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timothy oleson

Wealth of seafloor features emerges from new survey

A new survey of Earth’s deep ocean — 80 percent of which remains unmapped — has revealed a wealth of previously unknown features, including thousands of seamounts as well as a variety of undersea tectonic features that are either buried under too much sediment or were simply too small to be seen before.

14 Feb 2015

New nationwide soil map available online

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed a seven-year soil-mapping project detailing the mineralogy and geochemistry of soils across the lower 48 U.S. states. Bill Cannon, an emeritus scientist at the USGS in Reston, Va., and co-author of the report, which was published in 2014, discussed the effort last October at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C.

13 Feb 2015

Scientists sequence oldest modern human genome to date

A chance fossil find along a Russian river has provided researchers with the oldest genomic data ever sequenced from a modern human. The fossil, a nearly complete left femur, was pulled from a bank along the Irtysh River near the Ust’-Ishim district in western Siberia in 2008 by a Russian artist before it made its way to scientists.

11 Feb 2015

Plate tectonics seen on Europa

Earth is no longer the only body in the solar system where plate tectonics operates, according to new research reported in Nature Geoscience. 

05 Feb 2015

California drying out

Offering another perspective on the ongoing drought in the western U.S., NASA recently released this three-panel image illustrating relative water loss from California’s Central Valley between 2002 and 2014 based on data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites (hot colors indicate greater loss).

03 Feb 2015

Mantle plume alternative explains Australian volcanism

Magma often finds its way to the surface along Earth’s crustal boundaries as tectonic plates crash together, rift apart or grind past each other. Less understood is why volcanoes sometimes emerge far away from plate boundaries. Narrow plumes of buoyant mantle rock rising from hundreds of kilometers deep have long been supposed as the source of intraplate volcanoes, but evidence for plumes is lacking in many areas. Now, in a new study, researchers have reported evidence for an alternative process, known as edge-driven convection, which appears to be driving intraplate volcanism in southeastern Australia.

 
29 Jan 2015

Secondary aerosols a primary cause of Chinese smog

Images of Chinese skylines and streetscapes blurred by pollution-fueled hazes have become increasingly common in recent years amid ongoing urbanization and industrialization. According to a new study published in Nature, much of the pollution fogging the country’s major cities is arising not from fine particles emitted directly into the sky, but by gases that react and condense in the atmosphere to form secondary aerosols.

24 Jan 2015

Red Planet Roundup: January 2015

As two rovers patrol the surface of Mars, five spacecraft orbit above and scientists back here on Earth study the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

15 Jan 2015

The '100-year flood' fallacy: Return periods misleading in communication of flood risk

The “100-year flood” is a familiar term to anyone who lives in a flood-prone area or has ever looked at a flood map before buying homeowner’s insurance. Return periods, or recurrence intervals, like this are standard parlance for describing the magnitude and potential hazard of floods, as well as other hydrologic events like storms and droughts. Although such terms have long helped policymakers and the public try to make sense of severe weather, one researcher suggests they may confuse the issue more than clarify it.

11 Jan 2015

Skinned oceanic plates may be origin of ophiolites

Long recognized as slivers of oceanic crust incongruously emplaced on land, ophiolites are distinctive sequences of basalt, gabbro and peridotite found globally near former and current convergent zones, where oceanic tectonic plates subduct under continents. But scientists don’t have a clear idea why or how ophiolites split from downgoing plates and find their way onto land. Now, a new study suggests part of the answer may relate to weak layers of mantle that allow oceanic crust to be peeled, or “skinned,” from subducting slabs as they descend.
 

10 Jan 2015

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