About Volcanoes, Hurricanes & Bobby Jindal

25 02 2009

Listening to Governor Jindal’s rebuttal to the President’s speech last night when he referred to the wastefulness of   “$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring,” I couldn’t help thinking “does the governor of a state that is still pulling itself out of the trauma of a devastating natural disaster really not understand the importance of monitoring volcanoes?”

Needless to say,  I wasn’t the only one.

I understand Jindal is a Rhodes scholar and that implies a considerable measure of academic acumen. So what happened here?  Perhaps, I thought, the governor of a state that does not face the danger of volcanoes may perceive it as very remote, like say, something that’s way off in Indonesia.

But certainly someone — a speech writer, a researcher, an advisor — someone knew better. (Maybe a certain colleague in Alaska? After all, the USGS website notes that “in November of 2008, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) detected increasing volcanic unrest at Redoubt Volcano and raised the Aviation Color Code to YELLOW and the Volcano Alert Level to ADVISORY. In late January 2009 the levels of seismic activity increased markedly, and AVO raised the Aviation Color Code to ORANGE and the Volcano Alert Level to WATCH.” Just sayin’.)

The Scientific American pointed out what the program is about. Yes, $140 million is earmarked for the USGS, but volcano monitoring is only part of the natural disasters monitoring program.

From the USG website:

In the United States each year, natural hazards cause hundreds of deaths and cost billions of dollars in disaster aid, disruption of commerce, and destruction of homes and critical infrastructure. Although the number of lives lost to natural hazards each year generally has declined, the economic cost of major disaster response and recovery continues to rise. Each decade, property damage from natural hazards events doubles or triples. [emphasis mine.] The United States is second only to Japan in economic damages resulting from natural disasters.

A major goal of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is to reduce the vulnerability of the people and areas most at risk from natural hazards. Working with partners throughout all sectors of society, the USGS provides information, products, and knowledge to help build more resilient communities.

Indeed, most of our volcanoes are far from Louisiana, so maybe that’s why it does not seem important to the governor.  Also from the USGS:

There are about 65 volcanoes in the United States that scientists consider active. Most of these are located in Alaska, where eruptions occur virtually every year. Others are located throughout the west and in Hawaii (see our Volcano Activity Map for their locations). Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. It has been erupting almost continuously since 1983!

In fact, Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, is also at orange alert at this time.

Volcanoes may present hazards even when not erupting, in  the form of landslides.

Even if one thinks the amount is excessive, the governor’s lack of understanding and dismissive attitude was, well, embarrassing, considering that whole natural disaster thing.  Which begs the questions: is it really more costly to monitor, assess and thereby save property and homes?


Women Geologists on a Rocky Road

15 02 2009

Florence Bascom was the first woman geologist hired by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1896. It was rare for a woman to become a field geologist. Medora Hooper Krieger followed in the footsteps of Bascom, joining the USGS in 1944, and was an inspiration to other women geologists of her time. By 1952, only 2 percent of the geoscience workforce in the USGS was female and only a handful were field geologists. By 2004, the numbers increased to 20 percent. (Source: USGS EEO office.)

Medora Hooper Krieger’s daughter recounts her mother’s career as a groundbreaking (in more ways than one) geologist.  Intrigued? You can read the entire article at The Daily Courier of Prescott, AZ.

Nothing Says I Love You like an Apatosaurus

13 02 2009

I wish I had seen this to post in time for Valentines Day. It’s sweet, it’s got the right colors and besides, what says “I love you” like a hand-fired, cloisonne brontosaurus? Or an Apatosaurus for those who are PC (paleontologically correct.)

By PaperRoseDesigns on etsy

Geochemistry with Conan O’Brien: Late Night On-Air Meltdown

10 02 2009

Conan addresses the “boron morons” at the New York Times.

See our vodpod in the sidebar until I get the embedded version to work. 😛

Earth Art of the Day

3 02 2009

Soaring, snow-capped peaks and ridges of the eastern Himalaya Mountains create an irregular white-on-red patchwork between major rivers in southwestern China. The Himalayas are made up of three parallel mountain ranges that together extend more than 2,900 kilometers.

You download this image here.