Taxonomy term

kate s. zalzal

A flammable planet: Fire finds its place in Earth history

For hundreds of millions of years, wildfires have shaped the planet, from the plants, animals and ecosystems around us to the air we breathe. Yet scientists are only beginning to understand the planet’s fiery past. 
16 Jan 2018

Benchmarks: September 23, 1806: Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery returns from the West

It’s been called the greatest camping trip of all time. Statues, counties, waterways, mountains, military vessels, and even two colleges bear the names of the journey’s leaders. Their journals are among our greatest national treasures, and their adventures have inspired generations of explorers. Two hundred and eleven years ago this month, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their 31-man Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis, the frontier town where they had started their journey 28 months and nearly 13,000 kilometers of wilderness earlier on May 14, 1804.

23 Sep 2017

Benchmarks: August 31, 1886: Magnitude-7 earthquake rocks Charleston, South Carolina

In late August 1886, Charleston, S.C., was in the grip of a heat wave. It was so hot during the day that many offices were closed and events were postponed until later in the evening when temperatures had cooled. So, when powerful seismic waves rippled across the city at 9:51 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 1886, people were sent scrambling not just out of homes, theaters and the opera house, but out of churches, offices and other buildings in which they might not have otherwise been at that late hour.

31 Aug 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleoclimatologist Gifford H. Miller

“Hope for the unexpected.” This motto has pulled paleoclimatologist Gifford H. Miller to remote corners of the world to conduct fieldwork for more than half a century. Miller, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) and associate director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, thrives on the pursuit of knowledge, asking tough questions about the global climate system whose answers have far-reaching implications. But it’s the thrill of unexpected discoveries — of which he’s made many — that keep him returning for more. His discoveries, including the extinction timing of giant birds in Australia, the existence of “zombie mosses” that document the life-cycle of Arctic ice caps, and the finding of lake sediments that tell the story of Iceland’s deglaciation, have led to advances in our understanding of Earth’s climate history and the role humans have played in it.

30 Jun 2017

The mackerel year: Tambora changed how New England fished

The 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora Volcano led to a 1- to 1.5-degree-Celsius drop in the average global temperature, prompting 1816 to be called the “year without a summer.” New research analyzes weather data and historical records from New England to explain why, in the northeast U.S., 1816 was also called the “mackerel year.” As eruption-induced extreme weather triggered food scarcity in some areas, including a reduction in alewife numbers along the U.S. Atlantic coast, fishermen in the Gulf of Maine turned to mackerel fisheries farther offshore that had been neglected while more easily fished coastal and freshwater species were available.

06 Jun 2017

Burying the sky: Turning carbon dioxide into rock

At an Icelandic geothermal power plant, researchers are capturing carbon dioxide and burying it in basalt to keep the greenhouse gas out of the sky. But can this method be scaled up, and work elsewhere, to help meet global climate goals? 

02 Jun 2017

Geomedia: Film: 'Written on Water': A Modern Tale of a Dry West

An endless patchwork of circular fields surrounds the small West Texas town of Olton. The unnatural shapes and sharp boundaries of the brown and green fields result from center-pivot irrigation systems that pull water from the Ogallala Aquifer and allow more crops to grow than the semi-arid landscape would otherwise allow. On these dusty farms and within town offices a drama is unfolding over what to do as irrigation wells run dry.

11 May 2017

Mountains may cause huge waves in Venusian clouds

An enormous, stationary, bow-shaped feature has been detected in the cloud-tops of Venus’ thick, sulfuric acid-rich atmosphere. The structure, stretching more than 10,000 kilometers, remains fixed over Venus’ surface despite atmospheric winds that whip around the planet at 100 meters per second.

03 May 2017

Grapes reveal impacts of sulfur-rich Samalas eruption on 13th-century climate

The A.D. 1257 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Samalas sent an ash plume an estimated 43 kilometers into the sky in one of the most sulfur-rich eruptions of the last 7,000 years. A new study using tree rings, ice cores and historical records investigates how this colossal eruption impacted climate across the Northern Hemisphere, finding that the eruption triggered severe cold in some regions, while other areas were less affected. The pattern could be explained by the behavior of sulfate particles in the atmosphere, researchers suggest.

28 Apr 2017

Benchmarks: April 24, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope is launched

Five hundred and eighty kilometers above Earth, orbiting at more than 27,000 kilometers per hour, is a 12-ton, bus-sized eye on the universe: the Hubble Space Telescope. When Hubble launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, scientists hoped it would provide answers to many of the great unknown questions of the day. How old is the universe? How fast is it expanding? What lies between galaxies?

24 Apr 2017

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