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December 2003

December 21

Man has been changing climate for 8,000 years
Agriculture may have released huge amounts of greenhouse gases into atmosphere.

Radioactive Potassium May Be Major Heat Source In Earth's Core. Berkeley - Dec 17, 2003
Radioactive potassium, common enough on Earth to make potassium-rich bananas one of the "hottest" foods around, appears also to be a substantial source of heat in the Earth's core, according to recent experiments by University of California, Berkeley, geophysicists.

December 14

Roast dinosaur off the menu?
Giant meteorite impact 65 million years ago may not have set the world on fire.

Huge Dinosaurs Floated. Dec. 10, 2003
Sauropod dinosaurs, the largest terrestrial animals ever to have lived on our planet, could float like corks in water, according to computerized buoyancy tests on recreations of sauropods that lived during the Mesozoic Era, which lasted from 248 to 65 million years ago.

Seismic Monitors Detect Physical Changes Deep Within Faults. Houston - Dec 08, 2003
Seismologists have long known that the buildup of forces along fault zones cause the physical properties of rock and sediments to change deep inside the Earth, at the level where earthquakes occur. Based upon new findings, researchers believe they may be able to design active seismic monitoring systems that continually monitor these subtle changes, looking for telltale signs of an impending earthquake.

The Ultimate In "Full Body" Scan Goes Deep Inside Earth. Princeton - Dec 08, 2003
Like doctors taking a sonogram of a human body, Princeton geoscientists have captured images of the interior of the Earth and revealed structures that help explain how the planet changes and ages.

Students Get Insider's View Of Earth. Ann Arbor - Dec 08, 2003
Blue, red and white waves dance inside a ball-shaped structure on a computer screen, colliding, careening and stretching in peculiar ways. This, explained University of Michigan geophysicist Peter van Keken, is what happens inside Earth when an earthquake occurs.

The Measure Of Water: NASA Creates New Map For The Atmosphere. Pasadena - Dec 08, 2003
NASA scientists have opened a new window for understanding atmospheric water vapor, its implications for climate change and ozone depletion.

The Caucasus Glaciers In The Past, Present And Future. Nalchik - Dec 08, 2003
Hydrometeorologists have counted that within the last century the area, volume and length of the Big Caucasus glaciers decreased steadily. The process continues now and will go on in the future. Along with that, the quantity of glaciers grows.

Physics of envelopes sheds light on ice sheets
Ripping experiments show how stick and slip leads to jagged edges.

Gemstone Geography: New technique discerns emeralds' beginnings.
Water molecules trapped inside the minuscule channels of an emerald harbor telltale signs of the gem's geographic origin.

December 7

Shrinking Arctic Tells Many Stories. Greenbelt - Dec 01, 2003
In 2002, a series of scientific studies pointed to dramatic changes in Arctic sea ice. Sea ice that survives the summer and remains year round—called perennial sea ice—is melting at the alarming rate of 9 percent per decade, according to a study by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center senior researcher Josefino Comiso.

Coastline carve thyself
Theory accounts for land's fractal fringes. Nature, November 26, 2003.

Earth's Elusive Mantle Plumes Detected At Last.
Using detailed seismic data, scientists have obtained the clearest picture yet of the earth's inner workings. The images provide long-awaited direct evidence for mantle plumes--large columns of heat emanating from the planet's interior--which were first predicted in the 1970s.

Geologists Discover New Class Of Spreading Ridge On Sea Bottom. Washington - Nov 27, 2003
Scientists have discovered a new "ultra-slow" class of ocean ridge involved in seafloor spreading in the remote regions of the far south Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the sea floor beneath the Arctic icecap.

Utah's Redrock May Have Changed Global Climate.
Now, a new study from the University of Utah concludes that bleaching patterns in the Navajo Sandstone suggest the rock formation once may have harbored vast amounts of hydrocarbons, likely natural gas (methane). And when the once-buried sandstone was exposed and started eroding roughly 6 million years ago, the gas would have been released to the atmosphere. Because methane is a so-called "greenhouse gas," the release of large quantities to the atmosphere may have warmed Earth's ancient climate.

November 2003

November 30

What Makes Volcanoes Explode. San Francisco - Nov 27, 2003
Two University of California, Berkeley, geophysicists have proposed an explanation for the unpredictable nature of volcanic eruptions, why volcanoes sometimes ooze lava, but at other times explode in showers of ash and pumice.

Book Offers Overview Of Cave Paleontology.
Many important fossil finds are made by recreational cavers, who bring the remains to the attention of scientists. With a new book aimed at both scholars and spelunkers, Blaine Schubert hopes to get the word out about the importance of such findings to the Ice Age record.

November 23

Uncovering Mysteries Beneath The Earth's Surface. Boston - Nov 19, 2003
Back in the old days, when doctors looked for tumors, exploratory surgery was the only option. Today they use CAT scans, x-rays, ultrasound, and other non-intrusive methods for checking out what lies beneath the skin's surface. But how do we determine what is beneath the Earth's surface? Invasive surgery on the Earth is just as dated as doctors' old methods of finding tumors, if you ask Eric Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University.

Volcanoes Help Unleash El Nino Disaster: Study. Paris (AFP) Nov 19, 2003
Volcanoes are a prime cause for El Nino, the climate phenomenon that can catastrophically disrupt weather patterns across the Pacific and beyond, a study says. A major eruption doubles the chance that an El Nino will be unleashed in the following winter, according to the research, which is published on Thursday in the British scientific journal Nature.

New Evidence Says Earth's Greatest Extinction Caused By Ancient Meteorite (November 21, 2003)
Long before the dinosaurs ever lived, the planet experienced a mass extinction so severe it killed 90 percent of life on Earth, and researchers at the University of Rochester think they've identified the unlikely culprit.

Formation Of Lava Bubbles Offers New Insight Into Seafloor Formation (November 19, 2003)
Scientists studying the formation of the sea floor thousands of feet below the surface have a new theory for why there are so many holes and collapsed pits on the ocean bottom.

November 16

The Suffocating Age. Seattle - Nov 10, 2003
Recent evidence suggests that oxygen levels were suppressed worldwide 175 million to 275 million years ago and fell to precipitously low levels compared with today's atmosphere, low enough to make breathing the air at sea level feel like respiration at high altitude.

Mass Extinctions May Promote Longevity Of New Species. Cincinnati - Nov 10, 2003
With the economy, we talk about cycles of boom and bust. Make that "bust and boom" when it comes to the geological record in the post-Paleozoic world, University of Cincinnati geologist Arnold Miller suggests, after his analysis of marine fossil genera and what happens after mass extinction events.

Attack of the Rock-Eating Microbes! Some bacteria break down minerals, while others make them.
Geologists who examine mineral transformations increasingly see bacteria at work, leading the scientists to conclude that if microbes aren't driving the underlying chemical reactions, at least they're taking advantage of the energy that's released.

