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Acid rain triggered deadly Chinese landslide

On June 5, 2009, a catastrophic landslide killed 74 people in southwestern China. But a lack of recent earthquake activity or heavy rainfall left geologists questioning what had triggered the slide. A new study suggests that China’s acid rain may have played a role in weakening the limestone and shale slope in unexpected ways.

13 Apr 2018

Red Planet Roundup: April 2018

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, six spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

 
05 Apr 2018

Earth's "hum" heard at ocean bottom

Lapping waves or crashing surf may come to mind for most people when they imagine the sounds of the ocean. But the ocean has other voices as well, including one produced by interactions of waves with the seafloor along the continental slope. Unlike waves on the shoreline, this steady, low sound, or “hum,” is inaudible to the human ear and has even proven difficult to detect in recordings made by ocean bottom seismometers (OBS). But in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers analyzing OBS data have now clearly identified the hum for the first time, which may allow it to be used to develop a better picture of Earth’s interior structure.

04 Apr 2018

Chemical tipping point triggers eruptive transitions

During an eruption, some volcanoes vacillate unpredictably between effusive and explosive behavior. New research has identified a chemical tipping point in some magmas that may trigger the transition between such mild and violent eruptive cycles.

 
02 Apr 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.

01 Apr 2018

Oldest "Third Pole" ice core recovered

Holding massive reservoirs of ice, high-altitude glaciers, such as those in the Himalayas, are sometimes referred to as Earth’s “Third Pole.” The Guliya Ice Cap, on the Tibetan Plateau, has now produced the oldest ice ever drilled outside the Arctic or Antarctica.

29 Mar 2018

Ceres: A bright spot in the asteroid belt

Orbiting in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is the nearest dwarf planet to Earth and the only one within the inner solar system. It has been studied closely by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft since March 2015.

28 Mar 2018

Residual strain explains later quakes

The largest earthquake in recorded history struck southern Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 temblor was followed by a tsunami that, combined with the seismic shaking, killed 1,600 people and left more than 2 million homeless. New research suggests that, despite the staggering size of the event, the shaking didn’t dissipate all the strain accumulated at the time on the subduction fault between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. The residual strain left on the fault may explain why a portion of this same section of fault ruptured again — 56 years later — on Dec. 25, 2016, in a magnitude-7.6 event.

26 Mar 2018

Measuring earthquakes using fiber-optic cables

Fiber-optic cables crisscross the world, ferrying digital data and enabling internet access and telecommunication. In a new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers tested whether fiber-optic cables can also be used to detect and measure earthquakes.

23 Mar 2018

Surveying forests from afar

Traditional surveys of forest health and diversity take hours of hiking and sampling by scientists who can only cover relatively small areas. Satellites, meanwhile, can survey large swaths of land, collecting information about forests in a fraction of the time that a ground survey might take. But the resolution and types of satellite data available don’t always allow for detailed studies. Now, a team of ecologists is staking out the middle ground by developing airborne laser scanning techniques to create high-resolution maps of tree species diversity to monitor changes in forest ecosystems.

22 Mar 2018

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