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Arizona road hazard has surprising source

Blowing dust is one of Arizona’s deadliest weather-related hazards. Between 1955 and 2011, brownout conditions created by dust storms caused more than 1,500 motor vehicle accidents across the state, resulting in 157 fatalities and more than 1,300 injuries, according to a 2016 NOAA Technical Memorandum.

25 Jan 2018

Unexpected nanoparticles trace coal pollution

Coal burning produces an array of chemicals and particulates that, when released into the atmosphere, contribute to pollution, poor air quality and threats to public health. Measurements of particulate air pollution typically focus on particles called PM2.5, which have diameters of 2.5 micrometers or less. This group includes nano-sized particles, although these bits of minerals, dust and organics often go undetected because of their tiny size. In a new study, researchers sampling a coal ash spill have unearthed a type of nanoparticle not previously known to be produced by burning coal. While the particles might be useful in detecting pollution problems, they may also have consequences for human and environmental health.

24 Jan 2018

No river meant no floods for ancient Indus settlements

Large Middle Eastern rivers like the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates and Tiber were critical for the development of early urban societies in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Ancient Rome. And researchers have long thought that the rise, and eventual decline, of cities in the ancient Indus Civilization, which spread across about 1 million square kilometers of what’s now northwestern India and Pakistan from roughly 4,600 to 3,900 years ago, also depended on major rivers, namely those emerging from the Himalayas. But a new study looking at river sediments from the time of the civilization and earlier suggests that wasn’t the case for every ancient Indus city; some may have benefited from being farther away from large rivers and their periodic floods.

23 Jan 2018

Denali's Asian dinosaurs

Paleontologists have long hypothesized that a land bridge between present-day Siberia and Alaska served as a gateway for fauna to migrate between Asia and North America during the Cretaceous, but they have unearthed little evidence that directly supports this idea. Now, researchers have found an Asian dinosaur track assemblage in North America, a discovery that backs the longstanding hypothesis.

23 Jan 2018

Mediterranean tsunami record may be overreported

Tsunamis are one of the most destructive natural hazards on Earth, sometimes even upstaging the major earthquakes that send the waves surging across entire ocean basins. Knowing when, where and how severely tsunamis have struck coastlines in the past is valuable for countries trying to prepare for the impacts of future tsunamis. But distinguishing tsunami deposits in geologic paleorecords from deposits left by more common storm waves is notoriously difficult. Researchers recently highlighted this challenge by taking a hard look at tsunami- and storm-wave records around the Mediterranean Sea over the last 4,500 years. The findings may serve as a cautionary tale for scientists interpreting tsunami records elsewhere in the world.

18 Jan 2018

Mediterranean drawdown may have caused burst of volcanism

Between 5 million and 6 million years ago, during an event known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), large amounts of seawater evaporated from the Mediterranean Sea leaving massive salt deposits in the basin. How much the sea surface dropped during the MSC is debated, but in a new study in Nature Geoscience, researchers suggest that a large, kilometer-scale drawdown of the Mediterranean Sea may explain not just the thick salt deposits but also a pulse of magmatic activity around the region that occurred at the same time as the MSC.

17 Jan 2018

Small warm ponds: Ideal incubators for first life?

The first embers of life are thought to have emerged on Earth between 4.5 billion and 3.7 billion years ago, but how and where the initial sparks arose remains a mystery. Two leading theories suggest that the first self-replicating molecules — a necessity for life — may have gotten a start either in deep-ocean hydrothermal vents or in small warm ponds on land. In a new study, researchers suggest that the wet-dry cycles occurring in small, seasonal ponds would have made a better natural incubator.

17 Jan 2018

Ice (Re)Cap: January 2018

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.

 
15 Jan 2018

It's an asteroid, no wait, a comet, no wait…

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spied a unique object in the debris-filled asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: a pair of asteroids — orbiting tightly around each other — that also show comet-like characteristics, including a bright halo of ice and dust known as a coma and a long tail of dust. The odd object, called 2006 VW139/288P, is the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet.

12 Jan 2018

Predators may have spurred evolution of ancient brittle stars

Threats to species can encourage evolution, leading to animals with harder shells or other defensive adaptations. In a recent study in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, researchers found that while some ancient brittle stars — relatives of starfish with long, whip-like arms — evolved in the face of threats, some adapted a different approach: they moved.

10 Jan 2018

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