An Appeal from EcoInternet in Honolulu, Hawaii

PlanetaryBoundaryTerrestrialEcosystemDear Earth loving friends,

We are pleased to have raised nearly $ 6,000, over one-third to our $ 15,000 goal, to support EcoInternet’s unique and award-winning brand of environmental advocacy. EcoInternet has never had more of a global reach or been more effective than now, and we are sure you will want to support the deep ecology activities outlined here by donating now. This will be our last mid-year funding appeal, and we wanted to let you know what we are working on, and what your donation will support.

DEEP ECOLOGY SCIENCE

A year ago your support allowed me to publish ground-breaking peer reviewed science – Terrestrial Ecosystem Loss and Biosphere Collapse – that suggests 2/3 of Earth’s land mass must remain in natural and semi-natural ecosystems to sustain the biosphere. Unfortunately, best estimates are over half have already been lost. This ground-breaking scientific finding – that terrestrial ecosystem loss is a planetary boundary that has been crossed – has since been supported by more established scientists, yet together on a shoestring budget we published first.

As a follow-up, through EcoInternet I am appealing for donations to test this hypothesis in a scientific paper entitled “How Sustainable Are the Pacific Islands?”. Using widely available forest cover data, I intend to use Pacific Islands as a proxy to determine the effects of surpassing the 2/3 threshold of ecosystem loss, discussing the extent to which Pacific Islands have maintained enough natural ecosystems to remain ecologically sustainable, and what have been the impacts of either maintaining adequate ecosystems or not.
Please support this research, examining Pacific Island sustainability as a microcosm of global well-being, with a tax-deductible donation at:
http://www.climateark.org/shared/donate/.

BIG EARTH SEARCH

EcoInternet and predecessors have a long history of applied research in the use of Internet technologies to protect and restore ecosystems, including being amongst if not the first blogger, pioneering Internet search technologies in the 1990s, and persistently leading the way in ecology news aggregation including most recently very actively on Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/EcoInternet and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/EcoInternet. For the last several years I have worked an entirely separate day job doing database administration and data science in the financial industry, where I have sharpened my data management skills and am mastering the latest big data technologies.

For the past year I have been prototyping the construction of a massive Big Earth search engine that will make all of Earth’s reviewed knowledge regarding ecology, climate change, deforestation, and ecological sustainability cumulatively searchable. While EcoInternet offered such services for years, what we are prototyping now will be much more massive and able to teach itself to seek out new resources. Major search engines cover only a fraction, less than 10%, of the Internet’s content. Our effort will harness PhD ecological expertise to guide the search algorithms and needs your support.

EARTH MEANDERS DEEP ECOLOGY COMMENTARY

For over a decade EcoInternet has published Earth Meanders personal essays that examine how ecological sustainability issues relate to virtually all aspects of our lives. Our latest missives –
Biosphere Collapse: The Biggest Economic Bubble Ever and #WeAreALLMaunaKea: A Sustainable Earth Depends Upon an Indigenist Future, along with an older favorite Ecology Is the Meaning of Life – are illustrative of EcoInternet’s commitment to present ecological science in a compelling manner, and have been well-received and read by millions of people around the world.

Over coming months we intend to increase the pace of our original deep ecology essay writing, with the goal of creating a weekly syndicated column that links contemporary news to underlying environmental causation. When the need arises, we will continue to issue action alerts, though the effectiveness of cyber-activism has dropped off, and there needs to be constant innovation in more selectively preparing and targeting online campaigns. Together we must continue to push the limits of the written word to save ecology and thus being,
please donate now from our award-winning climate portal.

EcoInternet and I have actively used the Internet to protect ecosystems and the climate for over 25 years, having a hand in protecting more ecosystems than ever before. For over a decade we were largely the only ones doing so, now there are many such efforts. But few harness rigorous ecological science regarding the requirements for global ecological science with a mastery of emerging Internet technologies.

I am certain EcoInternet’s best years lie ahead and I am pleased to share our plans with you so together we can be a part of the global awakening that averts global biosphere collapse and ushers in an era of peace, justice, equity, and sustainability.

With love for Earth,

Dr. Glen Barry

P.S. We are now well-established in Hawaii and enjoying our new base within the tropics. We expect to continue being very active in Pacific conservation issues, and to continue impacting on the ground conservation efforts globally. Your donation may be tax-deductible as we are a registered 501c3 in good standing.

