November 20, 2019

    Oxygen levels rose and fell several times on early Earth before stabilizing in the Earth's atmosphere
    The rise and fall of oxygen levels on early Earth - Earth science news

    What can nitrogen isotopes and selenium in ancient rocks that were once at the bottom of the sea tell us about oxygen levels on early Earth? For one thing, they show that oxygen levels were not stable in the early life of our planet, but rather came and went before oxygen levels stabilized in the atmosphere at levels as we know them today. Nitrogen isotopes reveal the activity of certain marine microorganisms that use oxygen to form nitrate. Selenium is released from sulfur minerals on land by oxygen. Thus, by analyzing nitrogen isotopes and selenium in rocks of different age, it is possible to determine how abundant oxygen must have been at a certain time. Also, the lack of oxygen during certain periods does not necessarily mean the lack of microorganismal life, and this might be important for the search of life on other planets whose atmosphere does not contain oxygen today.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Low-lying islands such as the Maldives will suffer most from rising sea levels
    Rising sea levels due to global warm could cost us $14 trillion a year in 2100 - climate change science news

    A study led by the UK National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) found that rising sea levels will impact heavily on global economy. The study warns that if we fail to limit global warming to 2 degrees C, the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, costs will be $14 trillion per year by the end of this century. Especially middle-income countries such as China will be affected, while high-income countries have already coastal protection in place, and will therefore suffer less. Tropical regions are expected to see extreme sea water levels more often, while low-lying islands such as the Maldives will get into serious problems. Therefore, scientists recommend to take adequate measures to prevent global warming as much as possible.

    Read the full story: IOP Publishing
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters


    According to old videos of cycling races, trees used to grow leaves and flower later in spring, before 1990
    Archived television video footage used to detect climate change impacts on trees - science news in short

    I always enjoy a good cycling race, but I never imagined videos of such competitions could be used to investigate climate changes. This is exactly what a team of scientists did by analyzing video footage from 1981 to 2016 of the major annual road cycling race in Belgium. They visually estimated how many leaves and flowers were present on the day of the course (usually in early April) and linked their scores to climate data. The ecologists found that the trees had advanced the timing of leafing and flowering in response to recent temperature changes. These shifts were most strongly related to warmer average temperatures in the area, which have increased by 1.5°C since 1980.

    Read the full story: EurekaAlert
    Scientific publication: Methods in Ecology and Evolution


    An alternate solution to 'Gaia puzzle' - short science articles

    Scientists have long questioned why the conditions on Earth remained stable enough for life to evolve for billions of years. The 'Gaia hypothesis' proposed that living things interacted with inorganic processes to keep the planet in which planet could persist in spite of threatening situations like volcanoes and meteorites. However, now researchers propose that this stability occurs due to 'sequential selection' in which life destabilizes the environment is short-lived which further changes until a stable situation occurs which then persists for a long time. This continues to happen till further traits are gained to stabilize the system by a process called 'selection by survival alone'.

    Read the full story: University of Exeter
    Scientific publication: Trends in Ecology and Evolution


    Ediacaran carbonate rocks in China that were deposited at the Ediacaran – Cambrian transition 550 million years ago, revealing Earth's first mass extinction event
    Marine anoxia caused the mass extinction of Earth’s first animals - Earth science news

    Scientists have established that the first wave of mass extinction on our planet, marking the Ediacaran – Cambrian transition more than 500 million years ago, has been caused by a lack of oxygen in the seawater. They base their conclusion on measurements of uranium isotope variations and paleontoligcal data in marine limestone rock that has been deposited during that time in China. Combining these data clearly shows that marine anoxia and disappearance of animals coincided perfectly. There must therefore have been a layer of water without oxygen over the seafloor that caused mass extinction at the end of the Ediacaran period.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    Collect your plant waste in the future! New enzymes can break it down to make raw materials for sustainable products. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Converting plant waste into sustainable products - Earth science news

    Scientists have discovered a new group of enzymes that act on lignin, one of the main components of plants and playing a central role in the distribution of water throughout the plant. Lignin is hard to digest, but these newly found enzymes appear to do the job efficiently. Now that lignin can be broken down to its basic components, it will become possible to synthesise new materials and chemicals such as nylon, bioplastics, and carbon fibers, from plant wastes.

