What causes landslides? The USGS Landslide Hazards Program conducts research needed to answer major questions related to landslide hazards. Where and when will landslides occur? How big will the landslides be? How fast and how far will they move? What areas will the landslides affect or damage? How frequently do landslides occur in a given locality? Investigate the patterns of landslide occurrence in your area. Are they related to locations, geology, or topography? Are they more frequent…
What variables contribute to the properties of the soil in an area? Investigate the role of climate, weather, topography, time, parent material, vegetation, and biological and chemical agents on soil formation. How are soils characterized? There are 3 basic particle sizes which create three basic soil types: sand, silt, and clay. Investigate the properties of the three different types of soil by observing grain size, shape, hardness, color, chemical composition, pore space, aeration,…
Is soil structure an important factor in earthquake dynamics? Investigate soil liquefaction and how different soil types respond to earthquake movements. Are movements more dramatic in sandy/loamy or clay type soils? Which soil structures are most stable? Which are the most volatile? (MCEER, 2005)
The same principles of geology that we use to investigate the Earth can also be applied to other planets. Visit the Astrogeology Research Program at the USGS to find out how information about the geology of other planets can be gathered (USGS, 2006). Can you make a map or model of another planet? What minerals are found on other planets? Which planets have similar composition to the earth? What kind of geological forces occur on other planets? Do other planets have earthquakes, landslides…
You can study hazards that affect coastal areas. What geological forces cause a tsunami? A tsunami (Japanese for 'harbor wave') is a wave generated by an undersea earthquake, landslip, or volcanic eruption. You can demonstrate what causes a tsunami by simulating an undersea earthquake with a water table. How does the depth of water effect the height of the wave? Do different slopes of bottom change the speed of the wave? Visit the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program to find out about…
Soil liquefaction is a phenomenon where soil that is saturated with water suddenly loses its strength and behaves like a liquid. This usually occurs due to sudden, large stresses on the soil — for example, from an earthquake. This can be very dangerous for buildings sitting on top of the soil, as they can suddenly sink into the ground! The embedded video explains soil liquefaction in more detail.
Is there a way to prevent soil liquefaction? Do you think adding…
Tornadoes are a very destructive weather phenomenon that is very hard to predict. Certain weather conditions can indicate if a tornado is likely to occur, but the path that the tornado will take is completely unpredictable. Storm chasers are people who chase tornadoes and try to capture them on film or video. They often have a sense of predicting where and when a tornado will strike, but the best images are also due to a bit of luck and survival instinct. Even though tornadoes are…
Floods can be very destructive, capable of leveling whole towns and decimating crops and fields. Typically in regions prone to flooding there are cycles of flooding that occur, usually in areas where a wet season comes after a period of drought. You can use precipitation data to test if incidents of flooding have been preceded by periods of drought. Look for long periods of dryness in the precipitation data to indicate a drought. You can also conduct an experiment on dry or moist soil to see…
Have you ever had fun playing with sand and water, observing how little rivers you create carve their way down to the lowest point of the sandbox, backyard or beach? Some meander, others braid, and some carve a path straight down.
Hyrdologists (or scientists who study water) do very much the same thing! Only they set up the model in a particular way, so observing their mini-rivers helps them answer questions about how water flow affects the environment. In this geology science project, you…
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Soils are made of particles of different types and sizes. The space between particles is called pore space. Pore space determines the amount of water that a given volume of soil can hold. Porosity is the percentage of the total volume of soil that consists of pore space. Compare the porosity of different types of soil. Which types of soil hold the most water? Can you see this under a microscope?
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