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Earth in the News

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

  • Climate change does not cause extreme winters, experts say

    Cold snaps like the ones that hit the eastern United States in the past winters are not a consequence of climate change. Scientists have now shown that global warming actually tends to reduce temperature variability.

  • Spring plankton bloom hitches ride to sea's depths on ocean eddies

    Just as crocus and daffodil blossoms signal the start of a warmer season on land, a similar 'greening' event --a massive bloom of microscopic plants, or phytoplankton -- unfolds each spring in the North Atlantic Ocean from Bermuda to the Arctic.

  • Antarctic ice shelves rapidly thinning

    A new study has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica's floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18 percent in certain areas over nearly two decades, providing new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.

  • A mile deep, ocean fish facing health impacts from human pollution

    Deep-water marine fish living on the continental slopes at depths from 2,000 feet to one mile have liver pathologies, tumors and other health problems that may be linked to human-caused pollution, one of the first studies of its type has found. Fish have been found with a blend of male and female sex organs including. The findings appear to reflect general ocean conditions.

  • Shell-shocked: Ocean acidification likely hampers tiny shell builders in Southern Ocean

    A ubiquitous type of phytoplankton -- tiny organisms that are the base of the marine food web -- appears to be suffering from the effects of ocean acidification caused by climate change. According to authors of a new study, the single-celled organism under study is a type of "calcifying" plankton called a coccolithophore, which makes energy from sunlight and builds microscopic calcium carbonate shells, or plates, to produce a chalky suit of armor.

  • Greenhouse gases unbalanced: How human intervention changes wetlands

    Natural wetlands usually emit methane and sequester carbon dioxide. Anthropogenic interventions, in particular the conversion of wetlands for agriculture, result in a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which overcompensate potential decreases in methane emission. A large international research team now calculated that the conversion of arctic and boreal wetlands into agricultural land would result in an additional cumulative radiative forcing of about 0.1 mJ per square meter for the next 100 years.

  • Possible existence of neutral atomic hydrogen in rock in Earth's deep interior

    A new finding challenges the established dogma that hydrogen exists in the form of a hydroxyl group (i.e., water) in silicate minerals that make up rocks, and is expected to open up new possibilities for identifying the mechanism behind the hydrogen cycle in the Earth's deep interior.

  • Rethinking wetland restoration: Smaller wetlands more valuable than previously thought

    Most efforts to protect and restore wetlands mistakenly focus on preserving only total wetland area, with no consideration of ecosystem services provided by different wetland types, according to a new study. The study, shows wetland loss follows a strong pattern, with smaller, isolated wetlands being lost in much greater numbers than larger wetlands.

  • Disturbingly little known about microbeads, plastics in the Great Lakes

    A New Democratic Party Member of Parliament is calling on the Canadian government to list microbeads, tiny plastic flakes used in cosmetics, as a potential toxic substance. Health Canada claims the beads are safe for use as an additive, but this MP says they pose a danger to the aquatic environment. Researchers are warning that microbeads and plastic debris of all sizes could be a bigger environmental problem for the Great Lakes than previously thought.

  • Doubling of coastal erosion by mid-century in Hawai'i

    Chronic erosion dominates the sandy beaches of Hawai'i, causing beach loss as it damages homes, infrastructure, and critical habitat. Researchers have long understood that global sea level rise will affect the rate of coastal erosion. However, new research indicates that coastal erosion of Hawai'i's beaches may double by mid-century.

  • Population could outpace water by mid-century: Technological advances needed in coming decades to avoid water shortages

    Population growth could cause demand for water to outpace supply by mid-century if current use levels continue. But it wouldn't be the first time this has happened, a new study finds. Using a mathematical model to analyze historic data, the researchers identified a regularly recurring pattern of time periods when demand for water outstripped supply, and shortages were resolved by technological advancements. The model projects a similar period of innovation could occur in coming decades.

  • Ascension of marine diatoms linked to vast increase in continental weathering

    A team of researcher has used mathematical modeling to show that continental erosion over the last 40 million years has contributed to the success of diatoms, a group of tiny marine algae that plays a key role in the global carbon cycle.

  • Archaea: Surviving in hostile territory

    Many strange creatures live in the deep sea, but few are odder than archaea, primitive single-celled bacteria-like microorganisms. Archaea go to great lengths -- eating methane or breathing sulfur or metal instead of oxygen -- to thrive in the most extreme environments on the planet. Now scientists have discovered something odder still: a remarkable new virus that seemingly infects methane-eating archaea living beneath the ocean's floor.

  • Gulf Stream system: Atlantic Ocean overturning, responsible for mild climate in northwestern Europe, is slowing

    The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth's most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning -- multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been weaker than ever before in the last century, or even in the last millennium.

  • A stiff new layer in Earth's mantle

    By crushing minerals between diamonds, a new study suggests the existence of an unknown layer inside Earth: part of the lower mantle where the rock gets three times stiffer. The discovery may explain a mystery: why slabs of Earth's sinking tectonic plates sometimes stall and thicken 930 miles underground.

  • Key to the long-term storage of dissolved organic carbon in the deep ocean

    Researchers have made strides in the understanding of the mechanisms governing the persistence of dissolved organic carbon for hundreds or thousands of years in the deep ocean. Most of this material is below 1,000 meters deep, but it is not degraded by bacteria. The finding provides new keys to further deepen the understanding of the regulation of the carbon cycle and the global climate.

  • World's largest asteroid impacts found in central Australia

    A 400-kilometer-wide impact zone from a huge meteorite that broke in two moments before it slammed into the Earth has been found in Central Australia. The crater from the impact millions of years ago has long disappeared. But a team of geophysicists has found the twin scars of the impacts -- the largest impact zone ever found on Earth -- hidden deep in Earth's crust.

  • Archivists unearth rare first edition of the 1815 'Map that Changed the World'

    A rare early copy of William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales, previously thought lost, has been uncovered by Geological Society archivists. The new map has been digitized and made available online in time for the start of celebrations of the map’s 200th anniversary.

  • International study raises questions about cause of global ice ages

    A new international study casts doubt on the leading theory of what causes ice ages around the world -- changes in the way the Earth orbits the sun. The researchers found that glacier movement in the Southern Hemisphere is influenced primarily by sea surface temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide rather than changes in the Earth's orbit, which are thought to drive the advance and retreat of ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Adapting to climate change will bring new environmental problems

    Adapting to climate change could have profound environmental repercussions, according to a new study. Research reveals that adaptation measures have the potential to generate further pressures and threats for both local and global ecosystems. “Climate change is a just a little bit more complicated than we previously thought. We need to take into account not only the direct impact of climate change, but also how people will respond to such change - the impact of adaptation," notes the lead researcher.