Explore: December 2013

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5 posts from December 2013


Q&A: Could a Radioactive Plume Impact the U.S.?

Henrieta Dulaiova on a cruise to collect samples for her studies on the geochemistry of the oceanIn 2014, a plume of ocean-borne radiation, originating from the Fukushima meltdown, will hit the west coast of the U.S. Initial sources warned that this could be an extremely dangerous concentration of radionuclides, but recent research and new sources have since said there is nothing to fear.

One of the researchers trying to set the record straight is Henrieta Dulaiova, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii’s department of geology and geophysics. Dulaiova holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography and a Master of Sciences in Nuclear Chemistry and has been studying the ocean-borne radiation from Fukushima since the disaster began in 2011.

We spoke with Dulaiova over the phone about her research, being accused of working for the government, how much Americans should worry, and background radiation levels.

We asked a person on the bus what he would want to know about a plume of ocean-borne radiation hitting the West Coast. He said, “How long do I have to live?” Can you answer that question?

Honestly [laughs], there aren’t negative health effects that he can expect. The radiation will not get on the land. The questions I get most often in Hawaii are whether swimming or surfing in the ocean will be safe, which they are. He should be fine, which is why we wanted to dispute the initial claims that said otherwise.

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The 4 Most Deadly Backcountry Ski Slopes


This winter, skiers and snowboarders will populate the alpine wilderness looking to skip the chairlift lines for untouched backcountry slopes.

However, some of the most tasty slices of backcountry carving and shredding in America can also be the most deadly; annual avalanche fatality reports show the sad truth that even the most accomplished skiers and snowboarders can fall prey to the mountain's many hazards. 

Avalanche danger constantly presents itself in the unstable snowpack, and it's paramount to not only know how to avoid avalanche situations, but also be aware of the backcountry regions that have historically posed the worst backcountry avalanche activity. Based on summary reports of previous avalanche activity, forecasts, and data compiled by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, here's a list of backcountry ski spots prone to avalanche activity. 

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4 Action-Packed Dream Jobs for Winter

IStock_000003169393XSmallEarlier this year, we highlighted some of the most adventurous jobs out there that coupled exploration with environmental advocacy. Now, as the snowpack grows by the foot and the temperature gauge on the thermometer drops, winter gigs are in season and on the rise, attracting winter lovers seeking the season's coolest jobs.  

Want to make a living off of skiing, snowshoeing, teaching survival skills, promoting naturalism, or working at the front desk of a frozen hotel? Check out our choices of some of the best winter seasonal jobs out there, tailor-made for the adventure-minded job seeker.  

Ski Patrol Imagine putting in 40 hours a week on boots and bindings, skis or a snowboard, on the slopes of a Tahoe, Park City, or Aspen ski resort, carving through the most lucious powder in North America. For ski patrolers at commercial resorts, this skier's fantasy is a daily reality.  Although skiing as a full time job demands plenty of physical fitness and a dedicated love for skiing, the downsides to the job might include blistered feet and a raspy voice (undoubtedly from yelling at kids to slow down on the bunnyhills). However, nothing beats carving through fresh powder and patroling the slopes--all the while keeping skiers and snowboarders safe on the slopes.

    Requirements: EMS certification, physical fitness, competence in skiing or snowboarding

Continue reading "4 Action-Packed Dream Jobs for Winter" »

Avalanche Safety: The Do's and Don'ts

Avalanche territoryVacant slopes, fresh pow, and untouched winter wilderness: If you're a skier, snowboarder, snowshoer, or climber, chances are your boots may be treading on avalanche-prone territory this winter season. 

Avalanches are a sobering reality. More than any other natural hazard in the backcountry, they bury dozens of outdoor recreationists every season. Last winter experienced a high number in avalanche-related deaths, in which 24 people died in the US: 8 were skiers, 7 were snowboarders, and the rest were snowshoers, climbers, and trekkers.

Learning about the mountain's snowpack habits can be be a life-saver for you and other adventure aficionados. Based on a checklist published in mountaineering Bible Freedom of the Hills, along with some anecdotal wisdom from avalanche forecaster Brandon Schwartz at Sierra Avalanche Center, we encourage our readers to follow these essential DO's and DON'Ts, keeping in mind the four main elements that cause avalanches: terrain, snowpack, weather, and people. After all, what's more fun than keeping yourself and others from getting buried alive in several feet of snow?

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Comet ISON and the 1st Meteor Shower of Winter

December 2013 Tree and star trails Suszter Balázs SXC

UPDATE: Comet ISON was largely swallowed by the sun as it passed our star on Thanksgiving. The debris that emerged at first has dissipated and the comet is no more. R.I.P. ISON.

The first days of December will reveal just how Comet ISON survived its close encounter with the sun. As you look for it in the west after sunset, the first thing you will spot is a light so bright that you think it must be a plane. Yet it’s not. That bright light in the southwest is Venus, shining at its peak brilliancy, magnitude -4.9.  On December 5, the moon is just to the upper right of Venus. On December 6, Venus is 26-percent illuminated with a 41 arcsecond disk.

Comet ISON will be to the lower right of Venus in early December. The comet’s motion will be to the northwest, taking it toward the North Star, Polaris, which it will reach in January. As the comet rises higher in the sky it will grow dimmer as it leaves the sun. On December 20 both Venus and Comet ISON are about the same height above the horizon.

The comet may have had its closest approach to the sun on November 28, but its closest pass of Earth will be on December 26 when it gets within some 39 million miles from us.

Jupiter has been rising a bit earlier every evening in Gemini in the east. Watch Jupiter and the moon rise together on December 18. The moon has a couple notable dates before its meeting with Jupiter. On December 14 the moon and the Pleiades star cluster get close, on December 15 the moon enters the head of Taurus the Bull, and on December 17 the skies are lit by the full moon.

Continue reading "Comet ISON and the 1st Meteor Shower of Winter" »

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