Earth Science News -- ScienceDaily

Earth science research and news. Read science articles on air quality, geology, meteorology, oceanography, paleontology and science and the environment.

06/15/2018 08:44 PM
Better be safe than sorry: Economic optimization risks tipping of Earth system elements
Optimizing economic welfare without constraints might put human well-being at risk, a new climate study argues. While being successful in bringing down costs of greenhouse gas reductions for instance, the concept of profit maximization alone does not suffice to avoid the tipping of critical elements in the Earth system which could lead to dramatic changes of our lifelihood. The scientists use mathematical experiments to compare economic optimization to the governance concepts of sustainability and the more recent approach of a safe operating space for humanity. All of these turn out to have their benefits and deficits, yet the profit-maximizing approach shows the greatest likelihood of producing outcomes that harm people or the environment.

06/15/2018 08:44 PM
Land-based portion of massive East Antarctic ice sheet retreated little during past eight million years
Large parts of the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet did not retreat significantly during a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were similar to today's levels.

06/15/2018 02:48 PM
Dry riverbeds are contributing to climate change more than previously thought
A massive world-wide study of dry riverbeds has found they're contributing more carbon emissions than previously thought, and this could help scientists better understand how to fight climate change.

06/15/2018 02:38 AM
Leading Antarctic experts offer two possible views of continent's future
The next 10 years will be critical for the future of Antarctica, and choices made will have long-lasting consequences, says an international group of Antarctic research scientists. It lays out two different plausible future scenarios for the continent and its Southern Ocean over the next 50 years.

06/14/2018 03:12 PM
What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today
The retreat of the West Antarctic ice masses after the last Ice Age was reversed surprisingly about 10,000 years ago, scientists found. The reason for the rebound is that, relieved from the weight of the retreating ice, the Earth crust lifted. This made the ice re-advance towards the ocean. Unfortunately, this mechanism is much to slow to prevent dangerous sea-level rise caused by West Antarctica's ice-loss in the present and near future.

06/14/2018 02:52 PM
True origin of ancient turquoise
New research overturns more than a century of claims that the source of turquoise used and revered by ancient civilizations in Mexico, such as the Aztecs, came from the Southwestern US Geochemical analyses show the origin of the turquoise is Mesoamerica (Central Mexico to Central America).

06/13/2018 09:30 PM
Decades of satellite monitoring reveal Antarctic ice loss
Scientists have reviewed decades of satellite measurements to reveal how and why Antarctica's glaciers, ice shelves and sea ice are changing. Their report explains how ice shelf thinning and collapse have triggered an increase in the continent's contribution to sea level rise.

06/13/2018 09:30 PM
Antarctica ramps up sea level rise
Ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3.0 mm) coming in the last five years alone. The findings are from a major climate assessment known as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE). It is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date -- 84 scientists from 44 international organizations combined 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.

06/13/2018 09:30 PM
Ancient agricultural activity caused lasting environmental changes
Agricultural activity by humans more than 2,000 years ago had a more significant and lasting impact on the environment than previously thought.

06/13/2018 09:28 PM
Ammonia distribution in Earth's upper atmosphere
A new study helps clarify how ammonia is present in Earth's upper atmosphere. Using computer modeling, the researchers found ammonia molecules trapped in liquid cloud droplets are released during convection where these particles freeze and subsequently collide in the upper atmosphere.

06/13/2018 04:36 PM
Old Man River's unique chemical signature
Human activity greatly impacts the natural chemistry of the largest river in North America -- the Mississippi River. In a new, large-scale study, geologists have identified a unique chemical signature in the river.

06/13/2018 03:20 PM
Painted lady's roundtrip migratory flight is the longest recorded in butterflies
Researchers found that painted lady butterflies return from the Afrotropical region to recolonize the Mediterranean in early spring, traveling an annual distance of 12,000 km across the Sahara Desert.

06/13/2018 03:19 PM
Simple chemical process that may have led to the origin of life on Earth
Research has shown that reactions of alpha-hydroxy acids, similar to the alpha-amino acids that make up modern proteins, form large polymers easily under conditions presumed prevalent on early Earth. These alpha-hydroxy acid polymers may have aided in the formation of living systems on early Earth.

06/12/2018 11:51 PM
New technology has bright prospects for understanding plant biodiversity
Biologists get a new look at plant biodiversity and function with new imaging technology.

