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Opportunist organisms rafted across the Pacific on plastic

Since World War II, fiberglass and plastic — which are stronger, lighter and require less maintenance than wood — have become the materials of choice for coastal infrastructure like docks. An unforeseen consequence of this transition, however, is that when structures built from these durable materials break free from their moorings and drift out to sea, they can serve as resilient rafts for opportunistic organisms. 

21 Nov 2017

Extinct lunar magnetic field lasted longer than previously thought

Magnetized lunar rocks collected by the Apollo missions indicate the moon had its own magnetic field, generated by motion of liquid metal in its core, until at least 3.2 billion years ago. However, what powered the lunar field and how long it lasted has been unclear. Now, new research reveals that the lunar magnetic field lasted until at least 2.5 billion years ago, and possibly even until 1 billion years ago.

17 Nov 2017

Volcanic activity contributed to first of the "Big Five" mass extinctions

During the Ordovician, between about 488 million and 444 million years ago, plant life first emerged on land, while primitive fish and a variety of marine invertebrates flourished in the oceans. Toward the end of the period, however, a mass extinction — the first of the so-called “Big Five” Phanerozoic extinctions — wiped out roughly 60 percent of all marine invertebrate genera. In a recent study, researchers shed new light on a possible cause of the Late Ordovician extinction: volcanic activity.

15 Nov 2017

Bare Earth Elements: Bone up on your spooky geo-vocabulary this Halloween

I simply couldn’t resist writing this post. While I’m hardly a fanatical Halloween guy, I am an impassioned lover of puns and word humor (typically, the more Dad-like, the better in my book). And so when it occurred to me I could crack open my big ol’ “Glossary of Geology” to scour it for some of the eerier sounding jargon within, it seemed a perfect way to acknowledge the day. Fear not … unlike with H.P. Lovecraft’s “Necronomicon,” there are no ancient or evil powers to be conjured from the netherworld by speaking these ghastly glossary entries. You might, however, summon an appreciation for the some of the fiendish creativity and ghoulish humor that’s gone into earth science’s vast lexicon.

31 Oct 2017

New method offers improved monitoring of Kilauea

Kilauea Volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, has been erupting continuously since 1983, mostly releasing relatively slow-moving lava flows, although rare violent eruptions have occurred. Both explosive and nonexplosive eruptions pose risks to tourists, roughly 2.6 million of whom visit Kilauea annually, as well as to island residents whose safety and property have at times been put in jeopardy by flowing lava.

04 Oct 2017

Less-developed countries with high climate risk need better access to weather and climate data

Rising seas, more persistent droughts and more frequent severe weather events are predicted to occur in the coming decades as the planet continues warming. In a new study, researchers who analyzed spending internationally on weather and climate information services (WCIS) suggest that access to reliable WCIS is becoming more vital for communities and governments looking to assess their vulnerability and to safeguard people and property amid changing climates.

22 Sep 2017

Ancient wildfires suggest rising atmospheric oxygen helped end past ocean anoxia

Many times throughout Earth’s history, oxygen levels in the world’s oceans have decreased dramatically in episodes called oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), which have caused massive marine die-offs. In the Early Jurassic, for example, the Toarcian OAE has been linked with the extinction of many ammonite species and other sea life. However, how such episodes end remains largely unclear to scientists.

22 Aug 2017

Bare Earth Elements: Tour brings hurricane hunting aircraft and expertise to the masses

With hurricane season officially getting under way on May 15 in the Eastern Pacific and June 1 in the Atlantic, NOAA has been busy this week publicizing National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which aims to inform the public about what they can do to prepare for potentially damaging and life-threatening storms. This year, the agency is simultaneously hosting its annual Hurricane Awareness Tour, a week-long traveling exhibition starring hurricane hunting aircraft and their crews. EARTH's Tim Oleson dropped by the tour stop in Washington, D.C., on May 9 to check it out and talk with Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center.

11 May 2017

And then there was one: Ceres' disappearing ice volcanoes

Earth has numerous volcanoes, both active and extinct — some of which continue to tower over landscapes long after they finished erupting. On the chilly dwarf planet Ceres, however, scientists have identified just a single volcano — an ice-erupting cryovolcano — raising questions about whether others ever existed there and, if so, what happened to them. In a new study, researchers suggest that Ceres has likely had other volcanoes, but that, over time, their icy slopes have been flattened beyond recognition.

28 Apr 2017

Soil moisture may help predict power outages in hurricanes

Power outages, most often caused by trees and branches falling on electric lines and transformers, are one of the most debilitating aspects of hurricanes, knocking out power to large numbers of people and businesses. In a new effort to improve modeling of where and when power outages caused by falling trees will occur during hurricanes, researchers are making use of frequent measurements of soil moisture provided by NASA’s SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) mission, which began collecting data in spring 2015. 

08 Mar 2017

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