Taxonomy term

december 2015

Modeling 'magma mush' could reveal volcanic histories

Volcanic eruptions can spew large amounts of molten rock and ash, putting nearby communities as well as aircraft at risk. Gas emissions and earthquakes sometimes offer clues of when an eruption will occur, but the internal workings of volcanoes are largely unobservable. In a recent study, researchers illuminated these internal processes with a computer simulation that models the flow of the part-liquid, part-solid “magma mush” beneath volcanoes.

18 Dec 2015

Down to Earth With: GEO Secretariat Director Barbara Ryan

When Barbara Ryan enrolled as a freshman at the State University of New York in Cortland, she enjoyed athletics so much that she planned to pursue a career in physical education and coaching. Then her roommate convinced her to take a class in paleontology. She was hooked, and within months Ryan changed her major to geology, launching herself down an entirely different path. 
18 Dec 2015

Is aviation 'whitening' the sky?

Clear blue skies may not be as clear as they appear. Skies are actually becoming less clear, causing incoming sunlight to scatter in different directions, rather than striking the planet directly — and aviation may be to blame, according to research presented this week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

17 Dec 2015

Magnetic field around since Hadean

Earth’s magnetic field might have been shielding the planet from solar radiation and contributing to its habitability 770 million years earlier than previously recognized, according to a new study in Science.
17 Dec 2015

Nearly half of Americans in lower 48 at risk for potentially damaging quake shaking

An estimated 143 million Americans in the conterminous 48 states, or about 46 percent of the population, live in areas susceptible to potentially damaging ground shaking from natural earthquakes, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists published in the journal Earthquake Spectra. (The study did not assess hazards associated with human-induced quakes.)
16 Dec 2015

Ice (Re)Cap: December 2015

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 Dec 2015

Ancient African villages shed light on Earth's magnetic field

Throughout Earth’s history, the planet’s magnetic field has changed polarity hundreds of times, with the magnetic north and south poles swapping positions. These reversals sometimes occur every few thousand years, or after hundreds of thousands of years. The last known magnetic reversal took place nearly 800,000 years ago, leaving many to wonder if we’re overdue for a reversal. Now, research from southern Africa, an understudied region, analyzing magnetized minerals preserved in the charred floors of 1,000-year-old torched huts has shed light on geomagnetic patterns that may indicate — or perhaps even trigger — such a switch. 
15 Dec 2015

Balanced boulders in earthquake country highlight interconnected faults

Precariously balanced boulders look like bizarre accidents in any landscape, but when they’re found in regions famous for frequent earthquakes, such gravity-defying formations are even more improbable. Scientists have long wondered about an odd collection of dozens of balanced boulders in the San Bernardino Mountains that seemingly should have been toppled centuries ago by the earthquakes that regularly shake Southern California. Even stranger, these car- to house-sized granite boulders are located within 10 kilometers of the active San Andreas and San Jacinto faults. Now, new detective work on 36 of the boulders is giving scientists clues about the connections between these faults. 
14 Dec 2015

The Snowmastodon Project: Mammoths and mastodons lived the high life in Colorado

In fall 2011, a bulldozer driver in Snowmass, Colo., unearthed an unprecedented trove of Pleistocene-aged fossils. Over the next few months, “Snowmastodon” became one of the largest fossil excavations ever. Scientists have already learned a lot from the bones.

13 Dec 2015

Chinese cave art reveals record of climate change

In times of drought, Dayu Cave in the Qinling Mountains of central China has remained a reliable source of water, and since at least the 16th century, thirsty visitors to the cave recorded their pilgrimages on the walls. Now the graffiti — rendered in black pigment on the yellow cave walls — is providing scientists with a unique record of how climate change affected nearby communities between 1520 and 1920. 
13 Dec 2015