Earth Science News -- ScienceDaily
Earth science research and news. Read science articles on air quality, geology, meteorology, oceanography, paleontology and science and the environment.
03/22/2017 07:27 PM
Tracing aromatic molecules in the early Universe
A molecule found in car engine exhaust fumes that is thought to have contributed to the origin of life on Earth has made astronomers heavily underestimate the amount of stars that were forming in the early Universe, a study has found. That molecule is called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. On Earth it is also found in coal and tar. In space, it is a component of dust.
03/22/2017 06:31 PM
Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles
The Arctic sea ice maximum extent and Antarctic minimum extent are both record lows this year. Combined, sea ice numbers are at their lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979.
03/22/2017 06:31 PM
Under the dead sea, warnings of dire drought
Nearly 1,000 feet below the bed of the Dead Sea, scientists have found evidence that during past warm periods, the Mideast has suffered drought on scales never recorded by humans -- a possible warning for current times. Thick layers of crystalline salt show that rainfall plummeted to as little as a fifth of modern levels some 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago.
03/22/2017 04:28 PM
Upper part of Earth’s magnetic field reveals details of a dramatic past
Satellites have been mapping the upper part of the Earth magnetic field by collecting data for three years and found some amazing features about the Earth’s crust. The result is the release of highest resolution map of this field seen from space to date. This ‘lithospheric magnetic field’ is very weak and therefore difficult to detect and map from space. But with the Swarm satellites it has been possible.
03/22/2017 02:08 PM
Sinking of seal beach wetlands tied to ancient quakes
When geologists went in search for evidence of ancient tsunamis along Southern California’s coastal wetlands, they found something else. Their discoveries have implications for seismic hazard and risk assessment in coastal Southern California.
03/21/2017 04:38 PM
New species discovered: Protist parasites contribute to the stability of rainforest ecosystems
Tropical rainforests are one of the most species-rich areas on earth. Thousands of animal and plant species live there. The smaller microbial protists, which are not visible to the naked eye, are also native to these forests, where they live in the soils and elsewhere. A team of researchers has examined them more closely by analyzing their DNA. They discovered many unknown species, including many parasites, which may contribute to the stability of rainforest ecosystems.
03/21/2017 04:25 PM
Dead zones may threaten coral reefs worldwide
Dead zones affect dozens of coral reefs around the world and threaten hundreds more according to a new study. Watching a massive coral reef die-off on the Caribbean coast of Panama, they suspected it was caused by a dead zone -- a low-oxygen area that snuffs out marine life -- rather than by ocean warming or acidification.
03/21/2017 01:27 PM
Mars volcano, Earth's dinosaurs went extinct about the same time
Arsia Mons produced one new lava flow at its summit every 1 to 3 million years during the final peak of activity, about 50 million years ago. The last volcanic activity there ceased about 50 million years ago -- around the time of Earth's Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, when large numbers of our planet's plant and animal species (including dinosaurs) went extinct.
03/20/2017 04:03 PM
Unforeseen impacts of the fair trade movement
Fair trade certified coffee is the kind of phrase that sounds good on a Whole Foods shelf, merging first world affluence with third world resource. For the average consumer, it implies fairness in labor and wealth, the idea that small producers profit directly from what they produce.
03/20/2017 03:00 PM
Warning of shortage of essential minerals for laptops, cell phones, wiring
Researchers say global resource governance and sharing of geoscience data is needed to address challenges facing future mineral supply. Specifically of concern are a range of technology minerals, which are an essential ingredient in everything from laptops and cell phones to hybrid or electric cars to solar panels and copper wiring for homes.
03/20/2017 03:00 PM
Reconsider the impact of trees on water cycles and climate, scientists say
Forests and trees play a major role on water cycles and cooler temperatures, contributing to food security and climate change adaptation. In recent decades, the climate change discourse has looked at forests and trees mostly as carbon stocks and carbon sinks, but now scientists are calling for more attention on the relation between trees and water in climate change. A new publication and a symposium try to shed new light on the debate.