06/12/2018 01:00 PM
Researchers investigate the correlation between wind and wave height in the Arctic Ocean
An international research team has found an increase in high waves and winds in the ice-free waters of the Arctic Ocean, a potentially dangerous navigational tipping point for the 'new and unusual' state of the waters.

06/11/2018 09:05 PM
Volcanic activity, declining ocean oxygen triggered mass extinction of ancient organisms
Global climate change, fueled by skyrocketing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is siphoning oxygen from today's oceans at an alarming pace -- so fast that scientists aren't entirely sure how the planet will respond.

06/11/2018 06:38 PM
Further drivers of ocean deoxygenation identified
Measurements as well as model calculations equally show that the oxygen inventory of the oceans is decreasing. However, the models underestimate this decrease significantly making projections into the future problematic.

06/08/2018 05:31 AM
Minerology on Mars points to a cold and icy ancient climate
The climate throughout Mars' early history has long been debated -- was the Red Planet warm and wet, or cold and icy? New research published in Icarus provides evidence for the latter.

06/07/2018 04:26 PM
In a hole in a tunicate there lived a hobbit: New shrimp species named after Bilbo Baggins
A new species of shrimp was named after Tolkien's Bilbo Baggins thanks to its small size and hairy feet. The new species, Odontonia bagginsi, was described, figured and named together with another new species: Odontonia plurellicola. Both shrimps live symbiotically inside tunicates collected around Ternate and Tidore, Indonesia. In the present study anatomical and genetic characters were used to place the new species in the tree of life.

06/07/2018 03:10 PM
Scientists use 4D scanning to predict behavior of volcanoes
Scientists are using the latest in 4D technology to predict the behavior of lava flows and its implications for volcanic eruptions. The results explain why some lava flows can cover kilometers in just a few hours, whilst others travel more slowly during an eruption, highlighting the hazard posed by fast-moving flows which often pose the most danger to civilian populations close to volcanoes.

06/06/2018 07:37 PM
Patenting marine genetic resources: Who owns ocean biodiversity?
Marine organisms have evolved to thrive in various ocean environments, resulting in unique adaptations that make them the object of commercial interest. Researchers have identified 862 marine species, with a total of 12,998 genetic sequences associated with a patent. They found that a single transnational corporation (BASF, the world's largest chemical manufacturer) has registered 47 percent of these sequences.

06/06/2018 02:37 PM
Nutrient pollution makes ocean acidification worse for coral reefs
A new study showed that local impacts of humans -- nutrient pollution from activities on land -- may accelerate the negative impacts of global ocean acidification on coral reefs.

06/06/2018 02:37 PM
Large-scale and sustainable 3D printing with the most ubiquitous natural material
Researchers have recently demonstrated the use of cellulose to sustainably manufacture/fabricate large 3D objects. Their approach diverges from the common association of cellulose with green plants and is inspired by the wall of the fungus-like oomycetes, which is reproduced introducing small amounts of chitin between cellulose fibers. The resulting fungal-like adhesive material(s) (FLAM) are strong, lightweight and inexpensive, and can be molded or processed using woodworking techniques.

06/05/2018 08:41 PM
Earth could have supported continental crust, life earlier than thought
The early Earth might have been habitable much earlier than thought, according to new research.

06/05/2018 08:41 PM
Scientists analyze first direct images of dissolved organic carbon from the ocean
In a first, researchers have obtained direct images of dissolved organic carbon molecules from the ocean, allowing better analysis and characterization of compounds that play an important role in the Earth's changing climate.

06/05/2018 04:21 PM
Groundwater pumping can increase arsenic levels in irrigation and drinking water
Pumping an aquifer to the last drop squeezes out more than water. A new study finds it can also unlock dangerous arsenic from buried clays -- and reveals how sinking land can provide an early warning and measure of contamination.

06/05/2018 04:21 PM
Researchers shine a light on more accurate way to estimate climate change
By using satellite data from different major land-based ecosystems around the globe, researchers have found that the photosynthesis glow is the same across all vegetation, no matter the location. This first-of-its-kind global analysis could have significance in providing more accurate data for scientists working to model carbon cycle and eventually help better project climate change.

