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Cracking the temperature of columnar jointing

When molten rock cools and contracts, it sometimes cracks to form geometrically shaped columns. This process, called columnar jointing, has led to several famous geological structures.

20 Jul 2018

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

Mineral clue to finding perfectly preserved fossils?

The exquisitely preserved fossils found in the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale in Canada are famous for the detailed anatomy they display. They also provide a rare and crucial record of the Cambrian Explosion, when most of the major animal groups first appeared.

17 Jul 2018

Cretaceous volcanic ash seeded U.S. oilfields

Petroleum and natural gas stores are often found amid rocks — particularly ashbeds — deposited during the Cretaceous, when dinosaurs roamed Earth and abundant volcanic arcs lined the edges of the continents.

10 Jul 2018

Ice (Re)Cap: July 2018

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. 

09 Jul 2018

Diamonds reveal water in deep mantle

Inclusions in diamonds often render them undesirable to consumers, but they can provide researchers with striking insights into Earth’s composition. Recently, scientists probing diamond samples for the presence of carbon dioxide stumbled instead upon inclusions of ice-VII — a type of crystallized water that forms at very high pressures, and has never before been found in nature.

07 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

Tracking Hurricane Harvey's freshwater plume

On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas coast as an unexpected Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 209 kilometers per hour. After rapidly intensifying over the Gulf of Mexico, it hovered over southeastern Texas for days, slowly weakening as it dumped 68 trillion liters of water onto the land — more than three times the volume of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

30 Jun 2018

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