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News articles on earth science

Mongabay.com news articles on earth science in blog format. Updated regularly.









Methane from peat bogs may worsen global warming

(10/13/2006) New research says that methane released from peat bogs at the end of the past ice age worsen global warming. The study warns that a similar event could worsen climate change by causing a rapid shift in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.


Warming climate causing Alaska lakes to dry up

(10/12/2006) More than 10,000 Alaskan lakes "shrunk in size or completely dried up" between 1950 and 2002 according to a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research--Biogeosciences. The study says that during this period, "Alaska has experienced a warming climate with longer growing seasons, increased thawing of permafrost, and greater water loss due to evaporation from open water and transpiration from vegetation; yet there has been no substantial change in precipitation."


Extinction may be linked to Earth's tilt and orbital variations

(10/12/2006) A new study suggests that variations in Earth's orbit and tilt may be linked to extinctions of mammal species. Examining the fossilized teeth of rodents over a 22 million year period, researchers lead by Jan van Dam of Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that the disappearance of mammal species -- which survive an average of 2.5 million years before going exinct -- cluster around specific cycles at one million and 2.4 million years. The one million year cycle correponds to wobbles in Earth's orbit, while the 970,000-year cycle is tied to shifts of the Earth on its axis. The cycles are assocation with lower temperatures and changes in precipitation.


Bering Strait land bridge may have flooded earlier than thought

(10/11/2006) Researchers have found evidence suggesting that the Bering Strait land bridge believed to be the major route for human migration from Asia to the Americas may have flooded about 1,000 years earlier than widely thought. The findings may help scientists develop ocean and climate histories for the region to better understand human migration. The study is published in the October issue of Geology magazine by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Fires in Central America worsen air quality in Texas

(10/10/2006) Agricultural fires in Central America can impact air quality and climate in Texas, Oklahoma, and other parts of the southern United States according to new research from NASA.


Dust may weaken Atlantic hurricanes

(10/09/2006) Sahara Desert dust may weaken Atlantic hurricanes according to a new study published in the latest issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


Weak El Nino returns to the Pacific

(10/05/2006) NASA satellite data indicates El Nino has returned to the tropical Pacific Ocean, although in a relatively weak condition that may not persist and is currently much less intense than the last major El NiƱo episode in 1997-1998.


Ozone loss hits record in 2006

(10/02/2006) The European Space Agency (ESA) said that ozone loss in Antarctica hit a record in 2006. ESA reports that ozone measurements made by the Envisat satellite showed the ozone loss of 40 million tons of ozone, a level exceeding the previous record ozone loss of about 39 million tonnes for 2000.


No mention of climate change in new hurricane research report

(09/29/2006) Strangely missing from a new hurricane research report from the National Science Board, a policymaking body of the National Science Foundation (NSF), is any mention of climate change.


Bush administration blocks report linking hurricanes to global warming

(09/27/2006) The Bush administration blocked release of a report suggesting that global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday. According to Nature, a panel of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists drafted a February report that linked recent hurricane activity to human-induced climate change. When the study was scheduled to be released in May, officials at the Commerce Department rejected the report on technical grounds and prohibited its publication.


Arctic ocean warms as global oceans cool

(09/27/2006) Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center say that warm water from the North Atlantic Ocean continues to surge into the Arctic Ocean potentially increasing ice melt in the region.


Global warming: Earth's temperature near highest level in a million years

(09/25/2006) Earth may nearing its warmest level in the last million years according to a paper published by NASA scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and colleagues report that "Earth is now reaching and passing through the warmest levels in the current interglacial period" and that climate change is causing plant and animal species to migrate towards the north and south poles.


Mars face photo dashes hope for existence of Martians

(09/25/2006) New images from the European Space Agency (ESA) show that the Red Planet's famous "Face on Mars" is nothing but a eroded hill.


Ozone hole near record size

(09/22/2006) The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Friday that hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica will expand this year to 27.9 million square kilometers (10.8 million square miles), its second-highest recorded level in history.


