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News articles on earth science
Mongabay.com news articles on earth science in blog format. Updated regularly.
(05/14/2013) The Amazon River's hydrological cycle has become more extreme over the past two decades with increasing seasonal precipitation across much of the basin despite drier conditions in the southern parts of Earth's largest rainforest, finds a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. The research analyzed monthly Amazon River discharge at Óbidos, a point that drains 77 percent of the Amazon Basin, and compared it with regional precipitation patterns.
Mount Everest glaciers have shrunk 13% in 50 years
(05/13/2013) Glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent and the snow-line has shifted 180 meters (590 feet) higher during the past 50 years, according to a study that will be presented this week at a conference organized by the American Geophysical Union.
Last time CO2 hit 400 ppm, temperature was 8C warmer, seas 40m higher than today
(05/12/2013) The future of a globally warmed world has been revealed in a remote meteorite crater in Siberia, where lake sediments recorded the strikingly balmy climate of the Arctic during the last period when greenhouse gas levels were as high as today.
Eruption yields bad news for iron fertilization-based geoengineering schemes
(03/22/2013) Geoengineering schemes that aim to slow global warming by seeding oceans with iron to boost carbon dioxide-absorbing phytoplankton may not lead to long-term sequestration of the important greenhouse gas, finds a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Warnings of global ecological tipping points may be overstated
(03/05/2013) There's little evidence that the Earth is nearing a global ecological tipping point, according to a new Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper that is bound to be controversial. The authors argue that despite numerous warnings that the Earth is headed toward an ecological tipping point due to environmental stressors, such as habitat loss or climate change, it's unlikely this will occur anytime soon—at least not on land. The paper comes with a number of caveats, including that a global tipping point could occur in marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification from burning fossil fuels. In addition, regional tipping points, such as the Arctic ice melt or the Amazon rainforest drying out, are still of great concern.
NASA says 2012 was the 9th warmest year since 1880, blames global warming
(01/15/2013) 2012 was the ninth warmest year since annual record-keeping began in 1880 say NASA scientists who cited rising greenhouse gas emissions as the chief culprit.
Soot is second biggest man-made contributor to global warming
(01/15/2013) Soot is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming, according to a comprehensive new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
Paradigm shift needed to avert global environmental collapse, according to author of new book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse
(01/10/2013) Global strategist, trained educator, and international lecturer Daniel Rirdan set out to create a plan addressing the future of our planet. His book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse, published this year, does just that. "It has been a sixty hour a week routine," Rirdan told mongabay.com in a recent interview. "Basically, I would wake up with the burden of the world on my shoulders and go to sleep with it. It went on like this for eighteen months." It becomes apparent when reading The Blueprint that it was indeed a monumental undertaking.
Forests worldwide near tipping-point from drought
(11/23/2012) Forests worldwide are at 'equally high risk' to die-off from drought conditions, warns a new study published this week in the journal Nature. The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, assessed the specific physiological effects of drought on 226 tree species at 81 sites in different biomes around the world. It found that 70 percent of the species sampled are particularly vulnerable to reduction in water availability. With drought conditions increasing around the globe due to climate change and deforestation, the research suggests large swathes of the world's forests — and the services they afford — may be approaching a tipping point.
Geology has split the Amazon into two distinct forests
(01/19/2012) The common view of the Amazon is that it is one massive, unbroken forest. This impression is given by maps which tend to mark the Amazon by a large glob of green or even by its single name which doesn't account for regional changes. Of course, scientists have long recognized different ecosystems in the Amazon, most especially related to climate. But a new study in the Journal of Biogeography has uncovered two distinct forest ecosystems, sharply divided, caused by million of years of geologic forces.
The Global Carbon Cycle: a book review
(09/19/2011) The Global Carbon Cycle, by Dr. David Archer, is an excellent primer on the global carbon cycle. An easily readable format, this lightweight book is an excellent companion to those who need a quick on-the-go reference or for those who need a compendium for their office or lab. With chapters on the basic carbon cycle, geologic carbon cycle, unstable ice age carbon cycle, present and future carbon cycle, and methane, The Global Carbon Cycle is an authoritative book with numerous examples explaining scientific phenomena associated the global carbon cycle.
Google Earth enhances oceans' layer
(06/08/2011) How do you celebrate World Oceans Day? Well, if you're Google you make the oceans of the world's most impressive interactive digital globe, Google Earth, come alive. With oceanographers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Google Earth has fine-tuned its oceans' resolution in selected areas from 1 kilometer to just 100 meters.
Climate change and deforestation pose risk to Amazon rainforest
(05/20/2011) Deforestation and climate change will likely decimate much of the Amazon rainforest, says a new study by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre. Climate change and widespread deforestation is expected to cause warmer and drier conditions overall, reducing the resistance of the rainforest ecosystem to natural and human-caused stressors while increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall events and droughts by the end of this century. While climate models show that higher temperatures resulting from global climate change will threaten the resilience of the Amazon, current deforestation is an immediate concern to the rainforest ecosystem and is likely driving regional changes in climate.
