Have a news item you would like featured? Fill out the request here (UW NetID Restricted).
Students try their hand at a Mars mission | Renton Reporter
Monday, July 8, 2019
Local students are going to try their hand at putting people on Mars. Three talented Renton students are moving onto phase two of the Western Aerospace Scholars, after success in phase one of the course, created by NASA and the University of Washington. Read More
Saturn's icy moon Enceladus 'has all the ingredients for alien life,' scientists say | Yahoo! News
Friday, June 28, 2019
Geyser-like plumes of ice which erupt from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus have offered a new hint that life could lurk in the moon's subsurface ocean. Lucas Fifer, a graduate student in Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
Could these stones from Africa have beginnings beyond Earth? | History Channel
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Mysterious rocks are examined for their potential connection to extraterrestrial life. Peter Ward, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, is interviewed. Read More
Astrobiologists say Saturn's moon Enceladus may offer a 'free lunch' | GeekWire
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
The sea that lies beneath the icy surface of Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, could provide even more fuel for extraterrestrial organisms than previously thought. UW doctoral student Lucas Fifer is quoted, and professor David Catling and research assistant professor Jonathan Toner, both of the UW Department of Earth and Space Sciences, are mentioned. Read More
Eric Steig in Science on "How fast will the Antarctic ice sheet retreat?"
Monday, June 10, 2019
Loss of Antarctic ice is contributing to sea level rise, but how fast this will occur in the future remains unknown. Eric Steig provides his perspective on the latest research, in the journal Science. Read More
On the Importance of Scientific Meetings
Friday, June 7, 2019
Geological Society of America interviews PhD alumna Jillian Schleicher Read More
Volunteers asked to give up a little floorspace in Seattle to help scientists better map seismic data | GeekWire
Friday, May 31, 2019
Researchers with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network are looking for volunteers to help scientists better understand and map the Seattle Basin, a roughly 4-mile-deep area filled with soil and soft rock that makes the urban core especially vulnerable to seismic shaking. Paul Bodin, a research professor of Earth and space sciences, is quoted. Read More
The world needs topsoil to grow 95% of its food -- but it's rapidly disappearing | The Guardian
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Thanks to conventional farming practices, nearly half of the most productive soil has disappeared in the world in the last 150 years, threatening crop yields and contributing to nutrient pollution, dead zones and erosion. David Montgomery, professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
Seismologists seek space on volunteers' floors and lawns to study Seattle seismic risks
Thursday, May 30, 2019
The Puget Sound area is vulnerable to several types of seismic risks. We might fixate on “The Really Big One” - the offshore hazard famously profiled in The New Yorker - but other dangers lurk closer underfoot, and might actually deliver more damage to Seattle.
The nature of the ground beneath the city -- a roughly 4-mile-deep basin filled with soil and soft rock -- makes the urban core especially vulnerable to seismic shaking.
“In our 3D simulations, we see these basins light up with strong shaking, but we need to verify that these basins are shaped the way we think they are,” said Alex Hutko, a research scientist with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network based at the University of Washington. “We know the basics, but there’s a lot of useful detail that could help us strengthen infrastructure in the right locations.”
Hutko is coordinating volunteers for a series of experiments, and is lead scientist of one of them, all of which aim to better map the Seattle Basin and study how the soft fill can magnify and distort the trapped seismic waves that can slosh back and forth like water in a bathtub.
Improved mapping of the basin’s overall shape and the underground features, such as neighborhoods that might experience stronger or weaker shaking, could eventually help to refine the urban building codes.Puget Sound residents who want their property to be considered to host a station can submit their address and contact information at https://pnsn.org/about/seattle-tacoma-urban-experiment
The UW-based team will use background vibrations in the busy Puget Sound area to better map the features that could make one block shake more strongly than another. New seismology techniques and faster computers mean scientists can now use background noise to learn how waves travel underground.
The UW group has six very sensitive seismometers that can detect both fast and slow shaking. The researchers will put them out for three to six weeks at each site, moving from the Seattle area gradually south toward Tacoma.
