EARTH Magazine

EARTH Magazine April 2019

Each month, EARTH Magazine brings the latest news and information about the science of the Earth, energy, and the environment in a colorful and approachable format ideal for all. All EARTH stories come straight from the actual published science and tells the real story behind the headlines.

United States
American Geological Institute
Back issues only
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3 мин.
from the editor

Have you ever come across a subject in science you thought you knew very well, only to find that much had changed since you last studied it? That happens to us frequently at EARTH. We read a paper in the scientific literature and think, “Wait, that’s not what we were taught in school. Has it really changed that much? We’re not that old!” Then we delve into the topic further, find more recent research on it and learn something new. One of our goals at the magazine is to make this happen for you as well. We hope to keep you on your toes and abreast of the very latest in geoscientific research and findings. This scenario played out for the authors of this month’s Travels in Geology article about California’s…

8 мин.
geoethics in the field: leading by example

In May 2015, five people associated with a college field trip, including students, stole 60 pounds of dinosaur bones from Bureau of Land Management-administered land in Utah. The bones were recovered, the offenders were charged with varying degrees of theft and they eventually pleaded guilty. Luckily, such egregious incidents are uncommon, but smaller instances of vandalism by professional geoscientists are more common — for example, cutting something out of an outcrop on national park land. I used to work in a national park, and I remember how the staff would groan when we learned that a university geology field camp was setting up in the campground. Most came and went without incident, but there were enough issues that park employees developed a negative perception of geologists. Instructing future geoscientists in the…

1 мин.
robot suggests tetrapods walked upright earlier

Four-legged animals probably walked with upright gaits sooner than previously thought, according to a new study of Orobates pabsti, a large herbivorous tetrapod that lived about 290 million years ago and is known from a full skeleton. Researchers considered potential gaits based on the animal’s preserved tracks and on comparisons to several living reptile and amphibian species; they also created both digital and robotic reconstructions of Orobates to further explore walking styles the animal realistically could have used. The team concluded, counter to the prevailing idea, that more erect and balanced gaits likely evolved before the diversification of amniotes — the group that today includes reptiles, birds and mammals. Nyakatura et al., Nature, January 2019…

3 мин.
inside the inferno: how large firenadoes form

At 7:30 p.m. on July 26, 2018, the Carr Fire, which devastated the Redding, Calif., region, reached a terrifying crescendo as tornado-strength winds spawned a 5-kilometer-high “firenado” of smoke, ash and fire that whirled on the edge of the city for more than half an hour. Fire-generated vortices of this size have only been observed a handful of times. The Carr Fire vortex is now the best documented to date, and a new analysis of satellite and radar data collected before, during and after the event is shedding light on how firenadoes form. Small-scale fire whirls ranging from centimeters to meters across are common in wildfires, says Neil Lareau, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lead author of a new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters. “Most…

1 мин.
folding drone flies into tight spaces

Drones can go many places humans can’t, and a new foldable drone is squeezing into even tighter, more dangerous places than ever before. Inspired by birds that can fold their wings in midair to fly through cramped spaces, researchers have created a drone that can fold into various configurations while maintaining stable flight. “Our solution is quite simple from a mechanical point of view, but it is very versatile and very autonomous, with onboard perception and control systems,” said Davide Falanga of the University of Zurich in a statement. The drone has four propellers that can move and rotate independently of one another. The propellers are mounted on mobile arms that fold around the central frame to change shape from the standard X shape. In an H-shaped configuration, for example, the arms…

3 мин.
after hurricanes, u.s. beach homes are rebuilt bigger

When it comes to houses in the U.S., bigger is often seen as better. A new study looking at the recovery of real estate after major hurricanes has found that this trend also applies to beach houses rebuilt in vulnerable locations after damaging storms. Using before and after satellite imagery of coastal communities hit by hurricanes between 2003 and 2012, a team led by Eli Lazarus of the University of Southampton in England demonstrated a trend of “building back bigger” in coastal zones known to be at risk from extreme winds and storm surges. “This practice intensifies risk by exposing increasingly high-value property to repeated damage,” he says. “This in turn puts a greater strain on the funding of subsidized insurance programs for properties in at-risk areas.” The study, published in Nature…