12 December 2013
Long before the dinosaurs died off, the “Great Dying” killed nearly all life in the ocean, 70 percent of terrestrial animals and even insects. But this mass extinction more than 250 million years ago – Earth’s greatest natural disaster – is still a scientific mystery. Little evidence remains of why and when life on the planet crashed to this long pause.
In 1988, scientists at the Tennessee Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park planted a scattering of Sweetgum seedlings to fill a space equivalent to a running track. Nearly 10 years later, after the trees had matured, construction crews plopped four rings of 40-foot PVC pipes into the floor of the new deciduous forest. In 1998, two sets of pipes switched on and began blowing carbon dioxide into the trees’ air supply, non-stop for 12 years.
A new way to identify areas at risk for landslides will help countries avoid tragedies like super-typhoon Bopha. The storm slammed into the Philippines in 2012, killing 1,200 people and causing $1 billion in damage. Scientists from the University of the Philippines are using lasers and radar to identify alluvial fans: sediment deposits resulting from streams or debris flows. Debris flows are landslides with rocks and dirt wet enough to …
When whorls of plasma clouds erupt away from the sun in events known as coronal mass ejections, the portions that reach Earth can create terrestrial spectacles. These sun storms fuel stunning auroras in the night sky, but they can also foul up communication networks and Global Positioning Systems. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method to better forecast these storms before they hit Earth.
From hydrothermal vents to the soft mud of riverbeds, geophysical hideouts where viruses thrive are windows into how life evolved, and could be crucial to protecting human health. Here are two examples from Tuesday’s American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco:
NASA’s Land Vegetation and Ice Sensor has yet to leave the atmosphere, but that’s the long-term plan for this high-flying mapping technology. In the nearer future, LVIS will produce high-resolution, three-dimensional maps of Earth’s unexplored polar regions, allowing scientists to follow changes in ice cover more accurately than ever before. Since 1998, LVIS has mapped rainforest canopies in Costa Rica, surveyed Gulf Coast ocean topography, and even tracked ivory-billed woodpeckers …
Amid flashing lightning and booming thunder, storms emit a very powerful but little understood form of energy — gamma radiation. These terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) produce short-lived but immensely powerful bursts of energy that could zap airplane passengers with unhealthy doses of radiation. Now, researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz think they might be able to use a smartphone app to learn more about these mysterious bursts.
Researchers have designed a new model to predict the riskiest areas of Al-Madinah, the second holy city of Islam that sits at the northern tip of a dangerous volcanic field. The model could improve evacuation and building planning for the city.
11 December 2013
Since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) opened for signatures in 1996, there has been a growing interest in monitoring for underground nuclear test explosions. When a nuclear bomb goes off underground, it produces enough force for seismographs to detect it.
The shell of a tiny marine mollusk carries evidence of the ocean conditions that formed it, researchers have found. These “butterflies of the sea” could be used to determine the temperature and carbon dioxide levels of ancient oceans, they said this week at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting