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UW seismologist John Vidale elected to National Academy of Sciences
Thursday, May 4, 2017
John E. Vidale, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences, is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected this week as members of the National Academy of Sciences. Academy members are recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research, according to a news release from the academy.
Vidale completed his undergraduate degree at Yale University and earned his doctorate in seismology from the California Institute of Technology. He began his career at the University of California, Santa Cruz, then worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park before joining the University of California, Los Angeles, faculty from 1995 until 2006, when he joined the UW.
Vidale studies Earth's interior, including earthquakes and volcanoes. Some of his research at the UW has looked at how volcanoes 'scream' before they erupt, how silent earthquakes release energy beneath Puget Sound, and performing a seismic ultrasound to map the volcanic plumbing beneath Mount St. Helens. He is director of the UW's M9 Project, an interdisciplinary effort to prepare for a magnitude-9 earthquake.
Vidale is also active in applied work and public communication about natural hazards. Since 2006 he has directed the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which tracks all seismic activity in the region, and serves as Washington's state seismologist. He also is involved in the current effort to build a West Coast earthquake early warning system, which would provide seconds to minutes of warning for the damaging effects of a large earthquake.
Vidale was previously elected as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Other honors include the Macelwane Medal for early-career geoscientists, a Gutenberg Lecturer from the AGU and an outstanding researcher award from the UW College of the Environment.
The newly elected scientists bring the total number of active academy members across all of science to 2,290 and the total number of foreign associates to 475.
New book by UW's David R. Montgomery addresses how to rebuild Earth's soils
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
In the introduction, University of Washington geologist David R. Montgomery writes that he never thought he’d write an optimistic book about the environment. Montgomery’s first popular book, “Dirt,” was about how erosion undermined ancient civilizations around the world in places like modern-day Syria and Iraq.
Yet his new book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” is a good-news environment story. Available May 9 from W.W. Norton, it comes almost exactly a decade after the book that propelled Montgomery to pop-science stardom. During the years since, he has won a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a ‘Genius Award,’ and published several books for general audiences.
The success of “Dirt” also brought invitations to speak at farming conferences. Along the way, Montgomery met farmers who talked about successes in restoring health to degraded soils.
“I kept running into examples of farmers who had restored fertility to degraded land,” said Montgomery, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. “So I started asking, what did you do? How long did it take? I began to recognize patterns among farmers wh o had be en successful not just in restoring soil, but in restoring profits to their farms.”
- Celebrate the book’s launch with a public lecture Tuesday, May 9 at Town Hall
- Montgomery will give a talk June 14 in UW’s Kane Hall
At one event he shared the stage with Howard G. Buffett, Warren Buffett’s farmer-philanthropist son, who stressed the importance of restoring health to U.S. soils. American soils are currently estimated to have lost about half their pre-agricultural organic matter -- a key ingredient in fertile soil.
“What really impressed me was how he presented examples of real farmers who had restored fertility to their soil, showing the potential for what he called a ‘Brown Revolution,'” Montgomery said. After that en counter, Montgomery set out to visit farmers around the world who were restoring their soil.
The new book weaves a travelogue with history and science to tell of visits to farms in North and South Dakota, site of the famous Dust Bowl, as well as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Africa and Costa Rica. These farmers use technology ranging from hand-powered machetes to enormous modern no-till seeding machines. Seeing approaches that worked in very different situations, Montgomery sought out the common ground for building fertile soil as a consequence of farming.
These farme rs had a ll moved away from tilling their fields, which chops up worms, erodes soil and disrupts beneficial microbes. Instead they focused on boosting soil health, thereby bolstering a crop's natural defenses.
“It boils down to a combination of three factors: Park the plow to minimize soil disturbance; grow cover crops, including legumes to get nitrogen and carbon into the soil; and grow a diversity of crops, so that you can break up the pest and pathogen carryover problem,” Montgomery said. “Those three principles -- ditch the plow, cover up, grow diversity -- were common among the farmers that had restored degraded soils and returned profitability to their farms.”
He intentionally did not seek out “alternative” or “environmental” practices. Except for the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, the farms he visited were not certified organic. Most farmers were strongly motivated by economic worries and the skyrocketing costs of herbici des, pesticides and diesel. By nurturing healthier soils that can retain water, suppress pests and don’t require as much fertilizer, pesticides or work of diesel-powered machines, they reduced their costly inputs by at least 50 percent and up to 90 percent.
