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may 2017

Are North Atlantic storm tracks shifting south?

As the Arctic warms, decreasing temperature differences between the Arctic and the lower latitudes may push North Atlantic storm systems south. The factors that influence storm tracks are complicated, however, and the accuracy of models predicting future storm tracks is uncertain. The results of a new study, in which researchers looked at changes in Atlantic storm tracks over the past 4,000 years, could improve the accuracy of predictive models and help Europe prepare for shifting storm patterns.

19 May 2017

"Blob"-related warming contributed to Pacific Northwest ozone spike

In June 2015, instruments on Oregon’s Mount Bachelor recorded mean ozone for the month at 56 parts per billion, more than 20 percent higher than the average level for the 11 years prior. Other stations around the West noted similarly high readings, puzzling scientists over the cause of the rise. In a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers describe a confluence of meteorological conditions that appear to have driven the phenomenon.

18 May 2017

How often should we expect volcanic ash clouds over Europe?

In 2010, an ash cloud from an eruption at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano led to the most disruptive shutdown of North Atlantic and European airspace in aviation history. Given the high level of activity of Iceland’s more than two dozen active volcanoes, how often are such events to be expected? A new study comparing volcanic ash records over the last 1,000 years suggests that fallout over Europe may be more common than previously anticipated.

17 May 2017

Tibetan Plateau populated long before advent of agriculture

Due to the harsh living conditions of the Tibetan Plateau — which has an average elevation over 4,500 meters — archaeologists have long assumed that people didn’t live in the Himalayan high country until after the adoption of agriculture in this region of the world, about 3,600 years ago. But a new study of a trove of handprints and footprints found around a fossilized mud spring in Tibet is suggesting that people may have lived here as early as 13,000 years ago.

16 May 2017

An economic argument for reframing the geoscientist's role in disaster mitigation

Geoscientists don’t often weigh in on the long-term societal implications of the natural disasters they study — but perhaps they should. Thinking about disasters in the same way economists do might help them do more good.
14 May 2017

Ice (Re)Cap: May 2017

From Antarctica to the Arctic; from polar caps, permafrost and glaciers to ocean-rafted sea ice; and from burly bears to cold-loving microbes, fascinating science is found in every nook and crevasse of Earth’s cryosphere, and new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

12 May 2017

Bare Earth Elements: Tour brings hurricane hunting aircraft and expertise to the masses

With hurricane season officially getting under way on May 15 in the Eastern Pacific and June 1 in the Atlantic, NOAA has been busy this week publicizing National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which aims to inform the public about what they can do to prepare for potentially damaging and life-threatening storms. This year, the agency is simultaneously hosting its annual Hurricane Awareness Tour, a week-long traveling exhibition starring hurricane hunting aircraft and their crews. EARTH's Tim Oleson dropped by the tour stop in Washington, D.C., on May 9 to check it out and talk with Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center.

11 May 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

Sea-surface temperatures during last interglacial similar to modern day

During the last interglacial period, between 129,000 and 116,000 years ago, global sea levels were 6 to 9 meters higher than at present. Scientists have long wondered how global atmospheric and ocean temperatures then compared to modern times, but efforts to reconstruct such temperatures have often fallen short. In a new study, researchers who compiled past records of sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) have revealed that SSTs during the last interglacial were similar to modern day temperatures. But, the similarity doesn’t necessarily predict a future surge in sea levels.

10 May 2017

Travels in Geology: Geo-diversity and geologic history in the North West Highlands of Scotland

The complex rocks of the North West Highlands of Scotland —which span two-thirds of Earth’s history — include the oldest rocks in the United Kingdom, as well as some young, glacially sculpted landscapes. They also hold a prominent place in the history of geology.
09 May 2017

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