News Archive

January 22, 2015
A scientist once noticed a connection between the stress that tides inflict on the planet and the number of small earthquakes that happen in some areas when that pressure is greatest. She saw a pattern to these earthquakes leading up to great tsunamis. A graduate student is now looking for a similar signal in Alaska. Yen Joe Tan of Columbia University is combing through a database of offshore...
January 15, 2015
In spring of 1946, five men stationed at the Scotch Cap lighthouse had reasons to be happy. World War II was over. They had survived. Their lonely Coast Guard assignment on Unimak Island would be over in a few months. But the lighthouse tenders would never return to their homes in the Lower 48. In the early morning of April 1, the earth ruptured deep within the Aleutian Trench 90 miles south. An...
January 8, 2015
As pungent eucalyptus trees soaked up inches of California rain, a few researchers inside San Francisco’s Moscone Center spoke of the treeless third of Alaska at the 2014 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The annual gathering of Earth and space scientists attracted more than 20,000 of them to San Francisco in late December. Alaska’s tundra landscapes carpet a good portion of the...
December 31, 2014
On April 1, 1946, the sea floor ruptured just south of Unimak Island in the Aleutian Islands. Seawater displaced by the giant earthquake sent a 100-foot wave into the Scotch Cape lighthouse on Unimak, destroying the concrete structure and killing the five men inside. They never knew what hit them in the 2 a.m. darkness. The residents of Hilo, on Hawaii’s big island, were also unaware of the...
December 24, 2014
Following a press conference at the enormous fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, an unusual sound was heard in a room of reporters: Applause. Writers and videographers representing news agencies from around the world clapped at the conclusion of a presentation by four scientists involved with the NASA mission to Mars, now in its second year. After a year of cautious...
December 18, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO -- At this annual gathering of more than 20,000 Earth and space scientists, press conferences offered by the organizers feature scientists discussing everything from Mars rovers whiffing methane to Christmas lights visible from space. One press conference that has for a few years had a recurring slot at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union is the state of changes in...
December 11, 2014
A long, long time ago, a hairy elephant stomped the northland, wrecking trees and shrubs as it swallowed twigs, leaves and bark. These mastodons left a few scattered teeth and bones in Alaska and the Yukon, reminders of an immense mammal that lived as far south as Honduras. A recent look at far-north mastodons shows the creatures vanished from the Arctic thousands of years earlier than...
December 4, 2014
Imagine a shallow lake north of Hughes, in the cold heart of Alaska. In frigid, sluggish water, dim blue light penetrates two feet of ice. The ice has a quarter-size hole, maintained by a stream of methane bubbles. Every few minutes, a brutish little fish swims up, sips air, and peels back to the dank. The Alaska blackfish is an evolutionary loner that fins through lakes and tundra ponds across...
November 20, 2014
The revival of the virus responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu, the killer of millions of people, was the end of a long journey for Johan Hultin. Hultin, 90, twice retrieved samples of the virus from the lungs of flu victims preserved by permafrost in an Alaska village. Molecular pathologists used the latter of those samples to reconstruct the virus and discover that it jumped from birds to humans...
November 13, 2014
"Rectal Temperature of the Working Sled Dog." "Cleaning and Sterilization of Bunny Boots." "Comparative Sweat Rates of Eskimos and Caucasians Under Controlled Conditions." These are some of the studies completed by scientists who worked for the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Developed during the Cold War to "solve the severe...