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Hidden graves give up their secrets to geologists

As of April 2013, more than 61,000 people were registered as missing in Colombia, many of whom are feared to be victims of the country’s narcotics-fueled gang wars and, presumably, buried in clandestine graves. Now a new study comparing the most effective remote sensing tools for finding hidden graves may help bring justice for victims and closure for families.

08 Aug 2013

Hurricane hunters fly toward improved storm forecasts

Hurricanes are one of the few natural disasters that strike with some advance notice. Forecasts can be made hours or even days ahead of landfall, giving communities time to prepare and evacuate. Nevertheless, the forecasts are not exact, and improving their accuracy — in terms of timing, location of landfall and wind intensity — poses an ongoing challenge. Two recent studies detailing the latest advances in data collection and assimilation may help improve forecasting as early as this year.
 
04 Aug 2013

Corn syrup model splits Yellowstone's plume in two

Yellowstone is renowned for its hot springs, geysers and for hosting one of the world’s most volatile supervolcanoes. Despite its popularity, the origin of all that volcanic activity remains poorly understood. Traditional plume models can’t explain the jumble of volcanic surface features. Now, a new study using corn syrup to replicate the mantle processes underlying Yellowstone offers a more complicated scenario.

14 Jul 2013

Iowa impact crater confirmed

An airborne geophysical survey mapping mineral resources in the Midwest has confirmed that a 470-million-year-old impact crater nearly five times the size of Barringer (Meteor) Crater in Arizona lies buried several hundred meters beneath the town of Decorah, Iowa.

07 Jul 2013

Oceanic records paint a more complex picture of human evolution

It has long been hypothesized that human ancestors evolved the ability to walk upright — a feature that appeared about 6 million years ago — in response to African landscapes changing from forests to grasslands. Now, a group of scientists has assembled the most continuous timeline of landscape evolution and grassland development over the last 12 million years near the African Rift Valley in northeastern Africa — and the timeline contradicts conventional hypotheses.

17 Jun 2013

Removing predators increases carbon emissions

Habitat loss, overfishing and invasive species can damage ecosystems, but the loss of predators in particular may have worse consequences than previously thought. In a new study, scientists show that the absence of freshwater predators sharply influences an ecosystem’s carbon dioxide emissions.

12 Jun 2013

Old landscapes see the light thanks to improved imaging

Archaeology has come a long way from the days when the only way to find something was to dig it up. These days, in addition to shovels and brushes, many researchers also use noninvasive imaging techniques to look into the past without disturbing a site.

05 Jun 2013

Lofted by hurricanes, bacteria live the high life

With cold temperatures, low humidity and high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, conditions 10 kilometers above Earth’s surface may seem inhospitable. But next time you’re flying, consider this: The air outside your airplane window might be filled with an array of microscopic life that affects everything from weather and climate to the distribution of pathogens around the planet.

05 May 2013

Big quakes topple traditional views of fault behavior

If rules are made to be broken, then perhaps conventional wisdom is made to be overturned. The spate of large earthquakes in recent years — the magnitude and location of which have defied scientific expectations in several cases — has provided ample support for these maxims, at least within earth science. For all the confusion, though, data emerging from these events are reshaping and improving our understanding of how faults operate.

14 Apr 2013

Widely used index may have overestimated drought

The severity and frequency of drought are expected to increase worldwide as climate change leads to a warmer atmosphere and regional changes in precipitation, and some research has shown that drought is already increasing. But a new study concludes that the increase in drought claimed by previous studies has been overestimated and that there has actually been little increase over the last 60 years.

07 Apr 2013

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