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Earth Science

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November 2005

November 9

New Method Of Dating Oceanic Crust Is Most Accurate So Far (November 1, 2005)
A newly developed method that detects tiny bits of zircon in rock reliably predicts the age of ocean crust more than 99 percent of the time, making the technique the most accurate so far.

Microfossils Show Promise In Prospecting Climate History (October 31, 2005)
Has global warming flipped a switch and returned us to a hurricane regime unseen for 1000 years? An analysis of 6,000 years of sediment layers taken from a back-barrier marsh in South Carolina shows a record of storm washovers that could only come from major hurricanes -- identified by the presence of foraminifera shells originating in ancient off-shore deposits. The result tentatively shows a long record of elevated hurricane activity prior to the last millennium.

The Workings of an Ancient Nuclear Reactor
Two billion years ago parts of an African uranium deposit spontaneously underwent nuclear fission.

The rise of oxygen levels over the past 205 million years (part 1) & (part 2) (audio tape, Hugh Ross)
See also Paul G. Falkowski, et all, "The Rise of Oxygen over the Past 205 Million Years and the Evolution of Large Placental Mammals," Science 309 (2005): 2202-2204.

Popping Rocks Reveal New Volcano Oct. 27, 2005
Noisy popping rocks hauled up from the deep Pacific seafloor off northern Mexico appear to be from a very young undersea volcano, say U.S. and Mexican geologists.

A Cool Early Earth?
Our planet might not have spent its first half a billion years drenched in magma. Oceans, proto-continents and opportunities for life may have formed much earlier. By John W. Valley.

September 2005

September 20

Japanese Explorer Finds Evidence Of 'Robinson Crusoe's' Island Home (September 20, 2005)
On a remote, wooded island 470 miles off the coast of Chile, Japanese explorer Daisuke Takahashi believes he has found the location of the hut where Scottish privateer Alexander Selkirk, who likely inspired the Daniel Defoe classic "Robinson Crusoe," lived during the four years and four months he was marooned on the island 300 years ago.

Plate tectonics is the underpinning of our living, moving planet. Earth, like life, has evolved, and the plates provide the language of that evolution, just as genes speak for the evolution of organisms.

Why should we care about climate change? Because its impact could pose an unprecedented challenge to human society. If we don't react, war, pestilence and famine will follow close behind.

Morphology Of Fossil Salamanders Reflects Climate Change (September 19, 2005)
A fossil record of the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) shows population-wide changes in body size and morphology in response to climate change over the last 3,000 years.

Researchers Find That Carbon Dioxide Does Not Boost Forest Growth
Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, have been on the upswing over the last century. How the earth's plant life, particularly trees, will react to the change remains unclear. Some researchers have proposed, however, that the rising concentrations will spur plant growth and thus allow them to store additional amounts of carbon dioxide, thereby mitigating the atmospheric increase to some degree. Now a report disputes this claim. A four-year study of a forest in Switzerland indicates that additional carbon dioxide does not boost tree growth.

Dinosaur big as a plane ruled sky
Scientists knew from fossils that the pterosaur, which roamed land and seas all over the world for hundreds of millions of years, had a wingspan of up to ten metres. Now analysis of fossilised footprints and bone fragments has confirmed some specimens were almost twice as big, with wingspans of 18 metres, making them as big as a medium-sized commercial aircraft.

Skull Study Sheds Light On Dinosaur Diversity (September 16, 2005)
With their long necks and tails, sauropod dinosaurs -- famous as the Sinclair gasoline logo and Fred Flintstone's gravel pit tractor -- are easy to recognize, in part because they all seem to look alike.

August 2005

August 2

Earliest Embryos Ever Discovered Provide Clues To Dinosaur Evolution
The embryos of a long-necked, herbivorous dinosaur are the earliest ever recorded for any terrestrial vertebrate and point to how primitive dinosaurs evolved into the largest animals ever to walk on earth, say scientists from the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM), the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. 

Brown Grad Student's Seismic Study Shakes Up Plate Tectonics
In a surprising study in Nature, a team led by a Brown University graduate student shows that a sharp boundary exists between the Earth's hard outermost shell and a more pliable layer beneath. Earth’s cool, rigid upper layer, known as the lithosphere, rides on top of its warmer, more pliable neighbor, the asthenosphere, as a series of massive plates. Plates continuously shift and break, triggering earthquakes, sparking volcanic eruptions, sculpting mountains and carving trenches under the sea.

Texas A&M Oceanographer Challenges Plate Tectonics As Reason For Poles' Shift (January 25, 2000)
Millions of years before Carole King felt the earth move under her feet, the planet rapidly and drastically shifted on its axis, according to research by Texas A&M University oceanographer.