06/05/2018 03:35 PM
Scientists find pre-earthquake activity in central Alaska
New research may help future work in early warning systems for earthquakes. Scientists found evidence for accelerating activity before a 2016 earthquake in a laterally moving fault zone in central Alaska including a process that has previously only been seen in laboratory experiments.

06/05/2018 03:34 PM
The key triggers of the costly 2017 wildfire season
New research shows that three major 'switches' affecting wildfire -- fuel, aridity, and ignition -- were either flipped on and/or kept on longer than expected last year, triggering one of the largest and costliest US wildfire seasons in recent decades.

06/05/2018 03:34 PM
Large igneous provinces contribute to ups and downs in atmospheric carbon dioxide
Modelling the location of large igneous provinces for the past 400 million years shows that their eruptions and subsequent weathering modulate global climate.

06/05/2018 03:34 PM
New insight into Earth's crust, mantle and outer core interactions
A new study uses previously unavailable data to confirm a correlation between the movement of plate tectonics on the Earth's surface, the flow of mantle above the Earth's core and the rate of reversal of the Earth's magnetic field, which has long been hypothesized.

06/04/2018 10:26 PM
Alien apocalypse: Can any civilization make it through climate change?
Does the universe contain planets with truly sustainable civilizations? Or does every civilization that may have arisen in the cosmos last only a few centuries before it falls to the climate change it triggers? Astrophysicists have developed a mathematical model to illustrate how a technologically advanced population and its planet might develop together, putting climate change in a cosmic context.

06/04/2018 08:54 PM
New way to estimate magma beneath Yellowstone supervolcano
Researchers have found a new way to estimate how fast magma is recharging beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. While their findings offer no help in predicting if the volcano will erupt, they can now get a better understanding of a key factor -- a pool of basalt magma recharging the system -- in how it works.

06/04/2018 08:12 PM
Thank the moon for Earth's lengthening day
A new study that reconstructs the deep history of our planet's relationship to the moon shows that 1.4 billion years ago, a day on Earth lasted just over 18 hours. This is at least in part because the moon was closer and changed the way the Earth spun around its axis.

06/04/2018 08:11 PM
Pacific rats trace 2,000 years of human impact on island ecosystems
Rats were carried on ships as humans settled the remote islands of the Pacific. Analysis of the rats' remains reveals changes humans made to the island ecosystems.

06/04/2018 08:11 PM
Ancient Greenland was much warmer than previously thought
Although researchers have long known that the last two interglacial periods experienced warming in the Arctic due to changes in the Earth's orbit, a mix of fly species preserved from these times in a rare lake sediment core shows that Greenland was even warmer than previously thought. This information could help researchers better gauge Greenland's sensitivity to warming, by testing and improving models of climate and ice sheet behavior.

06/04/2018 04:26 PM
Long thought silent because of ice, study shows east Antarctica seismically active
Half of Antarctica has long thought to be seismically dormant, but a researcher tripled the number of recorded earthquakes by monitoring for just one year.

06/04/2018 04:25 PM
Doubt cast on the predictive value of earthquake foreshocks
A new study questions previous findings about the value of foreshocks as warning signs that a big earthquake is coming, instead showing them to be indistinguishable from ordinary earthquakes.

06/01/2018 06:47 PM
Reconstructing longest American water level, instrumented flood record, in Boston Harbor
Using newly-discovered archival measurements to construct an instrumental record of water levels and storm tides in Boston since 1825, researchers report that local averaged relative sea level rose by nearly a foot (0.28 meters) over the past 200 years, with the greatest increase occurring since 1920. The work also highlights tides and their significant effect on flooding in the city.

06/01/2018 06:47 PM
New approach boosts effort to scale up biodiversity monitoring
The value of ecological biodiversity for maintaining ecosystem stability and function is well established, but a recent study points to a novel way to fine-tune our ability to measure it at larger scales.

06/01/2018 06:47 PM
NASA soil moisture data advances global crop forecasts
Data from the first NASA satellite mission dedicated to measuring the water content of soils is now being used operationally by the US Department of Agriculture to monitor global croplands and make commodity forecasts.

06/01/2018 02:38 PM
UAV aircrafts provide new insights into the formation of the smallest particles in Arctic
Investigations of the atmosphere by means of unmanned mini-airplanes can contribute significantly to the investigation of the causes of Arctic climate change, as they provide an insight into ground-level air layers that are not monitored by other measuring stations.

