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Residual strain explains later quakes

The largest earthquake in recorded history struck southern Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 temblor was followed by a tsunami that, combined with the seismic shaking, killed 1,600 people and left more than 2 million homeless. New research suggests that, despite the staggering size of the event, the shaking didn’t dissipate all the strain accumulated at the time on the subduction fault between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. The residual strain left on the fault may explain why a portion of this same section of fault ruptured again — 56 years later — on Dec. 25, 2016, in a magnitude-7.6 event.

26 Mar 2018

Measuring earthquakes using fiber-optic cables

Fiber-optic cables crisscross the world, ferrying digital data and enabling internet access and telecommunication. In a new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers tested whether fiber-optic cables can also be used to detect and measure earthquakes.

23 Mar 2018

Surveying forests from afar

Traditional surveys of forest health and diversity take hours of hiking and sampling by scientists who can only cover relatively small areas. Satellites, meanwhile, can survey large swaths of land, collecting information about forests in a fraction of the time that a ground survey might take. But the resolution and types of satellite data available don’t always allow for detailed studies. Now, a team of ecologists is staking out the middle ground by developing airborne laser scanning techniques to create high-resolution maps of tree species diversity to monitor changes in forest ecosystems.

22 Mar 2018

Globe-trotting bacteria found at both poles

The Arctic and Antarctica, separated by more than 15,000 kilometers, may be geographic opposites but they share many similarities, including their diverse arrays of bacteria and other microscopic life forms. A new study looking at the DNA of bacteria from both poles has found remarkable similarities between the two regions’ bacterial diversity, including some of the same species.

21 Mar 2018

Pesky ticks even plagued dinosaurs

Blood-sucking, disease-spreading ticks are one of the most maligned parasites in the world, and new evidence shows they’ve been doing their dirty work for a long time: Fossilized ticks dating to the mid-Cretaceous represent the first direct evidence that the ancestors of today’s pesky critters once plagued dinosaurs.

20 Mar 2018

Carbon emissions spike when continents rift

The vast majority of Earth’s carbon is stored in the planet’s interior. This buried carbon is not isolated from the surface over geologic timescales, however; some of it is released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and other gases when volcanic eruptions occur above subduction zones or island arcs.

19 Mar 2018

LIP split by South Atlantic breakup was sourced from deep

Massive volumes of rock called large igneous provinces (LIPs) have formed many times throughout Earth’s history, fed by some of the planet’s mightiest volcanic events. The volcanic eruptions, sometimes lasting millions of years and pouring hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometers of lava onto the surface, have influenced continental breakups, past climate change and mass extinction events. For everything that’s known about LIPs, however, many questions about them remain, including how far below the surface the erupted magma originate. In a recent study, researchers report that the origins of the Paraná-Etendeka LIP likely lay deep in Earth’s interior.

16 Mar 2018

Ice (Re)Cap: March 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. Here are a few of the latest updates.

12 Mar 2018

Heating up Enceladus' ice-covered ocean

Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus, is covered by ice, but just beneath its icy surface lies an ocean of liquid water. New research suggests that this internal ocean may be maintained in a liquid state by heat generated by tidal friction within the moon’s fragmented, rocky core.

08 Mar 2018

Gettysburg rocks tell battlefield tales

Since the late 19th century, Civil War battlefield landscapes have changed. Some have been plowed under and developed, while elsewhere, woods have been cut down or become overgrown. But the rocks that dotted those battlefields from Gettysburg to Mississippi largely still stand. Historians are now using the steadfast boulders and ridges seen in the backgrounds of 154-year-old battlefield photographs to learn more about the skirmishes that took place at certain sites.

07 Mar 2018

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