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Earth in the News

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

  • New insights on hurricane intensity, pollution transport

    As tropical storm Isaac was gaining momentum toward the Mississippi River in August 2012, researchers were dropping instruments from the sky above to study the ocean conditions beneath the storm. The newly published study showed how a downwelling of warm waters deepened the storm's fuel tank for a rapid intensification toward hurricane status. The results also revealed how hurricane-generated currents and ocean eddies can transport oil and other pollutants to coastal regions.

  • Nature has more than one way to grow a crystal

    New findings have implications for questions regarding how animals and plants grow minerals into shapes that have no relation to their original crystal symmetry, and why some contaminants are difficult to remove from stream sediments.

  • Earth's magnetic shield is much older than previously thought

    Since 2010, the best estimate of the age of Earth's magnetic field has been 3.45 billion years. But now a researcher responsible for that finding has new data showing the magnetic field is far older.

  • Drought's lasting impact on forests

    In a global study of drought impacts, forest trees took an average of two to four years to resume normal growth rates, a revelation indicating that Earth's forests are capable of storing less carbon than climate models have assumed.

  • Just say 'no' to drugs -- in water

    A teen is tackling serious water quality issues that threaten the health of rivers, streams and groundwater. Now she has just put the final touches on her research of a plastic adsorbent that removes pharmaceutical drugs from water sources.

  • New study narrows the gap between climate models and reality

    A new study addresses an important question in climate science: how accurate are climate model projections? Climate models are used to estimate future global warming, and their accuracy can be checked against the actual global warming observed so far. Most comparisons suggest that the world is warming a little more slowly than the model projections indicate. Scientists have wondered whether this difference is meaningful, or just a chance fluctuation.

  • Playing 'tag' with pollution lets scientists see who's 'it'

    Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot and track where it lands, researchers have determined which areas around the Tibetan Plateau contribute the most soot -- and where. The model can also suggest the most effective way to reduce soot on the plateau, easing the amount of warming the region undergoes. The study might help policy makers target pollution reduction efforts.

  • New research will boost grasp of North American carbon cycle

    For centuries, people have transformed and splintered landscapes and ecosystems in North America. This radical altering of nature makes it tough for scientists to analyze the continent’s life-sustaining carbon cycle — the biological, geological and chemical routes the element carbon takes to shift among earth, water and atmosphere.  

  • First measurements taken of South Africa's Iron Age magnetic field history

    A team of researchers has for the first time recovered a magnetic field record from ancient minerals for Iron Age southern Africa (between 1000 and 1500 AD). The data, combined with the current weakening of Earth's magnetic field, suggest that the region of Earth's core beneath southern Africa may play a special role in reversals of the planet's magnetic poles.

  • Origins of life: New model may explain emergence of self-replication on early Earth

    One question of the origin of life in particular remains problematic: what enabled the leap from a primordial soup of individual monomers to self-replicating polymer chains? A new model proposes a potential mechanism by which self-replication could have emerged. It posits that template-assisted ligation, the joining of two polymers by using a third, longer one as a template, could have enabled polymers to become self-replicating.

  • 'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

    The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according to the new research.

  • Washington, DC sinking fast, adding to threat of sea-level rise

    New research confirms that the land under the Chesapeake Bay is sinking rapidly and projects that Washington, DC, could drop by six or more inches in the next century -- adding to the problems of sea-level rise.

  • Cataclysmic event of a certain age

    At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago­ — give or take a few centuries — a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas. New research has narrowed the date to a 100-year range, sometime between 12,835 and 12,735 years ago.

  • Twin volcanic chains above a single hotspot with distinct roots

    Many processes inside the earth are still enigmatic. One of the open questions is how neighboring chains of volcanoes, supplied by the same volcanic hotspot, can emit material of distinct geochemical composition over tens of millions of years?

  • Study is first to quantify global population growth compared to energy use

    As global population grew from about 500 million in 1560 to more than 7 billion, energy usage outpaced population growth. This in effect increased the world's carrying capacity and allowed population to grow exponentially. Since 1963, however, the ratio between energy increases and population growth has narrowed. This change could restrict future population growth.

  • Researchers map out trajectory of April 2015 earthquake in Nepal

    Researchers have accurately mapped out the movement of the devastating 7.8-magnitude Nepal earthquake that killed over 9,000 and injured over 23,000 people. Scientists have determined that the earthquake was a rupture consisting of three different stages. The study could help a rapidly growing region understand its future seismic risks.

  • Destructive high-energy electrons streaking into Earth's atmosphere from space

    Scientists have engaged in a unique study of potentially destructive high-energy electrons streaking into Earth's atmosphere from space, for the first time employing two distinctly different and distant vantage points high above the Earth.

  • Space-eye-view could help stop global wildlife decline

    Conservation scientists need to collaborate with space agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency, to identify measures which help track biodiversity declines around the world. Scientists are calling for urgent cooperation.

  • Pacific reef growth can match rising sea, study suggests

    The coral reefs that have protected Pacific Islanders from storm waves for thousands of years could grow rapidly enough to keep up with escalating sea levels if ocean temperatures do not rise too quickly, according to a new study.

  • Predicting the shape of river deltas

    Researchers have devised a simple way to predict a river delta's shape, given two competing factors: its river's force in depositing sediment into the ocean, and ocean waves' strength in pushing that sediment back along the coast. Depending on the balance of the two, the coastline of a river delta may take on a smooth 'cuspate' shape, or a more pointed 'crenulated' outline, resembling a bird's foot.