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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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About Stanford Earth Matters magazine

Tsunami

Q&A: Designing a better local tsunami warning system

New research outlines a more accurate and consistent way to warn coastal residents when and where tsunami waves are likely to hit. 

Palm oil seeds

The double-edged sword of palm oil

Widespread cultivation of oil palm trees has been both an economic boon and an environmental disaster for tropical developing-world countries. New research points to a more sustainable path forward through engagement with small-scale producers.

Grasses

To save native grasslands, study invasive species

The order of arrival determines which invasive grasses predominate, according to a combination of experiments and computational modeling. The results could help in efforts to preserve the native plants that remain.

Baffin Island

Strength in weakness: Fragile DNA regions key to vertebrate evolution

DNA regions susceptible to breakage and loss are genetic hot spots for important evolutionary changes. New research suggests they may have allowed vertebrates to successfully adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.

Folsom Dam

Droughts boost emissions as hydropower dries up

Recent droughts caused increases in emissions from power generation in several western states as fossil fuels came online to replace hampered hydroelectric power. A new study quantifies the impact.

Divers collecting coral sample.

Q&A: Corals reveal patterns in past weather events

With the recent forecast of El Niño as a high possibility this winter, a Stanford researcher weighs in on how reconstructing past weather events using coral reefs can help demystify this complex phenomenon.

2018

Editor's picks: Top 10 stories of 2018

From revelations about the hidden messages in burbling lakes of lava to the staggering costs of runaway climate change, these 10 stories shed light on our planet and how we're changing it. They include our editor's picks and some our best-read stories for the year.

Refinery

Scientific basis for EPA's endangerment finding is stronger than ever

Stanford researchers along with scholars across the country find the evidence for greenhouse gases endangering human health and welfare is even more significant than previously thought.

Ocean

Why deep oceans gave life to the first big, complex organisms

Why did the first big, complex organisms spring to life in deep, dark oceans where food was scarce? A new study finds great depths provided a stable, life-sustaining refuge from wild temperature swings in the shallows.

Pika

It's in the genes – potential hope for pikas hit by climate change

As climate change drives mountain-dwelling pikas to higher altitudes, the animals can dial certain genes up or down to make the most of their cooler home’s limited oxygen.

Future oceans

A glimpse into future oceans

Volcanic carbon dioxide vents off the coast of Italy are rapidly acidifying nearby waters, providing a crystal ball-view into potential future marine biodiversity impacts around the world.

West Valley Demonstration Project

Q&A: What should we do with nuclear waste?

Nuclear security expert Rod Ewing discusses new recommendations for solving the U.S. nuclear waste problem, why conventional risk assessments don’t go far enough and what makes this challenge more difficult than putting a man on the moon.

Getz Ice Shelf

What caused Earth's biggest mass extinction?

Scientists have debated until now what made Earth's oceans so inhospitable to life that some 96 percent of marine species died off at the end of the Permian period. New research shows the "Great Dying" was caused by global warming that left ocean animals unable to breathe.

Energy

Global carbon dioxide emissions rise even as coal wanes and renewables boom

Renewable energy capacity has hit record levels and global coal use may have already peaked. But the world's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased in 2018, and the trend places global warming targets in jeopardy.  

Hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.

A microbe's membrane helps it survive extreme environments

Scientists discovered a protein that modifies a microbe’s membrane and helps it survive in hot, acidic environments, proving a long-standing hypothesis that these structures have a protective effect.

Forest in Alaska.

Ecologist finds optimism in Alaskan forests

In her new book, Lauren Oakes explores a journey of loss, adaptation and resilience to climate change.

Earth

Regions increasingly suffer hot, dry conditions at the same time

Odds are rising that warm, dry conditions – the kind that can hurt crop yields, destabilize food prices and exacerbate wildfires – will strike multiple regions at once. A new Stanford study shows just how much the risk is increasing.

Muskrat.

Drying Canadian wetland drives muskrat decline

A new study shows loss of habitat in Canada’s Peace-Athabasca Delta is likely responsible for the decline of semi-aquatic muskrat, and could have larger implications.

Delhi smog

Living with air pollution

Polluted air is the norm for many people around the world. Globally, long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths.

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