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Earth in the News

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

  • Predicting the predator threatening a squirrel by analyzing its sounds and tail movements

    Biologists found the could quite accurately predict what type of predator was threatening a squirrel by analyzing its sounds and tail movements.

  • Beyond LOL cats, social networks could become trove of biodiversity data

    Social networks can be a viable source for photo-vouchered biodiversity records, especially those that clarify which species exist in what places within developing nations, one expert suggests.

  • Ocean's living carbon pumps: When viruses attack giant algal blooms, global carbon cycles are affected

    By some estimates, almost half of the world's organic carbon is fixed by marine organisms called phytoplankton -- single-celled photosynthetic organisms that account for less than one percent of the total photosynthetic biomass on Earth. When giant algal blooms get viral infections, global carbon cycles are affected, scientists have now discovered.

  • Earthquakes in the ocean: Towards a better understanding of their precursors

    New research offers the first theoretical model that, based on fluid-related processes, explains the seismic precursors of an underwater earthquake. Using quantitative measurements, this innovative model established a link between observed precursors and the mainshock of an earthquake. The results open a promising avenue of research for guiding future investigations on detecting earthquakes before they strike.

  • In between red light and blue light: New functionality of molecular light switches

    Diatoms play an important role in water quality and in the global climate. They generate about one fourth of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and perform around one-quarter of the global carbon dioxide assimilation, i.e. they convert carbon dioxide into organic substances. Their light receptors are a crucial factor in this process. Researchers have now discovered that blue and red light sensing photoreceptors control the carbon flow in these algae.

  • Asbestos likely more widespread than previously thought

    Naturally occurring asbestos minerals may be more widespread than previously thought, with newly discovered sources now identified within the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The asbestos-rich areas are in locations not previously considered to be at risk, according to a new report. “These minerals were found where one wouldn’t expect or think to look,” said a co-researcher of the study. The naturally occurring asbestos was found in Boulder City, Nevada, in the path of a construction zone to build a multi-million dollar highway.

  • Scale of declines of UK migratory birds wintering in Africa revealed

    The migration of millions of birds across the face of the planet is one of nature's greatest annual events. Every spring some species move in one direction, while every autumn those same species move in the opposite one, very often linking continents. Although these migration patterns are as regular as the seasons, monitoring is revealing that, for some species, fewer birds are making the journey each season as the populations of these birds, including species nesting in the UK, are declining rapidly.

  • Australian volcanic mystery explained

    Scientists have solved a long-standing mystery surrounding Australia's only active volcanic area. The volcanism springs from a unique interaction between the continent's movement north and local variations in its thickness.

  • Journey to the center of the Earth: Geochemist uses helium and lead isotopes to gain insight into makeup of planet’s deep interior

    A geochemist studying Samoan volcanoes has found evidence of the planet's early formation still trapped inside Earth. Known as hotspots, volcanic island chains such as Samoa can ancient primordial signatures from the early solar system that have somehow survived billions of years.

  • Mysterious Midcontinent Rift is a geological hybrid

    Geologists have a new explanation for the formation of the Midcontinent Rift, an ancient 2,000-mile-long underground crack that starts in Lake Superior and runs south. The rift is a geological hybrid, having formed in three stages: it started as an enormous narrow crack in the Earth's crust; that space then filled with an unusually large amount of volcanic rock; and, finally, the igneous rocks were forced to the surface, forming some of the Upper Midwest's beautiful scenery.

  • Evidence for huge mountains that fed early life discovered

    Scientists have found evidence for a huge mountain range that existed in the supercontinent of Gondwana some 600 million years ago. It ran from modern west Africa to northeast Brazil, and as it eroded it fed the oceans with nutrients that fueled an explosion of early life on Earth.

  • Microfossils reveal warm oceans had less oxygen

    Researchers are pairing chemical analyses with micropaleontology -- the study of tiny fossilized organisms -- to better understand how global marine life was affected by a rapid warming event more than 55 million years ago. Their findings are the subject of an article in the journal Paleoceanography.

  • Canary for climate change: How past extinctions have influenced modern distribution, population size of existing species

    Wing-propelled diving seabirds, as well as their extinct relatives, may have served as an indicator species for environmental changes and faunal shifts, researchers suggest. The findings also elucidate how past extinctions have influenced the modern distribution and population size of existing species.

  • Weather history 'time machine' created

    A software program that allows climate researchers to access historical climate data for the entire global surface (excluding the poles) has been developed. This software include the oceans, and is based statistical research into historical climates.

  • Carbonate rocks are unrecognized methane sink

    Since the first undersea methane seep was discovered 30 years ago, scientists have meticulously analyzed and measured how microbes in the seafloor sediments consume the greenhouse gas methane. They have now found a type of rock known as authigenic carbonate also contains vast amounts of active microbes that take up methane. This demonstrates that the global methane process is still poorly understood.

  • Importance of dead jellyfish to deep-sea ecosystems

    Dead jellyfish contribute to the deep-sea food chain, unlike previously thought, innovative experiments show. Researchers deployed lander systems to look at how scavengers responded to jellyfish and fish baits in the deep sea off Norway. The experiments were carried out in areas with jellyfish blooms near the ocean surface and showed that when the creatures fell to the seabed they were rapidly eaten by scavengers.

  • Method for detecting extremely rare inert gas isotopes for water dating

    In earth and environmental sciences, radioactive isotopes, atom variants that decay over time, play a major role in age determination. A radioactive isotope of the inert gas argon 39, for example, is used to determine the age of water or ice. Such isotopes are extremely rare, however -- only a single 39 Ar isotope occurs in a thousand trillion argon atoms. Hence researchers' attempts to isolate and detect such atoms remain the proverbial search for the needle in a haystack. Physicists have now succeeded in rendering usable an experimental method developed in basic research for ground water dating using 39 Ar.

  • Past climate change and continental ice melt linked to varying carbon dioxide levels

    Scientists have discovered that a globally warm period in Earth's geological past featured highly variable levels of CO2. Previous studies have found that the Miocene climatic optimum, a period that extends from about 15 to 17 million years ago, was associated with big changes in both temperature and the amount of continental ice on the planet. Now a new study has found that these changes in temperature and ice volume were matched by equally dramatic shifts in atmospheric CO2.

  • Earth's magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

    Earth's last magnetic reversal took place 786,000 years ago and happened very quickly, in less than 100 years -- roughly a human lifetime. The rapid flip, much faster than the thousands of years most geologists thought, comes as new measurements show the planet's magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal and could drop to zero in a few thousand years.

  • Building a bridge from basic botany to applied agriculture

    The solutions to feeding the world are certainly multi-faceted, requiring knowledge from a diversity of fields and practices to successfully raise food production and maintain ecosystem security. Thus, three prominent scientists are highlighting the importance of basic plant science and its relevance for pressing global issues like applied agriculture, emphasizing how a broad range of basic plant science is relevant to global food demands.