About the Museum Museum News Earth in the News Plan Your Visit Contact Us

Earth in the News

The latest reports of natural disasters and scientific discoveries about the Earth.

  • Intensity of hurricanes: New study helps improve predictions of storm intensity

    While predicting the path of hurricanes has gotten better, little has been done to improve predicting a storm's intensity. That is, until now. "The air-water interface -- whether it had significant waves or significant spray -- is a big factor in storm intensity," said one expert involved in a new study. "Hurricanes gain heat energy through the interface and they lose mechanical energy at the interface."

  • Parched West is using up underground water: Study points to grave implications for Western U.S. water supply

    A new study finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

  • How to power California with wind, water and sun

    New research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices.

  • Synchronization of North Atlantic, North Pacific preceded abrupt warming, end of ice age

    Scientists have long been concerned that global warming may push Earth's climate system across a 'tipping point,' where rapid melting of ice and further warming may become irreversible -- a hotly debated scenario with an unclear picture of what this point of no return may look like. A new study suggests that combined warming of the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans thousands of years ago may have provided the tipping point for abrupt warming and rapid melting of the northern ice sheets.

  • How much magma is hiding beneath our feet? Mysteries of Earth's crust pierced

    Molten rock, or magma, has a strong influence on our planet and its inhabitants, causing destructive volcanic eruptions and generating some of the giant mineral deposits. Our understanding of these phenomena is, however, limited by the fact that most magma cools and solidifies several kilometers beneath our feet, only to be exposed at the surface, millions of years later, by erosion.

  • Calcification in changing oceans

    What do mollusks, starfish, and corals have in common? Aside from their shared marine habitat, they are all calcifiers -- organisms that use calcium from their environment to create hard carbonate skeletons and shells for stability and protection.

  • NASA's HS3 mission spotlight: The HIRAD instrument

    The Hurricane Imaging Radiometer, known as HIRAD, will fly aboard one of two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft during NASA's Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission from Wallops beginning August 26 through September 29. One of the NASA Global Hawks will cover the storm environment and the other will analyze inner-storm conditions. HIRAD will fly aboard the inner-storm Global Hawk and will be positioned at the bottom, rear section of the aircraft.

  • New water balance calculation for Dead Sea

    The drinking water resources on the eastern, Jordanian side of the Dead Sea could decline more severely as a result of climate change than those on the western, Israeli and Palestinian side. This is the conclusion reached by an international team of researchers that calculated the water flows around the Dead Sea. The natural replenishment rate of groundwater will reduce dramatically in the future if precipitation lowers as predicted.

  • Water, water -- not everywhere: Mapping water trends for African maize

    Trends in the water cycle in 21 African countries have been mapped from between 1979 and 2010. Researchers found that the majority of maize-growing areas experienced increased water availability, although the trends varied by region. The greater availability of water generally resulted from a mixture of increased rainfall and decreased evaporation and transpiration.

  • Global warming 'pause' since 1998 reflects natural fluctuation

    Statistical analysis of average global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 shows that the slowdown in global warming during this period is consistent with natural variations in temperature, according to research. The study concludes that a natural cooling fluctuation during this period largely masked the warming effects of a continued increase in human-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

  • Mammals metabolize some pesticides to limit their biomagnification

    The concentrations of many historically used, and now widely banned, pesticides and other toxic chemicals -- called legacy contaminants -- can become magnified in an animal that eats contaminated food. However, a new study has found that Arctic mammals metabolize some currently used pesticides, preventing such 'biomagnification.'

  • Mixing it up: Study provides new insight into Southern Ocean behavior

    Turbulent mixing in the deep waters of the Southern Ocean, which has a profound effect on global ocean circulation and climate, varies with the strength of surface eddies -- the ocean equivalent of storms in the atmosphere -- and possibly also wind speeds. A new study is the first to link eddies at the surface to deep mixing on timescales of months to decades. This new insight into how the Southern Ocean behaves will allow scientists to build computer models that can better predict how our climate is going to change in the future.

  • Oceans vital for possibility for alien life

    Researchers have made an important step in the race to discover whether other planets could develop and sustain life. New research shows the vital role of oceans in moderating climate on Earth-like planets Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. But the presence of oceans is vital for optimal climate stability and habitability.

  • NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2: Data to lead scientists forward into the past

    NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which launched on July 2, will soon be providing about 100,000 high-quality measurements each day of carbon dioxide concentrations from around the globe. Atmospheric scientists are excited about that. But to understand the processes that control the amount of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, they need to know more than just where carbon dioxide is now. They need to know where it has been. It takes more than great data to figure that out.

  • The bend in the Appalachian mountain chain is finally explained

    The 1,500-mile Appalachian mountain chain runs along a nearly straight line from Alabama to Newfoundland -- except for a curious bend in Pennsylvania and New York State. Researchers now know what caused that bend -- a dense, underground block of rigid, volcanic rock forced the chain to shift eastward as it was forming millions of years ago.

  • A 10-year endeavor: NASA's Aura and climate change

    Celebrating its 10th anniversary this week, NASA's Aura satellite and its four onboard instruments measure some of the climate agents in the atmosphere, including greenhouse gases, clouds and dust particles. These global datasets provide clues that help scientists understand how Earth's climate has varied and how it will continue to change.

  • Ten-year endeavor: NASA's Aura tracks pollutants

    NASA's Aura satellite, celebrating its 10th anniversary on July 15, has provided vital data about the cause, concentrations and impact of major air pollutants. With instruments providing key measurements of various gases -- including two built and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory: the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) and Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) -- Aura gives a comprehensive view of one of the most important parts of Earth -- the atmosphere.

  • Big data used to guide conservation efforts

    Genetic studies have given us detailed information about the evolutionary relationships embodied in the Tree of Life, while newly digitized museum collections contain a wealth of information about species distribution. To date, however, these big data collections have not been applied to conservation efforts. Now researchers have created a model taking both distribution and relationships into account to identify lineages that need preservation, in particular rare endemics.

  • Tiniest catch: Scientists' fishing expedition reveals viral diversity in sea

    Using bacteria as bait, scientists caught wild ocean viruses and then deciphered their genomes. They learned that the genetic lines between virus types in nature are less blurred than previously thought. This enables scientists to recognize actual populations of viruses in nature for the first time.

  • How existing cropland could feed billions more

    Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.