Earthquake shifted peninsula in Japan 17 feet
(03/20/2011) The massive March 11 Tōhoku earthquake shifted Japan's Oshika Peninsula 5.3 meters (17 feet) in a east-southeasterly direction toward the epicenter, reports Kyodo.
Did Haiti's deforestation, hurricane trigger deadly earthquake?
(01/04/2011) Erosion caused by hurricanes and large-scale deforestation may have contributed to last year's devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, according to a geologist at the University of Miami.
2010 the second hottest year on record through May
(06/23/2010) The first five months of 2010 have been the second warmest on record, according to data released by the University of Alabama Huntsville.
List of the strongest and deadliest earthquakes
(02/27/2010) On February 27, 2010 a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Maule, Chile causing widespread damage and casualties. The quake ranks as one of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded.
Climate change melting southern Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves
(02/23/2010) The US Geological Survey (USGS) has found that every ice front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula—the coldest part—has been retreating overall for the past sixty years with the greatest changes visible since 1990.
Desertification threatens 38 percent of the world
(02/10/2010) Over one third of the world's land surface (38 percent) is threatened with desertification, according to a new study published in theInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. The study found that eight of fifteen eco-regions are threatened by desertification, including coastal areas, the prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.
Underwater rocks could be used for massive carbon storage on America's East Coast
(01/05/2010) Considering it is unlikely that global carbon emissions will start dropping anytime soon, researchers are beginning to look at other methods to combat climate change. One of these is to hook polluting power plants up to massive carbon sinks where instead of the carbon going into the atmosphere it would be stored away in rocks. The process is known as carbon capture and storage or CCS. But before one can even debate the pros and cons of setting up CCS, scientists must see if high-quality sites exist.
Catastrophic sea level rise could occur with only two degrees Celsius warming
(12/17/2009) Allowing the climate to rise by just two degrees Celsius—the target most industrialized nations are currently discussing in Copenhagen—may still lead to a catastrophic sea level rise of six to nine meters, according to a new study in Nature. While this rise in sea levels would take hundreds of years to fully occur, inaction this century could lock the world into this fate.
Goodbye, snows of Kilimanjaro
(11/02/2009) The most recent survey among the ice fields atop Mount Kilimanjaro found that the ice atop Africa's most famous mountain could be gone in twenty years—and maybe even sooner. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science the study was conducted by a team of researchers who first measured the glaciers in 2000. They discovered that between 1912 and 2007, 85 percent of the ice that covered Mount Kilimanjaro vanished. When using 2000 as baseline the mountain has lost 26 percent of its ice.
Satellite lasers show melting of Greenland, Antarctic worse than expected
(09/23/2009) Researchers examining 43 million satellite measurements of Antarctica's thinning ice sheets and 7 million of Greenland's, show that the ice is melting faster than expected. Published in Nature the research is the most comprehensive picture to date of the melting glaciers, allowing scientists to better predict how sea levels may rise.
Photos of 10 strongest storms of the 2000s
(09/01/2009) NASA has released a collection of satellite images showing the strongest storms of each year over the past decade.
Air pollution in China reduces rainfall
(08/31/2009) Air pollution in eastern China over the past half century has reduced rainfall and exacerbated the risk of drought and crop failures, reports a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Record global ocean temperature in July
(08/19/2009) The world's ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for July, breaking the previous record set in 1998, reports NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. At 62.56°F (16.99°C), ocean temperatures were 1.06°F (0.59°C) above the 20th century average.
Large Trees Declining in Yosemite
(08/07/2009) A recent study by the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) indicates a substantial decline in the number of large-diameter trees in Yellowstone National Park. Between the 1930s and the 1990s there was a 24% decline in large diameter trees.
Imbalance in Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles
(08/05/2009) Scientists are currently meeting at the 94th annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) symposium in New Mexico to discuss, among other topics, the massive upset of the natural biogeochemical cycles of the Earth System.
Is El Niño back?
(07/28/2009) Ocean temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific have shifted into El Niño conditions, increasing the likelihood of anomalously dry conditions in Southeast Asia and other unusual weather patterns, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center.
Global ocean temperatures at warmest level since 1880
(07/21/2009) Global ocean temperatures rose to the warmest on record, according to data released last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was second-warmest since global recording-keeping began in 1880. NOAA also reported a return of el Niño, raising the prospect of dryness—and risk of forest fires—in Southeast Asia.
CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years
(06/18/2009) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than any point in the last 2.1 million years, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Global warming could turn forests from sink to source of carbon emissions
(04/16/2009) Rising temperatures could reverse the role forests play in mitigating climate change, turning them into net sources of greenhouse gases, reports a new assessment by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). The report, titled "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment" and authored by 35 forestry scientists, examined the potential impacts of climate change across the world's major forest types as well as the capacity of forest biomes to adapt to climate shifts. Among the conclusions: a 2.5-degree-C rise in temperatures would eliminate the net carbon sequestering function of global forests. Presently forests worldwide capture about a quarter of carbon emissions.
How satellites are used in conservation
(04/13/2009) In October 2008 scientists with the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew discovered a host of previously unknown species in a remote highland forest in Mozambique. The find was no accident: three years earlier, conservationist Julian Bayliss identified the site—Mount Mabu—using Google Earth, a tool that’s rapidly becoming a critical part of conservation efforts around the world. As the discovery in Mozambique suggests, remote sensing is being used for a bewildering array of applications, from monitoring sea ice to detecting deforestation to tracking wildlife. The number of uses grows as the technology matures and becomes more widely available. Google Earth may represent a critical point, bringing the power of remote sensing to the masses and allowing anyone with an Internet connection to attach data to a geographic representation of Earth.
Experts forecast probability of global warming tipping points
(03/16/2009) The probability of Earth's climate passing a "tipping point" that could result in large impacts within the next two centuries is greater than 50 percent, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Carbon dioxide monitoring satellite crashes immediately after launch
(02/24/2009) The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a $273 million satellite that would have collected measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere to help better forecast the climate impacts of changes in CO2 levels, crashed about three minutes after launch, reports NASA. Researchers say the accident is a major setback for science.
Burning rainforests, melting tundra could accelerate global warming well beyond current projections
(02/16/2009) Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) likely underestimate the scale and rapidity of climate change, warned a Stanford University scientist presenting Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.
Gravitational effects may boost sea level rise by 25% along U.S. coast
(02/05/2009) The melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could cause sea level to rise more than previously predicted for some regions, including the U.S. coastline, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Global warming to strengthen Arctic storms
(02/05/2009) Arctic storms could worsen due to climate change, putting fisheries, oil and gas exploration, and sea lanes at risk, warn researchers writing in the journal Climate Dynamics.
Glaciers decline in ice mass for 18th straight year
(01/30/2009) Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980.
Iron fertilization of oceans may be ineffective in fighting global warming
(01/29/2009) Schemes to promote increased carbon uptake by plankton via iron fertilization of oceans will be less effective than previously believed, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.
Biochar and reforestation may offer better global cooling potential than ocean fertilization
(01/28/2009) The first comprehensive assessment of the climate cooling potential of different geoengineering schemes has been conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The results are published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Many global warming impacts may be irreversible in next 1000 years
(01/27/2009) Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to cease today, many of the forecast impacts of climate change are already irreversible for at least the next 1000 years, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New global temperature record expected in the next 1-2 years
(01/27/2009) 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 but still ranks in the top ten warmest years since record-keeping began in 1880, reported NASA last week.
Antarctica shows net warming over past 50 years
(01/22/2009) Despite a cooling trend in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Antarctica has experienced net warming over the past 50 years, report researchers writing in the January 22 edition of Nature. Analyzing data from satellites and weather stations authors led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington (UW) found that "warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica", according to a statement from UW.
97% of climatologists say global warming is occurring and caused by humans
(01/22/2009) A new poll among 3,146 earth scientists found that 90 percent believe global warming is real, while 82 percent agree that human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.
Observed sea level rise, ice melt far outpaces projections
(12/17/2008) Sea levels will rise faster than previously estimated due to rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, according to a U.S government report released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The report, titled Abrupt Climate Change, incorporates research published since last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which drew largely from studies dating up to 2006. Most significantly, Abrupt Climate Change suggests that IPCC estimates for future sea level rise (18-58 cm) are conservative, noting that recent observations on sea level rise and loss of sea ice are far outpacing previous projections.
Climate change will transform the chemical-makeup of the ocean
(12/11/2008) By studying the ocean’s past, scientists have discovered that climate change has a much larger affect on ocean chemistry than expected. The study, published in Science, reveals that 13 million years ago climate change significantly altered the chemical composition of the oceans. Such changes in the ocean’s chemical makeup today could have a great impact on marine life, already stressed by overfishing and pollution.
Water vapor will amplify global warming
(11/17/2008) The heat-amplifying effect of water vapor in the atmosphere could more than double the climate warming caused by increased carbon dioxide levels, report researchers using NASA data.
Solar cells, flat-panel screens are source of potent greenhouse gas
(10/23/2008) Atmospheric concentrations of nitrogen trifluoride — a gas used in the manufacture of liquid crystal flat-panel displays, thin-film photovoltaic cells and microcircuits — are at least four times higher than previously estimated, reports a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Arctic sea ice falls to second lowest on record
(09/16/2008) Arctic sea ice retreated to the second lowest level on record but remains about 9 percent above the low set last September, reports the NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
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