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News articles on earth science
Mongabay.com news articles on earth science in blog format. Updated regularly.
Tsunami-producing quake caused mass coral death in Indonesia
(04/11/2007) Researchers say 300 kilometers of sea floor heaved more than a meter upwards, exposing -- and killing -- corals in unprecedented numbers. Scientists have reported what is thought to be one of the world's greatest mass death of corals ever recorded as a result of the earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia on 28 March 2005.
Some corals may survive acidification caused by rising CO2 levels
(03/29/2007) Several studies have shown that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are acidifying the world's oceans. This is significant for coral reefs because acidification strips carbonate ions from seawater, making it more difficult for corals to build the calcium carbonate skeletons that serve as their structural basis. Research has shown that many species of coral, as well as other marine microorganisms, fare quite poorly under the increasingly acidic conditions forecast by some models. However, the news may not be bad for all types of corals. A study published in the March 30 issue of the journal Science, suggests that some corals may weather acidification better than others.
Non-CO2 gases also cause global warming
(03/29/2007) While most of the focus in developing a policy to fight global warming has been on carbon dioxide, other gases also contribute to climate change. The effect of these gases is still poorly understood and should be the subject of further research say two climate scientists writing in the March 30 issue of the journal Science.
Lightning may be used to predict volcanic activity
(03/28/2007) While it has long been known that volcanic eruptions can produce vigorous lightning, there are few direct observations of the phenomena, states the article. Following the initial eruptions of Jan. 11 and 13, 2006, two of which produced lightning, two electromagnetic lightning detectors were set up in Homer about 60 miles from Augustine. A couple of days later, the volcano erupted again, with the first of four eruptions producing a "spectacular lightning sequence."
CO2 levels tightly linked with climate change over past 420 million years
(03/28/2007) New research shows that sensitivity of Earth's climate to changes in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) have been relatively consistence for at least 420 million years, suggesting that presently rising levels of carbon dioxide resulting from fossil fuel use will indeed produce higher temperatures in the future.
Past winter (2006-2007) was warmest on record
(03/16/2007) This winter was the warmest on record according to the U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA also reported that precipitation was above average in much of the United States.
Earth may be near global warming tipping point
(03/15/2007) Earth could be reaching a tipping point that could trigger rapid climate change according to scientists studying declining sea ice in the Arctic.
Melting Antarctic glaciers could trigger sea level rise
(03/15/2007) Scientists have identified four melting Antarctic glaciers that could trigger a rapid rise in global sea levels according to a study published in the journal Science.
Asian pollution contributes to California warming
(03/14/2007) Pollution from Asia may cause warmer spring temperatures on the West Coast of the United States according to a new study led by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at the University of California San Diego.
Amazon rainforest does have rainy and dry seasons
(03/12/2007) A new study using NASA satellite images found evidence of seasonality in the Amazon rainforest. The results, published in the March 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the Amazon had 25 percent more leaf coverage in the dry season and 25 percent less in the rainy season.
Biodiversity extinction crisis looms says renowned biologist
(03/12/2007) While there is considerable debate over the scale at which biodiversity extinction is occurring, there is little doubt we are presently in an age where species loss is well above the established biological norm. Extinction has certainly occurred in the past, and in fact, it is the fate of all species, but today the rate appears to be at least 100 times the background rate of one species per million per year and may be headed towards a magnitude thousands of times greater. Few people know more about extinction than Dr. Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and books, and has an encyclopedic list of achievements and accolades from a lifetime of biological research. These make him one of the world's preeminent biodiversity experts. He is also extremely worried about the present biodiversity crisis, one that has been termed the sixth great extinction.
Carbon dioxide levels threaten oceans regardless of global warming
(03/08/2007) Rising levels of carbon dioxide will have wide-ranging impacts on the world's oceans regardless of climate change, reports a study published in the March 9, 2007, issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Air pollution can reduce rainfall
(03/08/2007) Air pollution can reduce rainfall in mountainous areas according to research published in Friday's issue of the journal Science. 50 years of measurements at Mt. Hua near Xi'an, in central China, show that precipitation levels can be decreased by 30 to 50 percent during hazy conditions. The researchers say this is the result of high concentrations of particulates in the air which cause cloud droplets to be smaller and less likely to become raindrops.