    Read the full story: University of Portsmouth
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement
    Removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by “electrogeochemistry” - climate change science news

    To meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreements and keep global warming below 2 °C by the end of this century, it is not only necessary to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It is equally important to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have now evaluated a new process, which uses electricity from renewable sources for electrolysis of saline water to yield hydrogen and oxygen. This is coupled with reactions involving globally abundant minerals to produce a substance that effectively binds carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One advantage of this new process is the relatively low cost in comparison with the process of growing more trees and crops and stock the carbon dioxide underground. Other advantages are that it produces hydrogen that can be used as an energy source, and since the carbon dioxide is converted into bicarbonate, it could make the oceans less acidic. The process works in the laboratory, but needs scaling up before it can be applied.

    Read the full story: University of California – Santa Cruz
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change


    The bedrock below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is rising fast, now that ice is melting away
    West Antarctica on the rise - Earth science news

    With the ice layer thinning, the bedrock below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is rising, and it does so surprisingly fast, with up to 41 mm per year. The fast rise indicates that the Earth Mantle is extremely fluid. Also, this finding implies that 10% more ice has melted off West Antarctica than previously calculated. On the positive side, the fast rising earth may improve the stability of the ice sheet against collapses, researchers say. The results are important to further our understanding of the dynamics of the Earth and ice melting processes in Antarctica.

    Read the full story: Technical University of Denmark
    Scientific publication: Science


    The newly discovered specimen lived in the shallow waters of southern Italy between 70 and 75 million years ago. Credit: Fabio Manucci, via University of Alberta
    New ancient marine lizard discovered in Italy - science news - paleontology

    Paleontologists from the University of Alberta just described a new species of extinct marine lizard that lived in what is now Puglia, Italy, about 70-million years ago. The species was named Primitivus manduriensis, after the local Manduria variety of red wine grape primitivo. The fossil was discovered in what was once a shallow water environment. After it died, the lizard fell to the bottom and was covered in sediment, where it remained largely intact until its discovery. “(The marine lizards) are essentially small, long-bodied animals that look like regular lizards with longer necks and tails,” explained PhD student Ilaria Paparella, lead author of the study. The fossil is significantly younger than others from the same group, extending the time range of their existence by about 15 million years.

     

    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Royal Society Open Science


    Photovoltaic panels and eolic turbines will acount for half of the energy sources used world-wide in 2050
    Energy sources are world-wide for 50% renewable in 2050 - climate change science news

    A new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that 50% of our energy will be renewable, while the use of coal will drop to 11%. Hydroelectric power and nuclear energy will further contribute to greenhouse-gas-free electricity sources. However, the importance of nuclear power is likely to level off soon, while the decreasing costs of solar and wind energy, as well as battery costs, will cause a clear shift in investments. Unfortunately, the report also states that even if coal plants are shut down immediately this will not be enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celcius. New technology to capture carbon as soon as it is made, or to replace the role of gas in the power generation sector, is needed.

    Read the full story: BloombergNEF


    Brain coral seems to benefit from local intervention
    Saving corals from predators limits bleaching - Earth Science News

    Local intervention to make coral reefs more resilient to climate change might work, a new study found. Indeed, reducing the population of coral-eating snails reduced coral bleaching to 50% during the summer. When sea water cools down again in the winter, the corals recovered. Corals that still had to cope with predatory snails showed almost 100% bleaching and did not recover. Scientists say that by removing the predators, corals have less stress and more energy to successfully cope with rising sea water temperatures.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution


    Some small coral reef communities seem to survive climate change
    Oases of coral reef are thriving while most are dying - Earth science news

    Against all odds, there seem to be small communities of coral reefs that are thriving, while many others are dying, new observations showed. Why these small communities are surviving is not entirely clear and, researchers say, this does not mean that endeavors should be stopped to stop climate change or save one of the Earth’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Rather, the surviving coral offers a glimmer of hope, and might give clues as to what it takes to protect coral reefs and to restore coral life.

