Earth in the News

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

  • Tropical trees use unique method to resist drought

    Tropical trees in the Amazon Rainforest may be more drought resistant than previously thought, according to a new study. That's good news, since the Amazon stores about 20 percent of all carbon in the Earth's biomass, which helps reduce global warming by lowering the planet's greenhouse gas levels.

  • Theory suggests root efficiency, independence drove global spread of flora

    Researchers suggest that plants spread worldwide thanks to root adaptations that allowed them to become more efficient and independent. As plant species spread, roots became thinner so they could more efficiently explore poor soils for nutrients, and they shed their reliance on symbiotic fungi. The researchers report that root diameter and reliance on fungi most consistently characterize the plant communities across entire biomes such as deserts, savannas and temperate forests.

  • 'Chameleon' ocean bacteria can shift their colors

    Cyanobacteria -- which propel the ocean engine and help sustain marine life -- can shift their color like chameleons to match different colored light across the world's seas, according to new research.

  • Distant tropical storms have ripple effects on weather close to home

    Researchers report a breakthrough in making accurate predictions of weather weeks ahead. They've created an empirical model fed by careful analysis of 37 years of historical weather data. Their model centers on the relationship between two well-known global weather patterns: the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the quasi-biennial oscillation.

  • Open data help scientists unravel Earth systems

    Understanding nature and its processes has greatly benefitted from open data. Open remotely sensed data make hard-to-reach wilderness areas more accessible -- at least from above. These advances provide new opportunities for Earth system research.

  • Beluga whales dive deeper, longer to find food in Arctic

    Beluga whales that spend summers feeding in the Arctic are diving deeper and longer to find food than in earlier years, when sea ice covered more of the ocean for longer periods, according to a new analysis.

  • Land use change has warmed Earth's surface

    Recent changes to vegetation cover are causing Earth's surface to heat up. Activities like cutting down evergreen forests for agricultural expansion in the tropics create energy imbalances that lead to higher local surface temperatures and contribute to global warming.

  • Laser-ranged satellite measurement now accurately reflects Earth's tidal perturbations

    Tides on Earth have a far-reaching influence, including disturbing satellites' measurements by affecting their motion. The LAser RElativity Satellite (LARES), is the best ever relevant test particle to move in the Earth's gravitational field. In a new study, LARES proves its efficiency for high-precision probing of General Relativity and fundamental physics.

  • Involving the public in water policies is key to successful municipal water systems, study finds

    Informing residents about local water issues and involving them in local water policies are the keys to building healthy and resilient city water systems, according to a new study.

  • Nitrate flux in the Arctic not following the decreasing NOx emissions in neighboring countries

    Nitrate deposits in the Arctic remains high even after the turn of the century, despite environmental policies adopted by neighboring countries in the late 20th century to cut nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

  • Plants colonized Earth 100 million years earlier than previously thought

    A new study on the timescale of plant evolution has concluded that the first plants to colonize the Earth originated around 500 million years ago -- 100 million years earlier than previously thought.

  • Scientists eavesdrop on volcanic rumblings to forecast eruptions

    Sound waves generated by burbling lakes of lava atop some volcanoes point to greater odds of magmatic outbursts. This finding could provide advance warning to people who live near active volcanoes.

  • Soft tissue fossil clues could help search for ancient life on Earth and other planets

    Fossils that preserve entire organisms (including both hard and soft body parts) are critical to our understanding of evolution and ancient life on Earth. However, these exceptional deposits are extremely rare. New research suggests that the mineralogy of the surrounding earth is key to conserving soft parts of organisms, and finding more exceptional fossils. The work could potentially support the Mars Rover Curiosity in its sample analysis, and speed up the search for traces of life on other planets.

  • Geophysicists and atmospheric scientists partner to track typhoons' seismic footprints

    A remarkable collaboration between atmospheric science and geophysics could change the way we think about storms and seismicity, and could lead to an answer to the often-asked 'Are hurricanes getting stronger?' The team has identified the seismic footprint of typhoons and hurricanes, which allows climate scientists to add decades to their dataset of powerful storms.

  • Mystery of phytoplankton survival in nutrient-poor pacific

    Upwelling in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean provides essential nutrients for the region’s microscopic plants, but iron – a key ingredient that facilitates nitrogen consumption – is in short supply. To compensate, the phytoplankton band together to recycle the scarce metal and retain it in their upper-ocean habitat, scientists have discovered.

  • Deforestation in the tropics

    Tropical forests around the world play a key role in the global carbon cycle and harbor more than half of the species worldwide. However, increases in land use during the past decades caused unprecedented losses of tropical forest. Scientists have adapted a method from physics to mathematically describe the fragmentation of tropical forests. They explain how this allows to model and understand the fragmentation of forests on a global scale. They found that forest fragmentation in all three continents is close to a critical point beyond which fragment number will strongly increase. This will have severe consequences for biodiversity and carbon storage.

  • Don't blame hurricanes for most big storm surges in Northeast

    Hurricanes spawn most of the largest storm surges in the northeastern US, right? Wrong, according to a new study. Extratropical cyclones, including nor'easters and other non-tropical storms, generate most of the large storm surges in the Northeast, according to the new study. They include a freak November 1950 storm and devastating nor'easters in March 1962 and December 1992.

  • Key to predicting climate change could be blowing in the wind

    Dust that blew into the North Pacific Ocean could help explain why the Earth's climate cooled 2.7 million years ago, according to a new study.

  • Risk of extreme weather events higher if Paris Agreement goals aren't met

    The Paris Agreement has aspirational goals of limiting temperature rise that won't be met by current commitments. That difference could make the world another degree warmer and considerably more prone to extreme weather.

  • Analysis of major earthquakes supports stress reduction assumptions

    A comprehensive analysis of 101 major earthquakes around the Pacific ring of fire between 1990 and 2016 shows that most of the aftershock activity occurred on the margins of the areas where the faults slipped a lot during the main earthquakes. The findings support the idea that the area of large slip during a major earthquake is unlikely to rupture again for a substantial time.