Ozone ban has been more effective in fighting global warming than Kyoto Protocol
(03/05/2007) The 1987 Montreal Protocol, which restricted the use of ozone-depleting substances, has helped slow the rate of global warming in addition to protecting the ozone layer, report scientists writing in a paper published online in the early edition of PNAS.
Asian pollution causes stronger thunderstorms, may worsen global warming
(03/05/2007) Growing levels of pollution in Asia are altering the chemistry of the atmosphere and causing a change in Pacific storm patterns according to researchers writing in the online early edition of PNAS
Global warming is causing stronger Atlantic hurricanes finds new study
(03/01/2007) Global warming is fueling stronger hurricanes according to a new Geophysical Research Letters study that revises that database of historic hurricanes. Previously the hurricane database was considered inconsistent for measuring the record of tropical storms since there have been significant improvements in the technology to measure storms since recording-keeping began. Before the development of weather satellites, scientists relied on ship reports and sailor logs to record storms. The advent of weather satellites in the 1960s improved monitoring, but records from newer technology have never been squared with older data. The new study normalizes the hurricane record since 1983.
Largest tropical glacier retreating at 200 feet per year in Peru
(02/18/2007) Peru's largest glacier is melting rapidly and could complete disappear by 2012 says a glaciologist from Ohio State University. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco last week, Dr. Lonnie Thompson said that Peru's Qori Kalis glacier is melting at a rate of some 60 meters (200 feet) per year. Qori Kalis glacier is part of the Quelccaya Ice Cap, the largest body of ice in the tropics.
Global warming could cause Canadian forests to absorb more carbon
(02/18/2007) Researchers say they have found links between seasonal temperature changes and the uptake and loss of carbon dioxide.
Past climate change may have fried rainforests
(02/18/2007) Three hundred million years ago, Earth's climate shifted dramatically from icehouse to hothouse, with major environmental consequences. That shift was the result of both rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and the melting of vast ice sheets, new research by University of Michigan paleoclimatologist Christopher Poulsen shows.
Climate change is a "threat to society" says largest scientific body
(02/18/2007) The world's largest scientific society today voiced concern over global warming, calling it a "threat to society." It was the first consensus statement of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on climate change. The announcement comes sixteen days after the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most recent report on global change.
Global research network needed to understand changes in the Arctic
(02/17/2007) A worldwide research network is needed to better understand how climate change is affecting the Arctic, says an Ohio State University geologist.
Global warming may worsen droughts in U.S. Southwest, Middle East
(02/14/2007) A new NASA study says that global warming could increase droughts in southwest United States, Mexico, parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Australia -- areas already stressed by periodic water shortages.
Global cooling may have spawned complex life on Earth
(02/13/2007) Icy conditions some 600-800 million years ago may have set the stage for the evolution of more complex lifeforms, according to research published in the February 14, 2007 edition of PLoS ONE. The theory may have implications for life on other planets.
2006 was fifth warmest year on record
(02/13/2007) Last week NASA scientists announced that 2006 was the fifth-warmest year in the past century, after 2005, 1998, 2002, and 2003 (in descending order by warmest year).
Caves may reveal if global warming is causing stronger hurricanes
(01/29/2007) Scientists have shown that cave formations could help settle the contentious debate on whether hurricanes are strengthening in intensity due to global warming. Measuring oxygen isotope variation in stalagmites in Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in central Belize, a team of researchers have identified evidence of rainfall from 11 tropical cyclones over a 23 year period (1978-2001). The research -- the study of ancient storms is called paleotempestology -- could help create a record of hurricanes that would help researchers understand hurricane frequency and intensity. "Tropical cyclones (including hurricanes, tropical storms, typhoons, and cyclones) produce rainwater that is different from other summertime precipitation," explained Amy Benoit Frappier, an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Boston College and lead author of the study published in Geology. "Tropical cyclones produce isotopically light rainwater primarily because 1) their cloud tops are very high and cold, and 2) their humid air tends to prevent lighter water molecules from evaporating back out of the raindrop as they fall."
