Earth Sciences

Focus on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has led to a lot of confusion among the public: bad storms are caused by global warming but a lack of warming is not.

There may be a reason things don't add up, according to a paper in Science. The circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth's climate, it finds. In their study, the researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean – which pulls in heat and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic and moves them through the deep ocean from north to south until it's released in the Pacific.


 Massive amounts of erupting lava have connected with the fall of civilizations, the destruction of supercontinents and dramatic changes in climate and ecosystems. 

Since August 31st, Bárðarbunga volcano in central Iceland has been spewing spectacular amounts of lava. A new paper finds that high mantle temperatures miles beneath the Earth's surface are essential for generating such large amounts of magma - and  Bárðarbunga volcano lies directly above the hottest portion of the North Atlantic mantle plume.



The femur that led to the oldest modern human genome. Credit: Bence Viola, MPI EVA

By Daniel Zadik, University of Leicester

When a human bone was found on a gravelly riverbank by a bone-carver who was searching for mammoth ivory, little did he know it would provide the oldest modern-human genome yet sequenced.

The anatomically modern male thigh-bone, found near the town of Ust’-Ishim in south-western Siberia, has been radiocarbon-dated to around 45,000 years old.

No-till farming is prized by organic and conservation-minded farmers alike because it seeks a chemical-free management practice, avoiding conventional plowing and otherwise disturbing the soil.

It sounds terrific but a new meta-analysis finds it is a lot more limited in value than believed.

As the core principle of conservation agriculture, no-till has been promoted worldwide in an effort to sustainably meet global food demand. Results from 610 peer-reviewed studies say it isn't so. Instead, no-till often leads to yield declines compared to conventional tillage systems.



Deinocheirus mirificus. Credit: Yuong-Nam Lee

By Stephen Brusatte, University of Edinburgh

Everywhere scientists look it seems like they are finding dinosaurs. A new species is emerging at the astounding pace of one per week. And this continues with the announcement of perhaps the strangest dinosaur find over the past few years: the toothless, hump-backed, super-clawed omnivore Deinocheirus mirificus that lived about 70m years ago in what is now Mongolia.


How many continents can you count on one hand? Image: Chones

By Nick Rawlinson, University of Aberdeen

NOAA's GOES-East Satellite captured the birth of Tropical Depression Nine formed over the western Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to make a quick landfall on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The clouds associated with the depression stretched over the Yucatan Peninsula and into the western Caribbean Sea were captured on Oct. 22nd at 1600 UTC (12 p.m. EDT).


Children with autism spectrum disorder, a range of conditions characterized by social deficits and communication difficulties, were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of certain air toxics during their mothers' pregnancies and the first two years of life compared to children without the condition, according to preliminary findings presented today at the American Association for Aerosol Research annual meeting in Orlando.

Other epidemiologists have linked everything from living near farms to organic food to autism, and such studies don't actually measure anything, they just find a map of autism and then correlate it to an environmental factor, in this instance pollution and autism instances in southwestern Pennsylvania.



The Ord River dam, completed in 1971, formed Australia's largest artificial lake in the far north west. Graeme Churchard/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By Willem Vervoort, University of Sydney

Some 27 irrigation and dam projects are highlighted in the green paper for agricultural competitiveness released this week by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce.