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elizabeth goldbaum

Clouds can form without particles

In addition to their aesthetic and photogenic appeal, clouds play a crucial role in Earth’s climate and ecosystems, helping regulate temperatures by reflecting sunlight. All clouds — from fluffy cumulus to wispy cirrus — grow from seeds that, more often than not, are tiny particles of pollen, dust or chemical aerosols that float into the atmosphere from Earth’s surface. Sulfuric acid, a byproduct of volcanic eruptions and fossil fuel combustion, is one of the most ubiquitous precursors to atmospheric aerosols today and has long been thought to play a major role in modern cloud formation. But what about earlier in Earth’s history, before humans impacted the atmosphere as much? Three new studies, representing both experimental and field data, suggest that the planet’s plants and trees might have done just fine on their own pumping cloud-forming aerosols into the skies.

30 Sep 2016

Helium escape may help predict volcanic activity

Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, rises 3,300 meters above the island of Sicily, which lies just off the coast of Italy’s “toe.” Within 100 kilometers of more than 3 million people, Etna frequently rumbles and occasionally belches. As recently as last May, explosions accompanied lava fountains and ash erupted from one of the volcano’s craters over several days. This was just one of many eruptions in a long line of events, with historical documents dating similar outbursts back to 1500 B.C. Scientists cannot pinpoint when Etna will next erupt, but in a new study in Geology, researchers have identified a clue that may help them better understand how the volcano’s inner plumbing system changes just prior to an eruption.

17 Aug 2016

Benchmarks: July 26, 1905: The rising Salton Sea swamps the Southern Pacific Railroad

On a scorching summer day in 1905, in the middle of a desert, the Colorado River, which had broken free from an irrigation canal and found its way to the lowest point around — the Salton Sink — swamped the Southern Pacific Railroad. Bounded by the Mojave Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south, the sink lies 70 meters below sea level at the bottom of the Salton Trough. By the time the railroad sealed the breach 18 months later, the Salton Sea stretched 58 kilometers long and 42 kilometers wide, making it California’s largest lake.

26 Jul 2016

Researchers profile magma chamber beneath North Korean volcano

An enigmatic volcano straddling the border between North Korea and China has been investigated for the first time by an international team of seismologists. In 2013, researchers installed seismometers near the volcano — called Mount Paektu in North Korea and Changbaishan in China — to determine what was going on beneath the surface. The team’s results, detailed in a new study published in Science Advances, reveal a potential source of magma that may have created one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the last few thousand years — and that could cause the volcano to erupt again.

22 Jul 2016

Measuring rising seas is tricky in deltas

Earth’s stratigraphic record offers a patchwork diary of how different parts of the planet have formed and changed over time. Some of the most extensive pieces of the stratigraphic record are found in deltas, making them ideal places to look for long-term chronicles of Earth’s history, as well as clues to future changes to our coastal landscapes.

26 May 2016

Geomedia: Film: 'A Beautiful Planet' inspires with vivid views of life on and off Earth

An endless sea of bright dots surrounds you amid the otherwise darkened expanse as you slowly approach a swirling, recognizable cloud of glowing light — the Milky Way. As the galaxy grows to fill the screen, you feel as if you are heading home toward Earth. This sensation of being a crewmember on a spaceship stays with you throughout the new documentary film, “A Beautiful Planet,” as well as after it’s over — which is just what the filmmakers intended.

29 Apr 2016

Mercury levels support volcanic role in end-Cretaceous extinction

The end-Cretaceous extinction, known for finishing off the last dinosaurs about 66 million years ago, often evokes scenes of a large asteroid hurtling toward Earth. However, new evidence supports a growing consensus that the massive bolide wasn’t the only hazard that life on Earth had to contend with: A prolonged bout of major volcanic eruptions was also spewing climate-altering gases and other emissions such as mercury into the atmosphere.

28 Apr 2016

Atmosphere, more than ocean, might drive Atlantic climate variation

Atmospheric, not oceanic, circulation may be the main driver of climate variations over the North Atlantic Ocean, potentially complicating future hurricane and drought predictions, according to the authors of a new study.
01 Feb 2016