By Kelly Strzepek

Our good friends at Nature have compiled  a summary of the most notable events and breakthroughs from the year 2011. As some of us reflect on the year passed, and start on the list of resolutions for the year to come, here are some of the more significant events that happened here on Earth:

BOOM! The beauty of a plume from the Puyehue–Cordón Caulle volcano complex in Chile. Image:

As the caption on the Nature website attests, the beauty of this plume was possibly lost on the thousands that had to flee their homes, or were covered in ash from the Puyehue–Cordón Caulle complex in Chile. On a more personal note, I was rather concerned I wasn’t going to make my own wedding. A heartfelt thank-you to Air New Zealand who was willing to fly under the ash cloud.

In Japan, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed tens and thousands of people, and displaced hundreds and thousands more. As the water subsided, the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power forced us to remember the devistating effect of the Chernobyl disaster some 25 years before. The fallout from Fukushima may have been largely blown out to sea, but the proposal for nuclear power as a low carbon energy source has been blown out of the water as a consequence. Instead  the contentious practice of “fracking” shale (fracturing rock with high pressure fluids) to access natural gas reserves gained popularity in some, but definitely not all camps. Proposed fracking has caused massive protest in the U.S, a ban in France and widespread concern here in Australia as to the longterm effects  to water and air quality. I wonder where I could find  structural geologist who’d be able to comment?

Here in Australia we did warrant a mention on Nature’s list. On the domestic front our carbon tax may have been unpopular in some sectors, but the world watched as the government sent a price signal to the world’s biggest polluters per capita: us. I for one, am proud as goodness knows that nobody listens to the climate scientists!

For the full list you will need journal access: