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Cape Town faces a waterless future

The city of Cape Town, South Africa, is bone dry. In 2017, after two straight years of drought, a third drought year offered more of the same.. This past January, city leaders announced that they would shut off the taps to the municipal water supply in April because that was when “Day Zero” — the day when the water supply would run dry — was predicted to occur. Day Zero has since been pushed back to sometime in 2019, but, for 4 million Capetonians, living under the specter of a day without water is the new normal, and signs of that reality litter the city. Sometimes literally.

22 May 2018

When more humidity means less water

Scientists have long assumed that temperature is the main control on melting of winter snowpacks across the mountainous western United States. In a recent study, however, scientists suggest that regional humidity may have a larger impact than temperature.

16 May 2018

El Nino "flavors" affect California rainfall

Twenty years ago, the 1997–98 El Niño surpassed the 1982–83 event to become the strongest El Niño ever recorded, contributing to famine and drought in Southeast Asia, devastating floods in Southern California, and other natural disasters. By many metrics, the 2015–16 El Niño bested both to claim the title of the strongest El Niño on record. This most recent event, nicknamed the “Godzilla El Niño,” did contribute to extreme weather in parts of the world, including disastrous fires in Indonesia and the longest, global coral-bleaching event on record. However, it did not have the anticipated effect on California, which, at the time, was in the midst of a severe multi-year drought. In a recent study, researchers suggest the 2015–16 El Niño was the wrong “flavor” to bring heavy precipitation to the state.

13 May 2018

Geoscience on Film: The Burma Arc in Myanmar

Doug Prose has co-produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences with his partner and wife, Diane LaMacchia, through their nonprofit Earth Images Foundation since 1992. Their latest documentary, “The Himalaya Connection,” began airing on PBS stations in April. Prose has previously written and blogged for EARTH about the pair’s experience shooting and preparing “Connection,” which involved six separate trips to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Mongolia and Nepal from 2011 to 2016. They recently traveled back to the region for their next project.

02 May 2018

Geoscience on Film: Roadcuts and rockfalls in mountainous Mizoram

Doug Prose has co-produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences with his partner and wife, Diane LaMacchia, through their nonprofit Earth Images Foundation since 1992. Their latest documentary, “The Himalaya Connection,” began airing on PBS stations in April. Prose has previously written and blogged for EARTH about the pair’s experience shooting and preparing “Connection,” which involved six separate trips to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Mongolia and Nepal from 2011 to 2016. They recently traveled back to the region for their next project.

18 Apr 2018

Earth's "hum" heard at ocean bottom

Lapping waves or crashing surf may come to mind for most people when they imagine the sounds of the ocean. But the ocean has other voices as well, including one produced by interactions of waves with the seafloor along the continental slope. Unlike waves on the shoreline, this steady, low sound, or “hum,” is inaudible to the human ear and has even proven difficult to detect in recordings made by ocean bottom seismometers (OBS). But in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers analyzing OBS data have now clearly identified the hum for the first time, which may allow it to be used to develop a better picture of Earth’s interior structure.

04 Apr 2018

LIP split by South Atlantic breakup was sourced from deep

Massive volumes of rock called large igneous provinces (LIPs) have formed many times throughout Earth’s history, fed by some of the planet’s mightiest volcanic events. The volcanic eruptions, sometimes lasting millions of years and pouring hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometers of lava onto the surface, have influenced continental breakups, past climate change and mass extinction events. For everything that’s known about LIPs, however, many questions about them remain, including how far below the surface the erupted magma originate. In a recent study, researchers report that the origins of the Paraná-Etendeka LIP likely lay deep in Earth’s interior.

16 Mar 2018

Mediterranean drawdown may have caused burst of volcanism

Between 5 million and 6 million years ago, during an event known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), large amounts of seawater evaporated from the Mediterranean Sea leaving massive salt deposits in the basin. How much the sea surface dropped during the MSC is debated, but in a new study in Nature Geoscience, researchers suggest that a large, kilometer-scale drawdown of the Mediterranean Sea may explain not just the thick salt deposits but also a pulse of magmatic activity around the region that occurred at the same time as the MSC.

17 Jan 2018

Nothing is clear about who left marks on ancient bones

An ongoing debate regarding the origin of scrape marks on ancient animal bones has taken a new turn. The marks were first thought to have been made by early hominid butchers, then by trampling, and now it’s looking like crocodiles might have been responsible, according to a recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

05 Jan 2018

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