03/16/2017 06:11 PM
The carbon dioxide loop
Marine biologists quantify the carbon consumption of bacterioplankton to better understand the ocean carbon cycle.
03/15/2017 10:26 PM
Pattern of mammal dwarfing during global warming
More than 50 million years ago, when the Earth experienced a series of extreme global warming events, early mammals responded by shrinking in size. While this mammalian dwarfism has previously been linked to the largest of these events, new research has found that this evolutionary process can happen in smaller, so-called hyperthermals, indicating an important pattern that could help shape an understanding of underlying effects of current human-caused climate change.
03/15/2017 04:55 PM
Changing temperatures, precipitation may affect living skin of drylands
Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to a new study.
03/15/2017 01:45 PM
Researchers have studied over 100,000 combinations to establish the depth and number of years required for magma to produce a given amount of copper. The same scientists have also devised a model that can detect the quantity of copper held in a deposit by means of a simple factor analysis. The research will make it possible to estimate the potential for mining the metal before beginning any drilling.
03/15/2017 01:44 PM
No publication bias found in climate change research
Rarely do we encounter a scientific fact that stirs public controversy and distrust in science as much as climate change. However, the theory is built on honest reporting of facts, suggests a new study.
03/14/2017 03:13 PM
Did humans create the Sahara desert?
New research investigating the transition of the Sahara from a lush, green landscape 10,000 years ago to the arid conditions found today, suggests that humans may have played an active role in its desertification.
03/14/2017 01:30 PM
Ice age thermostat prevented extreme climate cooling
During the ice ages, an unidentified regulatory mechanism prevented atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from falling below a level that could have led to runaway cooling, reports a team of researchers. The study suggests the mechanism may have involved the biosphere, as plants and plankton struggled to grow under very low carbon dioxide levels.
03/13/2017 08:08 PM
A perfect storm of fire and ice may have led to snowball Earth
What caused the largest glaciation event in Earth's history, known as 'snowball Earth'? Geologists and climate scientists have been searching for the answer for years but the root cause of the phenomenon remains elusive. Now, researchers have a new hypothesis about what caused the runaway glaciation that covered the Earth pole-to-pole in ice.
03/13/2017 05:50 PM
Looming crisis of the much decreased fresh-water supply to Egypt's Nile delta
A multi-year study of Egypt's Nile Delta places the country's major breadbasket at serious risk. The soil-rich delta evolved as the result of natural conditions involving the Nile's fresh water flow and transport of sediment northward from Ethiopia, across the Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean.
03/13/2017 12:58 PM
Boaty McBoatface submersible prepares to dive into the abyss on first Antarctic mission
Boaty McBoatface is joining ocean scientists on an expedition to study some of the deepest and coldest abyssal ocean waters on earth - known as Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) - and how they affect climate change. The team of researchers will assess water flow and underwater turbulence in the Orkney Passage, a region of the Southern Ocean around 3,500m deep and roughly 500 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula. They will use one of the Autosub Long Range class of unmanned submersibles, the latest type of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), now known as Boaty McBoatface, following last year's campaign to name the UK's new polar research ship.
03/13/2017 12:53 PM
Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon
Logging that happens today and potential future rainfall reductions in the Amazon could push the region into a vicious dieback circle. If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds. If however there is a great variety of tree species in a forest patch, according to the study this can significantly strengthen the chance of survival.
03/10/2017 05:17 PM
NASA's aerial survey of polar ice expands its Arctic reach
For the past eight years, Operation IceBridge, a NASA mission that conducts aerial surveys of polar ice, has produced unprecedented three-dimensional views of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, providing scientists with valuable data on how polar ice is changing in a warming world. Now, for the first time, the campaign will expand its reach to explore the Arctic's Eurasian Basin through two research flights based out of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
03/10/2017 02:15 PM
Researchers discovered fungus gnat Paradise in Peruvian Amazonia
Researchers have discovered and identified 16 new fungus gnat species in the Amazonia. The diverse gnat species maintain exceptionally rich parasitoid wasp species, which shows the importance of interdependence between rain forest species.
