Taxonomy term

august 2016

Sand shouldn't stand in for volcanic ash in jet engine tests

In 2010, the ash cloud produced by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano grounded trans-Atlantic and European flights for six days due to fears that the high-flying ash could damage — and stall — jet engines. The eruption, which snarled international air travel and led to billions in economic losses, spotlighted the need for more study of the effects of volcanic ash on jet engines. Many such studies have been done using sand as a convenient stand-in for ash. But a new study shows that some types of volcanic ash behave very differently from sand at high temperatures, suggesting sand is an inadequate analogue.

31 Jul 2016

Snake River eruption history offers glimpse into Yellowstone hot spot dynamics

About 8 million years ago, what is now the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho ripped open in a catastrophic super-eruption that spewed roughly 1,900 cubic kilometers of lava and ash across thousands of square kilometers. New research, based on field studies and geochemical analyses of rocks collected on the plain, shows that this eruption was just one of many massive mid-Miocene volcanic events arising from the Yellowstone hot spot. The work also provides a window into the complex and evolving mantle-crust interactions that have occurred as the North American Plate has moved westward over the hot spot.

30 Jul 2016

Ocean acidification worsens overnight along California coast

Carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans causes seawater to become more acidic, which, as scientists have long been documenting, can negatively impact marine animals; for example, acidified waters damage the calcite skeletons and shells of organisms like coral, mussels and oysters by causing them to dissolve. In a new study, scientists have found that ocean seawater acidification may also be taking a toll on shelled organisms like coralline algae, bivalves and gastropods residing in tide pools along California’s coastlines.

29 Jul 2016

Volcanoes and historical politics

As well as influencing art and faith, volcanoes are often portrayed as the very manifestation of the human condition. Expressions of anger are readily described as “volcanic.” They have become a metaphor for anything of suitable magnitude or wrath. One such painting sees a volcano become the embodiment of the French Revolution.

28 Jul 2016

Artists draw inspiration from fire and ash

Volcanoes have been shaping human culture and art for millennia — from Roman art to Victorian paintings and literature to modern poetry.
28 Jul 2016

Asian bats resist white nose fungus

White Nose Syndrome has devastated bats across North America in recent years, but possible genetic resistance to the fungus has now been identified in some species of Asian bats. Researchers comparing North American and Chinese bat populations in a new study have found lower levels of infection — and greater capacities for recovery — in bats from five cave sites in China.

27 Jul 2016

Lunar ice reveals moon's poles shifted

In 2009, NASA’s LCROSS mission sent a rocket crashing into a crater near the moon’s south pole, sending debris into space and confirming earlier indications of the presence of water ice on the moon. In a new study, researchers have found that the distribution of ice around the lunar poles doesn’t quite match what scientists initially expected. Instead of ice deposits centered only on the present-day poles — the darkest, coldest spots on the modern moon — ice appears to also be concentrated several degrees away from either pole. And, these off-axis deposits are directly across from one another, or antipodal, on opposite sides of the moon. The reason for this, the study’s authors say, is that the moon, shortly after its formation, shifted off its original rotation axis, causing new ice deposits to form around the new poles while older ice deposits remained at the original poles.

26 Jul 2016

On the trail of Hannibal's army - and elephants - in the Alps

In the third century B.C., during the Second Punic War between the Romans and Carthaginians, Carthaginian general Hannibal led a massive army over the Alps to invade Italy from the supposedly impenetrable north. It is one of the most famously brazen moves in military history, but the exact route that Hannibal’s army — which included tens of thousands of foot soldiers and cavalrymen, thousands of horses and nearly 40 elephants — took through the mountains has long been a mystery. Now, a team has found microbial evidence that a large number of horses crossed the Alps from France into Italy over the 3,000-meter Col de la Traversette pass around 218 B.C. But not everybody is convinced that the Traversette pass route matches detailed historical accounts of Hannibal’s journey.

24 Jul 2016

Jawless fish more like jawed fish than thought

Vertebrates come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing almost all have in common are jaws, which developed early in vertebrate evolution. Jawless fish, which evolved about 530 million years ago and are thought to be more primitive than their jawed relatives, are an exception. According to a new study, however, the brains of jawless fish have more in common with the brains of jawed vertebrates than previously thought.

24 Jul 2016

Denisovan DNA found in modern Pacific Islanders, ancient Spaniards

In the time that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals were coexisting — and interbreeding — there was at least one more human species on the landscape, the Denisovans. First identified from a 41,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in Siberia, the Denisovans are now thought to have been widespread around Eurasia. In two new studies, scientists have shed additional light on the relationship of Denisovans to other humans, finding new traces of Denisovan DNA in ancient and modern genomes.

23 Jul 2016

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