Taxonomy term

lucas joel

Where will the San Andreas Fault rupture next?

In 1906, the San Andreas Fault Zone ruptured, and the shaking that followed brought the city of San Francisco to its knees. Buildings toppled and fires raged and, in the end, more than 3,000 people died as a result. Since then, Californians have often wondered aloud when and where the next “Big One” will strike. Geologists do not know the answers, but recent research has offered a new clue: Field mapping of the San Andreas’ southernmost reaches, near the Salton Sea, reveals a type of fault structure that researchers think may be just right for triggering a big earthquake.

08 Oct 2018

Earth's first footprints

As far as we know, life originated on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago, and for roughly the first 3 billion years of that history all life was microscopic. Then, during the Ediacaran Period from 635 million to 541 million years ago, the first organisms visible to the naked eye emerged. Although many members of this group, called the Ediacara biota, would have looked alien to us, some nonetheless had features we might find familiar. And according to a new study, it was Ediacaran creatures that left behind Earth’s oldest-known footprints.

05 Oct 2018

An asteroid redirected bird evolution

When an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago, it helped wipe out all the dinosaur lineages save one: the birds. But birds didn’t completely dodge the cataclysm the asteroid triggered. Recent research suggests that forests around the planet were devastated. With forests gone, bird species that called trees home went extinct alongside their nonavian dinosaur cousins. This means that the birds that we see living in trees today evolved from lineages that, in the aftermath of the impact, were ground-dwelling.

30 Aug 2018

Bolts of insight on earthly gamma ray showers

A handful of times between 2014 and 2016, an array of ground detectors placed in Utah’s western desert sensed something in thunderstorms that occasionally raged overhead: showers of gamma rays — the highest energy waves in the electromagnetic spectrum — occurring alongside lightning bolts.

15 Aug 2018

Seismic waves are blind to water

Geoscientists use the seismic waves produced by earthquakes to image the internal structure of the planet. Some seismic waves travel through liquids, while others do not, which is how we know, for instance, that Earth has a solid inner core and a liquid outer core.

08 Aug 2018

Mineral clue to finding perfectly preserved fossils?

The exquisitely preserved fossils found in the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale in Canada are famous for the detailed anatomy they display. They also provide a rare and crucial record of the Cambrian Explosion, when most of the major animal groups first appeared.

17 Jul 2018

Benchmarks: June 15, 1991: Mount Pinatubo erupts

Twenty-seven years ago this month, the calm in central Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines, turned to chaos. On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo disgorged 5 cubic kilometers of material over a few hours, and ash clouds soared 35 kilometers into the atmosphere. The substantial eruption — the second largest of the 20th century — burned itself into memories and history books.

15 Jun 2018

"Dam levels critical" in Cape Town

At first glance, a visitor to Cape Town might not notice the extent of the parched conditions — people still go about their business, amid the same kind of hustle and bustle you would find in other major cities. But looking closer, there are signs that something is not right. People standing in buckets to conserve water during showers is one such sign, and bottled water flying off grocery store shelves is another.

13 Jun 2018

Skate eggs found on hydrothermal vents

In July 2016, a team of scientists came upon a surprise 1,660 meters beneath the ocean’s surface near the Galápagos Islands: a clutch of yellow eggs, laid by a Pacific white skate, a cousin of rays and sharks. It was not the eggs themselves that surprised the team, but where they were found: near a volcanic hydrothermal vent. The large number of eggs at the site led the team to suggest that the skate was likely using the vent’s heat to incubate the eggs.

11 Jun 2018

TRAPPIST-1 system hosts seven "Earth-like" planets

In 2017, astronomers discovered seven planets orbiting a star dubbed TRAP­PIST-1, a faint red dwarf 40 light-years from Earth and only 9 percent as bright as our sun. The Earth-like qualities of these planets made headlines: they are of similar sizes to our planet, and their orbits fall within TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone — two characteristics that scientists think are important for life to exist on a planet. Researchers now report that the TRAPPIST-1 planets have even more traits in common with Earth: they are likely rocky, and they may have surface water that exists as liquid, ice and vapor.

08 Jun 2018