Volcanic Mysteries Unraveled Underwater (November 10, 2003)
Scientists have long been puzzled by the observation that flows, erupted as white-hot lava at mid-ocean ridges, can be traced for several miles from their vents despite the fact that they erupt into seawater close to its freezing point. Now a group of scientists from academia and government believe they have the answer from lava samples collected using the deep-sea submersible ALVIN.

200 Years Later, Geologist Completes Lewis And Clark Readings (November 14, 2003)
Virtual explorer Robert Criss, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has teamed up with Lewis and Clark to provide the oldest determinations of the magnetic declination of America's interior.

November 9

Ice Cores May Yield Clues To 5,000-year-old Mystery. COLUMBUS, Ohio
The latest expeditions to ice caps in the high, tropical Peruvian Andes Mountains by Ohio State University scientists may shed light on a mysterious global climate change they believe occurred more than 5,000 years ago. They hope that ice cores retrieved from two tropical ice caps there, as well as ancient plants retrieved from beneath the retreating glaciers, may contain clues that could link ancient events that changed daily life in South America, Europe and Asia.

Thunderstorm Research Shocks Conventional Theories; Florida Tech Physicist Throws Open Debate On Lightning's Cause Melbourne, Fla.
If Joseph Dwyer, Florida Tech associate professor of physics, is right, then a lot of what we thought we knew about thunderstorms and lightning is probably wrong.

Hydrogen Sulfide, Not Carbon Dioxide, May Have Caused Largest Mass Extinction (November 5, 2003)
While most scientists agree that a meteor strike killed the dinosaurs, the cause of the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, 251 million years ago, is still unknown, according to geologists.

Explanation Offered For Antarctica's 'Blood Falls' (November 5, 2003)
Researchers have discovered that a reddish deposit seeping out from the face of a glacier in Antarcticas remote Taylor Valley is probably the last remnant of an ancient salt-water lake. The lake probably formed as much as 5 million years ago when the sea levels were higher and the ocean reached far inland.

Seafloor vents spawn spat
Ancient springs are thousands of years old, not billions, say geologists. October 30, 2003.

Sky-High Icebergs Carried Boulders From The Rockies To Coastal Washington. Seattle - Nov 04, 2003
Geologists have uncovered a scene in the Pasco Basin west of the Columbia River that shows how boulders piggybacked icebergs from what is now Montana and came to rest at elevations as high as 1,200 feet.

November 2

Ninety Eight Tons Of Primordial Plant Matter Per Gallon.  Salt Lake City - Oct 27, 2003
A staggering 98 tons of prehistoric, buried plant material – that's 196,000 pounds – is required to produce each gallon of gasoline we burn in our cars, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles, according to a study conducted at the University of Utah.

Dinosaurs got cancer
Bone scans reveal tumours only in duck-billed species.

Smart-winged pterosaurs
Why did ancient flying reptiles have so much processing power in the back of their brain? To provide highly responsive flight control, is an answer to emerge from an innovative analysis of pterosaur skulls.

Ancient wings unfurled
Computer simulation reconstructs extinct butterfly patterns.

Palaeontology: Preserved Organs of Devonian Harvestmen Nature 10/30/03 p.916

Ultra-low Oxygen Could Have Triggered Die-offs, Spurred Bird Breathing System
Recent evidence suggests that oxygen levels were suppressed worldwide 175 million to 275 million years ago and fell to precipitously low levels compared with today's atmosphere, low enough to make breathing the air at sea level feel like respiration at high altitude. Now, a University of Washington paleontologist theorizes that low oxygen and repeated short but substantial temperature increases because of greenhouse warming sparked two major mass-extinction events, one of which eradicated 90 percent of all species on Earth.

October 2003

October 26

Mutant Pollen Clue To Ancient Fallout. Oct. 17, 2003
Conifer tree pollen from 250 million years ago show the same mutations as those of modern pines hit by fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, a new study has found. The prehistoric mutations probably occurred after gas and dust from massive volcanic eruptions damaged Earth's ozone layer, resulting in a torrent of damaging ultra-violet radiation from the sun.

Recent Warming Of Arctic May Affect Worldwide Climate. Greenbelt - Oct 24, 2003
Recently observed change in Arctic temperatures and sea ice cover may be a harbinger of global climate changes to come, according to a recent NASA study. Satellite data -- the unique view from space -- are allowing researchers to more clearly see Arctic changes and develop an improved understanding of the possible effect on climate worldwide.

Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along: Dinosaur buoyancy may explain odd tracks.
New lab experiments and computer analyses may explain how some of the heftiest four-legged dinosaurs ever to walk on Earth could have left trackways that include the imprints of only their front feet.

October 19

Pterosaurs Stranger Than Ever. Oct. 9, 2003
New pterosaur fossils and studies are revealing just how unusual these huge, flying reptiles from the dinosaur era were. Based on current findings, many pterosaurs, which lived on nearly every continent during the Mesozoic Era from approximately 248 million to 65 million years ago, possessed tweezer-like heads, body fur and incredibly large, varied head crests.

Bull Mastodons In Deadly Combat; Sound And Fury From Silent Bones
The American mastodon, a massive, tusk-bearing relative of elephants, inhabited much of North America until its extinction just 10,000 years ago. New studies of bone damage on fossil remains of mature mastodon males---aided by 3-D computer graphics---indicate that some died of wounds inflicted by the tusks of other males.

October 12

Ancient eruption marks today's tortoises
The genes of some Galapagos tortoises bear the stamp of a volcanic eruption 100,000 years ago that nearly wiped them out. Only a few tortoises survived the ash to repopulate the area, suggests Powell. The DNA of today's giants indicates that the entire population of 3,000 to 5,000 now on Alcedo could be descended from a single female.

Plants detonated Cambrian explosion
Global cooling may have allowed complex animals to flourish. The first land plants might have triggered a rush of animal evolution. German researchers are proposing a controversial theory that the plants cooled Earth, making it conducive to complex life.

Himalayas age nine times overnight
Birth of world's highest mountains may date back 500 million years. The Himalayas may be more than 450 million years old - nine times older than previously estimated - according to a controversial new dating study.

Growth of early continental crust by partial melting of eclogite Nature 10/11/2003 p.605

Large Cretaceous sphenodontian from Patagonia provides insight into lepidosaur evolution in Gondwana  Nature 10/11/2003 p.609

Ancient 'Jaws' Discovered In Canada. Oct. 3, 2003
What might be dubbed the original "Jaws" — the world's oldest fossil of a toothed shark from Canada — has been found intact in a rare discovery that is expected to shed new light on the evolution of both teeth and sharks.

Hot Fire In Cold Ice: Searching For Volcanic Eruptions In Antarctic Snow.
The project started two years ago and involves investigating major volcanic eruptions over the last 1,500 years. The research goal is to determine if and how they are related to changes in the earth’s climate.

October 5

Prehistoric Sea Creature Discovered. Sept. 29, 2003
British and Canadian scientists have discovered the unique fossil of a prehistoric sea creature with eyes raised like "twin towers," they reported in the latest issue of the journal Science. Living on the sea floor some 400 million years ago in what is now Morocco, the hard shelled, many legged animal is the only known complete specimen of the phacopoid trilobite Erbenochile.