Tree rings could settle global warming hurricane debate

(09/20/2006) Scientists have shown that ancient tree rings could help settle the debate as to whether hurricanes are strengthening in intensity due to global warming. By measuring different isotopes of oxygen present in the rings, Professors Claudia Mora and Henri Grissino-Mayer of the University of Tennessee have identified periods when hurricanes hit areas of the Southeastern United States up to 500 years ago. The research 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.


Arctic ice hole larger than Britain forms, shocks scientists

(09/20/2006) European Space Agency satellite images acquired from 23 to 25 August 2006 have shown for the first time dramatic openings larger than the size of the British Isles in the Arctic's perennial sea ice pack north of Svalbard, and extending into the Russian Arctic all the way to the North Pole. The agency says the findings are shocking to scientists. 'If this anomaly trend continues, the North-East Passage or 'Northern Sea Route' between Europe and Asia will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10-20 years,' said Mark Drinkwater, a scientist with ESA.


One year later: Hurricane Katrina in review

(08/28/2006) While hurricane Katrina was the most devastating, causing 1833 fatalities and over $81 billion in damage, it was not the strongest storm of the year -- both Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Wilma were more powerful. Katrina, which at one point in the Gulf of Mexico was a Category 5 hurricane, was only a Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall near New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Nevertheless, the damage was extensive.


Climate change, not hunters, killed ancient Australia's giant kangaroos

(08/16/2006) Scientists at the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University have found strong evidence for the cause of the extinction of Australia's giant marsupials some 50,000 years ago. Cold, arid climates of the last ice age have been identified as a likely cause, casting doubt on the alternative hypothesis which blames human hunters.


Most of world's forests could be gone by 2100

(08/15/2006) New research claims that more than half the world's largest forests will be lost if global temperatures rise by an average of 3 degrees or more by the end of the century.The study, published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that a warmer climate also increases the risk of extreme floods, forest fires and droughts.


More carbon dioxide may help some trees weather ice storms

(08/15/2006) The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere predicted for later this century may reduce the damage that future ice storms will cause to commercially important loblolly pine trees, according to a new study.


Climate change has eroded Alps

(08/15/2006) The Alps, the iconic rugged mountains that cover parts of seven European nations, might have reached their zenith millions of years ago, some scientists believe, and now are a mere shadow of their former selves. New research offers an explanation - climate change.


Hurricane intensity linked to global warming

(08/15/2006) A new study says climate change is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes and that hurricane damage will likely worsen in coming years due to increasing ocean temperatures. Unlike recent studies that have linked higher sea temperatures to an increase in the number of hurricanes, the new research shows a direct relationship between climate change and hurricane intensity.


Report Warns of Coastal Flooding and Rising Sea Levels in California

(08/14/2006) The California Climate Action Team has released a summary report of 17 scientific studies examining the potential impacts of climate change on California. Today, officials discussed the report, the science and what the state is doing to take action on reducing heat-trapping gases that threaten to cause more frequent coastal floods, rising sea levels, beach erosion and disruptions to wetlands. The presentation was held at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.


Past climate change caused dramatic shift in humidity, precipitation levels, temperature, and ocean water salinity

(08/11/2006) Scientists have uncovered new evidence of dramatic changes in humidity, precipitation levels, temperature, and ocean water salinity during a past episode of global warming. Analyzing plant fossils collected in the Arctic, a team of researchers led by Mark Pagani, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University, found that water and atmospheric water vapor are a major indicator of the greenhouse changes.


Greenland's ice melting rapidly

(08/10/2006) A new analysis of data from twin satellites has revealed that the melting of Greenland's ice sheet has increased dramatically in the past few years, with much of the loss occurring primarily along one shoreline potentially affecting weather in Western Europe.


'Dead Zone' causing wave of death off Oregon coast

(08/10/2006) The most severe low-oxygen ocean conditions ever observed on the West Coast of the United States have turned parts of the seafloor off Oregon into a carpet of dead Dungeness crabs and rotting sea worms, a new survey shows. Virtually all of the fish appear to have fled the area.