    Read the full story: Newcastle University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Applied Ecology


    Invasive plants, often introduced in gardens and agriculture, can overtake and eliminate local species of plants
    Invasive exotic plants can drive native species extinct - science news

    Humans regularly introduce new exotic species of plants in new environments. Many of these species lack natural enemies and can thrive, eventually leading to the elimination of local species, a new study shows. It was previously a matter of debate whether the introduction of exotic plants can lead to native plant extinctions. Given that the replacement of native plants and animals by exotic species occurs incrementally over many generations, and that the majority of species introductions have taken place in the last 200 years and at rapidly increasing rates, it is plausible that most invasion-induced extinctions are yet to occur. One way to reduce the problem is to increase the diversity of species that we use in our gardens and in agriculture.

    Read the full story: University of Southampton
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Surprisingly, atmospheric changes around New Zeeland can impact the weather in the Southwest U.S.
    Meteorology: weather in New Zeeland predicts rain in California - science news in brief

    An interesting connection between the weather events around New Zeeland and the amount of precipitations in California has been observed. This is due to a sea surface temperature anomaly that occurs in July and August in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, near New Zealand. Its effects propagate towards the Northern hemisphere influencing the amount of rain that falls on California from November through March. "Influences between the hemispheres promise earlier and more accurate prediction of winter precipitation in California and the Southwest U.S.," said study co-author Efi Foufoula-Georgiou. Moreover, accurate predictions are important for the economy as well as water security and the ecosystems of the region.

    Read the full story: National Science Foundation, USA
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Using a new method of statistical analysis, scientists discovered a previously unidentified mass extinction event
    New mass extinction that occurred 232 million years ago identified - science news in summary

    In the history of Earth, there have been many mass extinction events. Many of them there are easy to identify in the geological records, however, others are more difficult to spot. Using a new type of statistical analysis (breakpoint analysis) a team of scientists has discovered a previously unknown mass extinction event. According to the study, this event occurred 232 million years ago, during the Triassic. Called the Carnian event, this extinction was important in heralding the explosion of dinosaurs onto the scene, but it also marked the beginning of many modern groups, such as turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and mammals.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: Journal of the Geological Society


    Many species of mammals around the globe become nocturnal when people are around
    To avoid humans, animals are becoming nocturnal - science news in short

    A recent study suggests that human activity is causing mammals to stay hidden during the day and become more active at night. The study looked at 62 species across six continents. On average, mammals were 1.36 times more nocturnal in response to human disturbance. This means that an animal that naturally split its activity evenly between the day and night increased its nighttime activity to 68% when people were around. The consequence of this change in behavior for individual animals is not clear yet, but it could very well be negative.

    Read the full story: University of California, Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Science


    Coral reefs will be submerged in more than half a meter of water during this century
    Help! Coral reefs are drowning! - Earth science news

    An international team of researchers have established that the growth rate of most coral reefs is too slow to keep up with the expected rise of sea water levels. This is due to coral disease, coral bleaching, worsened water quality, and fishing pressure. Many reefs that are now just below the surface will be submerged in more than half a meter of water. As a consequence, coral reefs will lose their function as a natural barrier to protect the coast line against sea waves. The researchers argue that measures to limit climate change should be coupled with proper fishing management and water quality protection to restore coral reef growth.

    Read the full story: ARC Centre of Excellence – Coral Reef Studies
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Glacier speed up on the Antarctic Peninsula is a major contributor to Antarctic ice loss
    Antarctic icesheet is melting fast - climate change science news

    New analyses show that melting of the Antarctic icesheet is accelerating from 73 to 219 billion ton per year. This caused a sea level rise of 7.6 mm during the 25 years, 3 mm of which in the last five years alone. Loss of ice occurs especially in the West-Antarctic, due warmer sea water and melting from below, and the Antarctic Peninsula due to higher atmosphere temperatures causing melting from above. Ice loss appears limited in the Eastern-Antarctic, and it is unsure how much global temperature should rise to cause the melting of ice here as well.

    Read the full story: IMBIE
    Scientific publication: Nature


    There is still much climate uncertainty even if temperature rise by the end of the century is limited to 1.5 degrees
    What would climate be like with 1.5 degrees temperature increase? - climate change science news

    While most countries have agreed to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of this century, most scenarios of how to achieve this include a period of temperature overshoot that could irreversibly change ecosystems and induce biodiversity loss. Also, there will very likely be regional differences in how devastating the effects of a temperature overshoot or a 1.5 degrees rise will be. There is therefore a large uncertainty of what climates will be like across the globe, even if the Paris Agreements will be respected. Researchers therefore argue that it is best to limit a temperature overshoot, in terms of duration as well as magnitude, by limiting CO2 emissions as much as possible and as soon as we can.

