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mary caperton morton

Double trouble: Volcanic eruption leads to strong earthquake eight months later

In January 2002, Nyiragongo Volcano erupted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing more than 100 people. Eight months later and 19 kilometers to the south, a magnitude-6.2 earthquake shook the Lake Kivu region, partially destroying the town of Kalehe. Now, scientists have determined that the two events were linked, and their results highlight a newly observed trigger for strong earthquakes near active volcanoes.

24 May 2016

Giant icebergs spur carbon storage in Southern Ocean

A new study shows that giant icebergs floating in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica may be playing a larger role in carbon sequestration and Earth’s global carbon cycle than previously thought.

19 May 2016

Underwater archaeology reveals pre-Clovis people butchered mastodon in Florida

Evidence has been mounting for cultures older than the Clovis people, with archaeological sites and artifacts older than 14,000 years found as far south as Chile and genetic evidence dating the first incursions into North America to about 15,000 years ago. Now, a new study reporting on an underwater archaeological excavation at a site in Florida that dates to 14,550 years ago is adding more evidence of pre-Clovis people, and shedding light on how they may have spread across the Americas.

13 May 2016

Did the Medieval Warm Period welcome Vikings to Greenland?

Vikings are often depicted as hardy folk and fearsome warriors, but they were not immune to the harsh realities of the northern latitudes. Archaeological evidence suggests that Viking migrations around the North Atlantic were highly influenced by climate, with new settlements being colonized during warm periods and abruptly abandoned during colder times. However, according to a new study of glacial movements in Greenland during the time of Viking occupation, the local climate may have been just as cold when the Vikings arrived as when they left 400 years later. The finding may further shrink the area thought to have been affected by the Medieval Warm Period.

09 May 2016

Looking for life in coldest, driest Antarctica

Antarctica is nicknamed the “White Continent,” but one site — University Valley in the continent’s McMurdo Dry Valleys region — has remained virtually snow-free for more than 150,000 years, making it the coldest, driest desert on Earth. For the past four years, researchers involved in NASA’s ASTEP (Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets) program searched for signs of life in the valley because it is thought to closely resemble the northern polar regions of Mars where the Phoenix spacecraft landed in 2008. In a new study, though, the team reports that it came up empty-handed, confirming that University Valley is indeed one of the least-habitable places on Earth.

05 May 2016

Fish evolved quickly after earthquake

Evolution is often thought of as occurring over very long timescales, but as a tiny Alaskan fish demonstrates, significant changes can take place in just a few generations.

03 May 2016

Growth rings in rocks reveal past climate

Paleoclimate studies often depend on mineral or sediment layers deposited seasonally or annually in caves, lakes and ice, but such records leave gaps where caves, lakes or ice sheets aren’t found. Now, scientists using a new technique that analyzes calcite layers ringing pebbles and rocks in arid landscapes are opening a new window onto the climate history of western North America. And because such deposits are found all over the world, the technique might prove to be a useful new tool for studying paleoclimate globally.

02 May 2016

Humans evolved early to be more efficient sleepers

We humans spend about a third of our lives asleep. While that might sound like a lot, we require less sleep than most mammals. In a new study, researchers have quantified how much less sleep we need than other primates, and the findings may offer clues to how and when human sleep patterns evolved.

22 Apr 2016

China's Red Deer Cave people may have survived until the last ice age

In the 1980s, a collection of bones from very small hominids was excavated from a cave in southwestern China, alongside a number of bones from a species of large red deer. Nicknamed the “Red Deer Cave people,” but not yet declared a distinct species, researchers previously dated radiocarbon in the sediments where the bones were found to about 14,000 years ago. In a new comparative study, the same team has now found that the hominids from which the bones came appear to have been similar to — although far smaller than — Homo habilis and Homo erectus, suggesting it could indeed be a new species.

19 Apr 2016

An absentee note for ancient blueschist: Lack of metamorphic rock does not date onset of plate tectonics

Plate tectonics is a defining characteristic of our 4.5-billion-year-old home planet, responsible for earthquakes, mountain building, and much of the evolution of the planet’s oceans and atmosphere. But when this formative process began is a mystery. Some researchers have pointed to the lack of blueschist — a type of metamorphic rock that only forms in tectonically driven subduction zones — in rocks older than 800 million years as a clue to when subduction began. But a new study rules this option out, offering a novel explanation for the rock’s absence in ancient rocks.

05 Apr 2016

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