A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site. After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water
If the Earth arose from the collision of asteroids, as is widely thought, its composition should resemble that of meteoroids, which break off of asteroids. But the Earth’s mantle is missing an amount of lead found in meteorites whose composition has been analyzed following impact with the Earth. New research points to large reservoirs of material deep in the mantle that may help solve the mystery and explain Earth’s origins.
At the end of the last Ice Age, as the world began to warm, a brief pulse of biological productivity in the Pacific Ocean gave rise to large numbers of phytoplankton, foraminifera and other creatures. Researchers have hypothesized that iron sparked this surge of ocean life, but a new study determines instead that “perfect storm” of nutrients and light spurred the bloom.
It is not unusual for swarms of small earthquakes to precede a volcanic eruption. They can create a signal called harmonic tremor, which resembles that generated by musical instruments but at a much lower frequency. A new analysis of an eruption sequence at Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano in March 2009 shows that the harmonic tremor glided to substantially higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly just before erupting.
The powerful earthquake that rocked Japan in 2011 set off tremors around a West Texas oil field, according to new research that suggests oil and gas drilling operations may make fault zones sensitive to shock waves from distant big quakes. Large quakes have been known to trigger minor jolts thousands of miles from the epicenter, but less is known about the influence of remote quakes on faults that have been weakened by man-made activity.
New research in Australia shows that existing copper resources can sustain increasing worldwide demand for at least a century, meaning social and environmental concerns could be the most important restrictions on future copper production. The finding runs contrary to other predictions estimating that supplies of this important metal would run out in around 30 years.
A Univ. of Michigan researcher worked with Univ. of Utah colleagues to develop a new weapon to fight poachers who kill elephants, hippos, rhinos and other wildlife. By measuring radioactive carbon-14 deposited in tusks and teeth following open-air nuclear bomb tests, the method reveals the year an animal died, and thus whether the ivory was taken illegally.
Earth’s atmosphere did not always contain oxygen, and one of science's greatest mysteries is how and when oxygenic photosynthesis—the process responsible for producing oxygen on Earth through the splitting of water molecules—first began. A team has now found evidence of a precursor photosystem involving manganese that predates cyanobacteria, the first group of organisms to release oxygen into the environment via photosynthesis.
Using data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system’s coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the moon. They have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.
A “cold snap” 116 million years ago triggered a similar marine ecosystem crisis to the ones witnessed in the past as a result of global warming, according to recently published research. The international study confirms the link between global cooling and a crash in the marine ecosystem during the mid-Cretaceous greenhouse period.
The noble gases get their collective moniker from their tendency toward snobbishness. The six elements in the family, which includes helium and neon, don’t normally bond with other elements and they don’t dissolve into minerals the way other gases do. But now, geochemists from Brown Univ. have found a mineral structure with which the nobles deign to fraternize.
When petroleum companies abandon an oil well, more than half the reservoir’s oil is usually left behind as too difficult to recover. Now, however, much of the residual oil can be recovered with the help of nanoparticles and a simple law of physics. A partnership of Norwegian and Chinese scientists has succeeded in recovering up to 50% of residual in North Sea rock samples.
Humans began contributing to environmental lead pollution as early as 8,000 years ago, according to a Univ. of Pittsburgh research report. The Pitt research team detected the oldest-discovered remains of human-derived lead pollution in the world in the northernmost region of Michigan, suggesting metal pollution from mining and other human activities appeared far earlier in North America than in Europe, Asia and South America.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake occurred 43 miles off the shore of Japan. It generated an unexpectedly massive tsunami that washed over eastern Japan roughly 30 minutes later. Scientists at Stanford University have identified key acoustic characteristics of this quake that indicated it would cause a large tsunami.
A research collaboration agreement has been formed between imaging company FEI and the University of Oklahoma to establish an oil and gas center of excellence. Called the FEI-OU Pore Scale Characterization Laboratory, the center will focus on the development of routine quantitative methods to classify shales in the economic assessment of tight oil and gas plays.
Pebbles and sand scattered near an ancient Martian river network may present the most convincing evidence yet that the frigid deserts of the Red Planet were once a habitable environment traversed by flowing water. Scientists with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission reported on May 30, 2013, the discovery of sand grains and small stones that bear the telltale roundness of river stones and are too heavy to have been moved by wind.
A new study by the Wyoming State Geological Survey has identified dozens of possible sources of rare earth metals in Wyoming in addition to deposits in the Bear Lodge Mountains that a company already has targeted for mining. State geologists gathered and analyzed 335 rock samples from around Wyoming over the past year, making use of $200,000 appropriated by the Legislature.
Observations by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have revealed areas with gravel and pebbles that are characteristic of a former riverbed. Researchers, including members of the Niels Bohr Institute, have analyzed their shapes and sizes and the rounded pebbles clearly show that there has been flowing water on Mars.
According to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder, a chemical reaction between iron-containing minerals and water may produce enough hydrogen "food" to sustain microbial communities living in pores and cracks within the enormous volume of rock below the ocean floor and parts of the continents.
Stromatolites (“layered rocks”) are structures made of calcium carbonate and shaped by the actions of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and other microbes that trapped and bound grains of coastal sediment into fine layers. According to recent research, the widespread and mysterious disappearance of stromatolites may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.
From Virginia to Florida, there is a prehistoric shoreline that, in some parts, rests more than 280 feet above modern sea level. The shoreline was carved by waves more than 3 million years ago—possible evidence of a once higher sea level, triggered by ice-sheet melting. But new findings by a team of researchers reveal that the shoreline has been uplifted by more than 210 feet, meaning less ice melted than expected.
An international team of researchers may have found what cause a dramatic cooling near the end of the last major Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago. The recently published study, which involved the study of rock melted into carbon spherules, describes evidence of a major cosmic event near the end of the Ice Age. The ensuing climate change forced many species to adapt or die.
Earthquakes that last minutes rather than seconds are a relatively recent discovery, according to an international team of seismologists. Researchers have been aware of these slow earthquakes, only for the past five to 10 years because of new tools and new observations, but these tools may explain the triggering of some normal earthquakes and could help in earthquake prediction.
According to research taking place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the distortion of the ancient shoreline and flooding surface of the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain are the direct result of fluctuations in topography in the region and could have implications on understanding long-term climate change, according to a new study.
The massive ball of iron sitting at the center of Earth is not quite as "rock-solid" as has been thought, say two Stanford University mineral physicists. By conducting experiments that simulate the immense pressures deep in the planet's interior, the researchers determined that iron in Earth's inner core is only about 40% as strong as previous studies estimated.