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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

Massive earthquake strikes Chile

A massive magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 95 kilometers north of Iquique on Tuesday night at 6:46 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Because the quake occurred underwater along a thrust fault in the subduction zone, a tsunami warning was issued for several cities along the Chilean coast and around the Pacific Basin. A 2.1-meter wave was reported in some Chilean cities. Preliminary reports indicate several deaths and some damage; power is out in many areas and landslides have also been recorded, according to news reports. So far, widespread destruction — which could easily accompany such a large quake — has thankfully not been reported.  The quake followed weeks of increased seismic activity, including dozens of earthquakes up to magnitude-6.7 that have struck since March 16. It is now clear these were foreshocks. 

01 Apr 2014

Bare Earth Elements: Mars rocks wear manganese coats

Several rocks on the surface of Mars are coated with distinctive dark-colored surface layers enriched in manganese that, while sharing similarities with manganese-rich rock varnish found on Earth, do not appear to be varnish themselves based on differences in trace element levels, according to new research presented Wednesday by Nina Lanza of Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

19 Mar 2014

Sudden gas eruption shakes the ground near Rome's airport

On Aug. 24, 2013, visitors arriving at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, located in the Fiumicino municipality, flew over a surprising hazard: a gas emission that suddenly exploded from the ground a few meters outside the airport compound. The expulsion, referred to as the Fiumicino Gas Vent (FGV), occurred about 15 kilometers southwest of Rome and was first noticed by passing motorists. Shortly after the explosion, scientists sought  to determine the gas’ makeup and whether it posed a continuing danger.

03 Mar 2014

GPS measurements of ground inflation help forecast ash plumes

When Grimsvötn Volcano in Iceland erupted in May 2011, northern European airspace was closed for seven days and about 900 passenger flights were canceled. Scientists were charged with trying to read the volcano — to tell how high the ash plume would go and to figure out how long the violent eruption would last. Such features are hard to predict, but in a novel study, one research team has found a correlation between the height and composition of the Grimsvötn ash plume and ground deformation before and during the eruption. The findings, the team says, could improve volcanic plume dispersion models, which in turn could help air traffic managers determine when and where it’s safe to fly when volcanoes like Grimsvötn and Eyjafjallajökull suddenly erupt.

20 Feb 2014

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