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The Lead

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.

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...

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...

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...

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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.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Polonium’s most stable isotope gets revised half-life measurement

September 12, 2014 9:14 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Scientists at NIST have determined that polonium-209, the longest-lived isotope of this radioactive heavy element, has a half-life about 25% longer than the previously determined value, which had been in use for decades. The new NIST measurements could affect geophysical studies such as the dating of sediment samples from ocean and lake floors.

Alien-like giant water-living dinosaur unveiled

September 12, 2014 8:57 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Picture the fearsome creatures of "Jurassic Park" crossed with the shark from "Jaws." Then super-size to the biggest predator ever to roam Earth. Now add a crocodile snout as big as a person and feet like a duck's. The result gives you some idea of a bizarre dinosaur scientists unveiled Thursday. This patchwork of critters, a 50-foot predator, is the only known dinosaur to live much of its life in the water.

Microscopic diamonds suggest cosmic impact responsible for major period of climate

September 11, 2014 4:53 pm | News | Comments

A new study published in The Journal of Geology provides support for the theory that a cosmic impact event over North America some 13,000 years ago caused a major period of climate change known as the Younger Dryas stadial, or “Big Freeze.”  The key to the mystery of the Big Freeze lies in nanodiamonds scattered across Europe, North America, and portions of South America.

Seismic gap may be filled by an earthquake near Istanbul

September 11, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When a segment of a major fault line goes quiet, it can mean one of two things: The “seismic gap” may simply be inactive, or the segment may be a source of potential earthquakes, quietly building tension over decades until an inevitable seismic release. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Turkey have found evidence for both types of behavior on different segments of the North Anatolian Fault.

New digital map reveals stunning hidden archaeology of Stonehenge

September 10, 2014 10:03 am | Videos | Comments

A high-tech survey reveals that there is more to Stonehenge than meets the eye, finding previously unknown monuments. Researchers have produced digital maps of what's beneath the World Heritage Site, using ground-penetrating radar, high-resolution magnetometers and other techniques to peer deep into the soil. And they have found some surprises.

Textbook theory behind volcanoes may be wrong

September 9, 2014 7:57 am | by Marcus Woo, Caltech | News | Comments

In the typical textbook picture, volcanoes, such as those that are forming the Hawaiian islands, erupt when magma gushes out as narrow jets from deep inside Earth. But that picture is wrong, according to a new study from researchers at Caltech and the Univ. of Miami. New seismology data are now confirming that such narrow jets don't actually exist.

Mystery of Death Valley's moving rocks solved

September 2, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

For years scientists have theorized about how large rocks, some weighing hundreds of pounds, zigzag across Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, leaving long trails etched in the earth. Now two researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Univ. of California, San Diego, have photographed these "sailing rocks" being blown by light winds across the former lake bed.

Nanodiamonds are forever

August 28, 2014 9:03 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

An international group of scientists posit that a comet collision with Earth played a major role in the extinction of most of North America’s megafauna close to 13,000 years ago. In a new study, they have focused on the character and distribution of nanodiamonds, which are produced during such an extraterrestrial collision. The researchers found an abundance of these tiny diamonds distributed over 50 million km2 in the Northern Hemisphere.

Yellowstone super-eruption would send ash across North America

August 27, 2014 12:22 pm | News | Comments

According to a new study, in the unlikely event of a volcanic super-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, the northern Rocky Mountains would be blanketed in meters of ash, and millimeters would be deposited as far away as New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. An improved computer model finds that the hypothetical, large eruption would create a distinctive kind of ash cloud known as an umbrella, which expands evenly in all directions.

Pebble-sized particles may jump-start planet formation

August 27, 2014 12:10 pm | News | Comments

Astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope have discovered that filaments of star-forming gas near the Orion Nebula may be brimming with pebble-size particles: planetary building blocks 100 to 1,000 times larger than the dust grains typically found around protostars. If confirmed, these dense ribbons of rocky material may well represent a new, mid-size class of interstellar particles that could help jump-start planet formation.

Composition of Earth’s mantle revisited

August 27, 2014 8:31 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Research published last week in Science suggested that the makeup of the Earth's lower mantle, which makes up the largest part of the Earth by volume, is significantly different than previously thought. According to scientists, the work performed at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source will have a significant impact on our understanding of the lower mantle.

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