Here are some of the most insightful -- and visually cool -- pictures of our planet that we've seen recently. Taken from the International Space Station, we see the extremely arid Atlantic coast of West Africa (above) and the reflection of the Sun's rays on the ocean and salty lagoons known as sabkhas.NEWS: Picture This: Scenes From Earth (June 2014)
In late May, a huge mudslide cascaded down a mountain in the Grand Mesa region of western Colorado. Here's an image snapped by the Landsat 8 satellite on June 7. Unstable surfaces in many areas are being destabilized by heavy winter rainfall.NEWS: What Creates A Deadly Mudslide?
When it comes to photosynthesis, cornfields in the U.S. Midwest are the most productive area on the planet, as this spectacular visualization of NASA satellite data shows. Scientists are worried, though, that future drought may harm crops.PHOTOS: Earth Madness: Vote On NASA's Top Shots
The Northern Patagonian Icefield in the Andes Mountains in Chile is the remaining fragment of an ice sheet that covered the entire region a million years ago. It's one of the biggest remaining glaciers in non-polar temperate regions of the world. Satellite images show that it's been losing a lot of mass in recent years, due to climate change.PHOTOS: Earth Perspectives Through The Ages
Remember those scary twin tornadoes that terrorized Pilger, Neb., in mid-June? Here's a NASA satellite visualization of the carnage. The Red squares are plant-covered fields, and the tan-brown streaks are the tracks of the tornadoes.BLOG: Scary 'Twin' Tornadoes Rip Through Nebraska
Here's an overhead view of the Kizimen volcano on Russia's sub-Arctic Kamchatka Peninsula. Despite nine months of volcanic activity, the volcano remains covered in snow, and the twin lakes at the foot of the crater remain frozen.PHOTOS: Indonesia Volcano Rains Ash, Rock On Java
Here’s the good news: The huge 7.9 quake that hit off the shores of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands last week didn’t cause a lot of damage, and the alert issued by the National Tsunami Warning Center turned out to be unnecessary.
As io9 reported, the seismic event struck in a mostly-uninhabited segment of the islands, and it occurred so deep in the earth — about 71 miles down — that it didn’t produce enough surface displacement to trigger a major tsunami.
Okay, great. But now, here’s the bad news. The Los Angeles Times reminded us that a 2013 study by the U.S. Geological Survey warned that a 9.1 quake, the size of the one that occurred in Alaska in 1964, might unleash a tsunami so powerful that it would threaten the California coast, force mass evacuations and potentially cause billions of dollars in economic losses.
In the study, researchers used a computer simulation to gauge the impact of a quake that was the same size as the 1964 event but located in a different place — between Kodiak Island and the Shumagin Islands off the Pacific coast of the Alaskan peninsula. As they noted, there are similarities between the geology and tectonic settings of that spot and the area of Prince William Sound where the 1964 quake occurred, so it’s plausible that that it could generate a massive quake that would have wider effects.
An analysis on the University of Alaska’s website describes a particularly frightening scenario in which big waves would cause cargo ships to smash into each other in Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor one of the nation’s busiest ports. USGS put this vividly scary video up on YouTube, which shows how the tsunami would develop and move south.
Photo: Residents survey damage to Anchorage caused by the 1964 Alaskan Earthquake. Credit: USGS