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7 April 2020

Scientists propose explanation for night sky glow of STEVE

Researchers have just published a theory of what powers the celestial phenomenon known as STEVE, the aurora-like glow amateur sky-watchers brought to scientists’ attention in 2016. Scientists first thought STEVE was a new kind of aurora, but previous research shows its light is not produced the same way. Researchers are still unsure of what generates STEVE’s light, but a group of space physicists now suspect STEVE lights up when fast-flowing rivers of plasma jumpstart certain chemical reactions high in the atmosphere.

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18 February 2020

Mating squid don’t stop for loud noises

Loud hammering noises like pile driving disrupt the mating behavior of longfin squid, but the cephalopods seem to get acclimated to the incessant noise, according to new research presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting this week. Hammering piles into the seafloor is a common technique used for building offshore structures like wind farms, but previous research shows the high-intensity noise can damage marine animals’ tissues when they are nearby or alter their behavior when the animals are further away.

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17 February 2020

Deep-sea footage helps researchers understand octopod real estate

Biologists are using footage from remotely operated vehicles to better understand where deep-sea octopuses prefer to live. Understanding an animal’s choice of habitat is crucial to understanding its life history. Abigail Pratt, a biologist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, has been crawling through undersea video footage from the North Atlantic Ocean to better understand where deep-sea octopuses prefer to settle down. Pratt is hoping to find out what seafloor features make the best real estate – whether octopuses prefer hard ground or soft, or whether they tend to settle on specific geographical features like submarine canyons or continental shelves.

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11 February 2020

Climate change could trigger more landslides in High Mountain Asia

More frequent and intense rainfall events due to climate change could cause more landslides in the High Mountain Asia region of China, Tibet and Nepal, according to the first quantitative study of the link between precipitation and landslides in the region.

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15 January 2020

Crowdsourcing pollution data could benefit public health

Low-cost sensors provide localized air quality data By Jerimiah Oetting Wildfire smoke regularly threatens air quality over vast regions of places like California. But a new study finds a network of low-cost sensors placed in private homes could paint a more detailed picture of localized pollution, especially in areas where data on air quality is limited. “[The low cost sensors are] unlikely to replace our reliable regulatory monitoring networks,” said …

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Nearly barren Icelandic landscapes guide search for extraterrestrial life

New research on microbial lifeforms living in nearly barren volcanic landscapes in Iceland may help scientists understand how best to search for life on other planets. Researchers with NASA’s FELDSPAR project are studying the distribution of life in these harsh Icelandic environments to inform the search for hidden life signs on planets like Mars. So far, they have found that microbes at their study sites are often isolated in “hot spots” and that microbial communities are distributed differently in areas subjected to different geological processes, such as wind or glaciation.

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14 January 2020

Microbes endure a variety of inhospitable conditions in California’s Mono Lake

Microbes found across distinct layers in California’s Mono Lake may be surviving by using a variety of carbohydrates for energy, according to a recent study. New research presented last month describes bacteria that thrive in the inhospitable lake across a variety of nutrient conditions. Researchers predict that these bacteria, which express more carbohydrate utilization genes than their competitors, succeed by being able to adapt to use available energy sources. The research helps scientists understand how bacteria survive in extreme environments as well as how bacterial communities shift following changes in nutrient levels.

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13 January 2020

Board game educates Japan about new energy source

A three-dimensional box that mimics an underwater ocean scene teaches players about an underwater fossil fuel resource in a new Japanese board game. Methane hydrate is a natural energy resource buried deep below the ocean floor surrounding Japan. This mixture of methane and ice, once extracted, can be converted into methane gas, a viable energy source. Chiharu Aoyama, an ocean resources professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, suspects Japan’s citizens do not know about this natural resource. In 2016, Aoyama worked with Daiki Aoyama, a family member and game hobbyist, to design a board game to raise awareness about methane hydrate among Japanese people of all ages.

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17 December 2019

Wildfire residue may contribute to climate change

Wildfires leave behind large swathes of blackened earth when they raze a landscape. That charred material contains a host of molecules that could continue to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere days and weeks after the fire has gone out, according to new research.

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12 December 2019

One of Europe’s worst famines likely caused by devastating floods

Europe’s Great Famine of 1315–1317 is considered one of the worst population collapses in the continent’s history. Historical records tell of unrelenting rain accompanied by mass crop failure…Now, new research using tree ring records confirms the historical data, showing the years of the Great Famine were some of Europe’s wettest.

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