Taxonomy term

january 2017

Supernova explosion detected in Early Pleistocene sediments

When a massive star comes to the end of its life cycle, it goes out with a spectacular bang known as a supernova. Only three of these events have been observed in the Milky Way in the past 1,000 years. Evidence for older explosions can be detected in the form of rare elements found on Earth that are only produced by such explosions.

10 Jan 2017

Earthquake-resilient pipes aim to keep L.A.'s water flowing

Southern California is notoriously dry, and the city of Los Angeles imports its water from Northern California. But there’s a potentially disastrous hurdle to cross: The San Andreas Fault runs just north of Los Angeles, slicing across all four of the major aqueducts that deliver water to the city. In the event of a major earthquake, water supplies to 4 million people could be cut altogether. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is working to disaster-proof the aqueducts as well as the 12,000 kilometers of pipelines that run throughout the city. A recent round of testing of a new type of earthquake-resilient pipeline at a specially designed laboratory at Cornell University is reassuring the LADWP that they’re on the right track.

08 Jan 2017

Earth's largest jet stream unexpectedly disrupted

In early 2016, scientists first noticed an unexpected change in wind direction in the stratosphere some 25 kilometers above the equator. This shift signaled the beginning of a multimonth disruption of one of the most regular atmospheric phenomena known — the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). The disruption is the first such event observed in this system since record keeping began in the 1950s.

06 Jan 2017

Mercury's recent tectonics revealed

Not so long ago, Mercury was the least-studied planet in the inner solar system, known only from Earth-based observations and from Mariner 10’s brief flyby in the 1970s. In 2011, the MESSENGER spacecraft began orbiting Mercury, imaging the planet’s crater- and fault-scarred surface before crashing into it, as planned, in 2015. As MESSENGER spiraled downward, it took a last series of high-resolution images, analyses of which are revealing new information about the planet’s surface geology, including evidence for recent tectonic activity.

05 Jan 2017

Active Japanese volcano due for large eruption?

In January 1914, Japan’s most active volcano, Sakurajima, erupted violently, covering the nearby city of Kagoshima in a layer of ash. The lava flows from this event filled the strait between the mainland and the island volcano, transforming it into a peninsula.

04 Jan 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleoclimatologist Raymond S. Bradley

When 21-year-old Raymond S. Bradley left England in 1969 to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), he thought he’d be studying Denver’s urban climate. But on arrival, a funding mix-up delayed the work and Bradley found himself in search of a new project. While his doctoral work would ultimately involve studying the precipitation history of the Rockies, a new opportunity came his way in the summer of 1970 when his officemate needed a field assistant for a trip to the Arctic. So, Bradley headed to Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic on a three-month excursion that would prove to be just the first of dozens of Arctic expeditions to come over the course of a distinguished career.

04 Jan 2017

Current marine extinction unprecedented

In today’s ocean, larger-bodied animals are more likely to become extinct than smaller creatures, according to a new study in Science. This is contrary to extinction patterns seen during other mass extinction events in Earth’s history, during which smaller species were hit the hardest.

03 Jan 2017

The first Americans: How and when were the Americas populated?

The latest research suggests humans first came to the Americas by boat, though along which coast remains controversial. Archaeologists and geologists are working together to try to solve the mystery of how and when the first Americans arrived. 


01 Jan 2017

Where on Earth? - January 2017

Where on Earth was this picture taken? Use these clues to guess and submit your answer via mail, email or Web by the last day of the month (January 31, 2017).

01 Jan 2017

Underwater archaeology

As the ice sheets melted at the end of the last ice age, sea level rose dramatically, drowning much of the paleo coastline of North and South America under meters of water. To find evidence old enough to be associated with the initial colonizers, archaeologists have to get wet, even donning scuba gear to search for human relics along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Such work is highly technical and expensive, but a small handful of divers trained in underwater archaeological excavation techniques insist that it’s worth the trouble. 

01 Jan 2017