Taxonomy term

november 2016

Ancient plankton communities stressed before mass extinction

Changes in our modern ecosystems, such as declines in biodiversity and invasive species, are similar to those that preceded the first of Earth’s mass extinctions about 443 million years ago, according to a new study. Researchers recently found that ancient plankton communities began to show environmental stress nearly 400,000 years before the extinction, as the planet cooled.

15 Nov 2016

Pluto may still have liquid ocean

Last year, images from NASA’s New Horizons flyby of Pluto revealed geologic activity that suggested a liquid ocean may have once lurked beneath the dwarf planet’s icy crust. But whether it still exists in that state, or had frozen, remained a question. According to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, it may still be partially liquid.

14 Nov 2016

Benchmarks: November 13, 1985: Nevado del Ruiz eruption triggers deadly lahars

On Nov. 13, 1985, at a little after 9 p.m. local time, Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano about 130 kilometers from Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, erupted, spewing a violent mix of hot ash and lava into the atmosphere. Less than three hours later, the earth rumbled as mudflows towering nearly 30 meters high swept through the countryside, several villages and eventually the town of Armero, where it killed 70 percent of the town’s residents. All-told, these mudflows, called lahars, killed more than 23,000 people.

13 Nov 2016

Turtle shells evolved for burrowing, not protection

How the turtle got its shell is one of the long-standing conundrums of paleontology. Paleontologists know that one of the first steps toward a shell was a broadening of the ribs, which occurred about 50 million years before full shells evolved. But why the broadening, which conferred some disadvantages to movement and breathing, began, has been a mystery. Now, the discovery of a proto-turtle with a partial shell in South Africa is shedding some light on the early stages of shell development.

11 Nov 2016

Geologic Column: Digital divorce!

The digital revolution has positive qualities, among them increased access to information and improved communication. But our compulsion for constant connection is troubling.

 
10 Nov 2016

The path to gypsum is four steps long

Drywall and plasters made from both natural and manufactured gypsum are commonly used in home and building construction around the world, in part because of gypsum’s widespread availability. Despite its abundance, and its seemingly simple makeup, however, relatively little is known about how the calcium sulfate mineral forms in nature. In a recent study, researchers have shed new light on the multi-stage process by which gypsum grows — and the findings could help develop more efficient ways to manufacture the material.

08 Nov 2016

Toad behavior linked to climate change

Fowler’s toads — listed as endangered in Canada — hibernate for eight months to escape harsh winter conditions. They bury themselves up to a meter deep in the sand dunes along the shore of Lake Erie in Long Point, Ontario, which is the northern extent of their range. In May, they emerge at the surface to breed, in response to warmer air temperature and the lunar cycle. But scientists have now found that the toads are emerging earlier in the spring, according to a new study in Global Change Biology.

08 Nov 2016

Comment: Understanding Earth in the wider sense of science

Earth science is a large part of science in general. As such, good general science books can also help provide a solid earth science education.

07 Nov 2016

Persistent Pacific warmth overshadows El Niño

The El Niño of 2015–2016, dubbed a “super El Niño,” was officially declared over in May, bringing to a close one of the strongest El Niño events on record. Scientists are now unraveling the details of this climate phenomenon, and discovering how it interacted with other unusual ocean conditions to impact surface and subsurface ocean conditions within the California Current System (CCS) — one of the world’s major coastal upwelling zones and a region of great biologic productivity.

06 Nov 2016

Dust orbiting Jupiter is going the wrong way

Periodically, micrometeoroids strike one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — sending dust into space, some of which enters into orbit around the gas giant. Recently, researchers charting the dusts’ orbits spotted some peculiar patterns, including some particles orbiting Jupiter in a retrograde fashion, by circling, when viewed from above, clockwise rather than counterclockwise.

03 Nov 2016

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