November 18, 2015

The Science Behind Earthquakes

 

In recent news, there have been reports of earthquakes happening in Mexico and Japan. The 4.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico on November 13th thankfully did not cause much damage. The next day, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the southwest coast of Japan and triggered a tsunami. We hear about earthquakes happening all the time, but what exactly are they and what causes them?
Earthquakes are caused when the tectonic plates underneath the surface break and shift. The point at which they break is called a fault. When the plates move they release energy in the form of vibrations, which we feel as an earthquake. The magnitude of the earthquake is determined from recordings of the...

October 23, 2015

 

The Not So Great Red Spot

 

    If you were to try to name all of the planets, perhaps one of the first that comes to mind is Jupiter—which also happens to be the largest planet in our solar system. One of Jupiter’s most recognizable features is its Great Red Spot, a continuous anticlockwise circulation that is twice the size of Earth and has been observed to be circulating for hundreds of years. With wind speeds of up to 340 mph, one may question the source of stability for the super storm.  It is presumed that Jupiter’s internal heat source provides energy to keep the Great Red Spot (GRS), as well as all its weather going.

    In recent years, the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) has observe...

September 26, 2015

The Beauty of Autumn

 

 

There’s no doubt that fall is a beautiful and exciting season. Perhaps the most striking feature of autumn is the changing of the leaves from shades of green to oranges, yellows, reds and purples. But why does this happen?

 

The changing of leaves is influenced by many different environmental factors such as decreasing sunlight, decreasing food supply and colder temperatures. Three main pigments are present in the color change--- chlorophyll, which is important in the photosynthesis process, carotenoid, which produces yellow, orange and brown colors and anthocyanin, which produces red and purple pigments. Chlorophyll is especially active when there is an abundance of sunlight but production sl...

September 19, 2015

 

Disappearing Coral Reefs?

 

After two consecutive years of above average water temperatures, it seems as if the Hawaiian coral reefs are disappearing! Currently, water temperatures are averaging about 4-6 degrees higher for the month of September. One of the main reasons for this sudden increase in water temperatures around the Hawaiian Islands could be due to El Niño. The El Niño is a circulatory oceanic pattern that occurs every 2 to 7 years and lasts for 9 to 12 months at a time, on average.  The El Niño is characterized by unusually warm water currents that come up off the west coast of South America. However, since El Niño is a result of the ocean and atmosphere interacting, it affects weather all around the...

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