EcoInternet

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High School Students Visit for Women in STEM Preview Day

News Writer: 
Lori Dajose

A panel of scientists and engineers from JPL speak to a group of high school students and their families about working in the STEM fields at Caltech's 4th annual Women in STEM event. Pictured (left to right): Tracy Drain, Sarah Milkovich, Stacey Boland, and Carol Polanskey.
Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech

On Friday, August 7, 104 female high school seniors and their families visited Caltech for the fourth annual Women in STEM (WiSTEM) Preview Day, hosted by the undergraduate admissions office. The event was designed to explore the accomplishments and continued contributions of Caltech women in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The day opened with a keynote address by Marianne Bronner, the Albert Billings Ruddock Professor of Biology and executive officer for neurobiology. Bronner, who studies the development of the central nervous system, spoke about her experiences in science and at Caltech.

“Caltech is an exciting place to be. It’s a place where you can be creative and think outside the box,” she said. “My advice to you would be to try different things, play around, and do what makes you happy.” Bronner ended her address by noting the pleasure she takes in mentoring young scientists, and especially young women. “I was just like you,” she said.

Over the course of the day, students and their families attended panels on undergraduate research opportunities and participated in social events where current students shared their experiences of Caltech life. They also listened to presentations from female scientists and engineers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“I really love science, and it’s so exciting to be around all of these other people who share that,” says Sydney Feldman, a senior from Maryland. “I switched around my whole summer visit schedule to come to this event and I’m having such a great time.”

The annual event began four years ago with the goal of encouraging interest in STEM in high school women and ultimately increasing applications to Caltech by female candidates. In 2009, a U.S. Department of Commerce study showed that women make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce and hold a disproportionately low share of undergraduate degrees in STEM fields.

“Women are seriously underrepresented in these fields,” says Caltech admissions counselor and WiSTEM coordinator Abeni Tinubu. “Our event really puts emphasis on how Caltech supports women on campus, and we want to show prospective students that.”

This year, the incoming freshman class is a record 47 percent female students. “This is hugely exciting,” says Jarrid Whitney, the executive director of admissions and financial aid. “We’ve been working hard toward our goal of 50 percent women, and it is clearly paying off thanks to the support of President Rosenbaum and the overall Caltech community.”

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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Caltech-Led Team Looks in Detail at the April 2015 Earthquake in Nepal

News Writer: 
Kimm Fesenmaier

John Galetzka, then of Caltech, and Sudhir Rajaure, of the Department of Mines and Geology in Kathmandu, install a high-rate GPS station in the Himalaya.
Credit: John Galetzka

For more than 20 years, Caltech geologist Jean-Philippe Avouac has collaborated with the Department of Mines and Geology of Nepal to study the Himalayas—the most active, above-water mountain range on Earth—to learn more about the processes that build mountains and trigger earthquakes. Over that period, he and his colleagues have installed a network of GPS stations in Nepal that allows them to monitor the way Earth’s crust moves during and in between earthquakes. So when he heard on April 25 that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake had struck near Gorkha, Nepal, not far from Kathmandu, he thought he knew what to expect—utter devastation throughout Kathmandu and a death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

“At first when I saw the news trickling in from Kathmandu, I thought there was a problem of communication, that we weren’t hearing the full extent of the damage,” says Avouac, Caltech’s Earle C. Anthony Professor of Geology. “As it turns out, there was little damage to the regular dwellings, and thankfully, as a result, there were far fewer deaths than I originally anticipated.”

Using data from the GPS stations, an accelerometer that measures ground motion in Kathmandu, data from seismological stations around the world, and radar images collected by orbiting satellites, an international team of scientists led by Caltech has pieced together the first complete account of what physically happened during the Gorkha earthquake—a picture that explains how the large earthquake wound up leaving the majority of low-story buildings unscathed while devastating some treasured taller structures.

The findings are described in two papers that now appear online. The first, in the journal Nature Geoscience, is based on an analysis of seismological records collected more than 1,000 kilometers from the epicenter and places the event in the context of what scientists knew of the seismic setting near Gorkha before the earthquake. The second paper, appearing in Science Express, goes into finer detail about the rupture process during the April 25 earthquake and how it shook the ground in Kathmandu.


Build Up and Release of Strain on Himalaya Megathrust (caption and credit in video attached in upper right)

In the first study, the researchers show that the earthquake occurred on the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT), the main megathrust fault along which northern India is pushing beneath Eurasia at a rate of about two centimeters per year, driving the Himalayas upward. Based on GPS measurements, scientists know that a large portion of this fault is “locked.” Large earthquakes typically release stress on such locked faults—as the lower tectonic plate (here, the Indian plate) pulls the upper plate (here, the Eurasian plate) downward, strain builds in these locked sections until the upper plate breaks free, releasing strain and producing an earthquake. There are areas along the fault in western Nepal that are known to be locked and have not experienced a major earthquake since a big one (larger than magnitude 8.5) in 1505. But the Gorkha earthquake ruptured only a small fraction of the locked zone, so there is still the potential for the locked portion to produce a large earthquake.

