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Earth in the News

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

  • Impact glass from asteroids and comets stores biodata for millions of years

    Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists exploring large fields of impact glass in Argentina suggest that what happened on Earth might well have happened on Mars millions of years ago. Martian impact glass could hold traces of organic compounds.

  • Vitamin B3 might have been made in space, delivered to Earth by meteorites

    Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.

  • Fewer sources for self-cleaning air: Study overturns existing knowledge on nitrous acid, HONO

    Up to now, nitrous acid, HONO, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals, OH, which is regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. Scientists have put an end to this conception. The new hypothesis is based on air measurements recorded by a Zeppelin NT.

  • There's something ancient in the icebox: Three-million-year-old landscape beneath Greenland Ice Sheet

    Scientists were greatly surprised to discover an ancient tundra landscape preserved under the Greenland Ice Sheet, below two miles of ice. This finding provides strong evidence that the ice sheet has persisted much longer than previously known, enduring through many past periods of global warming.

  • Biologists help solve fungal mysteries, inform studies on climate change

    A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate change. Huge populations of fungi are churning away in the soil in pine forests, decomposing organic matter and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

  • Methane climate change risk suggested by proof of redox cycling of humic substances

    Disruption of natural methane-binding process may worsen climate change, scientists have suggested, painting a stark warning on the possible effects of gases such as methane -- which has a greenhouse effect 32 times that of carbon dioxide. Researchers have shown that humic substances act as fully regenerable electron acceptors which helps explain why large amount of methane are held in wetlands instead of being released to the atmosphere.

  • Study shows lasting effects of drought in rainy Eastern U.S.

    This spring, more than 40 percent of the western U.S. is in a drought that the USDA deems "severe" or "exceptional." The same was true in 2013. In 2012, drought even spread to the humid east. But new research shows how short-lived but severe climatic events can trigger cascades of ecosystem change that last for centuries.

  • Mars: Meteorites yield clues to Red Planet's early atmosphere

    Geologists analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars to understand the history of the Martian atmosphere. Their new article shows the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways early in the solar system's 4.6 billion year evolution.

  • Air temperature influenced African glacial movements at height of last ice age

    Changes in air temperature, not precipitation, drove the expansion and contraction of glaciers in Africa's Rwenzori Mountains at the height of the last ice age, according to research. The results -- along with a recent study that found air temperature also likely influenced the fluctuating size of South America's Quelccaya Ice Cap over the past millennium -- support many scientists' suspicions that today's tropical glaciers are rapidly shrinking primarily because of a warming climate rather than declining snowfall or other factors.

  • Crucial new information about how the ice ages came about

    Scientists have discovered new relationships between deep-sea temperature and ice-volume changes to provide crucial new information about how the ice ages came about. The researchers found, for the first time, that the long-term trends in cooling and continental ice-volume cycles over the past 5.3 million years were not the same. In fact, for temperature the major step toward the ice ages that have characterized the past two to three million years was a cooling event at 2.7 million years ago, but for ice-volume the crucial step was the development of the first intense ice age at around 2.15 million years ago. Before these results, these were thought to have occurred together at about 2.5 million years ago.

  • Significant baseline levels of arsenic found in soil throughout Ohio are due to natural processes

    Geologic and soil processes are to blame for significant baseline levels of arsenic in soil throughout Ohio, according to a new study. Every sample had concentrations higher than the screening level of concern recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The researchers found that the patterns of arsenic in Ohio soils are most closely related to the arsenic content of the underlying bedrock, which was formed approximately 250 to 300 million years ago. Glacial and soil processes have modified the landscape since.

  • A greener source of polyester: Cork trees

    On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out how to extract a natural, waterproof, antibacterial version of the first material from the latter. Their new technique could have applications in medical devices.

  • Warm U.S. West, cold East: 4,000-year pattern; Global warming may bring more curvy jet streams during winter

    Last winter’s curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A new study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, and suggests it may worsen as Earth’s climate warms.

  • New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

    Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans and the rest of our planet's living kingdoms. How did it all begin?

  • New technique will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis

    Photosynthesis provides fixed carbon and energy for nearly all life on Earth, yet many aspects of this fascinating process remain mysterious. We do not know the full list of the parts of the molecular machines that perform photosynthesis in any organism. A team developed a highly sophisticated tool that will transform the work of plant geneticists on this subject.

  • Earthquake simulation tops one petaflop mark

    Computer scientists, mathematicians and geophysicists have optimized the SeisSol earthquake simulation software on the SuperMUC high performance computer to push its performance beyond the 'magical' one petaflops mark -- one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

  • Bizarre parasite may provide cuttlefish clues

    New research into parasites of cuttlefish, squid and octopus has uncovered details of the parasites’ astonishing life cycles, and shown how they may help in investigating populations of their hosts.

  • Deforestation could intensify climate change in Congo Basin by half

    By 2050, deforestation could cause temperatures in the Congo Basin to increase by 0.7 °C. The increase would intensify warming caused by greenhouse gases by half, according to a new study.

  • Plugging an ozone hole: Extreme Antarctic ozone holes have not been replicated in Arctic

    Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers, and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven’t yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, in part because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful.

  • Air pollution over Asia influences global weather and makes Pacific storms more intense

    In the first study of its kind, scientists have compared air pollution rates from 1850 to 2000 and found that anthropogenic (human-made) particles from Asia impact the Pacific storm track that can influence weather over much of the world.