Earth in the News

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

  • Phosphorus nutrition can hasten plant and microbe growth in arid, high elevation sites

    Glacial retreat in cold, high-altitude ecosystems exposes environments that are extremely sensitive to phosphorus input, new research shows. The finding upends previous ecological assumptions, helps scientists understand plant and microbe responses to climate change and could expand scientists' understanding of the limits to life on Earth.

  • Top nitrogen researchers imagine world beyond fossil fuels

    At the invitation of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, 17 top experts in nitrogen research gathered to discuss nitrogen activation chemistry and the field's future.

  • Bacteria and viruses ejected from the ocean

    Certain types of bacteria and viruses are readily ejected into the atmosphere when waves break; others less so, researchers reported. A team of chemists, oceanographers, microbiologists, geneticists, and pediatric medicine specialists are attempting to understand how far potentially infectious bacteria and viruses can travel and if those that pose the greatest risks to public health are among those most likely to escape the ocean.

  • Dusty rainfall records reveal new understanding of Earth's long-term climate

    Ancient rainfall records stretching 550,000 years into the past may upend scientists' understanding of what controls the Asian summer monsoon and other aspects of the Earth's long-term climate. Milankovitch theory says solar heating of the northernmost part of the globe drives the world's climate swings between ice ages and warmer periods. The new work turns Milankovitch in its head by suggesting climate is driven by differential heating of the Earth's tropical and subtropical regions.

  • When the dinosaurs died, so did forests -- and tree-dwelling birds

    Sixty-six million years ago, the world burned. An asteroid crashed to Earth with a force one million times larger than the largest atomic bomb, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. But dinosaurs weren't the only ones that got hit hard -- in a new study, scientists learned that the planet's forests were decimated, leading to the extinction of tree-dwelling birds.

  • Did the Chicxulub asteroid knock Earth's thermometer out of the ballpark?

    When the Chicxulub asteroid smashed into Earth 65 million years ago, the event drove an abrupt and long-lasting era of global warming, with a rapid temperature increase of 5° Celsius (C) that endured for roughly 100,000 years, a new study reports.

  • New theory finds 'traffic jams' in jet stream cause abnormal weather patterns

    A study offers an explanation for a mysterious and sometimes deadly weather pattern in which the jet stream, the global air currents that circle the Earth, stalls out over a region. Much like highways, the jet stream has a capacity, researchers said, and when it's exceeded, blockages form that are remarkably similar to traffic jams -- and climate forecasters can use the same math to model them both.

  • Cold production of new seafloor

    Magma steadily emerges between oceanic plates. It pushes the plates apart, builds large underwater mountains and forms new seafloor. This is one of the fundamental processes that constantly change the face of the Earth. But there are also times when new seabed is created without any volcanism, by un-roofing mantle material directly at the seafloor. Scientists have now published the first estimation based on seismic data on how much seafloor is produced this way.

  • Volcano 'libraries' could help plan for future volcanic crises

    Crystals from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption have demonstrated a new way to recognize pre-eruption signals at Eyjafjallajökull and potentially other, similar volcanoes around the world.

  • For the past 70 years, the Danube has almost never frozen over

    Since the 1950s, warmer and warmer winters and man-made inflows have largely prevented ice formation on Europe's second-largest river.

  • Giant clams tell the story of past typhoons

    A highly precise method to determine past typhoon occurrences from giant clam shells has been developed, with the hope of using this method to predict future cyclone activity.

  • Land rising above the sea 2.4 billion years ago changed planet Earth

    Chemical signatures in shale, the Earth's most common sedimentary rock, point to a rapid rise of land above the ocean 2.4 billion years ago that possibly triggered dramatic changes in climate and life.

  • The gypsum gravity chute: A phytoplankton-elevator to the ocean floor

    Tiny gypsum crystals can make phytoplankton so heavy that they rapidly sink, hereby transporting large quantities of carbon to the ocean's depths.

  • Widespread ocean anoxia was cause for past mass extinction

    For decades, scientists have conducted research centered around the five major mass extinctions that have shaped the world we live in. The extinctions date back more than 450 million years with the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction to the deadliest extinction, the Late Permian extinction 250 million years ago that wiped out over 90 percent of species.

  • Japanese student discovers new crustacean species in deep sea hydrothermal vent

    A new species of microcrustacean was collected from a submarine hot spring (hydrothermal vent) of a marine volcano (Myojin-sho caldera) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan. This crustacean group is found only in deep-sea hydrothermal vents and is the first of its kind found in Japanese waters.

  • No evidence of natural gas from fracking in found Ohio drinking water

    A study of drinking water in Appalachian Ohio found no evidence of natural gas contamination from recent oil and gas drilling. Geologists examined drinking water in northeast Ohio where many residents rely on water from private underground wells.

  • Shocking study shows one third of world's protected areas degraded by human activities

    A shocking study confirms that one third of the world's protected areas -- an astonishing 2.3 million square miles or twice the size of the state of Alaska -- are now under intense human pressure including road building, grazing, and urbanization.

  • New Zealand has its own population of blue whales

    A group of blue whales that frequent the South Taranaki Bight (STB) between the North and South islands of New Zealand appears to be part of a local population that is genetically distinct from other blue whales in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, a new study has found.

  • Explaining the history of Australia's vegetation

    New research has uncovered the history of when and why the native vegetation that today dominates much of Australia first expanded across the continent.

  • The survival of sea birds affected by ocean cycles

    In a general context of climate change, researchers have revealed the impact of ocean cycles, such as the Pacific decadal oscillation and El Niño, on the survival of the Nazca booby. Their research shows for the first time that long cycles directly affect the survival of adult populations.