Earth in the News

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

  • Record Missouri flooding was humanmade calamity, scientist says

    Why was the New Year's flood in Missouri so bad? Most news reports blamed it on the heavy rain, but a professor of earth and planetary sciences says analysis of the flood data shows much of the damage was due to recent modifications to the river.

  • Central Appalachia flatter due to mountaintop mining

    Forty years of mountaintop coal mining have made parts of Central Appalachia 60 percent flatter than they were before excavation, researchers say. This study, which compares pre- and post-mining topographic data in southern West Virginia, is the first to examine the large-scale impact of mountaintop mining on landscape topography and how the changes influence water quality.

  • How forest management and deforestation are impacting climate

    Two new studies reveal how altering the composition of trees in forests is influencing not only the carbon cycle, but air surface temperatures to a significant degree as well.

  • The seawater temperature distribution in tropics affects the rainfall in East Asia

    A wide swatch of Asia, from the tropics to the mid-latitudes, which has wet and dry seasons, is significantly affected by 'Asian monsoons.' The amount of rainfall in particular has a close relationship to agriculture and damage from flooding.

  • Modern microbial ecosystems provide window to early life on Earth

    New research provides new insight into one of the world's most diverse and extensive ecosystems of living microbes. The study offers a new perspective on the growth and structure of rare, microbial reefs, called stromatolites, which are a window into the emergence and evolution of life on Earth.

  • In the Southern Ocean, a carbon-dioxide mystery comes clear

    Twenty thousand years ago, low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere allowed the earth to fall into the grip of an ice age. But despite decades of research, the reasons why levels of the greenhouse gas were so low then have been difficult to piece together. New research shows that a big part of the answer lies at the bottom of the world.

  • Research may explain mysterious deep earthquakes in subduction zones

    Geologists may have finally explained what triggers certain earthquakes that occur deep beneath the Earth's surface in subduction zones, regions where one tectonic plate slides beneath another. The researchers have shown strong evidence that water squeezed out of a mineral called lawsonite could trigger these mysterious quakes.

  • Warming ocean may bring major changes for US northeast fishery species

    Scientists have released the first multispecies assessment of just how vulnerable U.S. marine fish and invertebrate species are to the effects of climate change. The study examined 82 species that occur off the Northeastern U.S., where ocean warming is occurring rapidly. Researchers found that most species evaluated will be affected, and that some are likely to be more resilient to changing ocean conditions than others.

  • Consistency of Earth's magnetic field history surprises scientists

    Earth's magnetic field occasionally reverses its polarity -- the magnetic north and south poles swap places. When magnetic polarity remains stable in one orientation for more than 10 million years the interval is dubbed a 'superchron.' Within the last 540 million years there are three known superchron periods. New work identifies up to 10 additional superchrons over 1.3 billion years during the Proterozoic Eon, Earth's middle age, which occurred 2.5 to 0.54 billion years ago.

  • Examining how terrestrial life's building blocks may have first formed

    How did life begin? This is one of the most fundamental questions scientists puzzle over. To address it, they have to look not just back to the primordial Earth, but out into space. Now, scientists propose a new set of cosmic chemical reactions that could have contributed to the formation of life on our planet.

  • Organic agriculture key to feeding the world sustainably

    Researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers.

  • Study shows North Atlantic Ocean CO2 storage doubled over last decade

    A new study shows that the North Atlantic absorbed 50 percent more human-made carbon dioxide over the last decade, compared to the previous decade. The findings show the impact that the burning of fossil fuels have had on the world's oceans in just 10 years.

  • Extracting rare-earth elements from coal could soon be economical in US

    The US could soon decrease its dependence on importing valuable rare-earth elements that are widely used in many industries, according to a team researchers who found a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract these metals from coal byproducts.

  • Maps of forests, fields and soils to aid climate change forecasts

    Detailed maps of the world's natural landscapes could help scientists to better predict the impacts of future climate change. The complex charts of forests, grasslands and other productive ecosystems provide the most complete picture yet of how carbon from the atmosphere is reused and recycled by Earth's natural habitats, say investigators.

  • Living a 'mixotrophic' lifestyle

    Some tiny plankton may have big effect on ocean's carbon storage, report scientists. A research team has found that some microscopic, mixotrophic organisms may have a large impact on the ocean's food web and the global carbon cycle.

  • Long-term global warming not driven naturally

    By examining how Earth restores equilibrium after periods of natural warming, a new study reinforces that long-term global temperature does not evolve chaotically but remains stable unless pushed by external factors. Large, sustained changes in global temperature, like those observed over the last century, cannot occur without drivers such as increased greenhouse gas concentrations. Estimates of natural climate cycles alone are insufficient to explain such changes.

  • New tool for gauging public opinion reveals skepticism of climate engineering

    Members of the public find the risks of climate engineering technology more likely than any of the benefits, according to an article. Such research is crucial because even if the goal of reducing global temperatures by two degrees Celsius is achieved, it will not halt the impacts of global climate change, including sea-level rise, shifts in rainfall, and extreme weather events. Given this context, a growing number of scientists are advocating for climate engineering technologies, also referred to as "geoengineering."

  • Increase in volcanic eruptions at the end of the ice age caused by melting ice caps and erosion

    Researchers have found that glacial erosion and melting ice caps both played a key role in driving the observed global increase in volcanic activity at the end of the last ice age.

  • New technique to find copper deposits

    A new and relatively inexpensive way to establish whether certain types of magmatic rocks are more likely to contain valuable metal deposits has been developed by a team of scientists.

  • Rapid formation of bubbles in magma may trigger sudden volcanic eruptions

    It has long been observed that some volcanoes erupt with little prior warning. Now, scientists have come up with an explanation behind these sudden eruptions that could change the way observers monitor active or dormant volcanoes.