CATEGORY: Earth Sciences
July 21, 2014– 2

As summer heats up, we instinctively reach for the air conditioning (AC) controls. This miracle of modern technology lets us create a cool breeze to banish the crushing heat. At the same time, AC brings soaring electric bills. How can we optimize our use of air conditioning, keeping cool while minimizing our costs?

Wolfram|Alpha provides several helpful formulas in this area, the first of which is a method for calculating the degree days for a location over a period of time. Degree days is a measure of how often the temperature was above (for cooling) or below (for heating) a given temperature or range of temperatures. It is used in a wide range of climate and energy cost-related areas, from agriculture to monitoring the heating and cooling costs of climate-controlled buildings. More »

March 19, 2014– 5

Last week the weather here was pretty bizarre. Overnight, it went from 66°F and outdoor soccer matches to 28°F and a blanket of snow and ice. You know what else is pretty bizarre? Some of the things people can—and do—ask Wolfram|Alpha. So in case, like us, you’re stuck inside for a few more weeks of winter and in need of inspiration, read on for a few examples of some of the more… unique types of queries that you, too, can ask Wolfram|Alpha. More »

April 4, 2013– 1

It’s tornado season in some parts of the United States, and while longtime users of Wolfram|Alpha are probably aware of our ability to analyze earthquake data, we weren’t able to say much about tornadoes. Now, utilizing data from from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, Wolfram|Alpha can answer questions about tornado activity in the US from 1950 to 2012. For good measure, we’ve also added data on worldwide volcanic eruptions to our knowledge base. More »

May 4, 2011– 7

In light of the accident at the nuclear facility in Fukushima, Japan following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, there has been an increased interest about nuclear power and nuclear reactors worldwide. Due to the desire for factual information about this important topic, we have added data on commercial nuclear power reactors—based on information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—to Wolfram|Alpha.

The IAEA’s database has information on all of the world’s commercial nuclear power plants, including those currently operating, those that have been shutdown, and reactors under construction. Ask Wolfram|Alpha for “all nuclear reactors”, and it is evident that nuclear power is a widely used source of electrical energy.
More »

October 28, 2010– 10

We humans often notice the passage of time by observing our watches; the movement of the Sun, Moon, and stars across the sky; or by the records left by our ancestors in diaries or other historical records—but these are just fleeting moments in the eyes of geological time. We are used to thinking about recorded history. But recorded history is just a blink when compared to the length of time called pre-history. Recorded history only goes back a few thousand years. The Earth is far older.

It’s hard for humans to grasp just how long the Earth has been here. Using a variety of methods, geologists have been able to put together many pieces of a very complicated puzzle. After all, how do you assemble a puzzle when you’re not sure what the finished picture should look like? From studying processes that are happening today, such as geological composition, rates of deposition, weathering, climatology, biology, and Earth’s magnetic field, geologists can extend these processes back to ancient times and learn what the Earth was like billions of years ago. When combined with data points such as those found in the fossil record, these extrapolations can be constrained, and the picture starts to emerge from the puzzle. More »

March 1, 2010– 0

Saturday’s massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile has captured the attention and concern of the world community. The area continues to be plagued by dozens of smaller quakes including at least nine of magnitude 6.0 or higher.

Below is a timeline of earthquake activity in Chile over the last 72 hours. Wolfram|Alpha‘s earthquake data is updated every six minutes with information reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS reports activity within 30 minutes of most seismic events worldwide.

In addition to the map and timeline, the output shows the top three earthquakes (ranked in decreasing order of magnitude) within the past 72 hours, and clicking the “More” button will pull up information on the lower-magnitude shocks. Furthermore, you can see exact coordinates by clicking the “Show coordinates” button.

If you’re monitoring quake activity in Chile or other parts of the world, you will find Wolfram|Alpha useful for exploring a single event or series of events by time, location, and magnitude.

(The image below reflects activity within the 72 hours before this post was written; click the image for current information and further exploration.)
Earthquake activity in Chile from the last 72 hours

September 30, 2009– 4

Yesterday an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 struck the South Pacific, near the Samoan islands. Wolfram|Alpha’s earthquake feed immediately brought information on that quake into the system, and continues to pick up data on aftershocks in the region. Here’s the latest 24-hour view of earthquake activity within 250 miles of Upolu, one of the Samoan islands devastated by the resulting tsunami.

(The image below reflects activity within the 24 hours before this post was written; click the image for current information.)

Earthquake activity near Upolu

That earthquake in the South Pacific was the largest quake in the past 24 hours, but not the only one. Today there have been several other major quakes near Indonesia, including one of magnitude 7.6, and smaller quakes near China.

(The image below reflects worldwide earthquake activity within the 24 hours before this post was written; click the image for current information.)

Worldwide earthquakes during the last 24 hours