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Colorado River Basin sees severe groundwater depletion

Over the past 14 years, the Colorado River Basin has experienced its worst drought since precipitation records have been kept, starting in the 1960s. The basin supplies water used for agriculture and in households in seven states, affecting more than 40 million people. In a study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have found that the reservoirs that store water in the basin are at record low levels. What’s more, the research shows that in addition to shrinking reservoirs, groundwater is being depleted much faster than previously thought, which could have major implications for the region’s future water security.

24 Sep 2014

Infrasound reveals lava lake levels

The rises and falls of volcanic lava lakes are not easily tracked, especially when the lakes aren’t visible from crater rims. But recently, researchers found a way to monitor the lava lake at Chile’s Villarrica volcano using complementary methods to keep an eye on a feature they can’t always see.

22 Aug 2014

Human-induced earthquakes shake less

Occurrences of earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States have increased since 2009 — a phenomenon that many scientists attribute to the growing use of hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction. Most agree that it’s not the fracturing itself, but the reinjection of wastewater into wells for containment beneath the surface that tends to induce seismic activity. Now, new research looking at the effects of induced seismic activity suggests that human-made earthquakes and naturally occurring tectonic earthquakes are felt differently at the surface.

21 Aug 2014

Africa's impact is one that even the dinosaurs would have seen coming

The crater left by the infamous Chicxulub asteroid responsible for finishing off the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, was more than 19 kilometers deep and 177 kilometers in diameter. Those dimensions correspond to a huge energy release estimated at 100 teratons of TNT, but that’s puny compared to an impact that struck South Africa’s Barberton Greenstone Belt about 3.26 billion years ago. Now, researchers have estimated just how big that massive asteroid was and the catastrophic effect it might have had on Earth and its budding plate tectonic system.

14 Aug 2014

Unprecedented low water-vapor levels detected on exoplanets

In a recent study, a team of astronomers found that the atmospheres of Jupiter-sized planets located outside of the solar system are much drier than predicted. The discovery has raised questions about the commonly held understanding of the processes involved in planet formation.

13 Aug 2014

Moving cars could help gauge rainfall

Accurate and timely rainfall measurements are crucial for the design of drainage systems, dams and other modern infrastructure. But rain gauges are often spread too sparsely to provide the necessary coverage in densely populated regions. In parts of Germany, for example, gauges equipped to make hourly readings are especially scarce — just one per 1,800 square kilometers. To help fill in the gaps, researchers at the Leibniz University of Hannover are developing an idea they call “RainCars” — using moving cars to measure rainfall.

23 Jul 2014

Southeastern caves shuttered to slow the spread of bat-killing disease

On June 2, the U.S. Forest Service moved to close all caves and underground mines on national forest lands in the 13 states in its southern division for five years. The goal is to halt the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a disease that has already killed 5 million bats. 

06 Jun 2014

Ancient skeleton found in underwater cave reveals DNA of earliest Americans

The 12,000- to 13,000-year-old remains of a teenage girl — the oldest, most complete, genetically intact human skeleton discovered in the New World — were found in the Hoyo Negro cave on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

15 May 2014

Mapping how malaria risk changes as new dams go up

Malaria is considered a leading public health problem in Ethiopia, with almost 70 percent of the total population at risk from the deadly disease. Combining computer simulations with field data from the Ethiopian countryside, researchers are studying how hydroelectric dams affect malaria prevalence. The hope is that the new research could provide fresh insight for malarial management programs. 

20 Apr 2014

Resolving a misplaced source of volcanism in the Galapagos

Geological models have long suggested the mantle plume that built the Galápagos islands lies below Fernandina Island. Using a novel combination of seismic techniques, however, scientists have found a mantle anomaly that appears to be the Galápagos plume located 150 kilometers southeast of Fernandina Island. The new findings better explain the ongoing volcanic activity and also shed light on interactions between the mantle and crust, researchers say.

07 Apr 2014

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