03/07/2017 04:29 PM
Craters show Earth is bombarded at random
Asteroids don't hit our planet at regular intervals, as was previously thought. Earth scientists have reached this conclusion after analyzing impact craters formed in the last 500 million years, concentrating on precisely dated events.
03/07/2017 03:03 PM
Future climate change will affect plants and soil differently
A new study has found that soil carbon loss is more sensitive to climate change compared to carbon taken up by plants. In drier regions, soil carbon loss decreased but in wetter regions soil carbon loss increased. This could result in a positive feedback to the atmosphere leading to an additional increase of atmospheric CO2 levels.
03/06/2017 04:42 PM
Paleolake deposits on Mars might look like sediments in Indonesia
A new article details the clay mineralogy of sediment from Lake Towuti, Indonesia, using a technique called visible to near-infrared (VNIR) spectroscopy. VNIR measures the signature of reflected light from a sample across a larger wavelength range than just visible light. At Lake Towuti, the spectral record shows distinct variations in clay mineralogy over the past 40,000 years.
03/06/2017 02:27 PM
Underwater mountains help ocean water rise from abyss
At high latitudes, such as near Antarctica and the Arctic Circle, the ocean's surface waters are cooled by frigid temperatures and become so dense that they sink a few thousand meters into the ocean's abyss. Scientists have now identified a mechanism by which waters may rise from the ocean's depths to its uppermost layers.
03/06/2017 02:19 PM
Cold extermination: One of greatest mass extinctions was due to an ice age and not to Earth's warming
The Earth has known several mass extinctions over the course of its history. One of the most important happened at the Permian-Triassic boundary 250 million years ago. Over 95% of marine species disappeared and, up until now, scientists have linked this extinction to a significant rise in Earth temperatures. But researchers have now discovered that this extinction took place during a short ice age which preceded the global climate warming. It's the first time that the various stages of a mass extinction have been accurately understood and that scientists have been able to assess the major role played by volcanic explosions in these climate processes.
03/03/2017 02:13 PM
NASA study improves forecasts of summer Arctic sea ice
The Arctic has been losing sea ice over the past several decades as Earth warms. However, each year, as the sea ice starts to melt in the spring following its maximum wintertime extent, scientists still struggle to estimate exactly how much ice they expect will disappear through the melt season. Now, a new NASA forecasting model based on satellite measurements is allowing researchers to make better estimates.
03/03/2017 02:13 PM
Brake dust may cause more problems than blackened wheel covers
Metals from brakes and other automotive systems are emitted into the air as fine particles, lingering over busy roadways. Now, researchers have shown how that cloud of tiny metal particles could wreak havoc on respiratory health.
03/03/2017 01:13 PM
What global climate change may mean for leaf litter in streams and rivers
Carbon emissions to the atmosphere from streams and rivers are expected to increase as warmer water temperatures stimulate faster rates of organic matter breakdown. But a new study suggests these decay rates may not increase as much as expected. In fact, the study indicates average breakdown rates may increase 5 percent to 21 percent with a 1 degree to 4-degree Celsius rise in water temperature — half as much as the 10 percent to 45 percent increase predicted by metabolic theory.
03/02/2017 07:38 PM
Taking Earth's inner temperature
A new study suggests the mantle -- the mostly solid, rocky part of Earth's interior that lies between its super-heated core and its outer crustal layer -- may be hotter than previously believed. The new finding could change how scientists think about many issues in Earth science including how ocean basins form.
03/02/2017 06:34 PM
Biochemical 'fossil' shows how life may have emerged without phosphate
One major mystery about life's origin is how phosphate became an essential building block of genetic and metabolic machinery in cells, given its poor accessibility on early Earth. Researchers have used systems biology approaches to tackle this long-standing conundrum, providing compelling, data-driven evidence that primitive life forms may not have relied on phosphate at all. Instead, a few simple, abundant molecules could have supported the emergence of a sulfur-based, phosphate-free metabolism.
03/02/2017 02:08 PM
2013 Bingham Canyon landslide, moment by moment
Geoscientists have revisited the 2013 Bingham Canyon landslide with a combined analysis of aerial photos, computer modeling, and seismic data to pick apart the details.