Journal Highlights

Earthquake data visualization shows ground motion in real time

On 11 March 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake shattered the seabed off the eastern coast of Japan's Honshu Island. Visualizations of scientific data showing the peaks of a seismograph or maps overlain with the locations and magnitudes of the earthquake and its numerous aftershocks were brought out to help explain the devastation to the public. While dramatic, such displays can be difficult for the public to interpret clearly because people have trouble trying to picture what the recordings of a seismograph might look like on the ground or because they have trouble understanding the logarithmic relationship between earthquake magnitude and energy. Drawing on the three-dimensional position records of a dense web of high-frequency GPS ground receiver stations, Grapenthin and Freymueller (2011) developed an animation of the abrupt horizontal and vertical motions that pulled parts of the country over 4 m to the east and sank large portions of its eastern shore more than half a meter into the sea. The authors suggest that their animations (which can be seen online in the study's auxiliary material) are more intuitive than other forms of earthquake data visualization. In addition to the visualizations' promising explanatory power, the authors suggest that the GPS stations' real-time displacement measurements could, if automated, provide valuable scientific information that could be potentially useful in earthquake early warning systems or in tsunami and aftershock risk estimation.

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Featured Special Collection

A Census of Atmospheric Variability from Seconds to Decades 

The atmosphere varies naturally on all length scales from millimeters to thousands of kilometers, and on all time scales from seconds to decades and longer.  This special collection of Geophysical Research Letters synthesizes and summarizes that variability through a phenomenological census.  The collection brings together some of the most influential and definitive papers to have been published in this journal in recent years.  The topics covered include turbulence on time scales of seconds and minutes, gravity waves on time scales of hours, weather systems on time scales of days, atmospheric blocking on time scales of weeks, the Madden–Julian Oscillation on time scales of months, the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation on time scales of years, and the North Atlantic, Arctic, Antarctic, Pacific Decadal, and Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillations on time scales of decades.  The collection is accompanied by a Commentary article, which provides an authoritative, concise, and accessible point of reference for the most important modes of atmospheric variability.

A Census of Atmospheric Variability from Seconds to Decades