Earth science research and news. Read science articles on air quality, geology, meteorology, oceanography, paleontology and science and the environment.
Europe may experience higher warming than global average
The majority of Europe will experience higher warming than the global average if surface temperatures rise to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new study.
Birds display lateralization bias when selecting flight paths
Flocks of birds manage to navigate through difficult environments by individuals having predispositions to favor the left- or right-hand side. Researchers flew the budgerigars down a tunnel where they were met by an obstacle, and a choice of two paths to fly through. Sometimes the paths were of equal size, and sometimes one would be bigger than the other. Some birds had no bias and would choose the wider gap every time, while others with a distinct bias preferred going to one side, even if it was significantly narrower than the alternative.
BPA linked to breast cancer tumor growth
Researchers have attempted to trace how bisphenol-A may promote breast cancer tumor growth with help from a molecule called RNA HOTAIR. "We can't immediately say BPA causes cancer growth, but it could well contribute because it is disrupting the genes that defend against that growth," said a corresponding author on the paper. BPA has been widely used in plastics, such as food storage containers, the lining of canned goods and, until recently, baby bottles. Previous studies have linked BPA to problems with reproductive development, early puberty, obesity and cancers.
How river networks move across a landscape
Large river networks -- such as those that funnel into the Colorado and Mississippi rivers -- may seem to be permanent features of a landscape. In fact, many rivers define political boundaries that have been in place for centuries. Now researchers have developed a mapping technique that measures how much a river network is changing, and in what direction it may be moving.
Plasma plumes help shield Earth from damaging solar storms
Scientists have identified a plasma plume that naturally protects the Earth against solar storms. Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, stretches from the planet's core out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun. For the most part, the magnetosphere acts as a shield to protect Earth from this high-energy solar activity. But when this field comes into contact with the sun's magnetic field -- a process called "magnetic reconnection" -- powerful electrical currents from the sun can stream into Earth's atmosphere, whipping up geomagnetic storms and space weather phenomena that can affect high-altitude aircraft, as well as astronauts on the International Space Station. Now scientists have identified a process in Earth's magnetosphere that reinforces its shielding effect, keeping incoming solar energy at bay.
Biofuel-to-hydrocarbon conversion technology licensed
Vertimass LLC has licensed an ORNL technology that directly converts ethanol into a hydrocarbon blend-stock for use in transportation fuels. The technology offers a new pathway to biomass-derived renewable fuels that can lower greenhouse gas emissions and decrease U.S. reliance on foreign sources of oil.
Warmer temperatures push malaria to higher elevations
Researchers have debated for more than two decades the likely impacts, if any, of global warming on the worldwide incidence of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 300 million people each year. Now, ecologists are reporting the first hard evidence that malaria does -- as had long been predicted -- creep to higher elevations during warmer years and back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool.
'Current test' for water pollution
A simple electrical conductivity could be enough to measure water pollution in tropical rivers instead of the complex tests currently used, according to a new article.
Warming temperatures are pushing two chickadee species -- and their hybrids -- northward
The zone of overlap between two popular, closely related backyard birds is moving northward at a rate that matches warming winter temperatures, according to a study. In a narrow strip that runs across the eastern U.S., Carolina Chickadees from the south meet and interbreed with Black-capped Chickadees from the north. The new study finds that this hybrid zone has moved northward at a rate of 0.7 mile per year over the last decade. That’s fast enough that the researchers had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.
The rise of spring allergies: Fact or fiction?
The spring 2014 allergy season could be the worst yet, or at least that is what you might hear. Every year is coined as being the worst for allergy sufferers, but are spring allergies really on the rise? "A number of factors, such as weather patterns, predict how intense the spring allergy season will be," said an allergy expert. "While allergies are on the rise, affecting more and more Americans every year, each spring isn't necessarily worse than the last."