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The Lead

Study: Ancient Earth made its own water

December 17, 2014 10:06 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of Earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system? The answer is likely both.

New tracers can identify coal ash contamination in water

December 16, 2014 2:20 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in...

Past global warming similar to today’s, but in two pulses

December 15, 2014 1:54 pm | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles...

Earth’s most abundant mineral finally has a name

December 15, 2014 8:00 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

An ancient meteorite and high-energy x-rays have helped scientists conclude a half century of...

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Study: Early warning signals of abrupt climate change

December 8, 2014 9:47 am | by Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

A new study by researchers at the Univ. of Exeter has found early warning signals of a reorganization of the Atlantic oceans’ circulation which could have a profound impact on the global climate system. The researchused a simulation from a highly complex model to analyze the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, an important component of the Earth’s climate system.

Study: Underground helium travels to Earth’s surface via aquifers

December 8, 2014 9:14 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Before it can put the party in party balloons, helium is carried from deep within the Earth’s crust to the surface via aquifers. Aquifers contain water that has filtered there over hundreds of millennia. Using an atom trap built at Argonne National Laboratory to date the water in a deep South American aquifer, scientists tracked the rate at which helium pooled in the aquifers.

Geophysicists challenge traditional theory underlying the origin of mid-plate volcanoes

December 5, 2014 9:16 am | by Virginia Tech | News | Comments

A long-held assumption about the Earth is discussed in Science, as a team of researchers look at how a layer beneath the Earth's crust may be responsible for volcanic eruptions. The discovery challenges conventional thought that volcanoes are caused when plates that make up the planet's crust shift and release heat.

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NIR Drills Into the Energy Industry

December 4, 2014 2:16 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Hydrocarbon exploration by definition is the search by geologists or geophysicists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Earth’s surface, such as oil (petroleum) and natural gas. In such exploration, the oil and gas industry drills holes into the Earth’s surface to extract the petroleum or natural gas. However, such exploration is expensive, not to mention a high-risk operation.

Traces of biological activity inside meteorite

December 4, 2014 10:57 am | by EPFL | Videos | Comments

Did Mars ever have life? Does it still? A meteorite from Mars has reignited the old debate. An international team that includes scientists from EPFL has published a paper in Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences, showing that Martian life is more probable than previously thought.

Small volcanoes make a dent in global warming

December 3, 2014 11:04 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New research shows that relatively small volcanic eruptions can increase aerosol particles in the atmosphere, temporarily mitigating the global warming caused by greenhouse gases. The impact of such smaller eruptions has been underestimated in climate models, the researchers say, and helps to account for a discrepancy between those models and the actual temperatures observed over the last 15 years.

Most of Earth’s carbon may be hidden in planet’s inner core

December 2, 2014 8:24 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

As much as two-thirds of Earth's carbon may be hidden in the inner core, making it the planet's largest carbon reservoir, according to a new model that even its backers acknowledge is "provocative and speculative." In a recent paper, Univ. of Michigan researchers and their colleagues suggest that iron carbide, Fe7C3, provides a good match for the density and sound velocities of Earth's inner core under the relevant conditions.

AUV provides first 3-D images of underside of Antarctic sea ice

November 26, 2014 8:03 am | by Peter West, NSF | News | Comments

A National Science Foundation-funded research team has successfully tested an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can produce high-resolution, 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. SeaBED, as the vehicle is known, measured and mapped the underside of sea-ice floes in three areas off the Antarctic Peninsula that were previously inaccessible.

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Deep-Earth carbon offers clues about origin of life

November 21, 2014 7:53 am | by Jill Rosen, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

New findings by a Johns Hopkins Univ.-led team reveal long unknown details about carbon deep beneath the Earth’s surface and suggest ways this subterranean carbon might have influenced the history of life on the planet. The team also developed a new, related theory about how diamonds form in the Earth’s mantle.

Warmth, flowing water on early Mars were episodic

November 18, 2014 11:46 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Ample evidence of ancient rivers, streams and lakes make it clear that Mars was at some point warm enough for liquid water to flow on its surface. While that may conjure up images of a tropical Martian paradise, new research published in Nature Geoscience throws a bit of cold water on that notion.

As temperatures rise, soil will relinquish less carbon to atmosphere

November 18, 2014 8:26 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Here’s another reason to pay close attention to microbes: Current climate models probably overestimate the amount of carbon that will be released from soil into the atmosphere as global temperatures rise, according to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The findings are from a new computer model that explores the feedbacks between soil carbon and climate change.

