Top Stories

Snow Science in Support of Our Nation's Water Supply
February 16, 2017 11:29 AM - NASA

Researchers have completed the first flights of a NASA-led field campaign that is targeting one of the biggest gaps in scientists' understanding of Earth's water resources: snow.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to study all aspects of Earth as an interconnected system. But there remain significant obstacles to measuring accurately how much water is stored across the planet's snow-covered regions. The amount of water in snow plays a major role in water availability for drinking water, agriculture and hydropower.

How an Ice Age paradox could inform sea level rise predictions
February 16, 2017 10:26 AM - Nicole Moore via University of Michigan

New findings from the University of Michigan explain an Ice Age paradox and add to the mounting evidence that climate change could bring higher seas than most models predict.

The study, published in Nature, shows how small spikes in the temperature of the ocean, rather than the air, likely drove the rapid disintegration cycles of the expansive ice sheet that once covered much of North America.

Crystal Growth, Earth Science and Tech Demo Research Launching to Orbiting Laboratory
February 16, 2017 10:16 AM - NASA / Johnson Space Center

The tenth SpaceX cargo resupply launch to the International Space Station, targeted for launch Feb. 18, will deliver investigations that study human health, Earth science and weather patterns. Here are some highlights of the research headed to the orbiting laboratory:

Crystal growth investigation could improve drug delivery, manufacturing

Monoclonal antibodies are important for fighting off a wide range of human diseases, including cancers. These antibodies work with the natural immune system to bind to certain molecules to detect, purify and block their growth. The Microgravity Growth of Crystalline Monoclonal Antibodies for Pharmaceutical Applications (CASIS PCG 5) investigation will crystallize a human monoclonal antibody, developed by Merck Research Labs, that is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of immunological disease.

Laissez-faire is not good enough for reforestation
February 16, 2017 09:59 AM - Fabio Bergamin via ETH Zurich

In order to restore tropical rainforests, it is not enough to simply set up protected areas and leave them to their own devices. In particular, tree species with large fruit and seeds distributed by birds will have to be actively planted. This is one of the conclusions of a large-scale study by scientists from ETH Zurich in the Western Ghats, the mountain range running along the western coast of India. Today, the rainforest that exists there is highly fragmented. In the late 20th century in particular, large areas fell victim to intensive logging and commercial agriculture such as coffee and tea plantations.

How much biomass grows in the savannah?
February 16, 2017 09:49 AM - Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena

Savannahs form one of the largest habitats in the world, covering around one-fifth of the Earth's land area. They are mainly to be found in sub-Saharan Africa. Savannahs are home not only to unique wildlife, including the 'Big Five' - the African elephant, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, leopard and lion - but also to thousands of endemic plant species such as the baobab, or monkey bread tree.

Monarch Butterflies Just Lost Another Third of Their Population
February 16, 2017 07:02 AM - Alicia Graefi, Care2

While international efforts are underway to protect iconic monarch butterflies from disappearing, the latest population count has found their numbers have dropped by nearly one-third since last year.

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in the 1990s, an estimated one billion monarchs embarked on an epic annual migration. Their journey takes them from sites in Canada and the U.S. to wintering grounds in California and Mexico, where they find shelter and warmth among oyamel fir trees in the winter.

New Methods Further Discern Extreme Fluctuations in Forage Fish Populations
February 15, 2017 04:34 PM - NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

California sardine stocks famously crashed in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.” New research, building on the pioneering work of Soutar and Isaacs in the late 1960’s and others, shows in greater detail that such forage fish stocks have undergone boom-bust cycles for centuries, with at least three species off the U.S. West Coast repeatedly experiencing steep population increases followed by declines long before commercial fishing began.

Natural population fluctuations in Pacific sardine, northern anchovy and Pacific hake off California have been so common that the species were in collapsed condition 29 to 40 percent of the time over the 500-year period from A.D. 1000 to 1500, according to the study published today in Geophysical Research Letters. Using a long time series of fish scales deposited in low-oxygen offshore sedimentary environments off southern California, the authors from NOAA Fisheries and the University of Michigan described such collapses as “an intrinsic property of some forage fish populations that should be expected, just as droughts are expected in an arid climate.” 

Newly engineered material can cool roofs, structures with zero energy consumption
February 15, 2017 04:24 PM - Trent Knoss via University of Colorado at Boulder

A team of University of Colorado Boulder engineers has developed a scalable manufactured metamaterial — an engineered material with extraordinary properties not found in nature — to act as a kind of air conditioning system for structures. It has the ability to cool objects even under direct sunlight with zero energy and water consumption.

When applied to a surface, the metamaterial film cools the object underneath by efficiently reflecting incoming solar energy back into space while simultaneously allowing the surface to shed its own heat in the form of infrared thermal radiation.

Extraordinary Levels of Pollution Found in the Deepest Part of the Sea
February 15, 2017 03:01 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Since the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean, you might guess that it is safe from the impact of humans, but you would be wrong. Scientists have found that, despite its depth and remoteness, the deep sea contains levels of toxins that match some of the most polluted marine systems on earth.

How temperature guides where species live and where they'll go
February 15, 2017 02:59 PM - Morgan Kell

For decades, among the most enduring questions for ecologists have been: "Why do species live where they do? And what are the factors that keep them there?" A Princeton University-based study featured on the February cover of the journal Ecology could prove significant in answering that question, particularly for animals in the world's temperate mountain areas.

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