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geology

Small floods can carve big canyons

Through the early 20th century, geologists argued over how the giant canyons of the Channeled Scablands in Eastern Washington were formed. Ultimately, a theory proposed by J Harlen Bretz in the 1920s — that the canyons were carved by catastrophic, short-lived outbursts of floodwaters unleashed when natural dams holding back glacial lakes collapsed — was shown to be correct. Controversy still exists, though, about the size of these ancient floods.
 

03 Feb 2017

Geomedia: Books: Exploring "The Worst of Times"

Every reader of this magazine knows something about mass extinctions. But few of us know as much as Paul B. Wignall, a professor of paleoenvironments at the University of Leeds in England who studies mass extinctions. In 1997, he co-authored with Anthony Hallam a scholarly volume titled “Mass Extinctions and their Aftermath.” Now, his first book aimed at a popular audience, “The Worst of Times: How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions,” has been issued in paperback.

02 Feb 2017

Robotic mussels track temperature change

Among the crashing waves of rocky shorelines, tiny robotic mussels are providing scientists with insight into climate change impacts on marine life. The battery-powered “biomimics” hide among real mussels, with internal thermometers to estimate temperatures of their nearby living neighbors. Mussels’ body temperatures are changing with solar radiation, cloud cover and wind speed, says Brian Helmuth, a marine ecologist from Northeastern University in Boston. Because of this, the mussels’ body temperatures are generally much higher than the temperature of the surrounding air during exposure at low tide.
 

01 Feb 2017

Fungi stabilize steep slopes

The steep slopes of Switzerland’s high Alps are unstable — with loose soil and few plants — which poses hazards such as shallow landslides. In a new study, researchers have found that the symbiosis between plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi helps ground gravelly hillsides, suggesting a possible eco-engineering tool to stabilize the slopes.

30 Jan 2017

Comment: Crazy times in the Arctic

As atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations increase, the resulting warming and its effects are most pronounced in the Arctic, where last year’s sea-ice changes and temperature fluctuations are surprising even seasoned experts. 
 
23 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

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

A new — and more toxic — normal? Harmful algal blooms find new habitats in changing oceans

A massive and deadly algal bloom along the West Coast of North America in 2015 is just one example of the growing number of severe algal blooms that are occurring throughout the world's oceans. Scientists are studying how toxic species are adjusting to a warming climate. 

16 Jan 2017

Busy as a bee: New species of bee quarries into sandstone

Researchers have discovered five nesting sites of a new species of bee (Anthophora pueblo) that prefers to make its home in sandstone. The newly discovered nests are located in natural formations as well as Ancestral Puebloan sandstone cliff dwellings in the southwestern U.S.

12 Jan 2017

Comment: Will we eliminate Earth's Ice-Age cycle?

Earth has been ice free before, with warmer temperatures and higher carbon dioxide and sea levels. But humans have only lived on a relatively cold planet. Will we be able to adapt to an ice-free planet? 

11 Jan 2017

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