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Volcanic activity contributed to first of the "Big Five" mass extinctions

During the Ordovician, between about 488 million and 444 million years ago, plant life first emerged on land, while primitive fish and a variety of marine invertebrates flourished in the oceans. Toward the end of the period, however, a mass extinction — the first of the so-called “Big Five” Phanerozoic extinctions — wiped out roughly 60 percent of all marine invertebrate genera. In a recent study, researchers shed new light on a possible cause of the Late Ordovician extinction: volcanic activity.

15 Nov 2017

New method offers improved monitoring of Kilauea

Kilauea Volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, has been erupting continuously since 1983, mostly releasing relatively slow-moving lava flows, although rare violent eruptions have occurred. Both explosive and nonexplosive eruptions pose risks to tourists, roughly 2.6 million of whom visit Kilauea annually, as well as to island residents whose safety and property have at times been put in jeopardy by flowing lava.

04 Oct 2017

Less-developed countries with high climate risk need better access to weather and climate data

Rising seas, more persistent droughts and more frequent severe weather events are predicted to occur in the coming decades as the planet continues warming. In a new study, researchers who analyzed spending internationally on weather and climate information services (WCIS) suggest that access to reliable WCIS is becoming more vital for communities and governments looking to assess their vulnerability and to safeguard people and property amid changing climates.

22 Sep 2017

Ancient wildfires suggest rising atmospheric oxygen helped end past ocean anoxia

Many times throughout Earth’s history, oxygen levels in the world’s oceans have decreased dramatically in episodes called oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), which have caused massive marine die-offs. In the Early Jurassic, for example, the Toarcian OAE has been linked with the extinction of many ammonite species and other sea life. However, how such episodes end remains largely unclear to scientists.

22 Aug 2017

Complex Kaikoura earthquake forces rethink of multifault ruptures

Just after midnight on Nov. 14, 2016, the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island was hit by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake. Epicentered about 60 kilometers southwest of the popular tourist town of Kaikoura, the quake was the strongest the area had seen since the 1855 magnitude-8.2 Wairarapa quake struck the Cook Strait. The Kaikoura quake led to two deaths as well as extensive damage to roads, rails and buildings.

24 Jul 2017

Northeast and Midwest U.S. projected to warm faster than national average

The U.S. Northeast and Midwest will warm quickly in the coming decades compared to national and global averages, reaching established temperature benchmarks sooner than most of the rest of the country, and the world, according to recent research published in PLOS ONE.

16 Jun 2017

Silk Road routes may have followed the herds

The Silk Road — the ancient trade route that stretched thousands of kilometers from China to the Mediterranean — often calls to mind images of large camel caravans trekking for months across deserts and over mountains, carrying luxurious linens, spices and gems between distant lands. In reality, the “road” comprised a network of many shorter relays between neighboring areas, with goods often changing hands many times in cities, rural villages and even remote trading outposts. In a new study, researchers have illuminated likely routes of Silk Road travelers through a region of particularly challenging terrain — mountainous Central Asia — with the help of an innovative mapping method.

04 May 2017

And then there was one: Ceres' disappearing ice volcanoes

Earth has numerous volcanoes, both active and extinct — some of which continue to tower over landscapes long after they finished erupting. On the chilly dwarf planet Ceres, however, scientists have identified just a single volcano — an ice-erupting cryovolcano — raising questions about whether others ever existed there and, if so, what happened to them. In a new study, researchers suggest that Ceres has likely had other volcanoes, but that, over time, their icy slopes have been flattened beyond recognition.

28 Apr 2017

Soil moisture may help predict power outages in hurricanes

Power outages, most often caused by trees and branches falling on electric lines and transformers, are one of the most debilitating aspects of hurricanes, knocking out power to large numbers of people and businesses. In a new effort to improve modeling of where and when power outages caused by falling trees will occur during hurricanes, researchers are making use of frequent measurements of soil moisture provided by NASA’s SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) mission, which began collecting data in spring 2015. 

08 Mar 2017

How soil management could help reduce greenhouse gas concentrations

As scientists continue studying the web of natural and anthropogenic processes that affect Earth’s climate, discussions about how to limit global warming have included proposals both to cut emissions and to increase sequestration of greenhouse gases through a variety of methods. In a recent review published in Nature, Keith Paustian, a soil ecologist at Colorado State University, and his colleagues noted the understudied and underrated greenhouse gas mitigation potential of the world’s soils.

17 Feb 2017

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