Charles Darwin believed that humans evolved in Africa, because that’s where our closest ape relatives the chimpanzees and gorillas live. And during the twentieth century he was vindicated through a combination of fossil and genetic discoveries.
The U.S. Department of Energy spends US$3-$4 billion per year on applied energy research. These programs seek to provide clean and reliable energy and improve our energy security by driving innovation and helping companies bring new clean energy sources to market.
May and June are typically peak months for tornadoes in North America. We asked Penn State meteorology professors Paul Markowski and Yvette Richardson to explain why tornadoes form, how to stay safe if you’re near one and whether climate change is affecting tornado patterns.
The asteroid that struck Earth about 66 million years ago and led to the mass extinction of dinosaurs may have hit one of the worst places possible as far as life on Earth was concerned. When it struck, the resulting cataclysm choked the atmosphere with sulphur, which blocked out the Sun. Without the Sun, the food chain collapsed, and it was bye-bye dinosaurs, and bye-bye most of the other life on Earth, too.
NASA’s annual survey of changes in Arctic ice cover greatly expanded its reach this year in a series of flights that wrapped up on May 12. It was the most ambitious spring campaign in the region for NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne mission to monitor ice changes at Earth’s poles, which also included a rapid-response flight over a new crack in Petermann Glacier, one of the largest and fastest-changing glaciers in Greenland.
If you could travel back in time 41,000 years to the last ice age, your compass would point south instead of north. That’s because for a period of a few hundred years, the Earth’s magnetic field was reversed. These reversals have happpened repeatedly over the planet’s history, sometimes lasting hundreds of thousands of years. We know this from the way it affects the formation of magnetic minerals, that we can now study on the Earth’s surface.
The amount of leopards in South Africa is declining rapidly, explicitly in the north of the country. In the past 10 years the leopard population has dropped as much as 66% near the border with Zimbabwe. According to Royal Society Open Science there are barely 4500 wild leopards left in the whole of South Africa.
It might seem unlikely, but tiny grains of minerals can help tell the story of early Earth. And researchers studying those grains say that 4.4 billion years ago, Earth was a barren, mountainless place, and almost everything was under water. Only a handful of islands poked above the surface.
Fossil evidence of early life has been found in old hot spring deposits in the Pilbara, Western Australia, that date back almost 3.48 billion years. This extends the known evidence of life at land-based hot springs on Earth by about 3 billion years.
Forests have been removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon for more than 300 million years. When we cut down or burn trees and disturb forest soils, we release that stored carbon to the atmosphere. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from human activities have come from deforestation.
Nature doesn’t make the news often these days. When it does, the story usually revolves around wildlife on the brink, record-setting climate extremes or ruined landscapes. However, that is not the whole story. There is also good news, but it often receives little attention.
Warmer temperatures and thawing soils may be driving an increase in emissions of carbon dioxide from Alaskan tundra to the atmosphere, particularly during the early winter, according to a new study supported by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). More carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere will accelerate climate warming, which, in turn, could lead to the release of even more carbon dioxide from these soils.
Accurate weather forecasts save lives. NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, launched on this date 15 years ago on NASA’s Aqua satellite, significantly increased weather forecasting accuracy within a couple of years by providing extraordinary three-dimensional maps of clouds, air temperature and water vapor throughout the atmosphere's weather-making layer. Fifteen years later, AIRS continues to be a valuable asset for forecasters worldwide, sending 7 billion observations streaming into forecasting centers every day.
While astronauts have successfully grown plants and vegetables aboard the International Space Station, NASA scientists at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are collaborating with a university team to develop long-term methods that could help sustain pioneers working in deep space.
Insects navigate in much the same way that ancient humans did: using the sky. Their primary cue is the position of the sun, but insects can also detect properties of skylight (the blue light scattered by the upper atmosphere) that give them indirect information about the sun’s position. Skylight cues include gradients in brightness and colour across the sky and the way light is polarised by the atmosphere. Together, these sky “compass cues” allow many insect species to hold a stable course.
Most people assume if you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by a crocodile, then a severed limb or other severe trauma is all you have to worry about. But new research is emerging about serious infections you can catch from a bite that might kill you instead.
Wet weather at the end of the last ice age appears to have helped drive the ecosystems of large grazing animals, such as mammoths and giant sloths, extinct across vast swathes of Eurasia and the Americas, according to our new research.
The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, catalyzed a wave of laws to protect the environment and natural resources. Here Thomas Straka, a professor of forest economics and management and former industrial forester, answers questions about the current state of U.S. forests.
Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare.