In addition to providing quality textbooks and course content, Wiley offers an excellent media library of GeoDiscoveries that include content animations and comprehension activities. These media tools will aid students in visualizing concepts over time and space and test their understanding using geographer’s tools. Check with your Wiley representative to ask about the library of GeoDiscoveries that may accompany your course textbook.
Seasonal rhythms for many students are part of an unobserved, taken for granted backdrop of their lives. Seasons are rooted more in changing activities and lifestyles, rather than observing the alterations in day length or the sun’s altitude. As mentioned in the post, Daylight Savings Time: Why it took nearly two weeks for this post, daylight saving time (DST) is one of these seasonal changes that affects us, perhaps more than we can concretely recognize. Using GeoDiscoveries, like “Earth as viewed from the sun,” allows students to step outside their own cognitive universe and see for themselves the changing position of the Earth relative to the Sun. Visualizing this annual path helps them to understand the foundations of the Earth system in which we are all a part of.
There are many things in life that our students often taken for granted; they accept without understanding, or just asking “Why?” It is in our Geography courses that we can inspire students to think critically and consider options thoughtfully. Daylight saving time (DST) is of these ubiquitous, yet unquestioned practices. DST is an unwelcome change for many; literally, a loss of our most important asset. The adjustment is more difficult for all those who are not morning people, and is compounded for those with small children and others with sensitive body clocks. While we are forced to adjust, not many of us question why we have to set our clocks forward anyway. A recent National Geographic article has provided some interesting DST background to aid our understanding. DST has inherently spatial relationships that engage our individual and societal dependence on the rhythms of the Earth-Sun relationship. Studying this method reveals underlying geographies in its implementation, execution and implications. More importantly, however, studying DST has also helped to understand why this post took two weeks to complete.
The creation of DST schemes was centered on saving valued resources. These resources, like today, were the energy commodities essential to productivity, allowing people to work after dark and indoors. The National Geographic article sites a book by David Prerau, Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time, that tells the stories of DST. It was the need for war-time conservation of coal that actually saw DST implemented during World War I, again in World War II, and again during the Oil Embargo of 1973-4. In 2007, a U.S. energy bill was implemented starting DST earlier and ending it later, adding an extra month to DST. The same arguments about energy saving were reiterated. Other benefits were also claimed, like reduced crime and traffic fatalities, and increased productivity, recreation and “smiles.”
Beyond states of emergency, DST has not been mandatory, with U.S. states like Arizona and Hawaii choosing not to observe it. Such optional geographies of DST provide an unexpected opportunity for studying the cost-benefit of DST schemes. A study of three different Australian states’ power-use data during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games found that ultimately any power-saving was cancelled out as energy demand in the mornings cancelled out any savings from the evenings. A U.S. study in Indiana had similar findings, which saw that energy-consumption from not just lighting, but also air conditioning contributed to increased afternoon demand. The study found that consumers’ electric bills were actually higher during DST, as people used their air conditioners more during the warmer spring and summer evenings. Yet, the spatial analysis of DST seems to also offer evidence to the contrary. Another study of the entire U.S., commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, shows that at the national scale there were small reductions in overall energy consumption, which still added up to significant energy savings. The study also found that DST had uneven benefits. For example, California benefits the most from DST because of its mild weather, not requiring year ‘round climate control appliances. Northern states also benefit more during DST months relative to Southern states because they do not necessarily need as much air conditioning, which is a major energy consumer. These studies reveal some of the flaws within such standardized time schemes.
The National Geographic article also describes some of the interesting connections to DST and lifestyles. As mentioned in the 2007 energy bill, one group argues that the daylight shuffling in DST encourages lifestyles that are more active. A study mentioned in the article does support that view; during DST people were more likely to include more active outdoor activities, rather than more languid indoor activities. However, a “chronobiologist” argues that our body clocks never adjust to DST. A result of that is decreased productivity, increased susceptibility to illness and being frequently tired, all symptoms of “social jet lag.” He argues that the shift in daylight toward the evening only serves to delay the body clock, affecting sleep schedules and leading to overtiredness. This overtiredness could also have more serious consequences. A 2008 Swedish study showed that the risk of heart attack actually increased following the switch to DST. The study’s author found the most likely explanation for the findings were again related to body clocks and sleep rhythm.
In the end, DST works for some and not for others. Body clocks or sundials, it is nearly impossible to standardize savings uniformly, whether they are of day light or of resources. However, to this author, DST is now a fitting seasonal scapegoat for procrastination or listlessness.
