Earth Sciences

Volcanoes have long been known to have an impact on climate - the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption is famous for its impact on climate worldwide, making 1816 the 'Year Without a Summer'.

Maybe they are the reason global warming has not taken off the way climate researchers estimated it would. Sulfur dioxide gas that eruptions expel might be cooling the atmosphere more than previously thought, contributing to the recent slowdown in global warming, according to a new study.

Scientists have found that transplanting a microbe that occurs naturally in eastern cottonwood trees boosts the ability of willow and lawn grass to withstand the effects of the industrial pollutant phenanthrene.

Because the plants can then take up 25 to 40 percent more of the pollutant than untreated plants they could be useful in phytoremediation, the process of using plants to remove toxins from contaminated sites, without all the environmentalist political lobbying drama of using genetically modified plants to do the same thing. 

Nationals MP George Christensen told Parliament that the hot temperatures of 1896 have been "wiped from the official record". It's a bit more complicated than that. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

By Neville Nicholls, Monash University

From 2000-2013 the global ocean surface temperature did not rise in spite of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. This Global Warming Hiatus generated a lot of public and scientific interest and no small amount of skepticism about the accuracy of the numerical models created by climate scientists. But data is another matter entirely and as of April 2014 ocean warming has picked up speed again, according to a new analysis of ocean temperature datasets.  

In the last 30 years, the United States has grown more food using less land and with less environmental strain than ever believed possible. Fertilizers are better, pesticides are better and genetic modification has led to less need for both.

But some scientifically developing nations, including much of Europe, are still using more antiquated approaches, and then means a lot of nitrogen. Nitrogen boosts plant growth and yield even on poor soils, which helps plants avoid the typical characteristics of nitrogen deficiency - stunted growth and pale or yellow leaves - but in environmentally intensive approaches like organic farming, the left over nitrogen can be substantial. 

What will McDonald’s do?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday cleared a genetically engineered potato with two innovations that help both consumers and producers: The Simplot Innate potato resists bruising, which makes it more appealing to consumers (even though bruising generally does not impact the quality of the starchy vegetable); and it’s been modified to produce less of the chemical acrylamide when fried.

Acrylamide has been linked to cancer in rats although there is no clear evidence that it poses harm to humans.

Over a mile beneath the West African ocean, off the coast of Angola, are over 2,000 mounds of asphalt containing a wealth of deep-water creatures.

A paper in Deep-Sea Research 1 examined the images and data captured at the site to build an intriguing picture of the life and geology of this underwater area. The naturally-occurring asphalt mounds are made up of the same substance that covers our roads. They range in size from single football-sized blobs to small hills several hundred meters across.

Reconstructing ancient life has long required a certain amount of inference and imagination - especially speculative is the coloration of long-extinct organisms.

New methods of investigation are being incorporated into paleontology that may shed light (and color) on fossils.

Many large mammals went extinct at the end of the most recent Ice Age (about 11,000 years ago), including the Steppe bison, Bison priscus.

Recently an intact one was found, literally frozen in time. This most complete frozen mummy of the Steppe bison yet discovered dates to 9,300 years ago and was uncovered in the Yana-Indigirka Lowland. 

The Yukagir bison mummy, as it is named, has a complete brain, heart, blood vessels and digestive system, although some organs have shrunk significantly over time. The necropsy of this unique mummy showed a relatively normal anatomy with no obvious cause of death. However, the lack of fat around abdomen of the animal makes researchers think that the animal may have died from starvation. 

A fossil of the ancient horse Eurohippus messelensis found in Germany contains a fetus as well as parts of the uterus and associated tissues.

Eurohippus messelensis had four toes on each forefoot and three toes on each the hind foot, and it was about the size of a modern fox terrier. Though different in size and structure, reproduction in early horses was very similar to that of modern horses. The new find was unveiled at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Berlin.