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Earth in the News

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

  • Satellite measurements reveal gravity dip from ice loss in West Antarctica

    Although not designed to map changes in Earth's gravity over time, ESA's GOCE satellite has shown that the ice lost from West Antarctica over the last few years has left its signature. More than doubling its planned life in orbit, GOCE spent four years measuring Earth's gravity in unprecedented detail. Researchers have found that the decrease in the mass of ice during this period was mirrored in GOCE's measurements.

  • U.S., India to collaborate on Mars exploration, Earth-observing mission

    In a meeting Sept. 30, 2014 in Toronto, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), signed two documents to launch a NASA-ISRO satellite mission to observe Earth and establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars.

  • Florida's climate boosts soil-carbon storage, cuts greenhouse emissions

    Sequestration helps mitigate carbon-based gases from getting into the atmosphere. A new study shows Florida's warm, wet climate helps keep carbon in the soil. Soil-stored carbon can slow the build-up of carbon-based gases in the atmosphere, a phenomenon believed to be a cause of global climate change.

  • More waters may deserve federal protection, study suggests

    Geographically isolated wetlands can be connected in ways that are largely ignored, but that may be critically important for watershed storage and stabilizing downstream flows, researchers say. The connection between wetlands and federally protected waters should not be limited to those with direct surface connections, they add.

  • Coral's best defender against an army of sea stars: Crabs

    Coral reefs face a suite of perilous threats in today's ocean. From overfishing and pollution to coastal development and climate change, fragile coral ecosystems are disappearing at unprecedented rates. Despite this trend, some species of corals surrounding the island of Moorea in French Polynesia have a natural protector in their tropical environment: coral guard-crabs. New research has helped unravel the complex symbiotic relationship between these crabs and the coral reefs they live in and defend.

  • Space debris expert warns of increasing small satellite collision risk

    The increasing number of small 'CubeSat' satellites being launched combined with a relaxed attitude to debris mitigation could lead to hazards for all space users unless preventative measures are taken, warns a leading space debris expert.

  • Nitrogen fingerprint in biomolecules could be from early sun

    The pattern of nitrogen in biomolecules like proteins, which differ greatly from that seen in other parts of the solar system, could have been generated by the interactions of light from the early sun with nitrogen gas in the nebula, long before Earth formed.

  • Causes of California drought linked to climate change

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California's crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today's global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases, scientists say.

  • While the Arctic is melting, the Gulf Stream remains

    The melting Arctic is not the source for less saline Nordic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream that has provided less salt. A new study documents that the source of fresher Nordic Seas since 1950 is rooted in the saline Atlantic as opposed to Arctic freshwater that is the common inference.

  • Poor fish harvests more frequent now off California coast

    In the past 600 years off the California coast, occasional episodes of diminished ocean upwelling that cause fish populations to crash have occurred naturally. The poor yearly fish harvests seen in the last 60 years aren't any worse in severity than earlier, but are happening more frequently.

  • With few data, Arctic carbon models lack consensus

    As climate change grips the Arctic, how much carbon is leaving its thawing soil and adding to Earth's greenhouse effect? The question has long been debated by scientists. A new study conducted as part of NASA's Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) shows just how much work still needs to be done to reach a conclusion on this and other basic questions about the region where global warming is hitting hardest.

  • If trees could talk: Forest research network reveals global change effects

    Permafrost thaw drives forest loss in Canada, while drought has killed trees in Panama, southern India and Borneo. In the U.S., in Virginia, over-abundant deer eat trees before they reach maturity, while nitrogen pollution has changed soil chemistry in Canada and Panama. More than 100 collaborators have now published a major overview of what 59 forests in 24 countries teach us about forest responses to global change.

  • Fertilizer and fuel: Nitrogen-fixing enzyme also produces hydrocarbons

    Plants need nitrogen and carbon to grow. Photosynthesis allows them to take in the latter directly from the air, but they have to procure nitrogen through their roots in the form of organic molecules like ammonia or urea. Even though nitrogen gas makes up approximately 80 percent of Earth's atmosphere, the plant can only access it in a bound form. Farmers thus use fertilizers to provide their crops with nitrogen. The only living beings that can convert nitrogen from the air into usable molecules are microorganisms. They possess the enzyme nitrogenase, which combines nitrogen with hydrogen to form ammonium. In a new study, researchers have not just contributed to the further elucidation of how this enzyme functions, but also described a unique mechanism it uses to produce hydrocarbons.

  • Experts call for widening the debate on climate change

    Environmental scientists are being urged to broaden the advice they give on global climate change, say experts who are also frustrated that decision makers are not taking enough action.

  • Sand dunes reveal biodiversity secrets in Australia

    Ancient, acidic and nutrient-depleted dunes in Western Australia are not an obvious place to answer a question that has vexed tropical biologists for decades. But the Jurien Bay dunes proved to be the perfect site to unravel why plant diversity varies from place to place. Scientists show that environmental filtering -- but not a host of other theories -- determines local plant diversity in one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots.

  • Efficiently harvesting hydrogen fuel from Sun using Earth-abundant materials

    Scientists have a new efficient way of producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water. By combining a pair of solar cells made with a mineral called perovskite and low cost electrodes, scientists have obtained a 12.3 percent conversion efficiency from solar energy to hydrogen, a record using Earth-abundant materials as opposed to rare metals.

  • Earth's water is older than the sun: Likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space

    Water was crucial to the rise of life on Earth and is also important to evaluating the possibility of life on other planets. Identifying the original source of Earth's water is key to understanding how life-fostering environments come into being and how likely they are to be found elsewhere. New work found that much of our solar system's water likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space.

  • Global sea levels rose up to five meters per century at the end of the last five ice age

    Land-ice decay at the end of the last five ice-ages caused global sea-levels to rise at rates of up to 5.5 metres per century, according to a new study. Researchers developed a 500,000-year record of sea-level variability, to provide the first account of how quickly sea-level changed during the last five ice-age cycles. Scientists also found that more than 100 smaller events of sea-level rise took place in between the five major events.

  • Fossil of ancient multicellular life sets evolutionary timeline back 60 million years

    Geobiologists shed new light on multicellular fossils from a time 60 million years before a vast growth spurt of life known as the Cambrian Explosion occurred on Earth.

  • Natural gas usage will have little effect on carbon dioxide emissions, researchers find

    Abundant supplies of natural gas will do little to reduce harmful U.S. emissions causing climate change, according to researchers. They found that inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.