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Best Earth Images of the Week - Nov. 16, 2012

Lost dunes

Fire Island National Seashore, post-storm change in elevation.

(Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey)

New before-and-after airborne laser scans of demolished dunes in Long Island, N.Y., reveal the extent of the destruction caused there by Hurricane Sandy.

The images show that the storm dramatically reshaped Fire Island, a barrier island off the southern coast of Long Island. Within Fire Island National Seashore, the sea breached a narrow part of the island, creating a new inlet and cutting through 13-foot-high (4 meters) dunes. At Ocean Bay Park, where there were many homes near the water, the beach lost more than 10 feet (3.5 m) of dune during Hurricane Sandy.

[Full Story: Sandy's Destruction Revealed in Aerial Scans]

Damage unveiled

A map of the damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit eastern Virginia in August, 2011.

(Image credit: Matthew Heller and Brendan McGowan)

Last year's 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit eastern Virginia caused a significant amount of damage to homes in the area, much of which was overlooked because it happened in a sparsely populated region. Researchers have created a new map showing the extent of the damage, presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Charlotte, N.C.

The earthquake destroyed up to seven houses and caused major damage to 120, said Matthew Heller, of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Major damage is defined as damage to the structural integrity of the house, such as the foundation, often requiring the house to be rebuilt.

[Full Story: New Virginia Earthquake Map Reveals Damage]

Bones exposed

Bessie white shipwreck on Fire Island

(Image credit: Cheryl Hapke, USGS.)

A wrecked schooner long buried on Fire Island a barrier island off of Long Island, N.Y. now lies fully exposed following Hurricane Sandy's attack on the beach.

The weathered hull of the shipwreck lies about 4 miles (6 kilometers) east of Davis Park, between Skunk Hollow and Whalehouse Point, in the Fire Island National Seashore, as first reported by Newsday.

[Full Story: Hurricane Sandy Exposes Fire Island Shipwreck]

Surprising victor

Waterton Lakes National park, conservation

(Image credit: Waterton Lakes National Park/Parks Canada)

A skunk-versus-cougar face-off was caught on film by a camera trap in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.

"The cougar was looking at the skunk like it might be lunch, and the skunk was looking at cougar like 'you're going to regret this decision,'" said Dennis Madsen, resource conservation manager for the park, who helps manage the hidden cameras. "The cougar chose the path of wisdom and decided to go elsewhere," Madsen told OurAmazingPlanet.

[Full Story: Skunk Scares Off Cougar in Camera Trap Photo]

Keeping tabs

volcanos, redoubt

(Image credit: Game McGimsey - AVO/USGS.)

At the Alaska Volcano Observatory, volcanologists get up close and personal with their research subjects even when they don't look so friendly.

In the above photo, Rick Wessels, a geophysicist, creeps through the Chigmit Mountains of Alaska to get a good look at Redoubt, a volcano that erupted as recently as 2009. Wessels is acquiring thermal images of Redoubt's dome with a state of the art tool known as the FLIR. FLIR stands for "forward-looking infrared imaging." This technique lets scientists look at the infrared radiation emitted from a heat source, such as a volcano. Volcanologists often use FLIR images to keep tabs on active volcanoes.

[Full Story: Alaska's Redoubt Volcano Blows Off Some Steam]

Adding insult to injury

Nor'easter snowfall seen from space

(Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.)

Record snowfalls dumped on parts of the Northeast by a nor'easter last week were seen from space by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite.

Adding insult to injury in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the nor'easter broke snowfall records across the region, with the most snow in a November storm in Connecticut. In New York's Central Park, 4.7 inches (12 cm) blanketed boulders; and 6 inches (15 cm) fell in storm-battered Newark, N.J. The National Weather Service also reported wind gusts up to 65 mph (105 kph).

[Full Story: Nor'easter Record Snowfall Seen from Space]

Predatory discovery

Carnivorous sponge, Chondrocladia lyra

(Image credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI))

A new carnivore shaped like a candelabra has been spotted in deep ocean waters off California's Monterey Bay.

The meat-eating species was dubbed the "harp sponge," so-called because its structure resembles a harp or lyre turned on its side.

A team from the Monterey Bay Research Aquarium Institute in Moss Landing, Calif., discovered the sponge in 2000 while exploring with a remotely operated vehicle. The sponges live nearly 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) beneath the ocean's surface.

[Full Story: Weird-Looking, Meat-Eating Sponge Found In Deep Sea]