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News

How often should we expect volcanic ash clouds over Europe?

In 2010, an ash cloud from an eruption at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano led to the most disruptive shutdown of North Atlantic and European airspace in aviation history. Given the high level of activity of Iceland’s more than two dozen active volcanoes, how often are such events to be expected? A new study comparing volcanic ash records over the last 1,000 years suggests that fallout over Europe may be more common than previously anticipated.

17 May 2017

Tibetan Plateau populated long before advent of agriculture

Due to the harsh living conditions of the Tibetan Plateau — which has an average elevation over 4,500 meters — archaeologists have long assumed that people didn’t live in the Himalayan high country until after the adoption of agriculture in this region of the world, about 3,600 years ago. But a new study of a trove of handprints and footprints found around a fossilized mud spring in Tibet is suggesting that people may have lived here as early as 13,000 years ago.

16 May 2017

Ice (Re)Cap: May 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 May 2017

Bare Earth Elements: Tour brings hurricane hunting aircraft and expertise to the masses

With hurricane season officially getting under way on May 15 in the Eastern Pacific and June 1 in the Atlantic, NOAA has been busy this week publicizing National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which aims to inform the public about what they can do to prepare for potentially damaging and life-threatening storms. This year, the agency is simultaneously hosting its annual Hurricane Awareness Tour, a week-long traveling exhibition starring hurricane hunting aircraft and their crews. EARTH's Tim Oleson dropped by the tour stop in Washington, D.C., on May 9 to check it out and talk with Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center.

11 May 2017

Sea-surface temperatures during last interglacial similar to modern day

During the last interglacial period, between 129,000 and 116,000 years ago, global sea levels were 6 to 9 meters higher than at present. Scientists have long wondered how global atmospheric and ocean temperatures then compared to modern times, but efforts to reconstruct such temperatures have often fallen short. In a new study, researchers who compiled past records of sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) have revealed that SSTs during the last interglacial were similar to modern day temperatures. But, the similarity doesn’t necessarily predict a future surge in sea levels.

10 May 2017

Investigating erionite, asbestos' more carcinogenic cousin

Asbestos is notorious for causing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, but it’s not the only type of fibrous mineral that affects human health. In the mid-1970s, erionite was linked to the unprecedented high mortality rate from mesothelioma in villages in central Turkey where volcanic tuff had been used as a building material for centuries. Like asbestos, erionite can occur as long thin fibers that, when inhaled, can persist in lung tissue for decades. New research looking at associations of iron with erionite is helping pathologists better understand why embedded erionite fibers sometimes lead to lung cancer.

08 May 2017

Fossil forest recorded ancient sunspots

The sun’s surface is home to dark, relatively cool blotches of high magnetic activity known as sunspots, which vary in number over a roughly 11-year cycle. In a new study in Geology, scientists found evidence of this solar cycle dating back 290 million years to the Permian Period.

05 May 2017

Silk Road routes may have followed the herds

The Silk Road — the ancient trade route that stretched thousands of kilometers from China to the Mediterranean — often calls to mind images of large camel caravans trekking for months across deserts and over mountains, carrying luxurious linens, spices and gems between distant lands. In reality, the “road” comprised a network of many shorter relays between neighboring areas, with goods often changing hands many times in cities, rural villages and even remote trading outposts. In a new study, researchers have illuminated likely routes of Silk Road travelers through a region of particularly challenging terrain — mountainous Central Asia — with the help of an innovative mapping method.

04 May 2017

Mountains may cause huge waves in Venusian clouds

An enormous, stationary, bow-shaped feature has been detected in the cloud-tops of Venus’ thick, sulfuric acid-rich atmosphere. The structure, stretching more than 10,000 kilometers, remains fixed over Venus’ surface despite atmospheric winds that whip around the planet at 100 meters per second.

03 May 2017

Did Jurassic tectonics lead to supergiant oilfields?

More than 6 percent of global oil production comes from a single oilfield: the supergiant Ghawar oilfield in eastern Saudi Arabia, which produces more than 5 million barrels of crude oil every day. In a new study in GSA Today exploring the origins of this vast oilfield, researchers have found that extensive tectonic plate movements during the Middle and Late Jurassic may have created the conditions necessary for the formation of the Ghawar and several other oilfields across the Middle East.

01 May 2017

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