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Less-developed countries with high climate risk need better access to weather and climate data

Rising seas, more persistent droughts and more frequent severe weather events are predicted to occur in the coming decades as the planet continues warming. In a new study, researchers who analyzed spending internationally on weather and climate information services (WCIS) suggest that access to reliable WCIS is becoming more vital for communities and governments looking to assess their vulnerability and to safeguard people and property amid changing climates.

22 Sep 2017

Volcanism triggered end-Triassic extinction

The end-Triassic mass extinction exterminated up to three-quarters of all species on land and in the oceans 201 million years ago. This die-off opened up ecological niches and allowed for, among other changes, dinosaurs to diversify and spread across terrestrial ecosystems during the rest of the Mesozoic. Volcanism has long been implicated in the extinction, but whether it had a major impact on the planet at the time has remained unclear. In new research, scientists observed elevated mercury concentrations in extinction-aged rocks from around the world. Because volcanism is the main nonanthropogenic source of mercury in the environment, the findings suggest that volcanic activity was likely the main extinction trigger at the end of the Triassic.

21 Sep 2017

Jerusalem tower facelift reveals it's 1,000 years younger

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to at least 2400 B.C. Downhill from the heart of the city is Gihon Spring, a year-round natural fount that was likely the primary water source for the ancient city. Defensive fortifications built around the spring, known as the Spring Tower, were originally dated to the Middle Bronze Age, around 1700 B.C., but a new study reveals the tower could be as much as 1,000 years younger.

19 Sep 2017

Glass shards reveal a fiery history in Ethiopia

Chains of volcanoes and a lava lake pepper the landscape of the Afar Triangle in northeastern Ethiopia, where eruptions and earthquakes are byproducts of the rifting that is literally ripping Africa apart, but recent eruptions have been docile. Now, scientists studying ash deposits from the last 40,000 years are showing that dangerous, explosive eruptions present an ongoing hazard, striking the region every 1,000 years on average.

18 Sep 2017

Ice (Re)Cap: September 2017

From Antarctica to the Arctic; from polar caps, permafrost and glaciers to ocean-rafted sea ice; and from burly bears to cold-loving microbes, fascinating science is found in every nook and crevasse of Earth’s cryosphere, and new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

12 Sep 2017

End of ice age may have been too wet for megafauna

Between 15,000 and 11,000 years ago, dozens of ice-age megafauna species went extinct. Various causes, from climate-driven habitat changes to overhunting to extraterrestrial impacts, have been cited for these extinctions. But new research looking at fossils of large herbivores such as bison, horses and llama supports the idea that a worldwide uptick in moisture was a main driver of the extinction trend.

08 Sep 2017

Dehydrated sediment layer made Sumatra quake stronger

Subduction zones are notorious for unleashing great earthquakes and tsunamis, such as the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra quake that caused shaking and inundations that killed more than 250,000 people and left millions more homeless. However, despite the dangerous reputations of subduction zones, their hazards are still often underestimated. New research reveals how sediments in the Sumatra Trench may have contributed to producing an even bigger earthquake and tsunami than hazard forecasts had estimated.

07 Sep 2017

Asymmetrical fossil feathers fill in timeline of flight

To get off the ground and evolve into flying birds, dinosaurs got a lift from asymmetrical feathers, which are more aerodynamic than symmetrical feathers. The discovery of a new species of asymmetrically feathered dinosaur in northeastern China from the Early Cretaceous is helping fill in the timeline of adaptations that led to flight.

29 Aug 2017

Reconstructing ancient oxidant levels and their climatic effects

Oxidants in the troposphere, such as ozone and hydroxyl radicals, influence the life spans of other atmospheric components, including pollutants and greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide and methane. But how the abundance of tropospheric oxidants varies as climate changes is poorly understood. Part of the challenge is that these oxidants are too reactive to be preserved in paleo-records, such as ice cores.

29 Aug 2017

Coatings may prevent pipeline clogs

When ice forms in household water pipes, blockages and expansion can cause the pipes to burst. Similar problems can arise in the transportation of oil and gas when ice-like substances called gas hydrates build up inside pipelines — an issue traditionally mitigated by insulating pipes or by using antifreeze additives. But in a new study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, researchers report an alternative solution: specialized coatings for the inside of oil and gas pipes that prevent hydrate buildups and clogs. The coatings could prove more reliable than the usual approaches, but whether the method can be applied cost-effectively on a large scale is uncertain.

27 Aug 2017

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