North vs. Northwest: Lewis and Clark diaries provide directional clue:
Observations from the Lewis and Clark expedition may offer insight into Earth's magnetic field.

Ecosystem Changes In Polar Regions Linked To Solar Variability. Livermore - Sep 29, 2003
A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist, in collaboration with an international team of colleagues, has reported that noticeable changes in the sub-polar climate and ecosystems appear to be linked to variations in the sun's intensity during the past 12,000 years.

Plants detonated Cambrian explosion
Global cooling may have allowed complex animals to flourish.

September 2003

September 28

Built-In Eyeshade Offers Clue To Prehistoric Past. Edmonton - Sep 19, 2003
A new, rare fossil of a prehistoric sea creature bearing eyes like "twin towers" sheds light on how it lived more than 395 million years ago, says a University of Alberta researcher. Dr. Brian Chatterton, one of the world's leading experts on trilobites and a professor in the U of A's Faculty of Science, reports on the discovery of the only known complete specimen of a particular trilobite in this week's edition of the prestigious scientific journal Science.

Grand Canyon born on East coast
Uranium-dating reveals origin of western US sandstone. Traditionally, geologists have looked at a sandstone's grain types to discern its rocky parentage. Other clues, such as which way the wind or water that deposited the grains was flowing, pointed them in the right direction. So Dickinson and Gehrels instead scrutinized grains of zircon, a uranium-bearing mineral, in the sandstones. As soon as zircon crystallizes from molten magma, its radioactive uranium begins to decay into lead. The amount of lead in a zircon grain therefore reveals when it formed. These ages can then be matched to zircon ages from different mountain ranges. Half of the Grand Canyon samples were formed either around 1.2 billion years ago or around 500 million years ago. These ages match granite in the Appalachian Mountains. Only a quarter of the grains came from the Ancestral Rockies; the rest hark from the interior of Canada. Nature 16 September 2003.

Largest Arctic Ice Shelf Breaks Up, Draining Freshwater Lake. Quebec City - Sep 24, 2003
The largest ice shelf in the Arctic has broken, and scientists who have studied it closely say it is evidence of ongoing and accelerated climate change in the north polar region. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is located on the north coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada's Nunavut territory and its northernmost national park. This ancient feature of thick ice floating on the sea began forming some 4,500 years ago and has been in place for at least 3,000 years.

An Arctic mammal fauna from the Early Pliocene of North America
RICHARD H. TEDFORD AND C. RICHARD HARINGTON. The ecological affinities of the plant and beetle remains contained in the peat indicate that winter temperatures on Ellesmere Island were nearly 15 °C higher and summer temperatures 10 °C higher than they are today.

Gamma rays may have devastated life on Earth
One of the world's worst mass extinctions, 443 million years ago, may have been caused by a burst of gamma rays from space, suggests fossil evidence.

Paleontologist Offers New Theory On Dinosaur Extinction. Princeton - Sep 26, 2003
As a paleontologist, Gerta Keller has studied many aspects of the history of life on Earth. But the question capturing her attention lately is one so basic it has passed the lips of generations of 6-year-olds: What killed the dinosaurs?

Scientists: Ancient Himalayas Even Older. Sept. 22, 2003
The world's highest mountains may be almost nine times older than previously believed, Arizona geologists said. The Himalayas were thrust up when India collided with Asia 55 million years ago — and continue to build from the ongoing collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. But within the tangled, tortured rocks of the gigantic mountain range are rare and tantalizing clues of what appears to have been mountains building 450 million years ago.

Northern Climate, Ecosystems Driven By Cycles Of Changing Sunlight.
Emerging geochemical and biological evidence from Alaskan lake sediment suggests that slight variations in the sun's intensity have affected sub-polar climate and ecosystems in a predictable fashion during the last 12,000 years.

September 21

A rodent the size of a buffalo
A "pretty spectacular" fossil.
Scientists have found fossils of what they say is the largest rodent that ever lived, a nine-foot-long, buffalo-sized creature with a long tail and powerful teeth that foraged along the riverbanks of Venezuela about eight million years ago. Scientists said Phoberomys pattersoni probably weighed up to 1,545 pounds, about 10 times the size of today's largest rodent, the South American capybara, and nearly 2,500 times bigger than a 10-ounce rat. See also

Is This What Killed The Dinosaurs? New Evidence Supports Volcanic Eruption Theory.
The extinction of the dinosaurs – thought to be caused by an asteroid impact some 65 million years ago – was more likely to have been caused by a 'mantle plume' – a huge volcanic eruption from deep within the earth's mantle, the region between the crust and the core of the earth.

Fragments of the earliest land plants Nature 9/18/03 p.282

Inferring the palaeoenvironment of ancient bacteria on the basis of resurrected proteins Natue 9/18/03 p.285

High CO2 levels in the Proterozoic atmosphere estimated from analyses of individual microfossils Nature 9/18/03 p.279

Liquids fold according to density-viscosity ratio
New theory sheds light on plate tectonics and pancake batter. 15 September 2003

September 14

Geologists' periodic table designed
Clever graph shows how Earth's chemicals are linked.

Did Earth Blow Up The Dinosaurs. Cardiff - Sep 11, 2003 - New evidence supports volcanic eruption theory The extinction of the dinosaurs – thought to be caused by an asteroid impact some 65 million years ago – was more likely to have been caused by a 'mantle plume' – a huge volcanic eruption from deep within the earth's mantle, the region between the crust and the core of the earth. See also

September 7

Analysis Of Stratospheric Air Resolves Enigma Of Hydrogen Balance In Earth's Atmosphere
(September 2, 2003) — Discovery of the last piece of a long-standing puzzle -- what happens to hydrogen gas in the atmosphere -- will help scientists assess the impact of additional hydrogen escaping into the atmosphere if America moves to hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

Unexpected Discovery About Core. Stockholm - Sept 01, 2003
The core of the earth doesn't look the way it was expected to. Scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, KTH, can now show that iron, under extremely high pressure, such as that found in the inner earth, takes on unexpected properties, and this can be of importance in understanding the movements of the earth, such as, earthquakes. The results are being presented in the new issue of the British scientific journal Nature.

Oldest ever ice core promises climate revelations
The continuous Antarctic ice core dates back at least 750,000 years - it may even cover the Earth's last magnetic reversal.

Earth science: Just add water Nature September 4, 2003 p.24
A new model could explain why Earth's upper mantle is depleted of many trace elements. At a certain depth, minerals might release water, creating a molten filter that traps trace elements in the mantle beneath.

Whole-mantle convection and the transition-zone water filter Nature September 4, 2003 p.39

August 2003

August 31

Methane Thought To Be Responsible For Mass Extinction
What caused the worst mass extinction in Earth's history 251 million years ago? An asteroid or comet colliding with Earth? A greenhouse effect? Volcanic eruptions in Siberia? Or an entirely different culprit? A Northwestern University chemical engineer believes the culprit may be an enormous explosion of methane (natural gas) erupting from the ocean depths.