    Read the full story: ETH Zürich
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Rat fossils show that humans changed Polynesian islands immediately following their arrival
    Rat fossils shed light on human impact on ecosystems - Earth science news

    New techniques in isotope measurements have been used to assess what rats have eaten following human colonization of Polynesian islands. Rats came with humans some 2,000 years ago to the islands, either as a food source or as hidden stowaway on board of vessels. By reconstructing the rats’ diet over the last 2,000 years, researchers found that human activity on the islands led to deforestation, development of agriculture, and species extinction. The study highlights the extraordinary degree to which people in the past were able to modify ecosystems.

    Read the full story: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Scientists developed a new way to measure the rate of recharge of the Yellowstone suprevolcano
    New way to measure magma beneath Yellowstone supervolcano - science news - earth

    Science is constantly trying to find better ways to measure how fast magma is recharging beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. Recently a new method was developed and it allows scientists to better understand how this process works. The researchers added deuterium (a stable hydrogen isotope) to several hot springs in the Yellowstone National Park. Then, they measured the temperatures in the springs and the time needed for deuterium to return to basal levels to calculate the amount of water and heat flowing out of the springs. Finally, they were able to estimate the amount of magma entering the supervolcano from the mantle. The last major eruption of the Yellowstone occurred 640.000 years ago and presently there is no way to estimate when the next one will happen.

    Read the full story: Washington State University
    Scientific publication: Geosphere


    Greenland used to be warmer than today and soil samples from those times provide information that could help predict the impact of global warming
    The warmer past of Greenland may help understand its future climate - science news  - earth and environment

    A new study suggests that Greenland was once much warmer than today in fact, warmer than previously estimated. Scientists concluded this after studying old lake mud that survived through the last ice age. In the mud, they discovered species of flies that show that Greenland had a warm climate, with temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). This information will help improve climate models in order to predict Greenland’s sensitivity to global warming. Knowing how the ice sheets of the island will change due to the rising temperatures is very important because they can influence the climate at a global scale.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Cows in particular are a burden to the environment, although the degree of environmental damage varies from region to region
    Is eating beef more polluting than driving a car? - Earth science news

    If meat and dairy products are no longer produced, three-quarters of agricultural land will become superfluous worldwide, a new study shows. Also, while meat and dairy produce only 18 percent of our caloric intake, their production emits 60 percent of all greenhouse gases released by agriculture. Scientists have calculated that eating one steak has a similar impact on the environment as driving between 150 and 250 km in an average passenger car from 2016. The researchers suggest therefore that, in order to protect the environment, a vegan diet is probably the best way to reduce greenhouse gases, air and water pollution, and land and water use.

    Read the full story: University of Oxford
    Scientific publication: Science


    Bismuth could convert carbon dioxide to fuel
    Magic metal converts carbon dioxide to fuel - short science articles

    Bismuth, a metal used to make shotgun pellets, antacids and cosmetics might just save the planet earth. Researchers have found out that bismuth has the chemical properties which convert carbon dioxide to liquid fuels and industrial chemicals. This special capacity of bismuth is termed as 'catalytic plasticity'. When an electric current is applied to a bismuth film placed in a liquid containing amidinium and imidazolium ions, carbon dioxide gets converted to gasoline. This technology helps produce liquid fuels using renewable electricity and thereby reduce our dependence on petroleum products leading to lower carbon dioxide emissions.

    Read the full story: University of Delaware
    Scientific publication: ACD catalytics


    One of the costs of global warming is lower agricultural production
    Global warming limits as defined in the Paris Agreements may yield trillions in economic benefits - global warming science news

    Scientists have estimated that failure to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement (limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius) will be very costly. They base themselves on correlations of economic performance over the last 50 years with changes in temperature around the world. Using models that estimate temperature changes in the future, the scientists could calculate how overall economic output is likely to change as a function of temperature. It appears that most countries will benefit from measures to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. For example, for the US these benefits are more than 30 times greater than the costs to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Global benefits will amount to trillions of dollars, the scientists say.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Nature


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