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Bare Earth Elements: Mars-Observing Fleet Set to Face Silent Treatment

Outbound communications from NASA to its group of Mars-observing orbiters and rovers will be curtailed starting April 4. And as of April 9, no commands will be sent in the Red Planet’s direction. Lest anyone worry that this radio silence has to do with sequester-related budgetary constraints affecting the space agency, don’t fret, it’s only temporary and it has more to do with orbital, rather than fiscal, dynamics. The planned break in communication is a result of an impending planetary configuration, known as a solar conjunction, that will put the sun directly between Earth and Mars.

03 Apr 2013

Well-healed faults produce high-frequency earthquake waves

Much like our voices create sound waves with a variety of low and high pitches, or frequencies, earthquakes also produce seismic waves over a spectrum of frequencies. The seismic waves’ frequencies determine, in part, how far they travel and how damaging they are to human-made structures. But teasing out the details of how quake-generating faults influence seismic frequencies is no easy task, mainly because faults tend to be buried deep underground.

10 Mar 2013

Sahara dust brings rain and snow to California

What triggers the mountain rain and snow that are vital to California’s water and energy needs? The answer, according to new research, is blowing in the wind: dust and bacteria from as far away as Africa’s Sahara Desert.

28 Feb 2013

SEC mandates businesses disclose use of conflict minerals

Restive stakeholders crowded the auditorium at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Aug. 22. They were anxiously awaiting the Commission’s final ruling on sections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which would amend the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 to include a conflict minerals disclosure statement.

07 Nov 2012

Sun provides water to the moon?

Until recently, the consensus in the scientific community was that the moon was bone-dry. Scientists thought that the massive impact responsible for the moon’s creation would have driven away the hydrogen needed to form water. In the past four years, however, that view has melted away. The first suggestion of water was in 2008, when researchers identified the presence of water in volcanic lunar glass. In 2009, satellites orbiting high above the moon identified water on its surface.

14 Oct 2012

Arctic humidity on the rise

As the Arctic warms and sea ice melts, scientists suspect that system feedback cycles may further speed up the warming process. Now, a new study looking specifically at the Arctic water vapor cycle shows how shifting patterns of humidity may bring about changes in the Arctic atmosphere.

07 Oct 2012

Karakoram glaciers buck global, regional trends

When it comes to glaciers, stability represents a refreshing change of pace. In contrast to regional and global trends — which, scientists say, have unambiguously indicated ice loss in recent decades — a team of French glaciologists has confirmed that glaciers in a portion of the northwestern Himalayas remained stable on average, or may have even grown slightly, in recent years. The results have implications for local water supplies and glacial hazards and, the team says, underscore the value of high-resolution monitoring in accurately determining regional-scale glacial changes.

09 Jul 2012

Ecosystem collapse in Pleistocene Australia

Between 50,000 and 45,000 years ago, in the Late Quaternary, Australia suffered a major loss of its megafauna. Sixty taxa of mammals, predominantly large leaf- and twig-eating animals called browsers, went extinct, including all 19 species exceeding 100 kilograms, like the half-ton Palorchestes azael, a marsupial similar to a ground sloth, and the rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon.

05 Jun 2012

Sumatran strike-slip earthquakes challenge seismologists

Events may shed light on regional tectonics, alter stress on nearby megathrust

After the magnitude-8.6 earthquake and magnitude-8.2 aftershock that struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia on April 11, scientists quickly identified why no tsunami followed either one: The earthquakes had occurred on strike-slip faults more than 400 kilometers offshore rather than on the Sunda megathrust fault that has been responsible for a series of large earthquakes since 2004. For all that can be explained, however, the earthquakes took most scientists by surprise. The combination of their size — they're the largest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded by most accounts — and their location is challenging the paradigm of strike-slip earthquakes and is raising new questions about the region’s tectonics.

11 May 2012

Earliest instrumental temperature record recovered in Italy

 

In the aftermath of the flood that struck Florence, Italy in 1966, records from the national library became scattered, including the earliest known instrumental temperature records collected by the Medicis in the 1600s. Recently, the temperature records were rediscovered and analyzed for the first time, giving researchers new insight into climate during the Little Ice Age. 

10 May 2012

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