The tsunami associated with Hunga Tonga eruption has sparked renewed interest in hazards associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. A recent article about geologic hazards and preparedness especially caught my attention: “A Tsunami Could Kill Thousands. Is Escape Possible?” in the New York Times. The focus is on the Pacific Northwest- –specifically coastal communities along the states of Washington, Oregon, and northernmost California.
Our planet has a high level of tectonic activity. In the past few decades, disastrous earthquakes have captured our attention. A careful look at historical records, however, demonstrates that a major volcanic eruption would cause immensely more devastation that any natural event our world has experienced recently.
What would Italian food be without tomatoes or Indian food without chiles? Both plants were first cultivated and used for thousands of years in the Americas before being transported across the world to join the cultures where they are appreciated today. Plant and animal exchanges have shaped our societies and our environments -- especially the two major migrations and exchanges that have taken place in just the past few millions of years.
Large earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis can create shock waves felt around the world – literally. The blast from the volcanic eruption on January 15, 2022, near Tonga caused spikes in air pressure recorded around the planet. We can add this eruption in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean to our knowledge of pandemics, climate change, and numerous other interconnections that tie our planet and our societies together.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones for happy holidays! This is my final post for 2021 – I’ll begin publishing again in January 2022. In this post, I describe a few details about the story of the Three Magi and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh they brought to the baby Jesus. Historians and biblical scholars have recorded many stories and traditions related to the Magi and their gifts, often reflected in the artwork of the time.
Footprints have many stories to tell. Humans once shared a world with giant creatures, and footprints can be a window into those interactions. From the ancient tracks found in White Sands National Park recently to those found in Africa decades ago, tracks provide reliable evidence of occupation.
Who left the earliest footprints in rocks that we can admire today? From the giant tracks of enormous dinosaurs to the delicate prints of small lizards and birds, I think footprints are fascinating. Tracks preserved for tens of millions of years, as well as those left within hours, can tell interesting stories about people, animals, and their interactions.
This is a rerun - I published this post originally in November 2020 - but check it out if you missed it last year. Many of us think we know the story of Thanksgiving, but there are many myths. This post also has a link to a 2019 blog post about mammoths and the origins of pumpkin pie - an interesting story.
Flooding that filled the Central Valley region of California to the point of becoming an inland sea, with water lapping from the Coast Ranges to the Sierra Nevada foothills, was part of Native American oral traditions. And that is exactly what happened in the Great Flood of 1862. If a similar major flood occurs, there will be catastrophic consequences.
Celebrations of the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, involve traditions to remember and honor deceased family members and friends. In this post we examine a few customs around death, beginning with the mummification practices of ancient Andeans and ending with a street parade in Mexico City, inspired by the death-defying feats of James Bond.