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High-powered simulation tracks evolution of universe in detail

The universe burst into existence 14.6 billion years ago, and has been expanding ever since. Of course, humans have only been around to glimpse the most recent fraction of stellar history. Now, a new high-powered computer simulation called Illustris, which traces more than 13 billion years of cosmological evolution, is giving scientists and the public alike an armchair view of how things came to look the way they do.

26 Sep 2014

Colorado River Basin sees severe groundwater depletion

Over the past 14 years, the Colorado River Basin has experienced its worst drought since precipitation records have been kept, starting in the 1960s. The basin supplies water used for agriculture and in households in seven states, affecting more than 40 million people. In a study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have found that the reservoirs that store water in the basin are at record low levels. What’s more, the research shows that in addition to shrinking reservoirs, groundwater is being depleted much faster than previously thought, which could have major implications for the region’s future water security.

24 Sep 2014

Infrasound reveals lava lake levels

The rises and falls of volcanic lava lakes are not easily tracked, especially when the lakes aren’t visible from crater rims. But recently, researchers found a way to monitor the lava lake at Chile’s Villarrica volcano using complementary methods to keep an eye on a feature they can’t always see.

22 Aug 2014

Human-induced earthquakes shake less

Occurrences of earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States have increased since 2009 — a phenomenon that many scientists attribute to the growing use of hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction. Most agree that it’s not the fracturing itself, but the reinjection of wastewater into wells for containment beneath the surface that tends to induce seismic activity. Now, new research looking at the effects of induced seismic activity suggests that human-made earthquakes and naturally occurring tectonic earthquakes are felt differently at the surface.

21 Aug 2014

Africa's impact is one that even the dinosaurs would have seen coming

The crater left by the infamous Chicxulub asteroid responsible for finishing off the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, was more than 19 kilometers deep and 177 kilometers in diameter. Those dimensions correspond to a huge energy release estimated at 100 teratons of TNT, but that’s puny compared to an impact that struck South Africa’s Barberton Greenstone Belt about 3.26 billion years ago. Now, researchers have estimated just how big that massive asteroid was and the catastrophic effect it might have had on Earth and its budding plate tectonic system.

14 Aug 2014

Unprecedented low water-vapor levels detected on exoplanets

In a recent study, a team of astronomers found that the atmospheres of Jupiter-sized planets located outside of the solar system are much drier than predicted. The discovery has raised questions about the commonly held understanding of the processes involved in planet formation.

13 Aug 2014

Moving cars could help gauge rainfall

Accurate and timely rainfall measurements are crucial for the design of drainage systems, dams and other modern infrastructure. But rain gauges are often spread too sparsely to provide the necessary coverage in densely populated regions. In parts of Germany, for example, gauges equipped to make hourly readings are especially scarce — just one per 1,800 square kilometers. To help fill in the gaps, researchers at the Leibniz University of Hannover are developing an idea they call “RainCars” — using moving cars to measure rainfall.

23 Jul 2014

Magma mobilizes quickly beneath Mount Hood

In a recent study in Nature, researchers found that magma beneath Oregon’s Mount Hood spends minimal time in an eruptible state. Instead, magma remobilization and eruption occur within a short time frame. What this means for volcanic hazards in the Pacific Northwest has yet to be determined. 

10 Jun 2014

Mapping how malaria risk changes as new dams go up

Malaria is considered a leading public health problem in Ethiopia, with almost 70 percent of the total population at risk from the deadly disease. Combining computer simulations with field data from the Ethiopian countryside, researchers are studying how hydroelectric dams affect malaria prevalence. The hope is that the new research could provide fresh insight for malarial management programs. 

20 Apr 2014

Scientists look wider and deeper to predict the next El Nino

Of all climate and weather phenomena, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is not only one of the most well known for its impact on world climate and human life, but is also one of the most puzzling to scientists. For this reason, researchers have begun to take into account a much more global area of climate data than previously considered with the hopes of predicting El Niño or La Niña conditions sooner than is currently possible.

17 Apr 2014

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