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  • News in Brief

    Earth’s last major warm period was as hot as today

    The last time Earth’s thermostat was cranked as high as it is today, sea levels were high enough to completely drown New Orleans (had it existed at the time), new research suggests.

    Ocean surface temperatures around 125,000 years ago were comparable to those today, researchers report in the Jan. 20 Science. Previous estimates suggested that this period, the height of the last warm phase...

    01/19/2017 - 14:00 Climate, Earth, Oceans
  • News in Brief

    Monsoon deluges turned ancient Sahara green

    Thousands of years ago, it didn’t just rain on the Sahara Desert. It poured.

    Grasslands, trees, lakes and rivers once covered North Africa’s now arid, unforgiving landscape. From about 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, much higher rainfall rates than previously estimated created that “Green Sahara,” say geologist Jessica Tierney of the University of Arizona in Tucson and her colleagues....

    01/18/2017 - 16:37 Climate, Human Evolution
  • News

    For three years in a row, Earth breaks heat record

    For the third year running, Earth’s thermostat broke a new record: 2016 was the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880.

    Spurred by climate change and heat from a monster El Niño, the global average surface temperature last year was 0.94 degrees Celsius (1.69 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 20th century average of 13.9° C (57° F). That slightly edges out the previous...

    01/18/2017 - 15:49 Climate, Oceans
  • News

    Coastal waters were an oxygen oasis 2.3 billion years ago

    Earth was momentarily ripe for the evolution of animals hundreds of millions of years before they first appeared, researchers propose.

    Chemical clues in ancient rocks suggest that 2.32 billion to 2.1 billion years ago, shallow coastal waters held enough oxygen to support oxygen-hungry life-forms including some animals, researchers report the week of January 16 in the Proceedings of the...

    01/17/2017 - 16:23 Earth, Evolution, Paleontology
  • News

    Petrified tree rings tell ancient tale of sun’s behavior

    The sun has been in the same routine for at least 290 million years, new research suggests.

    Ancient tree rings from the Permian period record a roughly 11-year cycle of wet and dry periods, climate fluctuations caused by the ebbing and flowing of solar activity, researchers propose January 9 in Geology. The discovery would push back the earliest evidence of today’s 11-year solar cycle by...

    01/17/2017 - 07:00 Climate, Astronomy
  • Editor's Note

    Mapping the future of continents and batteries

    The Earth is always moving beneath our feet. What seems permanent, still and solid is in fact constantly creeping. It’s easy to forget that as we race through our busy days, measuring time with digital clocks rather than the achingly slow beat of rock.

    In "Evidence falls into place for once and future supercontinents", contributing correspondent Alexandra Witze explores the long-term...

    01/11/2017 - 12:18 Earth, Technology, Science & Society
  • Feature

    Evidence falls into place for once and future supercontinents

    Look at any map of the Atlantic Ocean, and you might feel the urge to slide South America and Africa together. The two continents just beg to nestle next to each other, with Brazil’s bulge locking into West Africa’s dimple. That visible clue, along with several others, prompted Alfred Wegener to propose over a century ago that the continents had once been joined in a single enormous landmass....

    01/11/2017 - 08:38 Earth
  • Science Ticker

    Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf nears breaking point

    One of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves is nearing its breaking point, scientists warn. A colossal crack in the Larsen C ice shelf abruptly grew by 18 kilometers during the second half of December 2016, members of the Antarctic research group Project MIDAS reported January 5. The crack is now only about 20 kilometers away from reaching Larsen C’s edge and snapping off a hunk of ice the size of...

    01/09/2017 - 15:32 Earth, Climate
  • News

    Warming could disrupt Atlantic Ocean current

    Spewing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere could shut down the major ocean current that ferries warm water to the North Atlantic, new climate simulations suggest. While not as extreme as the doomsday scenario portrayed in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, such a shutdown could cause wintertime temperatures to plummet by an estimated 7 degrees Celsius or more in northwestern Europe and...

    01/04/2017 - 17:27 Climate, Oceans
  • News

    ‘Waterworld’ Earth preceded late rise of continents, scientist proposes

    SAN FRANCISCO — Earth may have been a water world for much of its history, a new proposal contends. Just like in the Kevin Costner movie, the continents would have been mostly submerged below sea level. Previous proposals have suggested that Earth’s land area has remained comparatively unchanged throughout much of geologic time.

    But geoscientist Cin-Ty Lee of Rice University in Houston...

    12/20/2016 - 07:00 Earth, Oceans, Evolution