The team is seeking hard floors, such as basements or garages. It takes researchers about an hour to install the equipment, which is about the size of a cooler and uses as much power as a nightlight. Researchers assure hosts that they don’t need to worry about tiptoeing around the sensitive instruments.
“We tested it in our own basement and had it right by our washing machine, and with a newborn in the house we did a lot of laundry,” Hutko said. “But looking at the early data, it was surprising how much good data we got from just one week.”
The experiment will watch how seismic waves travel over long distances to figure out the nature of the ground they have traveled through. Petroleum companies set off small explosions and then study the waves’ travel paths to map the subsurface layers. Seismologists often use a similar technique, setting off a small explosion and then tracking the results, but in this case the waves will be caused by everyday vibrations from natural and human activities.
“It seems crazy to put very sensitive instruments in the middle of a noisy city,” said Paul Bodin, a UW research professor of Earth and space sciences. “Seattle has all kinds of ambient vibrations -- traffic, waves on bodies of water, wind blowing on buildings, trains. It’s a situation that most seismologists would run from. But in this case, that noise is providing us with the data.”
The first round of data collection, now under way, includes a site at Woodland Park Zoo and other cement floors north of Seattle’s ship canal. Hutko’s team will remove the equipment in the first week of June and install the six instruments at new sites, moving slightly southward each time. They hope to eventually expand the study’s scope to include neighboring sedimentary basins in Tacoma, Everett and beyond.
“Since this region has so few earthquakes, we have to study the small seismic events and then extrapolate to how the ground may shake during larger earthquakes,” said Joan Gomberg, a UW affiliate associate professor of Earth and space sciences and research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS is funding some of the work.
It’s just a happy coincidence that several seismic experiments are taking place in Seattle this summer, which allows the groups from various U.S. institutions to coordinate their logistics and compare data.
The other experiments include:
- A Harvard University team is seeking grassy sites throughout the Central District and south to host equipment that will study how sedimentary basins can trap and amplify seismic waves. Marine Denolle will see how the Seattle Basin -- one of the deepest sediment-filled basins in the world -- compares with others she has studied in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Indonesia. She hopes to learn whether shaking is stronger near the edge of the basin. The group will locate 10 portable sensors at particular sites and schools for four months at a time. The team will also place 100 coffee-can-sized instruments in back yards through the month of July and is looking for volunteers in a few houses per block. (Volunteer directly for this experiment here.)
- Ian Stone, a UW graduate student in Earth and space sciences, wants to test calculations suggesting that steeper slopes will experience stronger shaking. He is looking for a few test locations on steeply sloped sites in West Seattle.
- A group from Boise State University led by Lee Liberty will use hammers to generate a seismic wave and map the upper 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) of the Seattle Basin. After applying for a parade permit to close the necessary streets, the group plans to accelerate a 500-pound hammer onto a steel plate at regular intervals between downtown Seattle and the Madrona neighborhood, crossing the southern and sharpest edge of the Seattle Basin in different places, to better pinpoint the location of the Seattle Fault.
The research groups will learn from each other, and all are likely to record vibrations from the Boise State hammer-drop experiment.
Almost two decades ago, the Seismic Hazards Investigation in Puget Sound, or SHIPS experiment, recorded seismic waves during the March 2000 demolition of the Kingdome stadium just south of downtown Seattle. That provided a first map of the Seattle Basin’s shape, which will be updated with the new measurements.
For more information, contact Hutko at email@example.com or Bill Steele, PNSN communications manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-685-5880. To be considered as a volunteer site, enter contact information here.Read More
Japanese drill ship fails to reach the earthquake-generating zone | Nature
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Japan's flagship ocean-drilling research vessel, Chikyu, has drilled deeper into the ocean floor than ever before. But it failed to achieve its ultimate goal of penetrating 5,200 metres beneath the sea floor, into the realm where two tectonic plates meet and cause enormous earthquakes. Harold Tobin, director of the UW-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, is quoted. Read More