Archaeology is a fascinating discipline that allows scientists to visualize how people lived in the past. Although such investigations are usually associated in most people’s minds with Native American sites, they can also tell us a lot about overall American history. Because archeological sites are most commonly found buried in Earth, geomorphologists often assist with site interpretation to understand the depositional environment associated with the site. The following video demonstrates this interrelationship at Michigan State University where a team of scientists were given access to what was thought to be a sand dune on the campus to test its age. The accompanying photo shows this feature, which is covered with pine trees planted in 1913 to protect it from the wind. Apparently, blowing sand was a problem in the early days of the university. Given my interests in sand dunes, I had long been interested in the age and formation of this landform. It sure looked like a stabilized sand dune, but its location in the middle of the MSU campus was weird. What are the odds that an old sand dune was in the middle of the MSU campus? I needed to look inside the landform, and collect samples for dating, but was unable to gain access to the feature until the campus archaeologist was told some new trees would be planted. What we learned surprised all of us. The video also discusses the campus archaeology program at the university and it has contributed to our understanding of MSU’s past.
Have a look at the video at:
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Posted by: Alan Arbogast, Michigan State University
The most active tectonic boundary on earth is the Pacific Ring of fire. This boundary occurs along the edge of the Pacific tectonic plate and ranges from western South America, west to New Zealand, north through the Philippines and Japan, across the northern rim of the Pacific Ocean into Alaska, and southward along the West Coast of North America. The vast majority of earthquakes and volcanoes on Earth occur along this very active tectonic boundary. The largest earthquake in recorded history was a magnitude 9.5 quake that struck Chile in 1960. A similar devastating earthquake (magnitude 9.4) occurred in Alaska in 1964. In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck Indonesia and generated a powerful tsunami that devastated numerous coastal locations along the Indian Ocean. In February of this year a magnitude 6.3 earthquake shook the South Island of New Zealand and was the strongest quake reported in that country for 80 years.
The active nature of the Pacific Ring of fire was observed again today (Friday, 3/11/11) when a magnitude 8.9 earthquake rocked Japan. The epicenter for this earthquake was located offshore, approximately 230 miles northeast of Tokyo. This earthquake is the strongest in recorded Japanese history and aftershocks continue, the strongest of which were magnitude 7.1. In addition to the destruction caused by the earthquake itself, a massive tsunami was generated that crashed into the shore of Japan. The highest wave associated with this surge was measured at 30 feet. In a manner very consistent with the 2004 tsunami, surging water along the coast of Japan devastated coastal communities and spread with incredible power as far as 6 miles inland. Many scores of people likely perished in the disaster and the extent of loss is currently undetermined.
Although the tsunami is certainly a catastrophic disaster in Japan, this situation demonstrates the benefits of the tsunami warning system that was installed in the Pacific Ocean basin in 1949. As a result of the system, a tsunami warning was rapidly given and no doubt saved some lives in Japan. A warning was also generated for Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the West Coast of the United States. Coastal communities in these locations thus had ample time to prepare and move people out of potential danger. In stark contrast, no such warning system existed in the Indian Ocean basin at the time of the Indonesian earthquake. As a result, people in coastal communities far away from the earthquake epicenter were unaware of the approaching tsunami and over 250,000 deaths occurred. This contrast demonstrates why it is necessary to understand natural hazards and plan effectively for them.
Submitted by: Alan Arbogast, Michigan State University
Honolulu, Hawaii, 3/11/11: Last night, as I was trying to convince my son to finish his homework so we could go to bed, my email and cell phone started buzzing. My geologist friends on the mainland, and colleagues here in Hawaii were calling about the mega-quake that hit Japan. Amazing and horrifying footage on CNN showed a tsunami sweeping across the flat coastal plain at Sendai:
This is the first clear aerial footage of a major tsunami in history – we’ll be showing this in classrooms for years.
By 10pm we learned that the alert in Hawaii was upgraded from “Tsunami watch” to “Tsunami warning” and we started packing a cooler with ice, food and water. Searching the web I found that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center models predicted a 2m wave…ok, significant, but not catastrophic.
I live on Kailua Beach, Oahu and have obvious exposure to coastal hazards such as this: http://ptwc.weather.gov/ but I figured at worst the water would crest the dune, and roll into the yard but not cause serious damage where I live…I considered not evacuating, but decided against that.
By 11pm the sirens started, and by midnight the evacuation was in full swing. Police cars and firetrucks drove through the neighborhood blaring horns and broadcasting the message “This is State Civil Defense. A tsunami is approaching. Please evacuate to higher ground now.” Every house in the neighborhood was alight and bustling with activity. We tried grabbing a few hours sleep before the predicted arrival time of 3:20AM – but this was hard with all the noise in the street.
Our family friends the Luis’s, living a mile away offered their home to us and by 2AM we were on their floor trying to get to sleep between blaring emergency sirens every 30 minutes. I woke at 5am, and we drove back home.
The roadblocks were gone and the usual early morning commute was absent…totally empty streets. A quick trip to the beach in front of our home revealed that indeed a wave had washed up and crested the dune and stalled there – but the power of this wave was revealed in how flat and planned off the beach profile looked; no foreshore, no berm crest, no sub aerial beach, just a flat gentle slope rising out of the water….and incredible amount of sand must have been eroded.
As I write this we are still under tsunami warning, and in a similar event in the 1930′s from the same part of Japan, the worst damage in Hawaii was caused by the tenth wave. so it may be awhile before this is over.
Submitted By Chip Fletcher, University of Hawai’i