“The Gorkha earthquake didn’t do the job of transferring deformation all the way to the front of the Himalaya,” says Avouac. “So the Himalaya could certainly generate larger earthquakes in the future, but we have no idea when.”

The epicenter of the April 25 event was located in the Gorkha District of Nepal, 75 kilometers to the west-northwest of Kathmandu, and propagated eastward at a rate of about 2.8 kilometers per second, causing slip in the north-south direction—a progression that the researchers describe as “unzipping” a section of the locked fault.

“With the geological context in Nepal, this is a place where we expect big earthquakes. We also knew, based on GPS measurements of the way the plates have moved over the last two decades, how ‘stuck’ this particular fault was, so this earthquake was not a surprise,” says Jean Paul Ampuero, assistant professor of seismology at Caltech and coauthor on the Nature Geoscience paper. “But with every earthquake there are always surprises.”


Propagation of April 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha Earthquake (caption and credit in video attached in upper right)

In this case, one of the surprises was that the quake did not rupture all the way to the surface. Records of past earthquakes on the same fault—including a powerful one (possibly as strong as magnitude 8.4) that shook Kathmandu in 1934—indicate that ruptures have previously reached the surface. But Avouac, Ampuero, and their colleagues used satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar data and a technique called back projection that takes advantage of the dense arrays of seismic stations in the United States, Europe, and Australia to track the progression of the earthquake, and found that it was quite contained at depth. The high-frequency waves that were largely produced in the lower section of the rupture occurred at a depth of about 15 kilometers.

“That was good news for Kathmandu,” says Ampuero. “If the earthquake had broken all the way to the surface, it could have been much, much worse.”

The researchers note, however, that the Gorkha earthquake did increase the stress on the adjacent portion of the fault that remains locked, closer to Kathmandu. It is unclear whether this additional stress will eventually trigger another earthquake or if that portion of the fault will “creep,” a process that allows the two plates to move slowly past one another, dissipating stress. The researchers are building computer models and monitoring post-earthquake deformation of the crust to try to determine which scenario is more likely.

Another surprise from the earthquake, one that explains why many of the homes and other buildings in Kathmandu were spared, is described in the Science Express paper. Avouac and his colleagues found that for such a large-magnitude earthquake, high-frequency shaking in Kathmandu was actually relatively mild. And it is high-frequency waves, with short periods of vibration of less than one second, that tend to affect low-story buildings. The Nature Geoscience paper showed that the high-frequency waves that the quake produced came from the deeper edge of the rupture, on the northern end away from Kathmandu.

The GPS records described in the Science Express paper show that within the zone that experienced the greatest amount of slip during the earthquake—a region south of the sources of high-frequency waves and closer to Kathmandu—the onset of slip on the fault was actually very smooth. It took nearly two seconds for the slip rate to reach its maximum value of one meter per second. In general, the more abrupt the onset of slip during an earthquake, the more energetic the radiated high-frequency seismic waves. So the relatively gradual onset of slip in the Gorkha event explains why this patch, which experienced a large amount of slip, did not generate many high-frequency waves.

“It would be good news if the smooth onset of slip, and hence the limited induced shaking, were a systematic property of the Himalayan megathrust fault, or of megathrust faults in general.” says Avouac. “Based on observations from this and other megathrust earthquakes, this is a possibility.”

In contrast to what they saw with high-frequency waves, the researchers found that the earthquake produced an unexpectedly large amount of low-frequency waves with longer periods of about five seconds. This longer-period shaking was responsible for the collapse of taller structures in Kathmandu, such as the Dharahara Tower, a 60-meter-high tower that survived larger earthquakes in 1833 and 1934 but collapsed completely during the Gorkha quake.

To understand this, consider plucking the strings of a guitar. Each string resonates at a certain natural frequency, or pitch, depending on the length, composition, and tension of the string. Likewise, buildings and other structures have a natural pitch or frequency of shaking at which they resonate; in general, the taller the building, the longer the period at which it resonates. If a strong earthquake causes the ground to shake with a frequency that matches a building’s pitch, the shaking will be amplified within the building, and the structure will likely collapse.

Turning to the GPS records from two of Avouac’s stations in the Kathmandu Valley, the researchers found that the effect of the low-frequency waves was amplified by the geological context of the Kathmandu basin. The basin is an ancient lakebed that is now filled with relatively soft sediment. For about 40 seconds after the earthquake, seismic waves from the quake were trapped within the basin and continued to reverberate, ringing like a bell with a frequency of five seconds.

