He’s not expressing confusion, he’s tilting his head for better sound localization. While having an ear on each side of the head is good for lateral echolocation, tilting the head so that the ears are offset gives it vertical depth.
This bear is in Lake Clark National Park, a land of stunning beauty where volcanoes steam, salmon run, bears forage, craggy mountains reflect in shimmering turquoise lakes, and local people and culture still depend on the land and water of their home.
Scroll to your hearts content from the Planck length to the diameter of the observable universe - click on any object and it will open an info box - I can’t imagine how much work must have gone into this. A few surprising things: Pluto has a smaller diameter than the width of the USA and Vatican city can fit in central park multiple times.
In the early hours this morning, a magnitude 6 earthquake struck in the area of Napa Valley, California. The exact earthquake strength estimates will likely be refined throughout the day as data is processed, but this is the largest earthquake to strike the Bay Area since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.
The quake struck near a fault that produced a damaging magnitude 5 quake a little over a decade ago and in the area near the West Napa Fault and the Rodgers fault, but it reportedly took place on a different strand of one of those faults. The USGS is currently working to identify exactly which fault broke in this quake.
The damage to the area will be significant, although hopefully the loss of life will be minimal. The type of geology in this area exerts a strong control on how intense the shaking is; the earthquake took place in a valley likely filled with loosely-packed sediment, a setup that tends to intensify shaking. Those sediments are separated from the rocks that make the nearby hills and so there is less energy transferred to those areas.
If you look at this USGS Shakemap, you can see this effect quite clearly – the valley itself got a strong shake, but the intensity drops in the higher ground. Napa and surrounding cities sit within these valleys, so there is likely to be heavy damage to older or unreinforced brick buildings. It’s night right now, but early images seem to confirm that.
When there is an earthquake like this, big enough to do damage but not catastrophic, it’s a good time to remember earthquake preparation. In the event of a quake, get yourself under a strong table and get outside once it is over. Have a preparedness kit ready. Know how to get in touch with your family members – text messages are often the best these days because they don’t tie up phone lines. And perhaps the biggest from my perspective; have a supply of fresh water available for your family; when a large quake happens, that is the one item everyone needs and if the water-transport infrastructure is damaged, it’s the one item no one will have.
The redwood forests are among the most magical on the planet. The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) occurs naturally along the pacific coast of North America from Oregon to northern Califoria. These coastal forests are situated among the “fog belt”, where cool precipitation and fog move from the ocean towards the coast at night. The fog supplies the trees with a constant water source, and blocks out some of the evaporative rays of the sun, reducing water lost via transpiration. These coastal redwood forests are often referred to as the Temperate Rainforest.
What makes these trees so special? Well, aside from being one of the tallest organisms on the planet (380ft, or ~115m tall), their crowns acts as fractal forests. The canopies of redwoods were once thought to be ecological deserts, nothing more than redwood leaves and branches. But Marie Antoine, Steve Sillett, and Marwood Harris, old growth botanists, and expert tree climbers took the task of climbing one of these skyscrapers to explore the redwood canopy. And what they found was quite different from an ecological desert, but rather a fractal forest, full of epiphytes, trees, and numerous animals. Redwoods have a unique habit known as reiteration: where horizontal branches hundreds of feet off the ground will sprout vertical branches that act as new trees. Some of these reiterated tree sprouts are taller than the largest trees on the east coast. When leaves fall from the redwood canopy, they build up on the lower branches and ultimately form a “canopy soil” that supports other trees and bushes such as, tanbark oak, douglas fir, elderberry, and huckleberry. These sky forests are surprisingly diverse, supporting not only reiterated redwoods, but other dominant species like firs and oaks. This diversity attracts a litany of rodents, birds (songbirds and raptors), amphibians, and insects.
These trees, thought to be 2500 years old (some possibly as old as 3-5,000 years), operate at a scale different from humans, almost a geologic timescale, where gardens grown in their canopy take 700-1000 years to form. Between 1970 and 1990 about 96% of the redwood forests were cut down in the United States, but the remaining 4% is now under government protection. As an ecologist I would revel in the opportunity to meet and study these special trees while so few remain.