About the Museum Museum News Earth in the News Plan Your Visit Contact Us

Earth in the News

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

  • Urban seismic network detects human sounds

    When listening to the Earth, what clues can seismic data reveal about the impact of urban life? Although naturally occurring vibrations have proven useful to seismologists, until now the vibrations caused by humans haven’t been explored in any real depth. Researchers have described their efforts to tap into an urban seismic network to monitor the traffic of trains, planes, automobiles and other modes of human transport.

  • Ammonium source in open ocean tracked by researchers

    To understand the extent to which human activities are polluting Earth's atmosphere and oceans, it's important to distinguish human-made pollutants from compounds that occur naturally. A new study finds that deposition of ammonium, a source of nitrogen pollution, over the open ocean comes mostly from natural marine sources, and not from human activity.

  • Clean smell doesn't always mean clean air

    Scientists are taking a closer look at aerosol formation involving an organic compound -- called limonene -- that provides the pleasant smell of cleaning products and air fresheners. This research will help to determine what byproducts these sweet-smelling compounds are adding to the air while we are using them to remove germs and odors.

  • Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

    Mimicking natural evolution in a test tube, scientists have devised an enzyme with a unique property that might have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth.

  • Upgrading infrastructure could reduce flood damage

    The severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized, according to a new study.

  • Glacier song: Studying how water moves through glaciers

    Mountain glaciers represent one of the largest repositories of fresh water in alpine regions. However, little is known about the processes by which water moves through these systems. Scientists used seismic recordings collected near Lake Gornersee in the Swiss Alps to look for signs of water moving through fractures near the glacier bed. Analysis of these recordings reveals, for the first time, that harmonic tremor occurs within mountain glaciers and that individual icequakes at the glacier base can exhibit harmonic properties. These observations suggest that there is a complex network of fluid-induced fracture processes at the glacier base. Because glacial lake drainage events can occur with little or no warning, there is the potential for damaging floods in valleys below the glacier. Unfortunately, because the water moves under and through the glacier, surface observations alone cannot predict lake drainage events.

  • DNA sequences used to look back in time at key events in plant evolution

    Scientists have revealed important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet. From strange and exotic algae, mosses, ferns, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables we eat and the ornamental plants adorning our homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.

  • Deepwater Horizon spill: Much of the oil at bottom of the sea

    Due to its unprecedented scope, the damage assessment caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a challenge. One unsolved puzzle is the location of 2 million barrels of submerged oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean.

  • Reducing population is no environmental 'quick fix'

    New multi-scenario modelling of world human population has concluded that even stringent fertility restrictions or a catastrophic mass mortality would not bring about large enough change this century to solve issues of global sustainability.

  • Penguin chick weights connected to local weather conditions

    Oceanographers have reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks. Adélie penguins are an indigenous species of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Since 1950, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased 2 degrees Celsius on average, and 6 degrees Celsius during winter.

  • Hail storms: Automatic detection and measurement of crop damage

    Using data from an instrument aboard a 3-year-old satellite, a graduate student hopes to develop a system that will automatically detect and measure crop damage caused by hail storms anywhere in the U.S.

  • Hinode satellite captures X-ray footage of solar eclipse

    The moon passed between the Earth and the sun on Thursday, Oct. 23. While avid stargazers in North America looked up to watch the spectacle, the best vantage point was several hundred miles above the North Pole. The Hinode spacecraft was in the right place at the right time to catch the solar eclipse. What's more, because of its vantage point Hinode witnessed a 'ring of fire' or annular eclipse.

  • Climate change caused by ocean, not just atmosphere

    Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. A new study reveals another equally important factor in regulating Earth's climate. Researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean.

  • Icelandic volcano sits on massive magma hot spot

    New research shows that high mantle temperatures miles beneath the Earth's surface are essential for generating large amounts of magma. In fact, the scientists found that Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano lies directly above the hottest portion of the North Atlantic mantle plume.

  • Desert streams: Deceptively simple

    Volatile rainstorms drive complex landscape changes in deserts, particularly in dryland channels, which are shaped by flash flooding. Paradoxically, such desert streams have surprisingly simple topography with smooth, straight and symmetrical form that until now has defied explanation.

  • Karakoram glacier anomaly resolved, a cold case of climate science

    Researchers may have hit upon an answer to a climate-change puzzle that has eluded scientists for years, namely why glaciers in the Karakoram range of the Himalayas have remained stable and even increased in mass while glaciers nearby and worldwide have been receding. Understanding the 'Karakoram anomaly' could help gauge the future availability of water for hundreds of millions of people.

  • Predicting the predator threatening a squirrel by analyzing its sounds and tail movements

    Biologists found the could quite accurately predict what type of predator was threatening a squirrel by analyzing its sounds and tail movements.

  • Beyond LOL cats, social networks could become trove of biodiversity data

    Social networks can be a viable source for photo-vouchered biodiversity records, especially those that clarify which species exist in what places within developing nations, one expert suggests.

  • Ocean's living carbon pumps: When viruses attack giant algal blooms, global carbon cycles are affected

    By some estimates, almost half of the world's organic carbon is fixed by marine organisms called phytoplankton -- single-celled photosynthetic organisms that account for less than one percent of the total photosynthetic biomass on Earth. When giant algal blooms get viral infections, global carbon cycles are affected, scientists have now discovered.

  • Earthquakes in the ocean: Towards a better understanding of their precursors

    New research offers the first theoretical model that, based on fluid-related processes, explains the seismic precursors of an underwater earthquake. Using quantitative measurements, this innovative model established a link between observed precursors and the mainshock of an earthquake. The results open a promising avenue of research for guiding future investigations on detecting earthquakes before they strike.