Is global warming causing stronger hurricanes? Caves may hold the answer
(01/26/2007) Scientists have shown that cave formations could help settle the contentious debate on whether hurricanes are strengthening in intensity due to global warming. Measuring oxygen isotope variation in stalagmites in Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in central Belize, a team of researchers lead by Amy Benoit Frappier of Boston College have identified evidence of rainfall from 11 tropical cyclones over a 23 year period. The research -- the study of ancient storms is called paleotempestology -- could help create a record of hurricanes that would help researchers understand hurricane frequency and intensity. Currently, reliable history for hurricanes only dates back a generation or so. Prior to that, the official hurricane records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic basin hurricane database (HURDAT) are controversial at best since storm data from more than 20 years ago is not nearly as accurate as current hurricane data due to improvements in tracking technology. The lack of a credible baseline makes it nearly impossible to accurately compare storm frequency and strength over the period.
Antarctic ozone depletion exceeds that of Arctic
(12/25/2006) A new study comparing ozone depletion between the poles shows that the Antarctic is experiencing the most severe depletion of the ozone layer.
Evidence of massive simultaneous supervolcano eruption in NZ
(12/24/2006) Eruptions of supervolcanoes capable of causing planetary climate disruptions and mass extinctions can be worse than previously thought according researchers from Auckland University in New Zealand.
ESA seeks to better understand impact of oceans on climate
(12/11/2006) The European Space Agency (ESA) said it is backing two projects that aim to better understand the impact of oceans on climate.
Melting glaciers, not ice sheets, primarily responsible for rising sea levels
(12/11/2006) A new study says that melting glaciers are contributing more to the global rise in sea levels than melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Of the estimated 650 billion tons of ice lost to the oceans annually, some 400 billion tons comes from the melting of small glaciers and icecaps, according to Professor Tad Pfeffer of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Only 250 billion tons -- or less than 40 percent -- comes from the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Global warming could save NASA millions in fuel costs
(12/11/2006) Carbon dioxide emissions produced from the burning of fossil fuels will produce a 3 percent reduction in the density of Earth's outermost atmosphere by 2017, according scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Pennsylvania State University (PSU).
Small insects tell us Earth is warming
(12/11/2006) Small insects known as midges are telling scientists that Earth is warming, according to research to be presented December 15 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Global warming could make Arctic sea ice-free by 2040
(12/11/2006) Global warming is causing an abrupt retreat in Arctic sea ice that could leave the Arctic Ocean with ice-free summers by 2040 according to research published in the December 12 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Nuclear war could cause global cooling (i.e. block global warming)
(12/11/2006) Nuclear war would disrupt global climate for at least a decade according to new research presented Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The research, based on findings from historic volcano eruptions, found that a small-scale, regional nuclear war could produce millions of tons of 'soot' particles that could block solar radiation, in effect, cooling the planet.
Earthquake prediction, however brief, could save lives
(12/05/2006) Could a few seconds warning of an impending strong earthquake be of practical use in mitigating its effects? Scientists, engineers, and first responders say yes, and now such warnings may be possible. Researchers in Italy have analyzed seismic signals from over 200 moderate to strong earthquakes, ranging from magnitude 4.0 to 7.4, and they conclude that the waves generated in the first few seconds of an earthquake (the primary, or P, waves) carry sufficient information to determine its magnitude and destructive potential.
Another large tsunami could hit Indonesia soon
(12/05/2006) Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) say that the Indonesian island of Sumatra could be due for another large tsunami like the one that devastated the island on December 26, 2004. Their research is published in the December 4 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Clues about origin of life found in meteorite
(12/01/2006) NASA scientists studying a rare type of meteorite have found organic materials that were formed in the early days of the solar system according to a paper published in the December 1 issue of the journal Science. "Organic matter in meteorites is a subject of intense interest because this material formed at the dawn of the Solar System and may have seeded the early Earth with the building blocks of life," explained a media release from the Johnson Space Center. "The Tagish Lake meteorite is especially valuable for this work because much of it was collected immediately after its fall over Canada in 2000 and has been maintained in a frozen state, minimizing terrestrial contamination. The collection and curation of the meteorite samples preserved its pristine state."
To avoid extinction humans must colonize space says Hawking
(11/30/2006) As he was awarded the most prestigious prize in science, British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said that humans need to colonize outer space in order avoid extinction. Hawking, who was presented Thursday with the Copley medal from Britain's Royal Society, told BBC Radio that humanity faces extinction if it confines itself to Earth.
