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Earth in the News

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

  • Full-annual-cycle models track migratory bird populations throughout the year

    Many birds spend only a few months of the year in their breeding range before leaving to spend the winter in another region or even on another continent, and models that only make use of data from one season may not paint a complete picture. For this reason, researchers have written the first comprehensive review of the different types of full-annual-cycle modeling approaches available to ecologists.

  • Advancing multiple approaches for characterizing permafrost microbes in a changing climate

    To better characterize the microbial activities in the thawing permafrost, scientists have reported on the application of multiple molecular technologies: "omics."

  • NASA Ames reproduces the building blocks of life in laboratory

    NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.

  • Animal functional diversity started out poor, became richer over time

    The finding refutes a hypothesis by the famed evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould that marine creatures underwent an 'early burst' of functional diversity during the dawn of animal life.

  • New data provided by seabed sediments on the climate within the Mediterranean basin over the course of the last 20,000 years

    Scientists have found new data on the weather in the Mediterranean basin over the course of the past 20.000 years thanks to the chemical composition of sediments deposited in its seabed.

  • A new level of earthquake understanding: Surprise findings from San Andreas Fault rock sample

    Researchers studied quartz from the San Andreas Fault at the microscopic scale, the scale at which earthquake-triggering stresses originate. The results could one day lead to a better understanding of earthquakes.

  • Mystery solved: Why seashells' mineral forms differently in seawater

    For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the life in Earth's oceans: Why does calcium carbonate, the tough material of seashells and corals, sometimes take the form of calcite, and at other times form a chemically identical form of the mineral, called aragonite, that is more soluble -- and therefore more vulnerable to ocean acidification?

  • Core work: Iron vapor gives clues to formation of Earth and moon

    One of the world's most powerful radiation sources provides scientists clues about Earth's formation and how iron vaporizes.

  • New NASA soil moisture mapper completes key milestone

    Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, today sent commands to unfurl the 20-foot-wide (6-meter) reflector antenna on NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, launched Jan. 31. The deployment of the mesh reflector antenna, which supports the collection of SMAP's radar and radiometer instrument measurements in space, marks a key milestone in commissioning the satellite. SMAP will soon begin its three-year science mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed.

  • Study of atmospheric 'froth' may help GPS communications

    When you don't know how to get to an unfamiliar place, you probably rely on a smart phone or other device with a Global Positioning System (GPS) module for guidance. You may not realize that, especially at high latitudes on our planet, signals traveling between GPS satellites and your device can get distorted in Earth's upper atmosphere. Researchers are studying irregularities in the ionosphere, a part of the atmosphere centered about 217 miles (350 kilometers) above the ground that defines the boundary between Earth and space.

  • New NASA space cowboy successfully deploys its 'lasso'

    Like a cowboy at a rodeo, NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), has triumphantly raised its "arm" and unfurled a huge golden "lasso" (antenna) that it will soon spin up to rope the best soil moisture maps ever obtained from space.

  • ‘Superhero vision’ technology measures European lake’s water quality from space

    An international team of researchers has demonstrated a way to assess the quality of water on Earth from space by using satellite technology that can visualize pollution levels otherwise invisible to the human eye through 'Superhero vision'.

  • Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

    A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations. The Ross Sea is likely to have been a shelter for emperor penguins for thousands of years during the last ice age, when much of the rest of Antarctica was uninhabitable due to the amount of ice. The findings suggest that while current climate conditions may be optimal for emperor penguins, conditions in the past were too extreme for large populations to survive.

  • How were fossil tracks made by Early Triassic swimming reptiles so well preserved?

    That swim tracks made by tetrapods occur in high numbers in deposits from the Early Triassic is well known. What is less clear is why the tracks are so abundant and well preserved. Paleontologists have now determined that a unique combination of factors in Early Triassic delta systems resulted in the production and unusually widespread preservation of the swim tracks: delayed ecologic recovery, depositional environments, and tetrapod swimming behavior.

  • Cryptochrome protein helps birds navigate via magnetic field

    Researchers have found one one possible explanation for some birds' ability to sense the earth's magnetic field and use it to orient themselves: a magnetically sensitive protein called cryptochrome that mediates circadian rhythms in plants and animals.

  • Sun has more impact on the climate in cool periods

    The activity of the Sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows that the impact of the Sun is not constant over time, but has greater significance when the Earth is cooler.

  • Modern logging techniques benefit rainforest wildlife

    The value of a modern logging technique has been revealed for maintaining biodiversity in tropical forests that are used for timber production. The most comprehensive study of Reduced-Impact Logging (RIL) to date has been completed, surveying wildlife communities over a five-year period before and after timber harvesting.

  • Submarine data used to investigate turbulence beneath Arctic ice

    Using recently released Royal Navy submarine data, researchers have investigated the nature of turbulence in the ocean beneath the Arctic sea-ice. Recent decreases in Arctic sea ice may have a big impact on the circulation, chemistry and biology of the Arctic Ocean, due to ice-free waters becoming more turbulent. By revealing more about how these turbulent motions distribute energy within the ocean, the findings from this study provide information important for accurate predictions of the future of the Arctic Ocean.

  • Embrace unknowns, opt for flexibility in environmental policies, experts say

    We make hundreds, possibly thousands, of decisions each day without having full knowledge of what will happen next. Life is unpredictable, and we move forward the best we can despite not knowing every detail. Likewise, two professors argue that ecosystem managers must learn to make decisions based on an uncertain future.

  • World's challenges demand science changes -- and fast, experts say

    The world has little use -- and precious little time -- for detached experts. A group of scientists -- each of them experts -- makes a compelling case that the growing global challenges has rendered sharply segregated expertise obsolete. Disciplinary approaches to crises like air pollution, climate change, food insecurity, and energy and water shortages, are not only ineffective, but also making many of these crises worse.