How Lunar Tides Control The Flows Of Antarctic Ice Streams - Newcastle - Aug 26, 2003
The moon is often accused of causing lunacy, bringing on labor and transforming werewolves. Now it seems that in reality, the moon, through the tides, is responsible for the pattern of motion exhibited by ice streams in the Antarctic, according to a team of geologists from NASA, Penn State and University of Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.

Planetary Tilt Not A Spoiler For Habitation
In B science fiction movies, a terrible force often pushes the Earth off its axis and spells disaster for all life on Earth. In reality, life would still be possible on Earth and any Earth-like planets if the axis tilt were greater than it is now, according to Penn State researchers.

Earth Has A New Look
A brand new look and understanding of the place we call home. That's what you'll get in a complete global topographic data set generated by NASA and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

August 24

Textbook Case Of Tectonic Movement Is Wrong, Says New Study
Results from an expedition to the sea floor near the Hawaiian Islands show evidence that the deep Earth is more unsettled than geologists have long believed. A new University of Rochester study suggests that the long chain of islands and seamounts, which is deemed a "textbook" example of tectonic plate motion, was formed in part by a moving plume of magma, upsetting the prevailing theory that plumes have been unmoving fixtures in Earth's history.

With Supercooling And The Right Geometry, 'Warm' Glaciers Can Trap And Transport Silt
It may take them a century to advance a few meters, but the bottoms of some glaciers churn with supercooled activity, according to an article by a Lehigh University geologist in the Aug. 14 issue of Nature magazine.

August 17

New Dinosaur Rises From Fossil Bones In India
A stocky, carnivorous dinosaur with an unusual head crest that has been identified from bones collected in India belongs to a significant line of predatory dinosaurs known from the southern continents. See

Scientists Rewrite Laws Of Glacial Erosion
Glaciers, it turns out, aren't so different from people -- they can gain weight in their bottoms and be less active, scientists have discovered. See

Gravity Variations Can Help Predict Earthquake Behavior. Pasadena - Aug 11, 2003 - In trying to predict where earthquakes will occur, few people would think to look at Earth's gravity field. What does the force that causes objects to fall to the ground and the moon to orbit around the earth have to do with the unpredictable ground trembling of an earthquake? See

August 10

Discoveries Made About Cellular Reaction Processes From Ancient Life
Researchers in Robert H. White's group at Virginia Tech are tracing the family tree of life on earth by tracing the biochemical mechanisms within the cell -- specifically those that are used in the formation of peptide bonds. See

Geological Tool Helps Scientists Map The Interior Of The Ocean
A new application of a decades-old technique to study Earth's interior is allowing scientists "see" the layers in the ocean, providing new insight on the structure of ocean currents, eddies and mixing processes. See

UC Riverside Study Shows Glaciers Once Existed Near Los Angeles
Small glaciers once existed in southernmost California, near Los Angeles, during the last glacial period (between ~22,000 and 11,000 years ago) and in the early part of the present interglacial (several thousand years ago). See

August 3

New Dino Species Found on Dusty Shelf
Neglected for 20 years on the dusty shelves of a South African university, scientists have rediscovered the 215-million-year-old fossil bones of a new dinosaur species, one of the first true giants. See

Dinosaur Watch: See the Latest Discoveries at

Which Dinosaurs Once Lived in Your Neighborhood? Type in your zip code to find out. See

The "Fixed" Hotspot That Created Hawaii Not Stationary At All. Menlo Park - Jul 29, 2003 - Geologists have long assumed that the Hawaiian Islands owe their existence to a "hotspot" -- stationary plumes of magma that rise from the Earth's mantle to form Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Hawaii's other massive volcanoes. But a new study posted on the online version of the journal Science disputes that long-standing paradigm by concluding that the fixed hotspot in the Pacific was not stationary after all. See

Scientists Off Hawaii Closing In On Puzzle Of Ocean Energy. San Diego - Jul 30, 2003 - Scientists from six institutions, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, are closing the gap in deciphering one of the most puzzling aspects of the world's oceans. See

New Location Of Deep Convection May Exist In North Atlantic. Falmouth - Jul 30, 2003 - Deep convection, or mixing, of ocean waters in the North Atlantic, widely thought to occur in only the Labrador Sea and the Mediterranean, may occur in a third location first proposed nearly 100 years ago by the explorer and oceanographer Fridtjof Nansen. The findings, reported this week in the journal Nature, may alter thinking about the ocean's overturning circulation that affects earth's climate. See

New Underwater Imaging Vehicle Maps Coral Reefs. Falmouth - Jul 29, 2003 - Deepwater coral reefs in the US Virgin Islands may occupy a much larger area and be in better health than previously thought, based on evidence gathered by a new autonomous underwater vehicle which flies through the sea like a helicopter. See

Ichthyosaurs ate turtle soup
Dietary preference backs extinction re-think. See

New Paleobiology Database: See

July 2003

July 27

Earth's Birth Date Turned Back: Formed Earlier Than Believed. Boston - Jul 21, 2003 - Our planet is 50 to 90 million years older than previously thought, according to new evidence found in meteorites. Mixtures of radioactive elements, which tick away like clocks, show that most of Earth had formed only 10 million years after the sun was born as a star, which took place about 4,567 million years ago. Previous measurements indicated an Earth birth of 60 million to 100 million years after the sun's nuclear fires began to burn. See

Dino Fossil Recovered at Loch Ness. July 16, 2003 — A Scottish retiree has discovered a fossil of a 150-million-year-old reptile on the shores of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness, press reports said Wednesday. See

Search Under Way for Woolly Mammoth. July 17, 2003 — The central Japanese city hosting the Expo 2005 world exposition plans to excavate an entire frozen mammoth and display it at the fair under a multi-million dollar Siberian expedition project, organizers said Thursday. See

July 20

Dinos Doomed Before Asteroid Strike? July 14, 2003 — The dinosaurs were probably heading for extinction even before an asteroid strike wiped them out 65 million years ago, New Zealand scientists said on Monday. "An unknown number of species may have been in sharp decline when the asteroid struck and the impact winter probably finished them off quite quickly," Hollis said in a statement. See

Learning from the Present: Fresh bones could provide insight into Earth's patchy fossil record. New field studies of unfossilized bones, as well as databases full of information about current fossil excavations and previous fossil finds, are providing insights into how complete--or incomplete--Earth's fossil record may be. See

South Aral Sea 'gone in 15 years'
A new study slashes its life expectancy by decades, and as it dries up it is wreaking havoc on the environment. See

Dust Deals Droughts, Deluges. Greenbelt - Jul 16, 2003 - Dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa may help modify clouds and rainfall both in Africa and across the tropical North Atlantic, as far away as Barbados, according to a study that uses 16 years of data from NASA satellites, ground measurements and computer models. See

New Discoveries In The Himalayan-Tibet Collision Zone. Las Cruces - Jul 16, 2003 - About 50 million years ago, India collided with Asia producing the high Himalayas and Tibetan plateau, a natural laboratory for studying continental collision. During the collision, the Indian lithosphere was dragged down beneath the southern edge of Asia, but how much it was extended beneath Tibet is highly debated. See

July 13

Earliest Sauropod Dino Identified. July 3, 2003 — Fossil remains of a slow, hefty, claw-wielding dinosaur have just been identified as belonging to the world's earliest known sauropod. The newly recognized dinosaur, named Antetonitrus ingenipes after the Latin words for "massive paw," provides clues as to how sauropods emerged and later evolved to become the largest terrestrial animals ever to have existed on Earth. See

Secrets of Dung: Ancient poop yields nuclear DNA. Researchers have extracted remnants of DNA from cells preserved in the desiccated dung of an extinct ground sloth. See (members only).

