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Algae ate themselves to death and caused a global extinction

Errant asteroids and toxic emissions from volcanic eruptions are the usual suspects in mass extinctions. But during the Ordovician, it was a million-year stretch of cooling ushered in by proliferating algae that triggered a worldwide glaciation and extinction event, according to a new study.

08 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

Astronomers find missing half of the universe

Astronomers recently located half of the ordinary matter in the universe — a detection that has eluded scientists for decades.

29 Oct 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

Dangers of Van Allen Belts driven by "local acceleration"

Between about 13,500 and 58,000 kilometers above Earth’s surface, billions of high-energy particles — predominately electrons — congregate to form the outer Van Allen Belt. Nearly 4,000 kilometers closer to Earth, the outermost boundary of its twin, the second Van Allen Belt, also encircles the planet.

25 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

Monsoon strength affects global ice volumes, not vice versa?

In the 1920s, Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch proposed that cyclical changes in Earth’s orbital eccentricity, as well as its axial tilt and orientation, shape global climate. Part of his theory — widely accepted since — is that the amount of solar radiation, or insolation, reaching high northern latitudes is a major factor in regulating global ice volume and albedo, which in turn control the strength of tropical monsoons. But in a new study, researchers suggest that instead of global ice volume regulating monsoon strength, it’s mostly the other way around.

22 Oct 2018

First Antarctic tetrapods

Tetrapods include all those animals with four limbs. Humans are tetrapods, as are dogs and dinosaurs and salamanders. The earliest tetrapods evolved on land from fish with bony fins during the Devonian Period between about 420 million and 359 million years ago. Until now, fossils of the earliest four-legged forms were only known from equatorial regions, but paleontologists working in South Africa now report the discovery of fossil tetrapods that lived in the Late Devonian Antarctic.

18 Oct 2018

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