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Earth in the News

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

  • Causes of California drought linked to climate change

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California's crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today's global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases, scientists say.

  • While the Arctic is melting, the Gulf Stream remains

    The melting Arctic is not the source for less saline Nordic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream that has provided less salt. A new study documents that the source of fresher Nordic Seas since 1950 is rooted in the saline Atlantic as opposed to Arctic freshwater that is the common inference.

  • Poor fish harvests more frequent now off California coast

    In the past 600 years off the California coast, occasional episodes of diminished ocean upwelling that cause fish populations to crash have occurred naturally. The poor yearly fish harvests seen in the last 60 years aren't any worse in severity than earlier, but are happening more frequently.

  • With few data, Arctic carbon models lack consensus

    As climate change grips the Arctic, how much carbon is leaving its thawing soil and adding to Earth's greenhouse effect? The question has long been debated by scientists. A new study conducted as part of NASA's Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) shows just how much work still needs to be done to reach a conclusion on this and other basic questions about the region where global warming is hitting hardest.

  • If trees could talk: Forest research network reveals global change effects

    Permafrost thaw drives forest loss in Canada, while drought has killed trees in Panama, southern India and Borneo. In the U.S., in Virginia, over-abundant deer eat trees before they reach maturity, while nitrogen pollution has changed soil chemistry in Canada and Panama. More than 100 collaborators have now published a major overview of what 59 forests in 24 countries teach us about forest responses to global change.

  • Fertilizer and fuel: Nitrogen-fixing enzyme also produces hydrocarbons

    Plants need nitrogen and carbon to grow. Photosynthesis allows them to take in the latter directly from the air, but they have to procure nitrogen through their roots in the form of organic molecules like ammonia or urea. Even though nitrogen gas makes up approximately 80 percent of Earth's atmosphere, the plant can only access it in a bound form. Farmers thus use fertilizers to provide their crops with nitrogen. The only living beings that can convert nitrogen from the air into usable molecules are microorganisms. They possess the enzyme nitrogenase, which combines nitrogen with hydrogen to form ammonium. In a new study, researchers have not just contributed to the further elucidation of how this enzyme functions, but also described a unique mechanism it uses to produce hydrocarbons.

  • Experts call for widening the debate on climate change

    Environmental scientists are being urged to broaden the advice they give on global climate change, say experts who are also frustrated that decision makers are not taking enough action.

  • Sand dunes reveal biodiversity secrets in Australia

    Ancient, acidic and nutrient-depleted dunes in Western Australia are not an obvious place to answer a question that has vexed tropical biologists for decades. But the Jurien Bay dunes proved to be the perfect site to unravel why plant diversity varies from place to place. Scientists show that environmental filtering -- but not a host of other theories -- determines local plant diversity in one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots.

  • Efficiently harvesting hydrogen fuel from Sun using Earth-abundant materials

    Scientists have a new efficient way of producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water. By combining a pair of solar cells made with a mineral called perovskite and low cost electrodes, scientists have obtained a 12.3 percent conversion efficiency from solar energy to hydrogen, a record using Earth-abundant materials as opposed to rare metals.

  • Earth's water is older than the sun: Likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space

    Water was crucial to the rise of life on Earth and is also important to evaluating the possibility of life on other planets. Identifying the original source of Earth's water is key to understanding how life-fostering environments come into being and how likely they are to be found elsewhere. New work found that much of our solar system's water likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space.

  • Global sea levels rose up to five meters per century at the end of the last five ice age

    Land-ice decay at the end of the last five ice-ages caused global sea-levels to rise at rates of up to 5.5 metres per century, according to a new study. Researchers developed a 500,000-year record of sea-level variability, to provide the first account of how quickly sea-level changed during the last five ice-age cycles. Scientists also found that more than 100 smaller events of sea-level rise took place in between the five major events.

  • Fossil of ancient multicellular life sets evolutionary timeline back 60 million years

    Geobiologists shed new light on multicellular fossils from a time 60 million years before a vast growth spurt of life known as the Cambrian Explosion occurred on Earth.

  • Natural gas usage will have little effect on carbon dioxide emissions, researchers find

    Abundant supplies of natural gas will do little to reduce harmful U.S. emissions causing climate change, according to researchers. They found that inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.

  • U.S. releases enhanced shuttle land elevation data

    High-resolution topographic data generated from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) in 2000, previously only available for the United States, will be released globally over the next year, the White House announced at the United Nations Heads of State Climate Summit in New York.

  • The fickle El Niño of 2014

    Prospects have been fading for an El Niño event in 2014, but now there's a glimmer of hope for a very modest comeback. Scientists warn that unless these developing weak-to-modest El Niño conditions strengthen, the drought-stricken American West shouldn't expect any relief.

  • New ISERV tool enables rapid view of Earth images from space

    A new user-friendly online resource will provide images from a space station camera with nearly two years of images to share. The interface is a world map that links to thousands of images made by the ISERV camera: the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System. With the click of a mouse, the public can access the images with the ISERV Viewer.

  • Impact of temperature on belowground soil decomposition

    Earth's soils store four times more carbon than the atmosphere and small changes in soil carbon storage can have a big effect on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. A new paper concludes that climate warming does not accelerate soil organic carbon decomposition or affect soil carbon storage, despite increases in ecosystem productivity.

  • Drilling Into an Active Earthquake Fault in New Zealand

    Geologists are drilling nearly a mile beneath the surface of New Zealand this fall to bring back rock samples from an active fault known to generate major earthquakes. The goal of the Deep Fault Drilling Project is to better understand earthquake processes by sampling the Alpine Fault, which is expected to trigger a large event in the coming decades.

  • Actions on climate change bring better health, study says

    The number of extremely hot days in Eastern and Midwestern U.S. cities is projected to triple by mid-century, according to a new study. In presenting their synthesis, the study authors seek to encourage efforts that benefit both the health of the planet and the health of people.

  • Arctic sea ice helps remove carbon dioxide from atmosphere, study shows

    Climate change is a fact, and most of the warming is caused by human activity. The Arctic is now so warm that the extent of sea ice has decreased by about 30 percent in summer and in winter, sea ice is getting thinner. New research has shown that sea ice removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If Arctic sea ice is reduced, we may therefore be facing an increase of atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, researchers warn.