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We think of the Earth beneath our feet and in the landscape around us as being solid, immutable. In fact, the landscape around us is changing on a daily basis due to the actions of wind, water and plate tectonics—and even the entire planet can shift in earthquakes!
The geosciences are our window into the Earth and the processes that shape it. From our work in seismology, mineralogy and diamond-anvil high-pressure studies, we have formed ideas about what we might find on a journey to the center of the Earth. We use geodesy and other tools to observe both sudden and slow movement of the Earth's crust and surface, in earthquakes, eruptions, landslides or the slow grind of the tectonic plates. We also map and study the hazards that can affect us in day-to-day life: where are the faults, the quakes, the landslides; when, and why, will the volcano next door erupt.
Geoscientists look at the Earth in time frames ranging from microseconds to millennia, and at scales ranging from the microscopic (studying phase changes in minerals) to the macroscopic (imaging the Earth's core, mantle and crust). Since natural hazards pose a continuing danger and mineral and energy resources are vital to development, what we learn is not just academic!
Below are stories relating to the geosciences and planet Earth.
On June 16, our talk was given by Anand Varma, and was entitled "Water and Ash: A Photographic Exploration of Patagonia's Wetlands and Volcanoes".
Northern Patagonia has the strongest rainfall gradient in the world, transforming from rainforest to desert in less than 100 miles. In order to explore water’s influence on the natural and human communities along this gradient, I traveled to Argentina in 2010 and photographed the wetlands of the region. I worked from the lush Valdivian rainforest in the west to the Patagonian desert of the east. Six months after I left, the Puyehue Volcano erupted and dumped ash across the same region. I returned in 2011 to show what this new element meant for the landscape and people of Patagonia. I will present my photographs, share the natural history stories behind them, and discuss what this eruption means for the future of Patagonia.
On October 15, our talk was given by Dr. Peggy Hellweg, and was entitled "Tectonic Timebombs: Earthquakes Near and Far".
Earthquakes have been prominent in the news during the past year or so, with the deadly and damaging earthquakes from Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and, most recently Japan. I'll talk (and answer questions) about these quakes, as well as about the earthquake hazard from the faults in our back yard.
(This event is now over.) Learn about Ceres and C-type asteroids at the East Bay Science Cafe’s discussion on asteroid discoveries by high school and college students at Cafe Valparaiso in Berkeley on Wednesday, August 3.
Join guest speaker Dr. J. Patrick Miller, who is the director of the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) to learn more about the strides made by amateur star-gazers and professionals alike at this forum organized by the University of California Berkeley Natural History Museums and Science@Cal.
The latest issue of the online magazine ScienceMatters@Berkeley is now available! It contains articles about an earthquake early-warning system proposed by seismologists, investigations into the genetic components of folic acid deficiency, the very first teacher to graduate from the new Cal Teach program, and more! Check out the latest issue here.
The latest issue of the online magazine ScienceMatters@Berkeley has been published! It contains articles about the work done by Cal scientists to unite researchers in disparate fields to fight cancer, understand how voter mistakes affect election outcomes, and understand the magnetic field of the Earth.
The latest issue of the online magazine ScienceMatters@Berkeley has been published! It contains articles about the work done by Cal scientists to study the magnetic fields of planets, minimize damage after brain injuries, and learn how common solar systems like our own are. Check out the latest issue here.
On July 17, our talk was given by Prof. Bruce Buffett, and was entitled "Planetary Magnetic Fields".
Many of the planets in the solar system have internally generated magnetic fields. All of these fields are produced by the motion of an electrically conducting fluid in the interior, although the details vary from planet to planet. Historical observations of the magnetic field on Earth show that the field is continually changing on time scales as short as a few years. Earth's magnetic field also exhibits spontaneous polarity reversals, which cause the north and south magnetic poles to flip. The mechanism for reversals is not well understood, but geological records suggest that the onset of reversals is accompanied by a sudden reduction in the field strength. A strong field re-emerges from the interior as the new polarity is established. In this presentation I will discuss the origin of planetary magnetic fields. I will also speculate about the current decline in Earth's field, which has prompted some researchers to suggest that the field is entering the next reversal.
The latest issue of the online magazine ScienceMatters@Berkeley has been published! It contains articles about the work done by Cal scientists to study how California's landscape will change, ways to fill in gaps in historical climate data, and the use of viruses to fixed damaged genes in the eye. Check out the latest issue here.