Saved by el Nino! Warm Pacific means fewer hurricanes
(11/30/2006) El Nino's to blame for the quiet 2006 hurricane season according to researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While some climate scientists forecast a big hurricane year in 2006, the official six-month season produced only nine tropical storms and hurricanes, below the average of 11. For the first time since 1997, there were no Category 4 or 5 hurricanes, the strongest type of storm. 2005 saw the worst hurricane season on record with 28 storms including 3 category 5 storms: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Hurricane Katrina caused some $80 billion in damage as it destroyed the city of New Orleans.
Volcanic eruptions in Iceland shrunk Nile River
(11/21/2006) A series of volcanic eruptions in Iceland in the 18th century dramatically impacted the mighty Nile River according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. The research, partly funded by NASA, shows that volcanic eruptions in high latitudes can greatly alter global climate and distant river flows. The scientists found that Iceland's Laki volcanic event, a series of roughly ten eruptions from June 1783 through February 1784, altered atmospheric circulations across much of the Northern Hemisphere, reducing rainfall over much of the Nile River watershed and producing record low river levels. The researchers said that the Laki event had a significant impact on climate because it released large amounts of aerosol-forming sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The aerosols, which cool climate by reflecting incoming sunlight into space, may have reduced the average temperature over Northern Hemisphere land masses by as much as 3 degrees Celsius in the summer of 1783, according to computer models used in the study.
Atmospheric levels of key greenhouse gas stabilize, could begin to decline
(11/20/2006) Atmospheric levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas have leveled off for the past seven years according to scientists at the University of California, Irvine. Human sources of methane, which is twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, include production of oil and natural gas, mining, sewage and decomposition of garbage, changes in land use and deforestation, and livestock. About one-third of methane emissions come from oceans, wetlands, wildfires, and termites.
New map shows paths of historic hurricanes
(11/08/2006) NASA posted a new historic hurricane map showing all storm tracks available from the National Hurricane Center and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center through September 2006. The map was created by Robert A. Rohde of Global Warming Art.
Ocean phytoplankton may influence the formation of clouds, affect global warming
(11/07/2006) Atmospheric scientists have reported a new and potentially important mechanism by which chemical emissions from ocean phytoplankton may influence the formation of clouds that reflect sunlight away from our planet. Discovery of the new link between clouds and the biosphere grew out of efforts to explain increased cloud cover observed over an area of the Southern Ocean where a large bloom of phytoplankton was occurring. Based on satellite data, the researchers hypothesized that airborne particles produced by oxidation of the chemical isoprene -- which is emitted by the phytoplankton -- may have contributed to a doubling of cloud droplet concentrations seen over a large area of ocean off the eastern coast of South America.
Global warming could put New York City at hurricane, flood risk
(10/25/2006) NASA researchers are investigating the potential impact of climate change on New York City using computer models to simulate future climates and sea level rise. Their studies, to date, forecast a 15 to 19 inch-increase in sea levels by the 2050s that could put the city at higher risk of flooding during storm surges.
Amazon river flowed into the Pacific millions of years ago
(10/24/2006) A new study adds further evidence the theory that the world's largest river, the Amazon, once flowed in the opposite direction, emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) discovered "ancient mineral grains" in the central Amazon that could only have originated in now-eroded mountains that once existed in the central and eastern South America, not the more recently formed Andes in the west
Extremophile bacteria suggest possibility of life on other plants
(10/22/2006) A community of bacteria found feeding on radioactive rocks nearly two miles underground provides potential clues on the nature of life on other worlds say researchers at Princeton University.
Ozone hole is the largest and deepest ever recorded
(10/19/2006) NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists that this year's Antarctic ozone hole is the largest and deepest ever recorded. "From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles," said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. At the same time, scientists from the NOAA"s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., found that nearly all of the ozone in the layer between eight and 13 miles above the Earth"s surface has been destroyed.
Tremendous loss of ice in Greenland finds new NASA study
(10/19/2006) For the first time NASA scientists have confirmed that Greenland's ice sheet is shrinking. Using a new remote sensing technique that reveals regional changes in the weight of the massive ice sheet across the entire continent, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center found that Greenland suffered a net loss of 25 cubic miles (101 gigatons) of ice per year between 2003 and 2005.
Climate change to cause more extreme weather
(10/19/2006) Climate change will cause extreme weather to be a more common occurrence according to new computer modeling by researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Texas Tech University, and Australia's Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre.
Phytoplankton generate about five times as much energy as humans finds study
(10/14/2006) A new study estimates that oceanic phytoplankton generate about five times the annual total energy consumption of humans.
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