Evolution of eyes, not limbs, led fish onto land

In the Middle Devonian, roughly 385 million years ago, the first vertebrates began making their way out of water. For these pioneering fish, the adaptation of fins into limbs facilitated the transition. But in a new study, researchers have found that millions of years before fully functional terrestrial limbs evolved, some fish were developing better eyesight — an evolutionary adaptation they suggest gave an advantage to fish hunting insects near the shore.

28 Jun 2017

New cloud types recognized

Familiar clouds like cumulonimbus, cirrocumulus and nimbostratus have some new company. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published a new edition of its International Cloud Atlas, the first revision since 1987. The updated version — released in digital format for the first time — compiles recent observations and introduces about a dozen new terms, such as “asperitas,” which refers to a cloud whose sweeping undulations resemble the surface of a stormy sea, as well as names for clouds induced by wildfires and by human activity. There is even a new cloud species, “volutus,” which describes long, tube-shaped rolling clouds.

27 Jun 2017

Comment: A moving target: What you need to know about drone regulations

Drones can be useful tools for geoscience teaching and research, but the rules governing their use are evolving. Here’s what you need to know. 
25 Jun 2017

Geomedia: Mixed media: Geo-art collaboration shifts perspectives on earth materials

“Arts and Sciences.” The phrase is familiar to students and faculty on most campuses, often serving as the moniker of colleges or other curricular subdivisions within universities. While the pairing suggests a joint enterprise of some sort between the two fields, it might more aptly be termed, “Arts or Sciences,” as curricula rarely encompass both.

23 Jun 2017

Platinum may point to impact theory for Younger Dryas

Some large meteorite strikes leave obvious craters on Earth’s surface, while others that hit water or ice or explode in the air may only leave subtle markers in the soil, such as exotic minerals or elevated levels of rare elements like platinum or iridium. In a new study, researchers report spikes of platinum in sediments at archaeological sites across North America, offering new evidence, they suggest, of a major meteorite strike about 12,800 years ago, just before the onset of a global cold period known as the Younger Dryas. The lack of a telltale crater dating to this time, however, has left scientists debating for years whether an impact actually occurred and what, if any, role it had in setting off the cold snap and affecting some of Earth’s human and animal populations.

21 Jun 2017

The only Earth: Exploring the link between plate tectonics and life on the blue planet

Earth is the only planet known to have plate tectonics and life. Could that be a coincidence? Most geoscientists don't think so. In fact, it seems that plate tectonics is fundamental to life itself.

18 Jun 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

Whirling "gravel devils" show wind can carry more than just sand

Sand grains, by definition, are between 0.06 and 2 millimeters in diameter, and they are often thought of by scientists as the largest sediments that wind can transport, with larger sediments simply being too hefty for winds to keep aloft. But strong winds, particularly in tropical storms and tornadoes, are known to move objects far larger than sand over short distances. Now, in the high Andes of Chile on the Salar Gorbea salt flat, evidence has been found of tornadic “gravel devils” whipping across the landscape and transporting gypsum crystals as long as 27 centimeters.

16 Jun 2017

"The Himalaya Connection": Telling a story of geoscientific exploration on film

A filmmaker describes the triumphs and travails of six trips to Asia to capture footage and interviews for a forthcoming PBS documentary about the Himalayas and the earth scientists who are working to protect the region’s inhabitants from natural hazards. |
14 Jun 2017

Travels in Geology: Tracking African animals and deranged drainages across the Kalahari

The Okavango Delta, a major river delta in the middle of the dry Kalahari, and thundering Victoria Falls, a day’s drive away, may seem unrelated. But to a geologist, they are inextricably linked by hydrologic changes that have swept across southern Africa in response to subtle tectonic movements and major Pleistocene climate fluctuations.
12 Jun 2017