about volcanoes you can see the United States volcano hazard alerts in real time. You can also visit Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii by webcam. There are two webcams maintained at different vents on Kilauea by the USGS. Check out Volcano Hazards Program for webcam links.

The USGS also has some great videos of lava flows at Kilauea, especially some nighttime images. See Kilauea for volcano movies. These movies will give you a better idea of how lava flows create new land. Hawaiian lava flows are generally fairly slow, so they have been extensively studied by geologists. The Hawaiian Islands have been formed by volcanic activity, and within fifty years or so after a new lava flow people build houses and plant gardens.

Of course, the USGS info is very important to local neighbors of volcanoes, so that people can see if there is any current danger. Volcanic eruptions can put ash, sulfuric acid, and other contaminants into the atmosphere, and these natural pollutants travel on the wind.

Airplane engines can be damaged by volcanic ash as well, so airlines check the volcano hazards before flying in those areas. You can read about the reasons for all this research in Volcano Warning!


Glowing molten lava, Kilauea, 2002

           Glowing molten lava, Kilauea, 2002.              Â

Published by Rosalind on 03 Dec 2008

Beachfront or Underwater?

This year’s annual meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference is taking place in Poland. More than 40 small island nations have banded together to talk about their concerns. Global climate change looks like a really bad situation for nations such as Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Barbados, Maldives, Philippines and Fiji. They have a lot to lose if current predictions of large global sea level rises do happen, just like other beachfront residential and resort areas around the world.

The threatened countries would like to see real worldwide progress in curbing emissions and hopefully preventing rapid sea level rises. You can read about the issues here: Threatened Island Nations.
For details on the Poznan, Poland conference, see Climate Change Conference. This is an important conference as the world leaders are trying to decide on the baselines for a new international climate change treaty when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Published by Diana on 01 Dec 2008

The Kennewick Mammoth

The McBones Foundation–the Mid-Columbia Basin Old Natural Educational Sciences–has bought a fossil excavation site in Kennewick, Washington so that high school students can collaborate with college students and professionals to excavate mammoth bones at the site.

Bax Barton, a researcher at the Burke Museum in Seattle, will be one of those professionals. He’s interested in finding out whether the mammoth was hunted in that area. He thinks perhaps climate change and habitat change led to the extinction of mammoths in North America.

For more information, check this article: Mammoth Bones Being Dug Up by Tri-Cities Students.