Earth/Environment

Forecasting volcanic eruptions, plus saving mangroves and long-distance pollution in this week’s news

Forecasting eruptions
Seismologists say they’ve found a way to forecast an eruption hours in advance for Italy’s Mount Etna, one of the world’s most historically active volcanoes. Seismic waves generated during Etna’s 2001–2003 eruptions decreased dramatically in size as they passed through magma rising beneath the volcano, Italian and Spanish scientists report in an upcoming Geology. Practical forecasting of Etna’s eruptions, though, would require scientists to constantly monitor such changes. —Alexandra Witze

Carbon troves
Mangroves are richer in carbon than researchers had suspected, forestry scientists reported online April 3 in Nature Geoscience. Despite making up just 0.7 percent of tropical forest area, mangrove cutting accounts for up to 10 percent of carbon emissions from global deforestation. Focusing on mangrove preservation might thus be an effective way to help tackle climate change, the team says. —Alexandra Witze

Arctic phytoplankton blooming earlier
Since 1997, surface blooms of phytoplankton growth — dinner for larval aquatic animals — have been occurring up to 50 days earlier over some 11 percent of the Arctic Ocean, an international team of scientists reports in the April Global Change Biology. The researchers used satellite measurements of chlorophyll to map where bloom dates were advancing. These areas roughly coincide with where June surface ice has been melting earlier. Since shrimp and some other critters have evolved so that their eggs would hatch at about the same time as phytoplankton blooms, a growing mismatch between these cycles could compromise the size of their populations, the scientists conclude.  —Janet Raloff

Distant pollution can boost local ozone
Pollution responsible for ozone — a major lung irritant — can migrate amazingly long distances, a new analysis shows. An international team of scientists calculated the share of the ozone in Tokyo’s air that is cooked up from distant pollution. In spring — when Tokyo’s ozone problem is at its worst — China, Europe and the United States contribute more ozone sources (19 percent) than Japanese sources do (16 percent). The scientists outlined their calculations April 1 online in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. —Janet Raloff

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