Taxonomy term

isotope

Stable isotopes offer novel methods of disease detection

Stable isotope techniques developed by geoscientists are being applied to studies of human health, and one in particular has shown promise as an improved way to determine bone loss, a problem for astronauts, as well as those on bed rest and aging populations here on Earth. 
08 Jan 2018

Nutrient deficiency delayed life after mass extinction

After Earth’s most severe mass extinction, life took up to 9 million years to recover — millions of years longer than after other extinction events. New research published in Geology suggests that a collapse in the ocean’s productivity might have been the cause.

25 Nov 2016

Helium escape may help predict volcanic activity

Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, rises 3,300 meters above the island of Sicily, which lies just off the coast of Italy’s “toe.” Within 100 kilometers of more than 3 million people, Etna frequently rumbles and occasionally belches. As recently as last May, explosions accompanied lava fountains and ash erupted from one of the volcano’s craters over several days. This was just one of many eruptions in a long line of events, with historical documents dating similar outbursts back to 1500 B.C. Scientists cannot pinpoint when Etna will next erupt, but in a new study in Geology, researchers have identified a clue that may help them better understand how the volcano’s inner plumbing system changes just prior to an eruption.

17 Aug 2016

Long-gone supernova sprinkles rare isotope

At the end of a star’s lifecycle it collapses and explodes into a supernova, spewing rare elements and isotopes outward into space. In the last 1,000 years, three supernova events have been observed in the Milky Way Galaxy. Now scientists have detected a rare iron isotope, iron-60, in our solar system that hints that a supernova may have exploded nearby within the last few million years.

09 Aug 2016

Underwater Roman marble traced to Greece, Italy and Turkey

From the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., the city of Baiae, located on the west coast of Italy, near Naples, was the preferred summer home of Roman emperors, including Augustus and Nero. The once-grand city now lies under more than 5 meters of water due to coastal subsidence, and is preserved as the Underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae. Researchers have now traced the opulent city’s white marble floors to some of the most famous quarries in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

03 Jun 2016

Growth rings in rocks reveal past climate

Paleoclimate studies often depend on mineral or sediment layers deposited seasonally or annually in caves, lakes and ice, but such records leave gaps where caves, lakes or ice sheets aren’t found. Now, scientists using a new technique that analyzes calcite layers ringing pebbles and rocks in arid landscapes are opening a new window onto the climate history of western North America. And because such deposits are found all over the world, the technique might prove to be a useful new tool for studying paleoclimate globally.

02 May 2016

North Sea uplift caused Jurassic cooling event

The climate of the Jurassic, long envisioned as ubiquitously warm from the equator to the poles, was actually more dynamic, sometimes cooling dramatically, according to a new study. The research joined isotopic and sedimentological data to suggest that an abrupt cooling event occurred in the midlatitudes early in the Middle Jurassic as a result of changing ocean currents associated with a feature known as the North Sea Dome.

31 Mar 2016

Ancient eggshells may reveal dinosaur body temperatures

Whether dinosaurs had metabolisms more like slow, cold-blooded reptilians or fast, warm-blooded birds has long been a mystery. Fossilized bones, which don’t preserve the delicate cell membranes that facilitate heat production in warm-blooded animals, are not likely to answer the question. Fossilized eggshells, however, might be just the ticket to determining the past body temperatures of egg-laying females, which, scientists say, might help address whether the dinosaurs’ metabolisms were warm or cold.
 
27 Jan 2016

Isotopes could reveal ancient American turquoise trade

For centuries before the arrival of Europeans, turquoise was prized among pre-Hispanic cultures of North America. Caches of the distinctive, creamy-blue-green mineral have been unearthed in crypts and other ritually significant structures in what are now the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Farther south, in Mesoamerica, archaeologists have found elaborate mosaic masks and ornamentation made of turquoise pieces. Despite multiple anthropological and historical hints, identifying where the turquoise used by different civilizations came from has proven difficult. But in a recent study, scientists have described a geochemical fingerprinting technique that may help parse the geographic origins of turquoise specimens and illuminate trade routes in ancient America.
 
09 Nov 2015

One-two punch of past warming may hold lessons

Geologists are fond of the saying, “The past is key to the future.” Unfortunately, the past has been a poor guide when it comes to understanding modern climate change. Now, however, a new study suggests that one episode — a spike in global temperatures that occurred about 55 million years ago — may be a better analog than previously thought, and could yield insights into the planet’s future.

 
09 Apr 2015

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