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december 2016

Geologic Column: New Year's as we know it is new

Although commemorating the start of a new year and looking back on the past year is one of humanity’s oldest traditions, celebrating it on Jan. 1 is a relatively recent occurrence.  
 

 

31 Dec 2016

Ant bodies shaped by environment

Ants are ectotherms, which means their metabolisms are controlled by the temperature of their environment. New research shows that the environment also influences their color and size.

30 Dec 2016

Scientists find earthquakes trigger instantaneous aftershocks on neighboring faults

Earthquake aftershocks may be more unpredictable than previously thought. Researchers studying past quakes say they have identified a new class of aftershocks that can occur within seconds to minutes after the mainshock on neighboring faults.

29 Dec 2016

Slow-moving slides may be triggered by cold temperatures

Landslides aren’t always fast-moving disasters. Slow landslides creep downhill at rates up to a few meters a year, which might not sound dramatic, but slow slides can still damage roads, pipelines and communities. Slow-moving slides are most commonly triggered by increased pore pressure in the soils due to rainfall or snowmelt, but in some places, according to a new study, temperature may also play a role. The new study looking at slow slides in Japan found that cold underground temperatures — independent of increased rainfall — may lubricate slow-moving slides.

27 Dec 2016

Panama's isthmus stays 3 million years young: Further evidence needed to support an older age

The formation of the tiny Isthmus of Panama had major geographic repercussions, cutting off the Caribbean Sea from the Pacific Ocean and connecting North and South America. A new study using multiple lines of geological, biological and molecular evidence supports the most commonly accepted age of the isthmus, about 3 million years, refuting a pair of 2015 studies that placed the closing at a much earlier date.

27 Dec 2016

Green corridors led humans out of Africa

A trail of fossil, archaeological and genetic clues suggests that modern humans, who first evolved in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, may have made forays outside Africa via the eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula as early as 120,000 years ago. But most fossil and archaeological evidence suggests they didn’t begin widely populating the rest of the world until about 60,000 years ago.

26 Dec 2016

Mysterious Antarctic algae blown in by high winds

When fossils of microscopic marine algae called diatoms were discovered high in the Transantarctic Mountains 30 years ago, the mysterious find set off a heated debate about whether Antarctica had thawed enough at some point within the last few million years for the emergence of algae-rich seas in the middle of the continent, or whether the diatoms were blown far inland by wind. Now, a new study links the two hypotheses: Researchers led by Reed Scherer of Northern Illinois University found that the algae were likely deposited by strong winds after substantial ice-sheet melt led to sea-level rise along eastern Antarctica.

23 Dec 2016

Travels in Geology: Scotland's stunning Shetland

Off the northern coast of Scotland lies a cluster of islands featuring worldclass coastal landforms, otherworldly volcanic rocks, ophiolites and important metaconglomerates, plus friendly people and a great many sheep.

23 Dec 2016

Getting There and Getting Around Shetland

Getting to the Shetland Islands requires taking a ferry from mainland Scotland. Ferries are very comfortable and well-run, with a smooth overnight passage from Aberdeen to Lerwick. We took that route up to Shetland, and a different route — to the Orkney Islands — on the way back. The schedule running from Lerwick to the town of Kirkwall (in Orkney) is less ideal, arriving in the middle of the night, but the local hotels are used to their guests dropping in at midnight.

23 Dec 2016

Cosmic suntan

An international team of astronomers recently measured the amount of light hitting Earth that comes from outside our galaxy across a broad range of wavelengths.

22 Dec 2016

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