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Earth in the News

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

  • Seeing the forest and the trees, all three trillion of them

    A new international study estimates that there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, about seven and a half times more than some previous estimates. But the total number of trees has plummeted by roughly 46 percent since the start of human civilization. The results provide the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever produced and offer new insights into a class of organism that helps shape most terrestrial biomes.

  • Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe

    The Earth's first mass extinction event 540 million years ago was caused not by a meteorite impact or volcanic super-eruption but by the rise of early animals that dramatically changed the prehistoric environment.

  • Explaining crocodiles in Wyoming

    Fifty million years ago, the Cowboy State was crawling with crocodiles. Fossil records show that crocs lounged in the shade of palm trees from southwestern Wyoming to southern Canada during the Cretaceous and Eocene.  Exactly how the middle of the North American continent -- far from the warming effects of the ocean -- stayed so temperate even in winter months has long eluded scientists.

  • Ancient cold period could provide clues about future climate change

    A well-known period of abrupt climate change 12,000 years ago occurred rapidly in northern latitudes but much more gradually in equatorial regions, a discovery that could prove important for understanding and responding to future climate change, scientists say.

  • Biodiversity belowground is just as important as aboveground

    Although most of the world's biodiversity is below ground, surprisingly little is known about how it affects ecosystems or how it will be affected by climate change. A new study demonstrates that soil bacteria and the richness of animal species belowground play a key role in regulating a whole suite of ecosystem functions on Earth. The authors call for far more attention to this overlooked world of worms, bugs and bacteria in the soil.

  • New international standards needed to manage ocean noise

    As governments and industries expand their use of high-decibel seismic surveys to explore the ocean bottom for resources, experts from eight universities or organizations say new global standards and mitigation strategies are needed to minimize the amount of sound the surveys produce and reduce risks posed to vulnerable marine life, especially in formerly unexploited areas such as the Arctic Ocean and US Atlantic coast now targeted for exploration.

  • How wind sculpted Earth's largest dust deposit

    China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years. The new study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed: wind blew dust from what is now the Mu Us Desert into the huge pile of consolidated dust known as the Loess Plateau. The plateau is the size of the state of Arizona.

  • Oxygen oasis in Antarctic lake reflects Earth in distant past

    At the bottom of a frigid Antarctic lake, a thin layer of green slime is generating a little oasis of oxygen, a team of researchers has found. It's the first modern replica discovered of conditions on Earth two and a half billion years ago, before oxygen became common in the atmosphere.

  • First global antineutrino emission map highlights Earth's energy budget

    A team of geologists and physicists has generated the world's first global map of antineutrino emissions. The map provides an important baseline image of the energy budget of Earth's interior and could help scientists monitor new and existing human-made sources of radiation.

  • New approach to modeling Amazon seasonal cycles developed

    Engineers have developed a new approach, opposite to climate models, to correct inaccuracies using a high-resolution atmospheric model that more precisely resolves clouds and convection and parameterizes the feedback between convection and atmospheric circulation. The new simulation strategy paves the way for better understanding of the water and carbon cycles in the Amazon, enabling researchers to learn more about the role of deforestation and climate change on the forest, authors say.

  • Evidence of ancient life discovered in mantle rocks deep below the seafloor

    Ancient rocks harbored microbial life deep below the seafloor, reports scientists. This first-time evidence was contained in drilled rock samples of Earth's mantle -- thrust by tectonic forces to the seafloor during the Early Cretaceous period. The discovery confirms a long-standing hypothesis that interactions between mantle rocks and seawater can create potential for life even in hard rocks deep below the ocean floor.

  • Volcanic eruptions: Properties of magma influence forecasts

    Many volcanoes are located in densely settled areas. Every time one of these becomes active, large populations are put at risk. Hence, one of the primary goals of the current generation of volcanologists is to develop tools that can accurately predict when volcanoes will erupt. In the case of an impending eruption, these tools are of key importance to those charged with making decisions about what action to take and when.

  • Ants to the rescue: How super-organisms could become super pest controllers

    As global population rises and finite resources dwindle, farmers need new, more sustainable ways to control pests. Now, ecologists have found a safe, sustainable and cost-effective new pest control. But rather than a high-tech compound or genetic technology, it's a tiny, low-tech organism: the ant.

  • Songbird habitat affects reproduction, survival

    A professor who studies birds around the world has discovered trends in how the offspring grow, how parents care for the young and how well the young survive based on where they live.

  • Scientists warn leaders of dangers of thawing permafrost

    WHRC scientists have counseled the State Department on policies that could control permafrost thaw, including reducing global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and deforestation, and limiting emissions of 'black carbon,' sooty particles that darken snow and ice and hasten Arctic warming.

  • Intensity of desert storms may affect ocean phytoplankton

    Scientists have determined that once iron is deposited in the ocean, it has a very short residence time, spending only six months in surface waters before sinking into the deep ocean. This high turnover of iron signals that large seasonal changes in desert dust may have dramatic effects on surface phytoplankton that depend on iron.

  • Soils protect the natural environment

    No matter where you live, soils protect the natural environment around you.

  • Historic 2013 Colorado Front Range storm accomplished up to 1,000 years of erosion

    The historic September 2013 storm that triggered widespread flooding across Colorado's Front Range eroded the equivalent of hundreds, or even as much as 1,000 years worth of accumulated sediment from the foothills west of Boulder, researchers have discovered.

  • Mechanism behind 'strange' earthquakes discovered

    Scientists have discovered the mechanism that generates earthquakes that occur away from tectonic plate boundaries.

  • Lab experiments question popular measure of ancient ocean temperatures

    The membranes of sediment-entombed archaea are an increasingly popular way to determine ocean surface temperatures back to the age of the dinosaurs. But new results show that changing oxygen can affect the reading by as much as 21 degrees C.