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Earth in the News

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

  • Nanodiamonds are forever: Did comet collision leave layer of nanodiamonds across Earth?

    A comet collision with Earth caused abrupt environmental stress and degradation that contributed to the extinction of most large animal species then inhabiting the Americas, a group of scientists suggests. The catastrophic impact and the subsequent climate change also led to the disappearance of the prehistoric Clovis culture, and to human population decline. Now focus has turned to the character and distribution of nanodiamonds, one type of material produced during such an extraterrestrial collision. The researchers found an abundance of these tiny diamonds distributed over 50 million square kilometers across the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Southwest U. S. may face 'megadrought' this century

    Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decade long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” – one that lasts over 30 years – ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century.

  • Pacific plate shrinking as it cools

    The Pacific tectonic plate is not as rigid as scientists believe, according to new calculations. Scientists have determined that cooling of the lithosphere -- the outermost layer of Earth -- makes some sections of the Pacific plate contract horizontally at faster rates than others and cause the plate to deform.

  • Composition of Earth's mantle revisited

    The makeup of Earth's lower mantle, which makes up the largest part of the Earth by volume, is significantly different than previously thought, research suggests. This should shed light on unexplained seismic phenomena.

  • Existing power plants will spew 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

    Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to scientists.

  • Natural methane seepage on U.S. Atlantic ocean margin widespread

    Natural methane leakage from the seafloor is far more widespread on the U.S. Atlantic margin than previously thought, according to a study by researchers from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions.

  • 'Just right' plant growth may make river deltas resilient

    Geologists suggest that an intermediate amount of vegetation -- not too little and not too much -- is most effective at stabilizing freshwater river deltas. Vegetation on marsh surfaces in river deltas can slow the flow of water and cause more sediment to be deposited, helping prevent sea-level rise from drowning sensitive marshlands. But the study finds that, if the vegetation is too tall or dense, it diverts water into the river channel, resulting in less sediment being deposited on the marsh.

  • NASA scientists watching, studying Arctic changes this summer

    As we near the final month of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, NASA scientists are watching the annual seasonal melting of the Arctic sea ice cover. The floating, frozen cap that stretches across the Arctic Ocean shrinks throughout summer until beginning to regrow, typically around mid-September.

  • Nanoparticle research could enhance oil recovery, tracing of fracking fluid

    Researchers are examining how nanoparticles move underground, knowledge that could eventually help improve recovery in oil fields and discover where hydraulic fracking chemicals travel.

  • Sunlight, not microbes, key to carbon dioxide in Arctic

    The vast reservoir of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost is gradually being converted to carbon dioxide after entering the freshwater system in a process thought to be controlled largely by microbial activity. However, researchers say that sunlight and not bacteria is the key to triggering the production of CO2 from material released by Arctic soils.

  • Severe drought is causing the western US to rise like a spring uncoiling

    The severe drought gripping the western United States in recent years is changing the landscape well beyond localized effects of water restrictions and browning lawns. Scientists have used GPS data to discover that the growing, broad-scale loss of water is causing the entire western US to rise up like an uncoiled spring.

  • From dandruff to deep sea vents, an ecologically hyper-diverse fungus

    A ubiquitous skin fungus linked to dandruff, eczema and other itchy, flaky maladies in humans has now been tracked to even further global reaches -- including Hawaiian coral reefs and the extreme environments of arctic soils and deep sea vents. The study considers the diversity, ecology, and distribution of the fungi of the genus Malassezia in light of new insights gained from screening environmental sequencing datasets from around the world.

  • Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in the Atlantic Ocean

    Observations show that the heat absent from the Earth's surface for more than a decade is plunging deep in the north and south Atlantic Ocean, and is part of a naturally occurring cycle. Subsurface warming in the ocean explains why global average air temperatures have flatlined since 1999, despite greenhouse gases trapping more solar heat at Earth's surface.

  • Arctic sea ice influenced force of Gulf Stream

    The force of the Gulf Stream was significantly influenced by the sea ice situation in the Fram Strait in the past 30,000 years. On the basis of biomarkers in deposits on the seafloor, geologists managed for the first time to reconstruct when and how the marine region between Greenland and Svalbard was covered with ice in the past and in what way the Gulf Stream reacted when the sea ice cover suddenly broke up.

  • How the sun caused an aurora this week

    On the evening of Aug. 20, 2014, the International Space Station was flying past North America when it flew over the dazzling, green blue lights of an aurora. On board, astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image of the aurora, seen from above.

  • Ozone-depleting compound persists, NASA research shows

    NASA research shows Earth's atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide.

  • New satellite data will help farmers facing drought

    NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, scheduled to launch this winter, will collect the kind of local data agricultural and water managers worldwide need. SMAP uses two microwave instruments to monitor the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of soil on Earth's surface. Together, the instruments create soil moisture estimates with a resolution of about 6 miles (9 kilometers), mapping the entire globe every two or three days.

  • Life can persist in cold, dark world: Life under Antarctic ice explored

    The first breakthrough article to come out of a massive U.S. expedition to one of Earth's final frontiers shows that there's life and an active ecosystem one-half mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, specifically in a lake that hasn't seen sunlight or felt a breath of wind for millions of years. The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth.

  • Record decline of ice sheets: Scientists map elevation changes of Greenlandic and Antarctic glaciers

    Researchers have for the first time extensively mapped Greenland's and Antarctica's ice sheets with the help of the ESA satellite CryoSat-2 and have thus been able to prove that the ice crusts of both regions momentarily decline at an unprecedented rate. In total the ice sheets are losing around 500 cubic kilometers of ice per year.

  • Nuclear magnetic resonance experiments using Earth's magnetic field

    Earth's magnetic field, a familiar directional indicator over long distances, is routinely probed in applications ranging from geology to archaeology. Now it has provided the basis for a technique which might, one day, be used to characterize the chemical composition of fluid mixtures in their native environments. Researchers have carried out nuclear magnetic resonance experiments using an ultra-low magnetic field comparable to Earth's magnetic field.