Pulling together the early solar system

November 14, 2014 8:35 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

While astronomers have observed the protoplanetary disk evolution throughout our galaxy, the mechanism by which planetary disks evolve at such a rapid rate has eluded scientists for decades. Now researchers have provided the first experimental evidence that our solar system’s protoplanetary disk was shaped by an intense magnetic field that drove a massive amount of gas into the sun within just a few million years.

Subducting oceanic plates are thinning adjacent continents

November 13, 2014 4:28 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The continental margins of plates on either side of the Atlantic Ocean are thinner than expected, and an international team led by a Rice Univ. scientist is using an array of advanced tools to understand why. The viscous bottom layers of the continental shelves beneath the Gibraltar arc and northeastern South America are literally being pulled off by adjacent subducting oceanic plates.

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Robotic ocean gliders aid study of melting polar ice

November 12, 2014 8:18 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers now have a better understanding of the cause.

Archaeologists discover remains of Ice-Age infants

November 11, 2014 11:32 am | by National Science Foundation | News | Comments

The bones and teeth of two—possibly related—Ice-Age infants, who were buried more than 11,000 years ago in central Alaska, constitute the youngest human remains ever found in the North American Arctic, according to a new paper published by National Science Foundation-funded researchers.

Unexpected findings change the picture of sulfur on early Earth

November 10, 2014 8:20 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Scientists believe that until about 2.4 billion years ago there was little oxygen in the atmosphere. Evidence in support of this hypothesis comes from studies of sulfur isotopes preserved in the rock record. But the sulfur isotope story has been uncertain because of the lack of key information that has now been provided by a new analytical technique developed by a team of Caltech geologists and geochemists.

Lack of oxygen delayed the appearance of animals on Earth

November 1, 2014 6:46 pm | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Geologists are letting the air out of a nagging mystery about the development of animal life on Earth. Scientists have long speculated as to why animal species didn’t flourish sooner, once sufficient oxygen covered the Earth’s surface.

They know the drill: UW leads the league in boring through ice sheets

October 31, 2014 10:10 am | by David Tenenbaum, Univ. of Wisconsin | News | Comments

Wisconsin is famous for its ice fishers. Less well known are the state’s big-league ice drillers. Hollow coring drills designed and managed by the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison have been instrumental to new research published this week documenting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 23,000 and 9,000 years ago, based on data from an 11,000-foot hole in Antarctica.

Lack of oxygen delayed the appearance of animals on Earth

October 31, 2014 8:44 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have long speculated as to why animal species didn’t flourish sooner, once sufficient oxygen covered the Earth’s surface. Animals began to prosper at the end of the Proterozoic period, about 800 million years ago. But what about the billion-year stretch before that, when most researchers think there also was plenty of oxygen? Well, it seems the air wasn’t so great then, after all.

Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

October 15, 2014 7:56 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.

Rock-dwelling microbes remove methane from deep sea

October 14, 2014 1:26 pm | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

Methane-breathing microbes that inhabit rocky mounds on the seafloor could be preventing large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas from entering the oceans and reaching the atmosphere, according to a new study. The rock-dwelling microbes represent a previously unrecognized biological sink for methane and as a result could reshape scientists' understanding of where this greenhouse gas is being consumed in subseafloor habitats.

Undergrad helps develop method to detect water on Mars

October 3, 2014 9:25 am | by Eric Sorensen, Washington State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Washington State University undergraduate Kellie Wall, 21, recently looked for evidence that water influenced crystal formation in basalt, the dark volcanic rock that covers most of eastern Washington and Oregon. She then compared this with volcanic rock observations made by the rover Curiosity on Mars’ Gale Crater, inventing a new method for detecting water on Mars.

Glaciers in the Grand Canyon of Mars?

September 30, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

For decades, planetary geologists have speculated that glaciers might once have crept through Valles Marineris, the 2000-mile-long chasm that constitutes the Grand Canyon of Mars. A research team has now identified what could be the first mineralogical evidence of past glaciers within the Valles Marineris: a layer of mixed sulfate minerals halfway up three-mile-high cliffs in the canyon system.

The water in your bottle might be older than the sun

September 26, 2014 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, Univ. of Michigan astronomers theorize. The researchers' work helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system's water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago?

Early Earth less hellish than previously thought

September 16, 2014 7:53 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

Conditions on Earth for the first 500 million years after it formed may have been surprisingly similar to the present day, complete with oceans, continents and active crustal plates. This alternate view of Earth’s first geologic eon, called the Hadean, has gained substantial new support from the first detailed comparison of zircon crystals that formed more than 4 billion years ago with those formed contemporaneously in Iceland.

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