Charting Seismic Effects On Water Levels Refines Earthquake Science. Seattle - Jul 7, 2003 - Through many decades, stories about earthquakes raising or lowering water levels in wells, lakes and streams have become the stuff of folklore. Just last November, the magnitude 7.9 Denali earthquake in Alaska was credited with sloshing water in Seattle's Lake Union and Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, and was blamed the next day when muddy tap water turned up in Pennsylvania, where some water tables dropped as much as 6 inches. See

Galactic dust cooling Earth?
Controversial climate claim exonerates carbon dioxide. See

July 6

Deep below ground, bacterium feasting on toxic waste is found
Scientists have identified a microbe that gobbles up toxic waste deep underground, offering a potential way to clean up a particularly nasty chemical that has contaminated the water underneath hundreds of the nation's industrial and military sites. See

Behavior Of Arctic Ocean Ridge Confounds Predictions. Arlington - Jun 30, 2003 - The discovery that an ocean ridge under the Arctic ice cap is unexpectedly volcanically active and contains multiple hydrothermal vents may cause scientists to modify a decades-long understanding of how ocean ridges work to produce the Earth's crust. See

AGI Launches Earth Science World ImageBank. Alexandria - Jun 30, 2003 - Do you want to include a scenic mountain photo in a presentation? Or show a picture of an erupting volcano to your students? The American Geological Institute (AGI) is proud to announce the launch of the Earth Science World ImageBank, a free service, with high-quality, fully-indexed images. See

Carbon loss by deciduous trees in a CO2-rich ancient polar environment Nature 7/3/03 p.60 DANA L. ROYER, COLIN P. OSBORNE & DAVID J. BEERLING First paragraph  See

Ginkgo is living fossil
Ancient plants mirror modern trees.
19 June 2003 See

June 2003

June 22

Second mass extinction linked to impact
About 380 million years ago, a rock from space smashed into the Earth, say geologists. They believe that the impact wiped out a large fraction of life. See  also

Palaeobiology: The missing link in Ginkgo evolution Nature 423, p821 (June 19)
The modern maidenhair tree has barely changed since the days of the dinosaurs. See

June 15

Earth's Oxygen Enigma. The most widely accepted account of life's early history is under fire. Scientists have long believed that blue-green algae arose 3.5 billion years ago, pumping out oxygen and causing the oceans to fill with rust. Over the next billion years the algae transformed Earth's atmosphere, allowing oxygen-breathing life to evolve. Carrine Blank of Washington University in St. Louis says that story may be all wrong, however. See

Devonian Death From Outer Space. Asteroid impact linked to a mass extinction 380 million years ago. See (subscription needed)

June 8

Biogeochemistry: Ancient oceans and oxygen 
The ocean chemistry of 1.5 billion years ago, inferred from rocks of that age, supports the view that marine conditions then were very different from those that pertained at earlier and later times. Nature 592 Full Text (members only).

Palaeobotany: Ice-age steppe vegetation in east Beringia
Tiny plant fossils indicate how this frozen region once sustained huge herds of mammals. See First paragraph Nature 603.

Why We Still Have Turtles. New research explains why the impact that doomed the dinosaurs spared freshwater animals. See (membership required)

June 1

Magnetic Probe For Rocks, Recordings, Nanotechnology. David - May 19, 2003 - A technique for studying the magnetic properties of rocks developed by earth scientists at UC Davis is drawing attention from other scientists and the magnetic recording industry. See

Tiny diamonds found in oil
Gemstone building blocks might find uses in drugs or technology. May 16, 2003. Black diamonds found in the Gulf of Mexico might have been formed from crude oil, say researchers. These diamonds are unlikely to be a girl's best friend. They contain just a few dozen carbon atoms, equivalent to less than a billion billionth of a carat. But the molecules, called diamondoids, could have practical uses. Artificial versions are already used in drugs to treat Parkinson's disease and viral infections. The tiny diamonds could also provide molecular-scale girders for nanotechnology. See

Venezuela Diamonds Have Deep Oceanic Origin. Toronto - May 21, 2003 - More than just symbols of wealth and beauty, diamonds are a testament to the history of the earth, says U of T professor Daniel Schulze. See

Greenhouse Gas Might Green Up The Desert Says Weizmann Institute. Rehovot - May 14, 2003 - Missing: around 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas charged with global warming. Every year, industry releases about 22 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And every year, when scientists measure the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it doesn't add up – about half goes missing. See

Mantle thermal pulses below the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and temporal variations in the formation of oceanic lithosphere 

Bizarre 'horned' kangaroo fossils unearthed
The first complete skulls are the star finds in the latest cache of fossils from caves in Australia's Nullarbor Plain. See

Geology for the Record
Utah's glacial Lake Bonneville left behind signatures of its Pleistocene existence: deltas, sandbars, shoreline deposits. These relics contain valuable information about the area's changing climate over the past 28,000 years. But that information could be lost to urban growth and the need for resources unless people understand their geologic value. See

May 2003

May 18

Evidence For Potassium As Missing Heat Source In Planetary Cores. Minneapolis - May 13, 2003 - There's a small problem with Earth's magnetic field: It should not have existed, as Earth's rock record indicates it has, for the past 3.5 billion years. Motions in the Earth's molten iron core generate convection currents--similar to boiling water--which produce the field. See also

Fossilized Meteorites Reveal Spectacular Ancient Showers over Earth. Meteor showers such as November's Leonids usually provide a good celestial show as tiny bits of dust and rock debris burn up, creating flashes of light across the sky. A new analysis of fossilized meteorites indicates that approximately 480 million years ago, the spectacle would have been even more dramatic. See

Journey to centre of Earth proposed
The wacky scheme would need the world's largest nuclear bomb and enough iron to fill 13 large concert halls. See

Ancient wood points to arctic greenhouse. Chemical analyses of wood that grew in an ancient arctic forest suggest that the air there once was about twice as humid as it is now.

