Taxonomy term

february 2017

Initial earthquake behavior does not predict outcome

Can seismologists tell from the first few seconds of recorded seismic data how big an earthquake is going to be, or does it take longer and require data that come in after a quake rupture has progressed along the fault? The answer to this question underpins the usefulness of earthquake early warning systems and has perplexed scientists for decades. In a new study, researchers looking at near-source seismic recordings from shallow crustal earthquakes have found that, within the first few seconds of rupture, large and small earthquakes appear indistinguishable from one another, hinting that initial rupture behavior may be universal among variously sized events.

26 Jan 2017

Cave paintings confirm mystery European bison species

Ice-age hunters had an intimate knowledge of the animals they coexisted with — and this familiarity is clearly depicted in paintings on cave walls throughout Europe. Inside a cave in France, scientists recently identified artistic evidence dating to about 17,000 years ago of a previously unknown hybrid species of cattle crossed with bison. The paintings confirm findings from recent genetic studies of fossil bison, the researchers say.

25 Jan 2017

Moon formed from pulverized Earth mantle

Scientists have long thought that the moon was formed when an impactor crashed into Earth, some 100 million years after the planet’s formation. But details of this collision, and how the moon formed in its aftermath, remain puzzling. Now, researchers have found new potassium isotopic evidence that suggests the moon condensed from a superheated cloud of Earth’s mantle material after an extremely violent collision vaporized the impactor and much of the proto-Earth.

23 Jan 2017

Downgrading the Great Dying

The end-Permian extinction, nicknamed the “Great Dying,” is thought to be the deadliest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Many textbooks claim that up to 96 percent of marine life died out during this event, but a new study suggests this cataclysmic number has been overestimated.

23 Jan 2017

Road salt may be a larger problem for lakes than thought

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that approximately 30 million tons of road salt were applied to U.S. roads during 2015 to speed up the melting of snow and ice. Recently, scientists have observed increasing impacts on ecosystems and water quality linked to its application. New research, for example, finds that road salt influx is geochemically disrupting the ecosystem health of urban lakes in Michigan, and it may even lead to rising methane emissions from the lakes.

19 Jan 2017

Scientists map U.S. geoelectric hazards

During solar storms, electrons and protons collide with Earth’s atmosphere, disrupting the geomagnetic field and sometimes creating the flashing waves of colorful light in the night sky we know as auroras. But these same storms — if strong enough — have the potential to severely damage power grids.

19 Jan 2017

Monkeys smash stone tool theories

Archaeologists have long credited stone flakes found at dig sites to tool-making hominins, but observations of wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil breaking stones may put an end to the assumption that all stone flakes were made by humans and their ancestors.

18 Jan 2017

Tornadic storms fed by perfect spirals

Sometimes, large thunderstorms called supercells spawn tornadoes; sometimes they don’t. Predicting whether supercell drafts will spiral into a tornado is tricky, with false-alarm rates running as high as 75 percent. In a new study using helium balloons to study tornadogenesis in supercells, researchers have shown that wind patterns in the lowest 1 kilometer of a storm may play a major role in forming twisters.

17 Jan 2017

Comment: High school earth and space science should be taught by geoscientists

It may seem to be common sense to assume that earth and space science topics such as climate change are taught by qualified teachers, but unfortunately, this is not the case in every state. 

17 Jan 2017