Earth news stories

Water is streaming across Antarctica: New survey finds liquid flow more widespread than thought
22nd April 2017 | Earth

In the first such continent-wide survey, scientists have found extensive drainages of meltwater flowing over parts of Antarctica’s ice during the brief summer. Researchers already knew such features existed, but assumed they were confined mainly to Antarctica’s fastest-warming, most northerly reaches. Many of the newly mapped drainages are not new, but the fact they exist at all is significant

Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up by Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters
22nd April 2017 | | Earth

The world’s oceans are littered with trillions of pieces of plastic — bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and more, mostly in tiny particles — and now this seaborne junk is making its way into the Arctic.

Related: The Arctic Ocean May Soon Have Its Very Own ‘Garbage Patch’

New Window Screens Filter Pollution from Air
21st April 2017 | | Earth, Tech

New window screens with pollutant-trapping nanofibers may allow residents of smog-choked cities to breathe easier. The fibers are made of nitrogen-containing polymers and are sprayed onto screens in a technique called blow-spinning, in which a stream of air stretches out droplets of polymer solution in midspray to form an extremely thin layer of nanofibers.

California’s wildflower ‘super bloom’ is so massive you can see it from space
18th April 2017 | | Earth

A wildflower super bloom is underway in Southern California after nearly 10 inches of much-needed winter rain. For four years, the state has struggled with a serious drought that drained reservoirs and prompted water bans. But this year’s El Niño-like winter brought the rain and the wildflowers are taking a giant gulp.

Antarctica’s sleeping ice giant could wake soon
18th April 2017 | | Earth

The massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet looks stable from above — but it’s a dangerously different story below.

Rignot was one of the first scientists to warn about possible trouble in East Antarctica — a region long neglected by climate researchers. In 2013, his team detailed the behaviour of ice around the margin of Antarctica by combining satellite imagery, airborne surveys and climate models.

Receding glacier causes immense Canadian river to vanish in four days
18th April 2017 | | Earth

An immense river that flowed from one of Canada’s largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world’s geography.

The terrifying tsunami that devastated Britain
18th April 2017 | | Ancient, Earth

Some 8,000 years ago, a tsunami with a run-up height of up to 25m swept Scottish islands and the coastline at 80mph. It may have been caused by climate change. Could it happen again?

Fungal Pesticides Offer A Growing Alternative To Traditional Chemicals
17th April 2017 | | Earth, Tech

Pesticides based on fungi are just one example of biopesticides, a group that also includes bacteria and biochemicals derived from plants.

Biopesticides are a tiny segment of the market for now – but their use is projected to grow at a faster rate than traditional synthetic pesticides over the next few years.

Mimicking an impact on Earth’s early atmosphere yields all 4 RNA bases
15th April 2017 | Ancient, Earth

There aren’t a lot of individual experiments that have ended up being staples of high school textbooks, but Stanley Miller and Harold Urey did one of them. Miller and Urey are the people who sealed up a mixture of gases meant to model the Earth’s early atmosphere and jolted the gas with some sparks. What emerged was a complex mix of chemicals that included amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Solar storms can drain electrical charge above Earth
15th April 2017 | Earth, Space

New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth’s poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles. The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.

Harvard Researchers Are Preparing to Geoengineer the Atmosphere
14th April 2017 | | Earth

In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists will disperse aerosols into the stratosphere in initial tests of a controversial technique for blocking incoming solar radiation.

Climate change is literally turning the Arctic ocean inside out
14th April 2017 | | Earth

There’s something special — and very counterintuitive — about the Arctic Ocean.

Unlike in the Atlantic or Pacific, where the water gets colder as it gets deeper, the Arctic is upside-down. The water gets warmer as it gets deeper. The reason is that warm, salty Atlantic-originating water that flows into the Arctic from the south is more dense, and so it nestles beneath a colder, fresher surface layer that is often capped by floating sea ice. This state of “stratification” makes the Arctic Ocean unique, and it means that waters don’t simply grow colder as you travel farther north — they also become inverted.

Related: 40% of world’s permafrost set to thaw by 2100, unlocking billions of tonnes of carbon and methane

Study reveals plants ‘listen’ to find sources of water
14th April 2017 | Earth

A study led by The University of Western Australia has found plants have far more complex and developed senses than we thought with the ability to detect and respond to sounds to find water, and ultimately survive.

Bolivia sees coca as a way to perk up its economy – but all everyone else sees is cocaine
14th April 2017 | | Earth

Ricardo Hegedus raised his voice so he could be heard over the clanging of tea-packaging machines. “Coca is a marvellous gift of nature, offering a moderate stimulant like coffee – but full of vitamins and minerals,” he said.

Related: Cannabis Over Cows? Richard Branson Tells Farmers to Grow Weed

The world spent less money to add more renewable energy than ever in 2016
14th April 2017 | Earth

A new study tracking global investment in renewable energy found that investors spent less money in 2016 to add more renewable energy capacity than in any previous year. In total, investors only spent about $241.6 billion in renewable energy investments in 2016, down 23 percent from 2015.

Waste-munching bacteria could make nuclear stores safer
14th April 2017 | | Animal Life, Earth

Let them eat waste. Bacteria could not only thrive on nuclear waste dumped underground, but may immobilise it and make it safer.

Experiments have shown that certain microbes can make use of radionuclides such as uranium and neptunium in place of oxygen. In doing so, they convert them from soluble forms to insoluble forms, making them less mobile.

Great Barrier Reef at ‘terminal stage’: scientists despair at latest coral bleaching data
14th April 2017 | | Earth

Back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, new aerial surveys have found.

The findings have caused alarm among scientists, who say the proximity of the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events is unprecedented for the reef, and will give damaged coral little chance to recover.

News stories covering the environment, plant life, and the Earth itself.