05/31/2018 07:29 PM
Scientists rethink co-evolution of marine life, oxygenated oceans
Researchers have confirmed that rising oceanic and atmospheric oxygen levels co-evolved with marine life hundreds of millions of years ago.

05/31/2018 06:11 PM
How Earth slows the solar wind to a gentle breeze
A new study describes the first observations of the process of electron heating in Earth's bow shock. The researchers found that when the electrons in the solar wind encounter the bow shock, they momentarily accelerate to such a high speed that the electron stream becomes unstable and breaks down. This breakdown process robs the electrons of their high speed and converts the energy to heat.

05/31/2018 03:28 PM
Widespread methane seeps off Oregon coast
For the past two years, scientists have surveyed the Pacific Northwest near-shore region mapping sites where underwater bubble streams signify methane gas is being released from the seafloor.

05/31/2018 03:28 PM
Microbial measurements can be used to gauge river flow, study suggests
Scientists have created a tool that can predict the flow rate of Arctic rivers with a surprising degree of accuracy based on the makeup and abundance of bacteria in the water.

05/31/2018 03:27 PM
Nanoplastics accumulate in marine organisms and may pose harm to aquatic food chains
Scientists have discovered that nanoplastics can accumulate in marine organisms over time. This could pose harm to aquatic food chains and human health.

05/30/2018 07:20 PM
World’s oldest lizard fossil discovered
Paleontologists have identified the world's oldest lizard, providing key insight into the evolution of modern lizards and snakes.

05/30/2018 04:32 PM
Seismometer readings could offer debris flow early warning
A debris flow that struck Montecito, Calif., in January was detected by a nearby seismometer.

05/30/2018 04:29 PM
Increasing heat is driving off clouds that dampen California wildfires
Sunny California may be getting too sunny. Increasing summer temperatures brought on by a combination of intensifying urbanization and warming climate are driving off once common low-lying morning clouds in many southern coastal areas of the state, leading to increased risk of wildfires, says a new study.

05/30/2018 03:53 PM
Ants provide clues to why biodiversity is higher in the tropics
New global data of invertebrate distributions suggests time holds key to species diversity.

05/29/2018 07:09 PM
The case of the relativistic particles solved with NASA missions
Encircling Earth are two enormous rings -- called the Van Allen radiation belts -- of highly energized ions and electrons. Various processes can accelerate these particles to relativistic speeds, which endanger spacecraft unlucky enough to enter these giant bands of damaging radiation. Scientists had previously identified certain factors that might cause particles in the belts to become highly energized, but they had not known which cause dominates.

05/29/2018 06:20 PM
Tree species vital to restoring disturbed tropical forests
A family of trees with high drought tolerance could be crucial in restoring the world's deforested and degraded tropical lands, according to new research.

05/29/2018 06:20 PM
Invisible barrier on ocean surface can reduce carbon uptake
An invisible layer of biological compounds on the sea surface reduces the rate at which carbon dioxide gas moves between the atmosphere and the oceans, scientists have reported.

05/29/2018 06:19 PM
Flow in the asthenosphere drags tectonic plates along
New simulations of the asthenosphere find that convective cycling and pressure-driven flow can sometimes cause Earth's most fluid layer of mantle to move even faster than the tectonic plates that ride atop it.

05/29/2018 03:36 PM
Landscape evolution intrinsic to ancient mountain settings
New research helps explain why the structure of some mountains continues to evolve long after the tectonic forces that formed them cease.

05/29/2018 02:21 PM
Why heart function is reduced at high altitude
For over a century, we have known that high altitude reduces the amount of blood the heart pumps around the body with each beat. New research has unearthed why this is the case and the findings will be important for people who live, travel and exercise at high altitudes.

05/28/2018 05:40 PM
Tall and older Amazonian forests more resistant to droughts
A new study shows that photosynthesis in tall Amazonian forests -- forests above 30m -- is 3x less sensitive to precipitation variability than in shorter forests of less than 20m. Taller Amazonian forests were also found to be older, have more biomass and deeper rooting systems that enable them to access deeper soil moisture, making them more resilient to drought. The findings suggest that forest height + age are an important regulator of photosynthesis in response to droughts.

05/25/2018 06:43 PM
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.

05/25/2018 06:43 PM
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.