Magnetic probe for rocks, recordings, nanotechnology
A technique for studying the magnetic properties of rocks developed by earth scientists at UC Davis is drawing attention from other scientists and the magnetic recording industry. See

May 11

Why is the South Pole colder than the North Pole? Robert Bindschadler, a senior fellow and glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, explains. See

Mapping The Greenland Ice Sheets. Wallops Island - May 09, 2003 - The ice sheet covering Greenland is expansive. Beyond the northern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, Greenland is the largest island in the world and has the second largest mass of frozen fresh water on Earth. The ice and snow, covering 85 percent of the island, may provide important clues on global climate change. See

Photosynthesis In The Abyss. Moffett Field - May 07, 2003 - Deep-sea hydrothermal vents, with their black smokers, six-foot red tube worms and strange pale crabs and clams have become common features of biology textbooks, mainstream magazines, newspapers and TV nature shows. See

Winging South: Finally, a fly fossil from Antarctica. A tiny fossil collected about 500 kilometers from the South Pole indicates that Antarctica was once home to a type of fly that scientists long thought had never inhabited the now-icy, almost insectfree continent. See

The Fires Below: Burning coal sculpts landscapes worldwide. Underground coal fires sculpt the landscape on many scales and in many ways, some transient and some long-lasting. See

Fossilized Fish Act As Ancient Thermometer
Fossilized fish bones may help scientists to reconstruct the temperatures of 65 million years ago, according to a paper in this week's Nature, co-authored by colleagues representing three generations of researchers. See

40Ar/39Ar geochronology of the Eocene Green River Formation, Wyoming. The deposits of Eocene Lake Gosiute that constitute the Green River Formation of Wyoming contain numerous tuff beds that represent isochronous, correlatable stratigraphic markers. See

Extinction of Cloudina and Namacalathus at the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary in Oman. The cause of the Cambrian radiation has long been debated. With the publication of the paper by Amthor and colleagues, it seems likely that this evolutionary radiation was immediately preceded by a wave of extinction of terminal Proterozoic calcified metazoans. This supports early suggestions for extinction based on evidence for the demise of soft-bodied Ediacaran animals. This new evidence for extinction helps fuel the old model that flattening of ecosystems during times of stress creates opportunities for new adaptive strategies, expressed in this case as the Cambrian radiation. See

Meteorites rained on Earth after massive asteroid breakup
Using fossil meteorites and ancient limestone unearthed throughout southern Sweden, marine geologists at Rice University have discovered that a colossal collision in the asteroid belt some 500 million years ago led to intense meteorite strikes over the Earth's surface. The research, which appears in this week's issue of Science magazine, is based upon an analysis of extraterrestrial minerals and fossils found in limestone that formed from sea bottom sediments about 480 million years ago. See

Evidence for potassium as misisng heat source in planetary cores
There's a small problem with Earth's magnetic field: It should not have existed, as Earth's rock record indicates it has, for the past 3.5 billion years. Now, radioactive potassium has emerged as a possible factor in its longevity. See

May 4

Vegetation Essential To Balancing Climate Models. Boston - Apr 30, 2003 - Climate change 6,000 years ago in Sahara desert explained by MIT scientists Just as vegetables are essential to balancing the human diet, the inclusion of vegetation may be equally essential to balancing Earth's climate models. See

Demand For Wood May Lead To Forest Growth, Not Decline, Study Says
Under the right economic conditions, a growing demand for forest products that accompanies development may lead to an increase – not a decline – in forest cover, according to a new study by researchers at Brown University and Harvard University. Policies that focus on reducing paper demand may not necessarily increase forestation. See

A new trigger for Ice Age retreat
About 14,600 years ago, a huge pulse of freshwater drained from continental ice sheets into the world’s oceans. Over 500 years, a discharge equivalent to five Amazon Rivers raised sea level by 20 meters — marking one of the most dramatic chapters in Earth’s episodic climb out of the last Ice Age. Traditionally, paleoclimatologists have thought that the meltwater came from the Laurentide Ice Sheet, responding to an abrupt warming of the northern hemisphere called the Bolling-Allerod. Last year, geophysicist Peter Clark from Oregon State University and colleagues proposed that the meltwater actually came from Antarctica. The calving and melting of a massive portion of Antarctica better explained the observed pattern of sea-level rise, they argued in Science (Geotimes, June 2002). See

April 2003

April 27

Scientists set sail for a 'Lost City'
Exploring the towers and microbes of Atlantic's inner space.
A crew of scientists headed into the Atlantic Ocean yesterday to survey what they call a "Lost City" of underwater towers and chimneys created by heat from the Earth's interior. See

Sediment Cores Yield Oldest DNA Yet Discovered. Researchers have retrieved from sediment cores the DNA of plants that lived nearly 400,000 years ago, making it the oldest DNA yet recovered. Analyses of these samples should help scientists paint a more detailed picture of prehistoric landscapes. See

Eye of the Tiger: Discovery about gem's structure overturns old theory. Recent research has upended a 130-year-old, previously unchallenged theory about how the semiprecious stone called tiger's-eye is formed. See

April 20

Magnetic fields blow vents cover
Roving magnetometer maps ocean ridges and faults.
17 April 2003. Researchers are capitalizing on the magnetic properties of solidified lava to identify important volcanic structures on the ocean floor. "Vents show up in halo-like images on a graphic display of the ocean floor," says Tivey. In a radius of about 100 metres around the vents, rock shows a distinctive lower magnetic intensity than the rest of the sea floor, because it has been reheated by the vents and lost its magnetization. See

Fertile Ground: Snippets of DNA persist in soil for millennia. Minuscule samples of sediment from New Zealand and Siberia have yielded bits of DNA from dozens of animals and plants, including the oldest DNA sequences yet found that can be traced to a specific organism. Researchers have retrieved from sediment cores plant DNA that is nearly 400,000 years old. See also

April 13

Mass-extinction controversy flares again. Core from asteroid crater fuels debate on what wiped out the dinosaurs. See

Maine Crater Related to Dino-Killer Asteroid? April 3, 2003 — The evidence is still skimpy, but there is a chance that the dino killer asteroid was not alone when it walloped the Earth 65 million years ago. A possible second crater, at least as big or bigger than the famous Chicxulub crater off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, may have been created by a second hit moments after Chicxulub and off the coast of Maine. See

Drilling to cast light on climate change. Cores from two African lakebeds will take researchers back in time. See

April 6

Dinosaur Cannibal: Fossil Evidence Found in Africa April 2, 2003 — Paleontologists studying tooth marks found on bones of Majungatholus atopus, a large, meat-eating dinosaur that roamed Madagascar about 65 million years ago, suggest the dinosaur practiced cannibalism. See

Fossil Teeth Reveal Oldest Bushbabies, Lorises
A small collection of teeth and jaw fragments sifted from the Egyptian desert has provided the earliest fossil evidence for one of the three major lines of primates. See

