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Earth in the News

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

  • Mars: Meteorites yield clues to Red Planet's early atmosphere

    Geologists analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars to understand the history of the Martian atmosphere. Their new article shows the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways early in the solar system's 4.6 billion year evolution.

  • Crucial new information about how the ice ages came about

    Scientists have discovered new relationships between deep-sea temperature and ice-volume changes to provide crucial new information about how the ice ages came about. The researchers found, for the first time, that the long-term trends in cooling and continental ice-volume cycles over the past 5.3 million years were not the same. In fact, for temperature the major step toward the ice ages that have characterized the past two to three million years was a cooling event at 2.7 million years ago, but for ice-volume the crucial step was the development of the first intense ice age at around 2.15 million years ago. Before these results, these were thought to have occurred together at about 2.5 million years ago.

  • Significant baseline levels of arsenic found in soil throughout Ohio are due to natural processes

    Geologic and soil processes are to blame for significant baseline levels of arsenic in soil throughout Ohio, according to a new study. Every sample had concentrations higher than the screening level of concern recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The researchers found that the patterns of arsenic in Ohio soils are most closely related to the arsenic content of the underlying bedrock, which was formed approximately 250 to 300 million years ago. Glacial and soil processes have modified the landscape since.

  • Warm U.S. West, cold East: 4,000-year pattern; Global warming may bring more curvy jet streams during winter

    Last winter’s curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A new study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, and suggests it may worsen as Earth’s climate warms.

  • New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

    Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans and the rest of our planet's living kingdoms. How did it all begin?

  • New technique will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis

    Photosynthesis provides fixed carbon and energy for nearly all life on Earth, yet many aspects of this fascinating process remain mysterious. We do not know the full list of the parts of the molecular machines that perform photosynthesis in any organism. A team developed a highly sophisticated tool that will transform the work of plant geneticists on this subject.

  • Earthquake simulation tops one petaflop mark

    Computer scientists, mathematicians and geophysicists have optimized the SeisSol earthquake simulation software on the SuperMUC high performance computer to push its performance beyond the 'magical' one petaflops mark -- one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

  • Bizarre parasite may provide cuttlefish clues

    New research into parasites of cuttlefish, squid and octopus has uncovered details of the parasites’ astonishing life cycles, and shown how they may help in investigating populations of their hosts.

  • Deforestation could intensify climate change in Congo Basin by half

    By 2050, deforestation could cause temperatures in the Congo Basin to increase by 0.7 °C. The increase would intensify warming caused by greenhouse gases by half, according to a new study.

  • Plugging an ozone hole: Extreme Antarctic ozone holes have not been replicated in Arctic

    Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers, and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven’t yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, in part because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful.

  • Air pollution over Asia influences global weather and makes Pacific storms more intense

    In the first study of its kind, scientists have compared air pollution rates from 1850 to 2000 and found that anthropogenic (human-made) particles from Asia impact the Pacific storm track that can influence weather over much of the world.

  • Three new species of yellow-shouldered bats discovered in museum collections

    Scientists have reconstructed the phylogeny and biological history for the Yellow-shouldered bats in the New World tropics, the region of the Earth surrounding the equator. In-depth analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences uncovered three species new to science, each having previously been confused with another species.

  • Result of slow degradation on environmental pollutants

    Why do environmental pollutants accumulate in the cold polar regions? This may not only be due to the fact that many substances are less volatile at low temperatures, as has been long suspected, but also to their extremely slow natural degradation. Although persistent environmental pollutants have been and continue to be released worldwide, the Arctic and Antarctic regions are significantly more contaminated than elsewhere. The marine animals living there have some of the highest levels of persistent organic pollutant (POP) contamination of any creatures.

  • Little-known Arctic comb jelly found in the Baltic Sea and Arctic

    One of the world's oldest animal species, the comb jellies -- which have inhabited the seas for millions of years -- have kept their secrets up to the present day. Researchers have now studied the life of the Arctic comb jelly, which is found in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic.

  • Odds that global warming is due to natural factors: Slim to none

    An analysis of temperature data since 1500 all but rules out the possibility that global warming in the industrial era is just a natural fluctuation in the earth’s climate, according to a new study.

  • Climate paradox deciphered from the Miocene era

    A supposed climate paradox from the Miocene era has been deciphered by means of complex model simulations. When the Antarctic ice sheet grew to its present-day size around 14 million years ago, it did not get colder everywhere on the Earth, but there were regions that became warmer. This appears to be a physical contradiction, and this research aims to address that.

  • Controversy over nitrogen's ocean 'exit strategies' resolved

    A decades-long debate over the dominant way that nitrogen is removed from the ocean may now be settled. Researchers found that both of the nitrogen 'exit strategies,' denitrification and anammox, are at work in the oceans. The debate centers on how nitrogen -- one of the most important food sources for ocean life and a controller of atmospheric carbon dioxide -- becomes converted to a form that can exit the ocean and return to the atmosphere where it is reused in the global nitrogen cycle.

  • Tibetan Plateau was larger than previously thought, geologists say

    The Tibetan Plateau -- the world's largest, highest, and flattest plateau -- had a larger initial extent than previously documented, Earth scientists have demonstrated. Known as the "Roof of the World," the Tibetan Plateau covers more than 970,000 square miles in Asia and India and reaches heights of over 15,000 feet. The plateau also contains a host of natural resources, including large mineral deposits and tens of thousands of glaciers, and is the headwaters of many major drainage basins.

  • NASA simulation portrays ozone intrusions from aloft

    Outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado's Front Range are occasionally rewarded with remarkable visibility brought about by dry, clear air and wind. But it's what people in the mountainous U.S. West can't see in conditions like this -- ozone plunging down to the ground from high in the stratosphere, the second layer of the atmosphere -- that has attracted the interest of scientists, university scientists and air quality managers.

  • Appearance of night-shining clouds has increased

    First spotted in 1885, silvery blue clouds sometimes hover in the night sky near the poles, appearing to give off their own glowing light. Known as noctilucent clouds, this phenomenon began to be sighted at lower and lower latitudes -- between the 40th and 50th parallel -- during the 20th century, causing scientists to wonder if the region these clouds inhabit had indeed changed -- information that would tie in with understanding the weather and climate of all Earth.