Earth in the News

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

  • Unexpected role of electrons in creating pulsating auroras

    Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the dancing auroras. Though humans have been seeing auroras for thousands of years, we have only recently begun to understand what causes them.

  • Hundreds of new species discovered in fragile Eastern Himalayan region

    A sneezing monkey, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are just some of a biological treasure trove of over 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years, according to a new report by WWF.

  • Earth's inner core was formed 1-1.5 billion years ago

    There have been many estimates for when the earth's inner core was formed, but scientists have used new data which indicates that the Earth's inner core was formed 1-1.5 billion years ago as it 'froze' from the surrounding molten iron outer core.

  • Distinguishing coincidence from causality: Connections in the climate system

    Detecting how changes in one spot on Earth -- in temperature, rain, wind -- are linked to changes in another, far away area is key to assessing climate risks. Scientists have now developed a new technique of finding out if one change can cause another change or not, and which regions are important gateways for such teleconnections. The method can be applied to assess global effects of local extreme weather events, but also to the diffusion of disturbances in financial markets, or the human brain.

  • Exploring cost-effective, non-polluting enhanced geothermal systems

    A new fracturing fluid has been created that may increase the ability to develop geothermal energy, scientists report. This advance of tapping the natural heat of Earth may improve the cost-effectiveness and cleanliness of the process.

  • Ancient rocks record first evidence for photosynthesis that made oxygen

    A new study shows that iron-bearing rocks that formed at the ocean floor 3.2 billion years ago carry unmistakable evidence of oxygen. The only logical source for that oxygen is the earliest known example of photosynthesis by living organisms, say geoscientists.

  • Ancient alga knew how to survive on land before it left water and evolved into the first plant

    A team of scientists has solved a long-running mystery about the first stages of plant life on earth.

  • Simpler way to estimate feedback between permafrost carbon, climate

    A simple model of permafrost carbon based on direct observations has been developed by a team of scientists. Their approach could help climate scientists evaluate how well permafrost dynamics are represented in Earth system models used to predict climate change.

  • The warmer the higher: Sea-level rise from Filchner-Ronne ice in Antarctica

    The more ice is melted of the Antarctic Filchner-Ronne shelf, the more ice flows into the ocean, and the more the region contributes to global sea-level rise. Unlike some some other parts of Antarctica, this region is not characterized by instabilities which, once triggered, can lead to persistent ice discharge into the ocean even without a further increase of warming. So for the Filchner-Ronne ice, this is a tiny bit of good news.

  • To breathe or to eat: Blue whales forage efficiently to maintain massive body size

    As the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth, blue whales maintain their enormous body size through efficient foraging strategies that optimize the energy they gain from the krill they eat, while also conserving oxygen when diving and holding their breath, a new study has found.

  • Researchers in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands finds highest rates of unique marine species

    Scientists returned from a 28-day research expedition aboard NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai exploring the deep coral reefs within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. During the trip, scientists recorded numerous species of marine life never before seen, including a possible new species of seahorse, and a sea star not previously found in Hawaii.

  • Ancient ecosystem response to 'big five' mass extinction

    A new study explores one of the 'big five' mass extinctions, the Permian-Triassic event, revealing unexpected results about the types of animals that were most vulnerable to extinction, and the factors that might best predict community stability during times of great change. The authors say cutting-edge modeling techniques helped highlight the critical importance of understanding food webs (knowing 'who eats what') when trying to predict what communities look like before, during, and after a mass extinction.

  • Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

    The debate whether an asteroid impact or volcanic eruptions in India led to the mass extinction 66 million years ago is becoming increasingly irrelevant, as new dates for the eruptions show that the two catastrophes were nearly simultaneous. Scientists found that the eruptions accelerated within 50,000 years of the impact and were likely reignited by the impact, which may have generated magnitude 9 earthquakes or stronger everywhere on Earth.

  • Simulating path of 'magma mush' inside an active volcano

    The first simulation of the individual crystals in volcanic mush, a mix of liquid magma and solid crystals, shows mixing to help understand the buildup of pressure deep inside a volcano.

  • Rock samples from Western US teach how to hunt for life on Mars

    With news coming this week that NASA has confirmed the presence of flowing saltwater on the surface of Mars, the hunt for life on the Red Planet has new momentum. Now, Eocene rock samples from the Green River formation could guide the search for astrobiology.

  • Engines of change: Scientists recover rare earths from electric and hybrid vehicle motors

    In an effort to help develop a domestic supply of rare earth elements, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have developed a novel method of chemically separating these materials -- specifically neodymium, dysprosium, and praseodymium -- from the drive units and motors of discarded electric and hybrid cars. The goal is to recycle rare earths that would otherwise be lost in a sustainable and efficient manner.

  • New water-tracing technology to help protect groundwater

    New water-tracing technology has been used in the Sydney Basin for the first time to determine how groundwater moves in the different layers of rock below the surface. The study provides a baseline against which any future impacts on groundwater from mining operations, groundwater abstraction or climate change can be assessed. The research has global relevance because this new technology provides a quick and cheap alternative to having to install numerous boreholes for groundwater monitoring.

  • Earthquake rupture halted by seamounts

    Experts expected for some time that one of the next mega earthquakes occurs off northern Chile. But when the earth did tremble around the northern Chilean city of Iquique in 2014, the strength and areal extent of shaking was much smaller than anticipated. Geologists now publish a possible explanation.

  • Large trees -- key climate influencers -- die first in drought

    In forests worldwide, drought consistently has had a more detrimental impact on the growth and survival of larger trees, new research shows. In addition, while the death of small trees may affect the dominance of trees in a landscape, the death of large trees has a far worse impact on the ecosystem and climate's health, especially due to the important role that trees play in the carbon cycle.

  • Arctic sea ice still too thick for regular shipping route through Northwest Passage

    Despite climate change, sea ice in the Northwest Passage (NWP) remains too thick and treacherous for it to be a regular commercial Arctic shipping route for many decades, according to new research. Prior to this research, there was little information about the thickness of sea ice in the NWP. Next to ice coverage and type, sea ice thickness plays the most important role in assessing shipping hazards and predicting ice break-up.