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mary caperton morton

Japanese diaries show sun's cycle sparks lightning on Earth

The effects of solar cycles on Earth’s climate over timeframes of thousands of years are well documented, but the shorter-term effects on weather are less understood. A new study using ancient Japanese diaries to track storms in the 18th and 19th centuries suggests that one of the sun’s shortest cycles — the 27-day rotational period — may play a role in stimulating lightning on Earth.

15 Nov 2018

Saharan dust a storm killer

Each year between 900 million and 4 billion metric tons of dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa is swept into the atmosphere and blown around the world. In places like Texas, the dust often leads to poor air quality. A new study suggests that desert dust may also suppress the formation of severe storms and hurricanes in the southern United States.

06 Nov 2018

Globe-trotting kelp set new world record

When marine biologist Erasmo Macaya, from University of Concepción in Chile, found a piece of kelp washed up on a beach in Antarctica, he suspected the scrap of seaweed had come a long way.

02 Nov 2018

Underwater WiFi? Rising sea levels threaten physical internet

It seems like you can find wireless internet almost anywhere now, but the backbone of the internet is wired: Infrastructure such as fiber optic cables, data centers, traffic exchanges and hubs keeps us connected. In many coastal cities, however, these critical communication pieces are facing increasing risk from rising seas. A new study shows that thousands of kilometers of cables and hundreds of internet traffic hubs will be inundated by rising sea levels in the next 15 years, putting coastal cities like New York, Miami and Seattle at risk for widespread disruptions.

01 Nov 2018

Extinct gibbon found in Chinese tomb

About 2,200 years ago, a Chinese noblewoman was buried in a tomb with a menagerie of animals, including 12 horses, a leopard, a lynx and a species of gibbon unknown to modern science. The new ape, identified using detailed cranial and dental measurements as a new genus and species — Junzi imperialis — may represent the first ape to have gone extinct due to human influence after the last ice age.

26 Oct 2018

Ecuadorian volcano plays its pipe

An active volcano in central Ecuador may be the largest musical instrument on Earth: After eruptions in 2015, Cotopaxi’s newly configured crater started emitting distinctly musical rumblings that scientists may be able to use to monitor future activity at the volcano.

24 Oct 2018

Down to Earth With: Volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson

Despite growing up in Iceland, with Earth’s most volcanically active landscape as his playground, Thorvaldur Thordarson had no idea he would grow up to be a volcanologist. Nor did he suspect that his career path would take him all over the world to witness eruptions and aftermaths on six continents.

19 Oct 2018

Sipping carbon-neutral fuel from the atmosphere

In the near future, vehicles may be powered by carbon that comes from the sky, rather than out of the ground. Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and converts the carbon into pellets that can be used to make hydrocarbon fuel that works in traditional engines. A new study details the process, which has been tested over the last three years, and offers some cost-saving solutions that make DAC more economically feasible than ever.

16 Oct 2018

Surfactants slow oceanic carbon dioxide uptake

The oceans are the largest long-term carbon sink on Earth, absorbing about a quarter of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The rate of exchange of carbon dioxide between the oceans and the atmosphere is thought to be primarily controlled by wind-driven turbulence at the sea surface. More turbulence leads to increasing gas exchange and higher rates of carbon uptake by the ocean. 

12 Oct 2018

Methane emissions offset some blue carbon burial benefits

Wetlands are prolific sinks for atmospheric carbon. They pull carbon dioxide out of the air and sequester the carbon in plants, soils and sediments. But there’s a catch: Wetlands also emit methane, an even more potent, albeit far less abundant, greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Two new studies, one measuring methane emissions from a rehabilitated freshwater peatland in California and the other looking at emissions from tropical mangrove forests in Australia, are revealing that these so-called “blue carbon” sinks may emit much more methane than previously thought.

03 Oct 2018

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