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Ancient rocks show life on Earth 3.2 billion years ago

February 17, 2015 9:13 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth. But what happened next? Life can exist without oxygen; but without plentiful nitrogen to build genes, life on the early Earth would have been scarce. The ability to use atmospheric nitrogen to support more widespread life was thought to have appeared roughly 2 billion years ago.

Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space

February 17, 2015 8:09 am | by Jo Bowler, Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification are set to revolutionize the way that marine biologists and climate scientists study the ocean. This new approach, published in Environmental Science and Technology, offers remote monitoring of large swathes of inaccessible ocean from satellites that orbit the Earth some 700 km above our heads.

Carbon release from ocean helped end the ice age

February 13, 2015 9:20 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

New techniques are allowing scientists to understand how carbon dioxide, released from the deep ocean, helped to end the last ice age and create our current climate. An international team studied the shells of ancient marine organisms that lived in surface waters of the southern Atlantic and eastern equatorial Pacific oceans thousands of years ago.

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Scientists urge more research on climate intervention

February 10, 2015 2:47 pm | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while necessary, may not happen soon enough to stave off climate catastrophe. So, in addition, the world may need to resort to so-called geoengineering approaches that aim to deliberately control the planet's climate. That's according to a National Research Council committee that released a pair of sweeping reports on climate intervention techniques.

Earth’s surprise inside

February 10, 2015 9:39 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Seismic waves are helping scientists to plumb the world’s deepest mystery: the planet’s inner core. Thanks to a novel application of earthquake-reading technology, a research team at the Univ. of Illinois and colleagues at Nanjing Univ. in China have found that the Earth’s inner core has an inner core of its own, which has surprising properties that could reveal information about our planet.

15-million-year-old mollusk protein found

February 5, 2015 10:33 am | by Robert Hazen, Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

A team of Carnegie Institute scientists have found “beautifully preserved” 15-million-year-old thin protein sheets in fossil shells from southern Maryland. The team collected samples from Calvert Cliffs, along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay, a popular fossil collecting area. They found fossilized shells of a snail-like mollusk called Ecphora that lived in the mid-Miocene era.

Meteorite may represent ‘bulk background’ of Mars’ battered crust

February 2, 2015 9:29 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

NWA 7034, a meteorite found a few years ago in the Moroccan desert, is like no other rock ever found on Earth. It’s been shown to be a 4.4 billion-year-old chunk of the Martian crust, and according to a new analysis, rocks just like it may cover vast swaths of Mars.

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

January 29, 2015 8:06 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Geologists from Brown Univ. have found new evidence that glacier-like ice deposits advanced and retreated multiple times in the mid-latitude regions of Mars in the relatively recent past. For the study, the researchers looked at hundreds of gully-like features found on the walls of impact craters throughout the Martian mid-latitudes.

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Using ocean waves to monitor offshore oil and gas fields

January 29, 2015 7:54 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A technology developed by Stanford Univ. scientists for passively probing the seafloor using weak seismic waves generated by the ocean could revolutionize offshore oil and natural gas extraction by providing real-time monitoring of the subsurface while lessening the impact on marine life.

Doubt cast on global firestorm generated by dino-killing asteroid

January 22, 2015 8:08 am | by Jo Bowler, Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

Pioneering new research has debunked the theory that the asteroid thought to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs also caused vast global firestorms that ravaged planet Earth. A team of researchers from the Univ. of Exeter, Univ. of Edinburgh and Imperial College London recreated the immense energy released from an extraterrestrial collision with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct.

Sequestration on shaky ground

January 21, 2015 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth’s surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current carbon sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Geophysicists find the crusty culprits behind sudden tectonic plate movements

January 20, 2015 10:40 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ.-led research may have solved one of the biggest mysteries in geology: namely, why do tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface, which normally shift over the course of tens to hundreds of millions of years, sometimes move abruptly? A new study says the answer comes down to two things: thick crustal plugs and weakened mineral grains.

Tiny plant fossils a window into Earth’s landscape millions of years ago

January 15, 2015 3:30 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants could tell a detailed story of what the Earth looked like 50 million years ago. An international team led by the Univ. of Washington has discovered a way to determine the tree cover and density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil.

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Small volcanic eruptions explain warming hiatus

January 12, 2015 8:13 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

The “warming hiatus” over the past 15 years has been caused in part by small volcanic eruptions. Scientists have known volcanoes cool the atmosphere because of the sulfur dioxide that is expelled during eruptions. Droplets of sulfuric acid that form when the gas combines with oxygen in the upper atmosphere can persist for many months, reflecting sunlight away from Earth and lowering temperatures at the surface and in the lower atmosphere.

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 water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool.

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 modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, researchers at the Univ. of Utah, the Univ. of Michigan and three other universities found.

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 effort to find, identify and characterize a mineral that makes up 38% of the Earth. And in doing so, a team of scientists clarified the definition of the Earth's most abundant mineral, a high-density form of magnesium iron silicate, now called Bridgmanite, and defined estimated constraint ranges for its formation.

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.

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.

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