Researchers First To Document Earth's Movement In Turkey (August 12, 2003)
Geologists from University of Missouri-Columbia, Cornell University and several Turkish researchers recently completed a major project in which they observed and measured the earth's movement.

Liverpool Scientist Discovers New Layer Of The Earth (April 14, 2005)
A University of Liverpool scientist has discovered a new layer near the Earth's core, which will enable the internal temperature of the Earth's mantle to be measured at a much deeper level.

Virtual Trip To The Heart Of 400 Million Years Old Microfossils (July 25, 2005)
Researchers from France, China and ESRF have identified enigmatic fossils from Devonian (400 million years) as fructification of charophyte algae. Charophytes are land plants living in fresh water.

July 2005

July 20

Predatory Dinosaurs Breathed Like Birds, Study Suggests
A new analysis suggests that theropod dinosaurs such as T. rex shared another characteristic with their modern-day bird descendants: their mode of breathing. Although some scientists have posited that the extinct creatures would have had lungs similar to those of today's crocodiles and other reptiles, the results instead indicate that theropods used a more complex pulmonary system resembling that of living birds.

Underwater Sand Avalanches Linked To Sea-Level Changes In Gulf Of Mexico (July 20, 2005)
New evidence has been found linking underwater catastrophic sand avalanches to rapid sea-level changes in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, according to marine geologists

July 6

Mountain-building Process Much Faster -- And Cooler -- Than Previously Thought, Say Queen's Geologists
Geologists at Queen's University have discovered that the time it takes for mountain ranges to form is millions of years shorter than previously thought. 

NASA Satellite Data Capture A Big Climate Effect On Tiny Ocean Life
New research found that phytoplankton population and size can change dramatically due to the physical processes associated with the climate phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña. In turn, these changes not only affect ocean ecology, but also influence our climate by impacting carbon storage in the ocean.

How Dinosaurs Grew So Large--and So Small
Overlooked clues to how fast the creatures grew and how long they lived lurk in their bones.

May 2005

May 30

Meteor theory gets rocky ride from dinosaur expert
US palaeontologist amasses data against Mexican crater hypothesis.

Researchers Discover Underwater Volcano San Diego CA (SPX) May 26, 2005|
A team of scientists, led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has discovered an active underwater volcano near the Samoan Island chain.

Los Angeles 'Big Squeeze' Continues, Straining Earthquake Faults
Northern metropolitan Los Angeles is being squeezed at a rate of five millimeters a year, straining an area between two earthquake faults that serve as geologic bookends north and south of the affected region. Scientists expect that the strain will ultimately be released in earthquakes much like the 1994 Northridge temblor. The study also suggests which faults might be most likely to rupture. 

May 16

"Bizarre" New Dino May Be Missing Link.
First noticed by a black market fossil dealer, a new species may be a missing link in dinosaurs' trend toward vegetarianism.

Hadean times - were they really hell on Earth?
Early Earth was supposed to be a seething inferno of molten magma. So how come a bunch of crystals are telling a different story? The red rocks of the Jack Hills in Western Australia have an incredible story to tell. Here, deep in the ancient heart of Australia, lie some of the oldest rocks ever found on Earth - up to 3.7 billion years old.

'Dragon-Like' Dinosaur Discovered May 3, 2005
A new "dragon-like" dinosaur that used its flat head to slam into rivals has been discovered in the United States, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis announced.

Earth Holding On to Sun's Heat, Study Suggests
The earth is retaining more of the sun's energy than it is sending back into space, scientists say. That is the conclusion from a new simulation that takes into account such climate forcing variables as greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations, land use and surface reflectivity, and that calculates global temperatures and other climate values for the atmosphere and the oceans. And a decade of measurements of the ocean's heat content confirms the model's predictions.

April 2005

April 11

Probing the Geodynamo
Studies of our planet's churning interior offer intriguing clues to why the earth's magnetic field occasionally flips and when the next reversal may begin.

Drilling Vessel Recovers Rocks From Earth's Crust Far Below Seafloor Washington DC (SPX) Apr 07, 2005
Scientists affiliated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and seeking the elusive "Moho" - the boundary, which geologists refer to as the Mohorovicic discontinuity, between Earth's brittle outer crust and its hotter, softer mantle - have created the third deepest hole ever drilled into the ocean bottom's crust.

Study Shows Early Earth Atmosphere Hydrogen-Rich, Favorable To Life Boulder CO (SPX) Apr 08, 2005
A new University of Colorado at Boulder study indicates Earth in its infancy probably had substantial quantities of hydrogen in its atmosphere, a surprising finding that may alter the way many scientists think about how life began on the planet.

