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Earth Sciences

Winter 2005

Magpie Forest: Protecting a piece of the past

Magpie Forest is like something out of the Wizard of Oz, a strange green land in the middle of a field.

Nestled in a 33-acre parcel of wheat north of Pullman, the 14-acre tract is a remnant of the original Palouse prairie. Last spring, Washington State University purchased the property from a local landowner to protect it from being developed.

Accessible only through a network of game trails, the spot is covered with hawthorn thickets, quaking aspen, mountain ash, and native shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants. The University hopes to upgrade these trails and encourage people to visit the property. Plans for an access road … » More …

Fall 2005

Home run at the bottom of the world

When I was completing my last semester at WSU 10 years ago, I never imagined I would end up in Antarctica, providing computer network support for the U.S. Antarctic Program. I work on the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP), an icebreaker that is contracted by the National Science Foundation for scientific research in Antarctica. The ship spends several months a year in the waters and sea ice surrounding the world’s coldest, driest, and most remote continent.

I am currently working on a science cruise called SHALDRIL-Shallow Drilling Along the Antarctic Continental Margin. Core drilling from a single, unassisted icebreaker has never been done before in … » More …

Fall 2009

America’s Nuclear Wastelands: Politics, Accountability, and Cleanup

America's Nuclear Wastelands: Politics, Accountability, and Cleanup book cover

Max S. Power
WSU Press, 2008

When engineers, physicists, and other scientists began making materials for nuclear bombs, the Manhattan Project sites around the country including Hanford, Los Alamos, and Oak Ridge were wrapped in World War II and Cold War secrecy. The processes, products, and, most importantly, the waste they produced were hidden from the American public.

Even people who lived near the test facilities were unaware … » More …

Fall 2009

Puff Volcanic Ash Tracking Model

Alaska map-Mt. Redoubt area

Click on an initial eruption height below to watch a predictive ash dispersion animation based on current atmospheric conditions.

The Puff model is a volcanic ash tracking model developed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It has been supported by University of Alaska Fairbanks and its Geophysical Institute, the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center. Click here to go directly to the UAF Puff Web site where you can track ash for other Pacific Rim volcanoes including Washington’s Mount St. Helens.

Also on this site you can find ash tracking 3D simulations using … » More …

Fall 2009

Safer skies

When Alaska’s Mount Redoubt volcano rumbled to life this past spring, images of the plume of ash rising from it probably revived terrifying memories among 240 people who survived its last eruption in 1989.

They’d been passengers on KLM flight 867, a Boeing 747 bound for Anchorage. Ten hours after the volcano erupted, the plane flew through an ordinary-looking cloud. Except it wasn’t a cloud. It was ash from the Redoubt eruption.

The plane lost all communications, radar, electronic cockpit displays—and, within the span of one minute, all four engines. It plunged almost 15,000 feet before the crew managed to restart three of the engines. … » More …

Winter 2007

Time will tell

Climate change is nothing new to our planet. But this time it's different. The carbon dioxide we are putting into the air through industry, vehicle emissions, and deforestation is changing the way our soil works. That in turn affects plant, animal, and eventually human life. Through their research Washington State University scientists are challenging the conventional view that more plants and forests will solve our CO2 problems. » More ...