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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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Village

Using satellites and AI to help fight poverty in Africa

A new tool combines publicly accessible satellite imagery with AI to track poverty across African villages over time.

Fire

Tracking the tinderbox: Mapping dry wildfire fuels with AI and new satellite data

Researchers have developed a deep-learning model that maps fuel moisture levels in fine detail across 12 western states, opening a door for better fire predictions.

Bike wheel

Environment and energy after COVID-19

Global carbon dioxide emissions are down dramatically in the wake of COVID-19. A new study pinpoints where energy demand has dropped the most, estimates the impact on annual emissions and points the way to a less polluted future.

Lava lake

Hunting down clues to Earth's early molten days

Scientists are still trying to piece together how Earth transformed from a molten planet to one with living creatures walking around on its silicate mantle and crust. Hints lie in the strange ways materials behave under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Flood

Double-whammy weather

Like an undulating seesaw, weather in some regions swings from drought to heavy rain under the weight of climate-induced changes, a new study finds.

Mussels

High schoolers co-author paleobiology study with Stanford researchers

A cohort of the Stanford Earth Young Investigators program helped advance our understanding of the relationship between the body size and circulatory systems of marine animals over a vast time frame.

Less water could sustain more Californians if we make every drop count

As climate change and population growth make drinking water costlier, here are six strategies to quench the state’s thirst without busting its budget.

Lunar colony

'Planetary quarantine' report reviews risks of alien contamination of Earth

The former director of NASA Ames discusses how the advent of new activities and players in the exploration and use of space is raising fresh challenges and concerns about planetary protection.

Tractor

COVID-19 could exacerbate food insecurity around the world

COVID-19 and other looming threats could make it much harder for people to access food. David Lobell, director of Stanford’s Center on Food Security and the Environment, outlines likely scenarios and possible solutions.

Concrete wall

Rethinking tsunami defense

Careful engineering of low, plant-covered hills along shorelines can mitigate tsunami risks with less disruption of coastal life and lower costs compared to seawalls.

Green plant

New ancient plant captures snapshot of evolution

Researchers have discovered an ancient plant species whose reproductive biology captures the evolution from one to two spore sizes – an essential transition to the success of the seed and flowering plants we depend on.

A collapsed brick wall

A new approach to managing earthquake risk from fracking

Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing can damage property and endanger lives. Stanford researchers have developed new guidelines for when to slow or halt fracking operations based on local risks.

Deteriorated road

Seismic map of North America reveals geologic clues, earthquake hazards

A new stress map that reveals the forces acting on the planet’s crust will contribute to safer energy exploration, updated seismic hazard maps and improved knowledge about the Earth.

Illustration of rover on Mars

Promising signs for Perseverance rover in its quest for past Martian life

New research indicates river delta deposits within Mars’ Jezero crater – the destination of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the Red Planet – formed over time scales that promoted habitability and enhanced preservation of evidence.

Planet B

Q&A: Climate change politics in the high school classroom

A Stanford education scholar discusses how young people are affected by the politicization of climate change – and what science teachers can do to help bridge the divide.

Collapsed floors of a building

A more holistic way to measure the economic fallout from earthquakes

Officials know how to account for deaths, injuries and property damages after the shaking stops, but a new study, based on a hypothetical 7.2 magnitude quake near San Francisco, describes the first way to estimate the far greater financial fallout that such a disaster would have, especially on the poor.

Grey Glacier in Patagonia

Steve Graham looks back on the first Earth Day

Stanford Earth Dean Steve Graham joined one of the thousands of rallies held in celebration of the first Earth Day. Now he discusses the event and his own expanding thinking about the planet and its history.

Gas heater

Water heaters’ methane leaks are high, but fixable

Emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from water heaters are higher than previously estimated, especially for a new type of heater growing in popularity, a new study finds. But simple fixes exist.

'A bad time to be alive': Study links ocean deoxygenation to ancient die-off

Researchers present new evidence that the deoxygenation of the ocean wiped out biodiversity during one of the “Big Five” mass extinctions in Earth’s history – relevant information as climate change contributes to decreasing oxygen in the oceans today.

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