The Nuclear Heart of Planet Earth: Brisbane - Mar 31, 2003 - What would we find if we were to dig a hole all the way down to the centre of the Earth? According to high school science books we would discover a liquid iron alloy core and a smaller solid inner core at the center. For ten years, geophysicist J. Marvin Herndon has presented increasingly persuasive evidence that at the very centre of the Earth, within the inner core, there exists a five mile in diameter sphere of uranium which acts as a natural nuclear reactor. In this extended interview Wayne Smith talks with Dr Herndon about this theory and its implications for planetary science. See

March 2003

March 23

Bizarre Dinosaurs Shed Light on Adaptation: March 14, 2003. See

Dino Dung: Paleontology's Next Frontier?
March 12, 2003 — The notion of fossilized dinosaur dung may draw wry smiles from some. But researchers who study coprolites say these dietary waste products can tell us much about the dinosaurs. Now, if they could only get a little more respect. See

Dinosaur Footprints: Tracks Tell Prehistoric Secrets
March 10, 2003 — Footprints impressed on the Earth millions of years ago are energizing the field of dinosaur paleontology which traditionally has relied on piles of old bones dug up from ancient sediments. By following their spoor, dinosaur researchers are able to track activities and lifestyles of the dinosaurs as they walked the Earth millions of years ago. See 

Cyclops Myth Spurred by "One-Eyed" Fossils?
February 5, 2003 — The fossil of a giant animal—much bigger than modern elephants—has been unearthed on the Greek island Crete. The extinct animal's extremely large nasal opening could have been the inspiration for Cyclops, a race of giants in Greek mythology with a single eye in the middle of the forehead. See

Collapse Of Antarctic Ice Sheet Triggered End Of Last Ice Age: Toronto - Mar 17, 2003 - The melting of an Antarctic ice sheet roughly 14,000 years ago triggered a period of warming in Europe that marked the beginning of the end of the Earth's last ice age, says a new study. See

March 16

Changes In The Earth's Rotation Are In The Wind: Greenbelt - Mar 10, 2003 - Because of Earth's dynamic climate, winds and atmospheric pressure systems experience constant change. These fluctuations may affect how our planet rotates on its axis, according to NASA-funded research that used wind and satellite data. See

Strange Deadfellows: Dinosaur, Crab Fossils Reveal Ecosystem Secrets
For centuries, they wouldn't be caught dead next to each other. But now a team of geologists directed by Joshua Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, have found a well-preserved fossil of a crab within inches of a tail vertebra from a massive plant-eating dinosaur. See

March 9

Arctic Oscillation: Cold Heralds Hot: Boulder - Mar 05, 2003 - Why has the Arctic warmed so dramatically in recent years? How does the Arctic's circulation keep frigid air over the poles and sometimes allow it to spill across the United States? And how might global change affect the behavior of this circulation? See

NASA's Newest Maps Reveal A Continent's Grandeur And A Secret: Bethesda - Mar 07, 2003 - From Canada to Central America, the many grandeurs of North America's diverse topography star in a just-released high-resolution map from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). But a relatively obscure feature, all but hidden in the flat limestone plateau of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, is what emerges as the initial showstopper from the mission's first released continental data set. See

Changes In The Earth's Rotation Are In The Wind
Because of Earth's dynamic climate, winds and atmospheric pressure systems experience constant change. These fluctuations may affect how our planet rotates on its axis, according to NASA-funded research that used wind and satellite data. See

March 2

Can Carbon Sequestration Solve Global Warming? Denver - Feb 25, 2003 - The U.S. Government is spending millions of dollars to research the feasibility of stuffing carbon dioxide into coal seams and fields of briny water deep beneath the Earth. See

Indonesia Discovers 1,000 More Islands: Feb. 18 — Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, has 1,000 more islands than previously thought, an official said Monday. Analysis of satellite imaging data by the Aviation and Space Institute shows 18,108 islands compared to some 17,000 previously believed to exist, said the head of the institute, Mahdi Kartasasmita. See

Fossil Records Show Methane In Seafloor Sediments Released During Periods Of Rapid Climate Warming
Scientists have found new evidence indicating that during periods of rapid climate warming methane gas has been released periodically from the seafloor in intense eruptions. See

February 2003

February 23

Bugs From The Deep May Be Window Into The Origins Of Life: Denver - Feb 17, 2003 - Simple life forms are turning up in a surprising variety of below-ground environments, potentially making up 50 percent of the Earth's biomass, scientists said today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting. See

An exceptionally preserved Lower Cretaceous ecosystem 
doi:10.1038/nature01420 See

NASA Goes On-Line With Extra-Tropical Storm Tracks: Greenbelt - Feb 17, 2003 - If you're a weather fanatic, or if you've just ever wondered how stormy it was around the world on the day you were born, you can now find out. Scientists working with NASA have created a free on-line atlas that shows extra-tropical storm tracks between 1961 and 1998. See

February 16

Cloneable Mammoth Cells Discovered in Russia: Feb. 9 — Russian scientists said Wednesday that they've found living cells in a frozen ice-age mammoth that could provide the DNA needed to resurrect the long-extinct tuskers. See

Sea Floor Hot Springs As Teeming With Valuable Minerals And Microbes: New Brunswick - Feb 10, 2003 - With only about 5 percent of the sea floor explored in detail, a picture is emerging of a vast system of natural undersea dynamos, fueled by hot springs, that produce not only valuable mineral deposits, but habitats for unique, heat-loving organisms that can provide materials for products ranging from detergents to pharmaceuticals. See

Nanotechnology Could Save The Ozone Layer: London - Feb 10, 2003 - Whilst experimenting with nanospheres and perfluorodecalin, a liquid used in the production of synthetic blood, researchers at Germany's University of Ulm have stumbled across a phenomenon that could ultimately help remove ozone-harming chemicals from the atmosphere. The perfluorodecalin, against all expectations, was taken up by a water-based suspension of 60 nm diameter polystyrene particles. See

Ancient Climate May Augur Future Effects Of Global Warming: West Lafayette - Feb 12, 2003 - Ancient lake sediments and modern computers both indicate that El Nino might react differently to global warming than current theory claims, according to a Purdue research report. See

February 9

Volcanic Seamounts Siphon Ocean Water Through The Seafloor: Santa Cruz - Feb 06, 2003 - Researchers have discovered a pair of seamounts on the ocean floor that serve as inflow and outflow points for a vast plumbing system that circulates water through the seafloor. The seamounts are separated by more than 30 miles (52 kilometers). See 

Researchers Find Underwater Volcano Chain Off Tonga: Kiel (AFP) Feb 4, 2003 - A German-led scientific team has discovered a chain of 20 underwater volcanoes off Tonga that could swamp the Pacific Ocean archipelago if they erupt, expedition leaders said Tuesday. The volcanoes, rising at least 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) off the seabed in waters about 1.8 kilometres (1.2 miles) deep, are grouped together 200 kilometres south of the outermost islands of the kingdom. See 

Arctic bounty of underwater plumes
The Arctic's Gakkel Ridge has recently surprised oceanographers with signs of abundant hydrothermal venting. See 

