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mary caperton morton

Mountaintops get less lonely for alpine plants

It takes a hardy plant to live on top of a mountain, but new research shows that summits in the Alps are hosting more species of plants than ever before. Long-term botany surveys conducted on 302 European mountaintops over the past 145 years show that the variety of plant species living on the harsh summits has markedly increased over the last 10 years due to climate change.

18 Jul 2018

Trio of studies track stone tool technology in Kenya

About 300,000 years ago, East Africa was a hotbed of human evolution and innovation. Sweeping ecological changes contributed to the emergence of modern humans, and spurred the first long-distance trade routes and novel toolmaking technologies. Three new studies published in Science shine a spotlight on Kenya’s Olorgesailie Basin, where the clunkier Acheulean tool technology gave way to the smaller, sleeker Middle Stone Age tool technology famously associated with Homo sapiens.

05 Jul 2018

Pterosaurs flew into the Late Cretaceous

Late Cretaceous skies might have been more crowded than previously thought. Until recently, scientists thought the dearth of pterosaur fossils found from the Late Cretaceous meant that the flying reptiles were in decline before the catastrophic end of the Mesozoic. But the recent discovery in Morocco of several new pterosaur species suggests this unique branch of reptiles may have been thriving just before the end-Cretaceous extinction.

04 Jul 2018

An aurora named Steve

In 2015 and 2016, more than 30 reports of odd, purple-hued ribbons of light over southern Canada popped up in forums on Aurorasaurus, a citizen science project funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation that tracks the aurora borealis through user-submitted reports and tweets. The amateur astronomers nicknamed the strange phenomenon “Steve,” and in a new study, researchers have defined the new type of aurora.

03 Jul 2018

Did a massive eruption spur Christianity in Iceland?

The landscape and culture of Iceland, more so than any other country, have been shaped by volcanism. In a new study, researchers have refined the dates for the massive 10th-century Eldgjá eruption, which occurred just a few decades after the island was first settled. The findings may support a connection between the violent volcanism depicted in Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem and the island’s conversion from paganism to Christianity.

29 Jun 2018

Weedy seeds gathered in once-green Sahara

Today, the vast and arid Sahara Desert seems an unlikely place to find early signs of seed gathering and plant cultivation in Africa, but new evidence shows that, 10,000 years ago, people were collecting, sorting and saving seeds near a rock shelter known as Takarkori.

28 Jun 2018

Yellowstone's Mexican mantle plume

The volcanic activity at Yellowstone National Park is impressive, with thousands of active thermal features dotting a nearly 4,000-square-kilometer caldera. Scientists have long suspected that a massive mantle plume underlies the supervolcano. Now, new imaging has provided the clearest picture yet of the heat source that drives Yellowstone’s volcanism.

26 Jun 2018

Toxic treatments: Lead lingers in folk remedies

Despite drastic reductions in lead poisoning since the 1970s, some children are still being exposed to lead from atypical sources, including cosmetics and folk remedies with often-unknown origins. Medical geologists are on the case.

25 Jun 2018

Rolling thunder portends remote eruptions

The logistics of monitoring volcanoes located in remote regions, such as Alaska’s Fox Islands, can be prohibitive — but monitoring is necessary, as ash clouds billowing from even far-flung volcanoes can make their way into airplane flight paths. Researchers are now proposing an acoustic warning system to detect volcanic ash clouds that would rely on listening for the thunderclaps that often herald these eruptions.

23 Jun 2018

India's urban areas punch city-shaped holes in fog

Air pollution boosts fog formation in some places, creating whiteouts that can affect air and ground transportation, air quality, and public health. In northern and eastern India, persistent fog often hovers over the Indo-Gangetic Plain, a vast region dotted with several densely populated cities, including Delhi, home to 19 million people. Over some of these cities, however, satellite imagery is revealing large holes in the fog.

21 Jun 2018

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