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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

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.

Catalina Island

What a sinking island can tell us about sea-level change and earthquakes

A new analysis of marine fossils and seismic data offers keys to better modeling of global sea levels and earthquake risk in Southern California – plus the last word in a century-long debate over the motion of Catalina Island.

Seismograph

Data helps us prepare for 'The Big One'

Data is reshaping our knowledge about many things, including earthquakes: how we measure them, what causes them and how we can better prepare for them.

Wildfire smoke

Wildfires destroying California bring questions about health and climate

California’s wildfires have destroyed homes and communities, and even people hundreds of miles away are feeling the effects of smoke. Stanford faculty weigh in on the health effects and increasing frequency of fires.

Field

As California's groundwater free-for-all ends, gauging what's left

New rules and new technology are giving farmers and managers a better look at groundwater supplies.

Capitol Building

What do the midterm results mean for environmental policy?

The recent midterm elections could have far-reaching implications for the direction of federal- and state-level environment and energy policy. Stanford experts discuss ways forward, lessons learned and more.

San Francisco

How will San Francisco's skyscrapers fare after the next Big One?

Stanford civil engineers are working with the city to assess high-rise safety and mitigate any disruption, downtime or lost economic activity should downtown buildings be damaged. 

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