Snow in Antarctic not falling to counter sea level rise

(08/10/2006) The most precise record of Antarctic snowfall ever generated shows there has been no real increase in precipitation over the southernmost continent in the past half-century, even though most computer models assessing global climate change call for an increase in Antarctic precipitation as atmospheric temperatures rise.


Global Warming Threatens Pollination Timing

(08/09/2006) In addition to the more obvious effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and increasing storm activity, there is the potential to dramatically alter ecological communities. Dr. David Inouye, director of University of Maryland's graduate program in Sustainable Development and conservation Biology, reports that global warming could disrupt the timing of pollination in alpine environments, with serious negative impacts to both plants and pollinators.


Carbon dioxide-eating enzyme could fight global warming

(08/09/2006) A new technology could help fight climate change by letting carbon-dioxide enzymes do the work. According to Mark Wendman of the UK-based Inquirer a Canadian firm has licensed production rights to an enzyme that scrubs carbon dioxide from smokestacks and other concentrated sources. The byproducts from the CO2 scrubbing process are carbonate and hydrogen gas, which could serve as a fuel source.


World's largest cities sign climate pact

(08/02/2006) While the Bush administration refuses to take legistlative steps to fight climate change, 22 of the world's largest cities joined forces Tuesday in a global warming pact aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Launched by former President Bill Clinton's foundation, the initiative will provide technical assistance to help cities become more energy efficient and allow them to pool their resources to reduce the cost of energy-saving product purchases.


Magnitude 4.5 earthquake hits Santa Rosa in Northern California

(08/02/2006) A magnitude 4.5 earthquake hit Santa Rosa in Northern California at 8:08 Pacific Daylight Time on Wednesday August 2, 2006. No damage was initially reported.


Historic Caribbean sea turtle population falls 99%

(08/01/2006) Current conservation assessments of endangered Caribbean sea turtles are too optimistic due declines of populations on historically important nesting beaches, according to new research from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The plunge has significant ecological consequences.


Earth's 'critical zone' threatened

(08/01/2006) In a report released today, scientists call for a new systematic study of the Earth's 'critical zone'--the life-sustaining outermost surface of the planet, from the vegetation canopy to groundwater and everything in between.Understanding and predicting responses to global and regional change is necessary, they say, to mitigate the impacts of humans on complex ecosystems and ultimately sustain food production.


Pictures of Rare Marine Bacteria Discovered in Ocean Census

(08/01/2006) A startling revelation about the number of different kinds of bacteria in the deep-sea raises fundamental new questions about microbial life and evolution in the oceans.


Primate evolution linked to global warming says new study

(07/31/2006) New research suggests the ancient climate change fueled early primate evolution.


Coral reef parks established by locals more effective than government reserves

(07/31/2006) Coral reef marine protected areas established by local people for traditional use can be far more effective at protecting fish and wildlife than reserves set up by governments expressly for conservation purposes, according to a study by the New York-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) and other groups.


Global Warming to Have Significant Impact on California

(07/31/2006) A new report from the state of California warns that climate change could have a significant impact on the state's economy and the health of its residents. The release of the report comes on the day that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a climate pact agreeing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


NASA to study how African winds and dust influence hurricanes

(07/31/2006) Scientists from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, universities and international agencies will study how winds and dust conditions from Africa influence the birth of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.


Global warming link to hurricanes challenged

(07/31/2006) Last week a leading meteorologist challenged a proposed link between global warming and hurricane intensity, based on inaccuracies in the historical data used in the studies.


Hypoxic "dead zone" growing off the Oregon Coast

(07/31/2006) A hypoxic "dead zone" has formed off the Oregon Coast for the fifth time in five years, according to researchers at Oregon State University. A fundamental new trend in atmospheric and ocean circulation patterns in the Pacific Northwest appears to have begun, scientists say, and apparently is expanding its scope beyond Oregon waters.