Changes In Earth's Tilt Control When Glacial Cycles End Woods Hole MA (SPX) Mar 30, 2005
Scientists have long debated what causes glacial/interglacial cycles, which have occurred most recently at intervals of about 100,000 years.

Explosions In Space May Have Initiated Ancient Extinction On Earth Lawrence KS (SPX) Apr 07, 2005
Scientists at NASA and the University of Kansas say that a mass extinction on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago could have been triggered by a star explosion called a gamma-ray burst.

Extreme Climate Preserves Fossil Trove
Paleontologists have discovered that an extreme climate pattern may be responsible for a rich trove of well-preserved Cretaceous period mammal, crocodile, bird and dinosaur bones in northern Madagascar.

"Popeye" Jurassic Mammal Found, Had "Peculiar Teeth"
Paleontologists have unearthed the fossil remains of an ancient, chipmunk-size mammal with enormous forearms. The find could alter ideas about early mammal evolution.

Climatologists Discover Deep-Sea Secret Cardiff, UK (SPX) Apr 04, 2005
Climate changes in the northern and southern hemispheres are linked by a phenomenon by which the oceans react to changes on either side of the planet.

March 2005

March 29

Preserved soft tissue of TRex could reveal inner workings of dinosaur bones
A thigh bone from a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex has given fossil experts an unexpected treasure: well-preserved soft tissue. The stretchy material, which may contain the remnants of blood vessels and cells, could shed light on how dinosaurs' bodies worked.  See also Scientists Find Soft Tissue in T. rex Fossil.

Climate Change Inevitable In 21st Century Boulder CO (SPX) Mar 18, 2005
Even if all greenhouse gases had been stabilized in the year 2000, we would still be committed to a warmer Earth and greater sea level rise in the present century, according to a new study by a team of climate modelers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Mystery Minerals Formed In Dinosaur-Destroying Asteroid Fireball. Chicago IL (SPX) Mar 24, 2005
Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago have explained how a globe-encircling residue formed in the aftermath of the asteroid impact that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs.

New Research Indicates A 'Troubled' Greenhouse Is Brewing Eugene OR (SPX) Mar 24, 2005
Climates like those of the movie "Monsoon Wedding" may extend more widely into Africa, North America and South America, according to a University of Oregon geologist's analysis of an ancient greenhouse event.

March 8

Antarctic Ice Shelf Retreat Nothing New Say British Antarctic Survey Scientists Durham, UK (SPX) Feb 24, 2005
The retreat of Antarctic ice shelves is not new according to research published this week (24 Feb) in the journal Geology by scientists from Universities of Durham, Edinburgh and British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

Geologists Discover Clockwork Motion By Ocean Floor Microplates Durham NC (SPX) Feb 24, 2005
A team of geologists from Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has discovered a grinding, coordinated ballet of crustal "microplates" unfolding below the equatorial east Pacific Ocean within a construction zone for new seafloor.

February 2005

February 21

How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?
A bold hypothesis suggests that our ancestors' farming practices started warming the earth thousands of years before industrial society did.

A Revolution In Oceanic Exploration Reveals An "Alien" World On Earth Washington DC (SPX) Feb 21, 2005
Scientists can now visualize the ocean floor in remote areas of the Arctic, observe rockfish hideouts, and see live images of coral cities thousands of meters under the sea's surface. Soon their robots will be able to "live" on the bottom of the ocean - monitoring everything from signs of tsunamis to the effects of deep sea drilling.

Ancient Tsunami Jumbled Fossil Record? Feb. 16, 2005
Flash flooding tsunami waters, following a massive meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico, may have messed up the geological record 65 million years ago, say New Mexican and Mexican geologists.

January 2005

January 23

Fossil Fowls Question Bird Evolution Jan. 20, 2005
Modern birds may have evolved before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, the event conventionally believed to have shaped animal diversity today, a study says.

Study: Warming Caused Mass Extinction Jan. 21, 2005
Global warming, not an asteroid impact, was to blame for the mass extinction of species 250 million years ago, an international team of researchers reports in the latest issue of Science magazine.

B-15A Iceberg's Close Encounter Monitored By Envisat Paris, France (ESA) Jan 20, 2005
Some anticipated the 'collision of the century': the vast, drifting B15-A iceberg was apparently on collision course with the floating pier of ice known as the Drygalski ice tongue. Whatever actually happens from here, Envisat's radar vision will pierce through Antarctic clouds to give researchers a ringside seat.

New NASA Imagery Sheds Additional Perspectives On Tsunami Pasadena CA (JPL) Jan 20, 2005
Newly released imagery from three NASA spaceborne instruments sheds valuable insights into the Indian Ocean tsunami that resulted from the magnitude 9 earthquake southwest of Sumatra on December 26.