Early water on Earth: Geologists have long thought that Earth’s first 500 million years were as hot as Hades, dubbing this time frame the Hadean. The high temperatures would have prevented liquid water from condensing on the surface. But new findings on zircon grains, Earth’s oldest known terrestrial materials, suggest that the Hadean might have hosted liquid water. Recovered from the metamorphosed sediments of the Jack Hills in western Australia, the zircon grains are dated to be more than 4 billion years old and are the only geological evidence available to provide insight into the first 500 million years of Earth’s history. See 

February 2

Gulf Stream Not Responsible For European Mild Winters: New York - Jan 27, 2003 - Research suggests that ocean circulation plays less of a role in climate change than previously thought New research shows that the Gulf Stream has little effect on the contrast in winter temperatures between Europe and eastern North America, dispelling a long-held assumption. See 

Correlation Found Between Impacts And Increased Volcanic Activity: New York - Jan 28, 2003 - Supporting the theory that catastrophic events significantly influence major Earth processes, researchers have determined that comet and meteorite impacts on Earth occurring over the last 4 billion years have directly correlated with the activity of strong and normal mantle plumes - heated mantle rock causing volcanic eruptions (e.g. Hawaii, Iceland). See 

January 2003

January 25

Discovery of 4-winged dinosaur is a shock
Fossil hunters in China have discovered what may be one of the weirdest prehistoric species ever seen - a four-winged dinosaur that apparently glided from tree to tree. For the first time, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of what looks like a four-winged dinosaur. The four 124-million- to 128-million-year-old fossils found in northeast China feature veined feathers on their front and rear legs as well as long, feathered tails. The 2 -foot-long animal, Microraptor gui, named in honor of Chinese paleontologist Gu Zhiwei, offers more evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs. It also adds to a theory that birds' ancestors glided from tree to tree before they flapped wings in flight. See also and 

Prehistoric Tusks Point To Earliest Fossil Evidence Of Differences Between Sexes
The large tusks of an animal that roamed Earth before the dinosaurs may provide the earliest evidence yet of male-female distinctions in land animals that existed millions of years ago, say University of Toronto scientists. See 

Longest Ice Cores Retrieved from Canadian Yukon
Orono - Jan 20, 2003 - In their quest to understand what drives the climate of North America, a team of American, Canadian and Japanese scientists is studying ice cores collected from the highest mountain range in Canada. Karl Kreutz of the University of Maine Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies is a member of a group that collected an 1,100-foot deep core last summer in the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory. See

Long-Lost Records Confirm Rising Sea Level
Hobart - Jan 22, 2003 - The discovery of 160 year old records in the archives of the Royal Society, London, has given scientists further evidence that Australian sea levels are rising with an estimate of 16 centimeters since 1890. See

Stones Self-Organize into Circles: It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: stones arranging themselves into perfect circles or elaborate labyrinths. But the forces behind these mysterious patterns, which are commonly found in many polar and high alpine environments, are much more pedestrian--simple cyclic freezing and thawing of the surrounding ground. See 

January 19

End Of The World Has Already Begun: Seattle - Jan 14, 2003 - In its 4.5 billion years, Earth has evolved from its hot, violent birth to the celebrated watery blue planet that stands out in pictures from space. But in a new book, two noted University of Washington astrobiologists say the planet already has begun the long process of devolving into a burned-out cinder, eventually to be swallowed by the sun. See 

Dinosaurs Experienced Climate Changes Before K-T Collision: University Park - Jan 15, 2003 - Climate change had little to do with the demise of the dinosaurs, but the last million years before their extinction had a complex pattern of warming and cooling events that are important to our understanding of the end of their reign, according to geologists. See 

New Study Suggests Missing Link That Explains How Dinosaurs Learned To Fly
Two-legged dinosaurs may have used their forelimbs as wing-like structures to propel themselves rapidly up steep inclines long before they took to the skies, reports a University of Montana researcher in the January 17 issue of the journal Science. The new theory adds a middle step that may link two current and opposing explanations for how reptiles evolved into flying birds. See 

Early Mammals Used Pelvic Bones To Trot, Study Finds
Scientists studying the earliest mammals have been stumped for centuries about the function of two pelvic bones found in the fossil record that most mammals don't have today. A study published in this week's issue of the journal Science suggests those bones were involved in locomotion and helped the animals become more mobile, a find that could help researchers pinpoint a key moment in the evolution of mammals. See

January 12

New Evidence Reshapes Grand Canyon Theory: Jan. 2 — Millions of years ago, a gigantic dam made of lava turned the Grand Canyon into a grand lake — or so went the tale until recently, when some Arizona geologists discovered that the lake wasn't so grand after all. Geologist Darrell Kaufman and his colleagues at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff say that upriver evidence long thought to support the existence of an enormous ancient lake could just as well have been caused by run-off pooling behind rockslides or other much more modest natural dams. See 

Huge, Ancient Ocean Predator Found: Dec. 31 — German palaeontologists have identified the first complete skeleton of what's thought to be the largest predator of all time, according to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel. Named the Monster of Aramberri after the Mexican area where its bones were found, the creature was eight times heavier than Tyrannosaurus rex and terrorized Jurassic ocean life about 165 to 150 million years ago. See 

Ancient Elephant Graveyard Opens Near Rome: Jan. 2 — A Pompeii for elephants, an Italian site packed with the remains of Middle Pleistocene stuck-in-the-mud pachyderms, has just opened to the public after a 17-year excavation. Situated 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) northeast of Rome, La Polledrara di Cecanibbio is a sort of a fossilized prehistoric zoo. The bones — more than 10,000 of them — emerged from the hardened earth of a 900-square-meter area (ca. 9,700 square feet) belonging to an ancient riverbed. See 

"Mummified" Dinosaur Discovered In Montana
Leonardo, a mummified, 77-million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur was only about three or four years old when he died, but he's proving to be a bonanza for paleontologists today. His fossilized skeleton is covered in soft tissue—skin, scales, muscle, foot pads—and even his last meal is in his stomach. The actual tissue has decayed over the millennia, and has been replaced by minerals. What's left for scientists to study is a fossil of a dinosaur mummy. This is one of National Geographic's top 10 stories of 2002. Full story and photo gallery at 

Finding Life Away From Earth Will Be Tough Task, Says Noted Paleontologist
Earth's most ancient fossils are hard to find. Some scientists think a few of the earliest fossils might still be preserved in Earth rocks blasted to the moon by an asteroid or meteor. Others believe much of the evidence has been erased forever by the constant heat and pressure of plate tectonics. See 

Tree-Ring Study Reveals Long History Of El Nino: Moffett Field - Jan 6, 2003 - El Nino is not a new weather phenomenon, according to a recent NASA study that looks 750 years into the past using tree-ring records. See 

Life on Earth Is Feeling the Heat: A variety of species, from frogs to flowering plants, have demonstrated changed behavior in response to increasing world temperatures over the last few decades. Two new studies indicate that these changes are not isolated events, but instead represent a worldwide pattern, or "fingerprint," of global warming. See