“That’s just the right frequency to damage tall buildings like the Dharahara Tower because it’s close to their natural period,” Avouac explains.

In follow-up work, Domniki Asimaki, professor of mechanical and civil engineering at Caltech, is examining the details of the shaking experienced throughout the basin. On a recent trip to Kathmandu, she documented very little damage to low-story buildings throughout much of the city but identified a pattern of intense shaking experienced at the edges of the basin, on hilltops or in the foothills where sediment meets the mountains. This was largely due to the resonance of seismic waves within the basin.

Asimaki notes that Los Angeles is also built atop sedimentary deposits and is surrounded by hills and mountain ranges that would also be prone to this type of increased shaking intensity during a major earthquake.

“In fact,” she says, “the buildings in downtown Los Angeles are much taller than those in Kathmandu and therefore resonate with a much lower frequency. So if the same shaking had happened in L.A., a lot of the really tall buildings would have been challenged.”

That points to one of the reasons it is important to understand how the land responded to the Gorkha earthquake, Avouac says. “Such studies of the site effects in Nepal provide an important opportunity to validate the codes and methods we use to predict the kind of shaking and damage that would be expected as a result of earthquakes elsewhere, such as in the Los Angeles Basin.”

Additional authors on the Nature Geoscience paper, “Lower edge of locked Main Himalayan Thrust unzipped by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake,” are Lingsen Meng (PhD ’12) of UC Los Angeles, Shengji Wei of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Teng Wang of Southern Methodist University. The lead author on the Science paper, “Slip pulse and resonance of Kathmandu basin during the 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha earthquake, Nepal imaged with geodesy” is John Galetzka, formerly an associate staff geodesist at Caltech and now a project manager at UNAVCO in Boulder, Colorado. Caltech research geodesist Joachim Genrich is also a coauthor, as are Susan Owen and Angelyn Moore of JPL. For a full list of authors, please see the paper.

The Nepal Geodetic Array was funded by Caltech, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. Additional funding for the Science study came from the Department of Foreign International Development (UK), the Royal Society (UK), the United Nations Development Programme, and the Nepal Academy for Science and Technology, as well as NASA and the Department of Foreign International Development.

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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Preparing for Earthquakes with ShakeAlert

News Writer: 
Lori Dajose

A ShakeMap for the 1994 M6.7 Northridge earthquake with a typical seismogram recorded in Pasadena superimposed.
Credit: Caltech

A few seconds may not seem like long, but it is enough time to turn off a stove, open an elevator door, or take cover under a desk. And before an earthquake strikes, a few seconds of warning can save lives. The U.S. Geological Survey aims to provide those seconds of warning with ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system now being tested on the west coast of the United States. On July 30, the USGS announced approximately $ 4 million in awards to Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, for the expansion and improvement of the ShakeAlert system.

“Caltech’s role in ShakeAlert will focus on research and development of the system so that future versions will be faster and more reliable,” says Thomas Heaton (PhD ’78), professor of engineering seismology and director of Caltech’s Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory. “We currently collect data from approximately 400 seismic stations throughout California. The USGS grant will allow Caltech to upgrade or install new stations in strategic locations that will significantly improve the performance of ShakeAlert.”

Earthquakes radiate two kinds of seismic waves: fast-moving and often harmless P-waves, followed by S-waves, which can cause strong ground shaking. A system of seismometers called the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) acquires data streams literally at the speed of light and uses several algorithms to quickly pinpoint the earthquake’s epicenter and determine its strength. ShakeAlert analyzes the first P-waves in the CISN data streams to send out digital alerts, providing the “early warning” to a region before the slower, destructive S-waves arrive.

While predicting when and where an earthquake will occur is impossible, this early-warning system can give necessary seconds of preparation. Current beta-test users receive these alerts as a pop-up on their computers, displaying a map of the affected region, the amount of time until shaking begins, the estimated magnitude of the quake, and other data. In the future, alerts may be available through text messages and phone apps.

Though still technically in testing stages, ShakeAlert has already provided successful warnings. In August 2014, the system provided a nine-second warning to the city of San Francisco during a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in South Napa. In May, during a magnitude 3.8 quake in Los Angeles, an alert was issued before S-waves had even reached the earth’s surface.

“With this new USGS funding, we will be able to add 20 new sensors to CISN, making coverage more robust and thus lengthening warning times,” says Egill Hauksson, a research professor of geophysics and a principal investigator along with Heaton on the ShakeAlert project. “Caltech and its partners will be able to continue the high-quality seismological research that is such a necessary foundation for a reliable earthquake early-warning system.”

In 2011, Caltech, along with UC Berkeley and the University of Washington, Seattle, received $ 6 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the research and development of ShakeAlert.

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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