Global Warming Threatens Australia's Tropical Biodiversity

(07/25/2006) Global climate change will pose serious challenges for wildlife populations around the world in the coming decades. The findings of Dr. Stephen Williams (Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, James Cook University) suggest that endemic wildlife populations in Australia's Wet Tropics World Heritage Area will be particularly vulnerable to the local warming trend.


Arguing climate change to an energy executive

(07/25/2006) Earlier this month I had the opportunity to make a pitch to "Mike," a top executive of a major energy company, about climate change and green energy. Mike said he didn't believe humans are influencing climate or that green energy is a key factor in the future business of his firm, "EnergyCo." I tried to persuade him otherwise, not by focusing on the science of climate change but on economics and market opportunities. It's not that science isn't important--I just didn't want to get caught up in an argument about core beliefs, which is akin to arguing over religion.


Pine plantations may be contributing to global warming

(07/24/2006) The increasing number of pine plantations in the southern United States could contribute to a rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, a new study reports. This is important because carbon dioxide is a key greenhouse gas, one that is linked to global warming. Landowners in the South are turning stands of hardwood and natural pine trees into pine plantations because pine is a more lucrative source of lumber. But pine plantations don't retain carbon as well as hardwood or natural pine forests, said Brent Sohngen, a study co-author and an associate professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University.


Sun, not carbon dioxide, primary driver of ice ages says new theory

(07/24/2006) A new theory says that carbon dioxide is only a secondary driver of ice ages. In a paper published online in the journal Climate of the Past, William Ruddiman, an environmental scientist with the University of Virginia, argues that "carbon dioxide is a driver of ice sheets only at the relatively small 23,000-year cycle, but not at the much larger ice-volume cycles at 41,000 years and approximately 100,000 years" according to a news release from the university.


Brazil, U.S. renew Amazon research agreements

(07/22/2006) Thursday Brazil and the U.S. renewed two Amazon forest research agreements. Brazilian Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Luis Manuel Rebelo Fernandes signed two continuation agreements for research on the Amazon: the Large-Scale Biosphere - Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) and Biological Determinants of Forest Fragments Program (BDFFP). Implementation of the programs will be lead by Brazil's INPA, or the Brazilian Institute for Research in the Amazon.


Economists ignoring threat of climate change says Royal Society

(07/20/2006) Economists need to play "a bigger and more constructive role in dealing with the threat of climate change" said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, the academy of sciences of the United Kingdom.


Ocean floor gas may fuel global warming

(07/19/2006) Gas escaping from the ocean floor may provide some answers to understanding historical global warming cycles and provide information on current climate changes, according to a team of scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The findings are reported in the July 20 on-line version of the scientific journal, Global Biogeochemical Cycles.


American cars heavier, less fuel efficient in 2006 than 1986 finds EPA

(07/18/2006) $3 gasoline no impact on American car sales finds EPA but agency takes a noteworthy stance on both climate change and energy security. Despite record nominal gas prices, American consumers continue to cars that are less fuel efficient than 20 years ago according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Greenlanders looking forward to global warming

(07/18/2006) Some people in Greenland are looking forward to climate change according to an article in today's issue of The Wall Steet Journal. In 'For Icy Greenland, Global Warming Has a Bright Side', journalist Lauren Etter finds examples of global warming-induced changes that could benefit Greenlanders. She notes that the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperatures over the past 30 years has extended the growing season by two weeks while melting glaciers have exposed land for grazing and warmer seas enable fishermen to catch warm-water cod.


Map projects regional population growth for 2025

(07/18/2006) The number of people living within 60 miles (100 km) of a coastline is "expected to increase by 35 percent over 1995 population levels, exposing 2.75 billion people worldwide to the effects of sea level rise and other coastal threats posed by global warming," according to a new map showing projected population change for the year 2025. The map, developed by researchers at the Center for Climate Systems Research, a part of The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, shows "that the greatest increases in population density through 2025 are likely to occur in areas of developing countries that are already quite densely populated," according to a release from The Earth Institute.



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