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This is an archive of AGU's GeoSpace blog through 1 July 2020. New content about AGU research can be found on Eos and the AGU newsroom.

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1 October 2018

Half-degree of warming could have big impact on water availability

Approximately 117 million more people could face water shortages if global temperatures increase 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels compared to a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperatures, a new study suggests. The world’s water cycle, including evaporation and precipitation, is expected to intensify with global warming, according to the study. This could affect the distribution of freshwater and constrain the global water supply, which poses risks to national food security, economic prosperity and societal well-being.

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28 September 2018

Ice age discovery may reveal early migration route of first Americans

Researchers discovered the retreat of an ancient ice sheet from the western coast of Canada occurred earlier than previously thought. Christopher Darvill and his co-authors studied the Cordilleran Ice Sheet in North America – which once covered an area the size of the Greenland Ice Sheet – to improve our understanding of past climate and ancient human migration.

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18 September 2018

Mercury and its depressions

One of the most surprising discoveries of the NASA’s Messenger mission was the presence of unusual, bright, irregular and rimless flat-floored depressions on the surface of Mercury. These depressions, called hollows, are usually found on crater walls, rims, floors and central peaks. Since the hollows appear fresh, they may be actively forming today through a mechanism that could involve the loss of volatile compounds, but understanding how the hollows formed is still a major challenge for scientists.

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Coral skeletons act as archive of desert conditions from Little Ice Age

The Sahara and Arabian deserts did not cool as much as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere during the Little Ice Age, but in fact were drier 200 years ago than they are today, according to a new study. The Little Ice Age was a cool period from around 1450 to 1850. During this time, Europe was very cool and even experienced a “year without a summer” in 1816 due to the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia. Scientists knew Europe experienced significant cooling during the Little Ice Age because of historical data but were unsure how other parts of the world were affected, such as the Sahara and Arabian deserts.

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13 September 2018

The Blob hides in the deep

Fall is nearly here and, for most of us, that means the end of the summer heatwave. In the waters of British Columbia, however, the seasonal cycle is stuck. A marine heatwave began more than four years ago and new research suggests it won’t be disappearing anytime soon. Marine heatwaves are not new. But heatwaves are getting more intense and more frequent with a changing climate. Over the fall and winter of 2013 and 2014, satellites detected above normal temperatures in the surface waters of the northeast Pacific. At its peak, the mass of warm water—nicknamed “The Blob”—had water temperatures up to 3 °C warmer than normal and covered an area larger than Australia.

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New study: Most fires in Florida go undetected

A new study from Florida State University researchers indicates that common satellite imaging technologies have vastly underestimated the number of fires in Florida. Their report, published in collaboration with researchers from the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, challenges well-established beliefs about the nature and frequency of fire in the Sunshine State. While there were more fires than expected, researchers said, strategically prescribed burns throughout the state are proving an effective force against the ravages of wildfire.

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6 September 2018

Mysterious ‘lunar swirls’ point to moon’s volcanic, magnetic past

The mystery behind lunar swirls, one of the solar system’s most beautiful optical anomalies, may finally be solved thanks to a joint Rutgers University and University of California Berkeley study. The solution hints at the dynamism of the moon’s ancient past as a place with volcanic activity and an internally generated magnetic field. It also challenges our picture of the moon’s existing geology.

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4 September 2018

Polluted groundwater likely contaminated South Pacific Ocean coral reefs for decades

Groundwater containing excess nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers likely contaminated coral reefs on the Cook Islands during the second half of the 20th century, continuing for years after fertilizer use stopped, according to a new study. The finding suggests human activities have long-lasting impacts on coral reef communities and could be contributing to their decline.

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17 August 2018

New technology could improve radiation risk warnings for future deep-space astronauts

New technology that detects radiation from the Sun in real time and immediately predicts subsequent health risks could protect astronauts on future deep-space missions, according to a new study. Astronauts face dangers during solar energetic particle, or SEP, events, which occur when an eruption in the Sun’s atmosphere hurls high-energy protons out into space. These protons can penetrate the walls of a spacecraft and enter the human body. This radiation can cause immediate effects such as nausea, performance degradation and other acute radiation syndromes, while long-term effects can include cancer, degenerative tissue damage, heart disease and damage to the central nervous system.

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16 August 2018

Acceleration of mountain glacier melt could impact Pacific Northwest water supplies

Seasonal snow and ice accumulation cause glaciers in the Cascade Range mountains to grow a little every winter and melt a little every summer. This annual melt provides water for much of the Pacific Northwest, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho and parts of Montana. Inhabitants of the region utilize this water for drinking, crop irrigation, generating hydroelectric power and other uses. Glacier melt provides supplementary water when less snowmelt is available, alleviating drought conditions or other impacts of dry periods.

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