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Uranium contamination in aquifers could be linked to nitrate

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant life, but plants can only take up so much so fast. When excess nitrogen enters the environment by way of fertilizer and manure runoff, as well as in automobile and industrial emissions, it becomes a pollutant that can leach into waterways, carrying with it unintended — and often undesirable — consequences. In a new study, researchers have found evidence of one such consequence: elevated uranium levels in two major U.S. aquifers.

17 Feb 2016

Fire-fountain carbon sheds light on lunar origins

The moon was once thought to be virtually devoid of water and other volatile materials — a presumed consequence of extreme heating during its formation. But a recent study of lunar volcanic glasses, from samples brought back by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, is adding to the growing stack of recent evidence suggesting the moon is not the volatile-free place scientists once suspected. The findings bring us one step closer to understanding the moon’s origins.

03 Feb 2016

What are the odds?: Automated system calculates the likelihood that asteroids will hit Earth

By some estimates, Earth is pelted each year by tens of thousands of asteroids — from souvenir-sized nuggets 10 grams and up to the occasional meters-wide boulder. Spotting larger Earth-bound impactors that could cause serious destruction, while they’re still in space, has been a priority of the planetary science community for years. But many space objects are small enough that they can only be detected days or hours before impact — if at all. In a new study, scientists have tested and automated a new technique called systematic ranging that’s intended to rapidly calculate the probability — from only a handful of observations — that newly discovered asteroids will hit Earth.

26 Jan 2016

Modeling 'magma mush' could reveal volcanic histories

Volcanic eruptions can spew large amounts of molten rock and ash, putting nearby communities as well as aircraft at risk. Gas emissions and earthquakes sometimes offer clues of when an eruption will occur, but the internal workings of volcanoes are largely unobservable. In a recent study, researchers illuminated these internal processes with a computer simulation that models the flow of the part-liquid, part-solid “magma mush” beneath volcanoes.

18 Dec 2015

Geomedia: Television: 'NOVA: Making North America' Is Flashy, But Fails on Storytelling

A new three-hour-long documentary, “NOVA: Making North America,” airing in November, purports to tell the geological, biological and anthropological story of North America. Unfortunately, it falls short on many counts.

17 Nov 2015

Bite marks offer best evidence yet of T. rex cannibalism

Tyrannosaurs were not the most discerning of carnivores. In addition to dining on other dinosaurs, like Triceratops and duck-billed hadrosaurs, it appears the fearsome apex predators weren’t averse to making a meal of their own kind. A series of deep bite marks on a 66-million-year-old leg bone uncovered recently in eastern Wyoming may be the best evidence yet of Tyrannosaurus rex cannibalism.

10 Nov 2015

Wormholes may limit landslides

When Emma Harrison, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, began digging trenches in the Luquillos Mountains of Puerto Rico to study how the soil mantle responds to rapid changes in erosion, she couldn’t help but notice that the thick soils were chock-full of wriggling worms. Intrigued by the worms’ abundance and prodigious activity at her field site, Harrison wondered whether their presence could be influencing weathering and erosion in the Luquillos. 

09 Nov 2015

Bare Earth Elements: In honor of 'Back to the Future Day,' a few things geoscientists might (or might not) have been thinking about in 1985

Today is the day 30 years in the future to which Marty McFly — a feisty ‘80s teenager from fictional Hill Valley, Calif. — travels from 1985 courtesy of Doc Brown’s ingenious, time-traveling, “flux capacitor”-powered (though sadly also fictional) DeLorean DMC-12 in the 1989 film, “Back to the Future 2.” And the heaping pile of “BTTF” nostalgia that’s going around the Internet got me pondering a few topics that geoscientists might (or might not) have been thinking about in 1985.

21 Oct 2015

Peculiar shape of hair ice linked to fungus

If you have ever taken a morning hike through the woods and seen strange, silky-looking ice on fallen logs, you might have been observing a phenomenon that has puzzled hikers and scientists alike for at least a century. In a new study, researchers examining so-called hair ice have unraveled an explanation for these peculiar formations.

13 Oct 2015

Subducted seawater the source of fluid-rich diamonds

Subducting oceanic plates that dive hundreds of kilometers beneath Earth’s surface carry with them cargoes of sediment and seawater. As the plate heats up the deeper it sinks, this seawater not only initiates melting in the rock above it, but can also trigger diamond formation, suggest the authors of a new study in Nature.

30 Sep 2015

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