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Boron proxies detail past ocean acidification

Pockmarked plankton shells and dead coral are becoming the hallmark images of ocean acidification. But this isn’t the first time seawater has dropped on the pH scale. Based on models of seawater chemistry, the ocean acidity during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), beginning about 56 million years ago, is the closest-known analog to today. Now, researchers using boron proxies preserved in microfossils to reconstruct surface-ocean chemistry suggest that acidification was more extensive and lasted longer than previously thought, although the PETM conditions still don’t outpace the current rate of ocean acidification.

25 Sep 2014

Climate impacting a few of our favorite foodstuffs

Researchers have found that the number of foggy winter days in California’s agriculture-heavy Central Valley has dropped 46 percent on average over the past three decades. Fog shields the valley from sunlight and contributes to the amount of “winter chill” — the amount of time spent between zero and 7 degrees Celsius during winter dormancy — that fruit and nut trees there experience. Sufficient winter chill is necessary for buds, flowers and fruit to develop properly, and although winter chill has previously been observed to have decreased since the 1950s, no one had conducted a long-term analysis of fog occurrence trends in the area, according to Dennis Baldocchi and Eric Waller of the University of California at Berkeley.

24 Sep 2014

Bare Earth Elements: Search the seafloor firsthand (and live!)

If you’ve ever wanted to take a dive into the ocean depths and explore the seafloor below the waves, but just haven’t had the time (or financing) to build your own deep-sea submersible, here’s another solution. NOAA’s 68-meter Okeanos Explorer — the only federally funded ship dedicated to “solely to exploration” — is currently trolling the Atlantic Ocean on the three-week third leg of a mission dubbed “Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts 2014,” and it’s offering to take guests along for part of the ride.

24 Sep 2014

Colorado River Basin sees severe groundwater depletion

Over the past 14 years, the Colorado River Basin has experienced its worst drought since precipitation records have been kept, starting in the 1960s. The basin supplies water used for agriculture and in households in seven states, affecting more than 40 million people. In a study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have found that the reservoirs that store water in the basin are at record low levels. What’s more, the research shows that in addition to shrinking reservoirs, groundwater is being depleted much faster than previously thought, which could have major implications for the region’s future water security.

24 Sep 2014

Seeing beneath Greenland's ice

Save the handful of Vikings who settled an ice-free stretch of Greenland’s southwest coast during the Medieval Warm Period a millennia ago, few humans have ever laid eyes on even a fraction of the land that lies below Greenland’s 1.7-million-square-kilometer ice sheet. Now, courtesy of a new model, scientists are seeing a detailed view of the topography underlying the ice sheet, which is an important control on the flow and discharge of ice into the ocean.

23 Sep 2014

Of char and carbon: The story of a buried soil

The so-called Brady soil — a dark horizon up to a meter thick that underlies much of Kansas and Nebraska — is widespread but often unseen. The layer is a paleosol, or fossil soil, that formed about 15,500 to 13,500 years ago when the region was a stable grassland built atop dunes of thick, wind-blown loess. That changed when the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated and dunes swallowed the grasslands.

22 Sep 2014

Students send experiments to the International Space Station

As Orb-2, the latest mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS), lifted off on July 13, no one at NASA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va., was more thrilled than 16 elementary and high school students whose scientific experiments were on board the Cygnus spacecraft. The fifth through 12th graders represented 15 teams totaling 99 students from across the United States whose proposals had survived a rigorous screening program.

19 Sep 2014

The Bay Area's next 'big one' could strike as a series of quakes

Californians are bracing for when the San Andreas Fault unleashes the next “big one,” but a new study looking at the paleoseismic history of the San Francisco Bay Area suggests that accumulated stress could also be released in a series of moderate to large quakes on satellite faults, rather than by a single great event on the San Andreas.
 

14 Sep 2014

Red Planet Roundup: September 2014

As Curiosity and Opportunity rove around Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Express and Mars Odyssey orbit above, and scientists on Earth study the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

12 Sep 2014

All the world's glaciers in one global inventory

Earth is home to about 198,000 glaciers, which have now all been mapped. The first global inventory of alpine glaciers, including their locations, extents, volumes and geographic outlines, has been assembled — a feat climate scientists and glaciologists hope will allow for better monitoring of the world’s ice.
 

12 Sep 2014

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