Beyond the economic payoff for farmers, adopting these practices also produces environmental benefits by reducing chemical use and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to help counter climate change, Montgomery says.
“I think there 's a big opportunity to make conventional agriculture more ‘organic-ish’ by adopting this suite of practices,” Montgomery said. “By moving away from high-disturbance, high-input agriculture you can reap many of the benefits of soil health without necessarily going fully organic.”
Montgomery’s most recent book, “The Hidden Half of Nature,” co-written with his wife, Anne Bikl?, looked at the power of microbes in the soil and in human health. That book told the story of how Bikl? nurtured microbial life to restore the soil in their home’s yard, seeing results more quickly than they had imagined was possible.
“This new book was my attempt to ask the question: Can soil be restored at scale? On real farms, not in some little yard in Seattle. Could it be done on real, commercial farms in the developed world, as well as on subsistence farms in the d evelopin g world?”
His answer is a strong argument for yes.
For more information, contact Montgomery at 206-685-2560 or email@example.com.
Antarctica's Blood Falls: not so mysterious, but still freaky as heck | Popular Science
Monday, May 1, 2017
In a new study, researchers report new information on Antarctica's 'Blood Falls': they believe they've traced the water's exact starting point to an reservoir of brine beneath Taylor Glacier. Jessica Badgedley, graduate student in Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
Melting moons could support liveable atmospheres for aeons | New Scientist
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Many of the planets we've spotted outside our solar system are Jupiter-like gas giants, unsuited to life as we know it. But if they host rocky moons, those moons could make for livable habitats. Owen Lehmer, graduate student of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
WWLLN Lightning used to diagnose Strongest Tropical Storm on Record
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Typhoon Haiyan was already one of the strongest tropical storms on record. Now it has another claim to fame. Analysis of satellite data has revealed that the storm, which hit the Philippines in 2013, hosted a spectacular lightning show in its innermost core – something not seen in recorded storms of similar intensity. Haiyan was found to have lightning at its core for 49 per cent of its life between 3 and 11 November that year, when it killed some 6300 people and wreaked huge damage to property and infrastructure. By comparison, hurricanes Rita and Katrina had lightning at their cores for just 5 and 3 per cent of their existence, respectively. Read More
The habitability hype around LHS 1140b is real; here's why | Inverse
Monday, April 24, 2017
There's more hope that LHS 1140b possesses better odds of hosting life than two other recently discovered systems -- and it all comes back to atmosphere. David Catling, a professor in the UW's astrobiology and Earth and space sciences departments, is quoted. Read More
Why I'm Marching for Science in Seattle (despite the risk) | KUOW
Monday, April 24, 2017
David Montgomery, a science professor and MacArthur Genius award winner at the University of Washington, told KUOW why he's marching for science on Saturday. [This story was published Friday, April 21 prior to the March for Science] Read More
Scientists have discovered vast systems of flowing water in Antarctica -- and that worries them | The Washington Post
Thursday, April 20, 2017
The surface of the remote Antarctic ice sheet may be a far more dynamic place than scientists imagined, new research suggests. Decades of satellite imagery and aerial photography have revealed an extensive network of lakes and rivers transporting liquid meltwater across the continent's ice shelves. Knut Christianson, a glaciologist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the research, is quoted. Read More
Retreating Yukon glacier caused a river to disappear
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The massive Kaskawulsh Glacier in northern Canada has retreated about a mile up its valley over the past century. Last spring, its retreat triggered a geologic event at relatively breakneck speed. The toe of ice that was sending meltwater toward the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea retreated so far that the water changed course, joining the Kaskawulsh River and flowing south toward the Gulf of Alaska. Read More
Prof. Schreiber Co-Author on Norman Falcon Award Receiving Paper
Monday, April 17, 2017
Charlotte Schreiber is a co-author on a paper that has received an award for excellence. The European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers has awarded the annual Norman Falcon award for best paper of the year published in their journal to “The Messinian salinity crisis: Open problems and possible implications for Mediterranean petroleum systems” published in Petroleum Geoscience (2016) v. 22, p. 283. Read More