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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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Family in front of an industrial harbor

Air pollution puts children at higher risk of disease in adulthood

First of its kind study reveals evidence that early exposure to dirty air alters genes in a way that could lead to adult heart disease, among other ailments. The findings could change the way medical experts and parents think about the air children breathe and inform clinical interventions.

Covid social distancing

How behaviors complicate epidemic outcomes

A new model of disease spread describes how competing economic and health incentives influence social contact – and vice versa. The result is a complex and dynamic epidemic trajectory.

Fish swimming in plastic debris

Plastic ingestion by fish is a growing problem

A new research review finds the rate of plastic consumption in fish has doubled in the past decade and continues to increase. Fish higher up on the food chain are at the greatest risk.

Mars landscape

Are Martian landslides caused by underground salts and melting ice?

A new theory that helps explain geological and chemical processes on Mars also suggests the martian environment continues to be dynamic, with implications for both astrobiology and future human exploration of the Red Planet.

Cattle grazing at sunset in Brazil

Landscape disruptions threaten Paris climate agreement goals

A new study finds emissions from deforestation, conversion of wild landscapes to agriculture, and other changes in land use worldwide contributed 25 percent of all human-caused emissions between 2001 and 2017.

Hadza moving between camps

Men and women on the move

Research based on the daily movements of people living in a contemporary hunter-gatherer society provides new evidence for links between the gendered division of labor in human societies over the past 2.5 million years and differences in the way men and women think about space.

Bright triangle pattern

Squeezing a rock-star material could make it stable enough for solar cells

A promising lead halide perovskite is great at converting sunlight to electricity, but it breaks down at room temperature. Now scientists have discovered how to stabilize it with pressure from a diamond anvil cell.

Contaminated soil

Pervasive health threats of unregulated battery recycling

A new study in Bangladesh finds that a relatively affordable remediation process can almost entirely remove lead left behind by unregulated battery recycling – and raises troubling questions about how to effectively eliminate the poison from children’s bodies.

R/V Roger Revelle

Sulfur plays a role in the ocean carbon cycle, study finds

The results suggest a possible feedback that could help trap carbon in the ocean’s low-oxygen zones, but the impact on climate change remains unclear.

Wildfire and smoke

The shifting burden of wildfires in the United States

Wildfire smoke will be one of the most widely felt health impacts of climate change throughout the country, but U.S. clean air regulations are not equipped to deal with it. Stanford experts discuss the causes and impacts of wildfire activity and its rapid acceleration in the American west.

Flooded neighborhood

Climate change has caused billions of dollars in flood damages

Flooding has caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage in the U.S. over the past three decades. Researchers found that 36 percent of the costs of flooding in the U.S. from 1988 to 2017 were a result of intensifying precipitation, consistent with predictions of global warming.

Cobalt

How better mineral exploration makes better batteries

Finding and extracting deposits of cobalt, lithium, nickel and other materials used in batteries is expensive and environmentally fraught. Geoscientists are now using artificial intelligence to quickly identify new resources, get the most out of those we already know about and improve refining processes. 

Carbon simulation

COVID lockdown causes record drop in carbon emissions for 2020

Carbon dioxide emissions from oil, gas and coal this year are predicted to reach approximately 34 billion tons, a 7 percent drop from fossil emission levels in 2019. Emissions from transport account for the largest share of the global decrease.

Editor's picks 2020 banner

Editor's picks: Top 10 stories of 2020

Our list includes a mix of favorites, high-impact stories and some of our most-read research coverage from a tumultuous year.

Lifeless landscape

The science behind extinction

A collection of research and insights from Stanford experts who are deciphering the mysteries and mechanisms of extinction and survival in Earth’s deep past and painting an increasingly detailed picture of life now at the brink.

Dry Searsville Lake

New study allows regional prediction of uranium in groundwater

Stanford researchers can predict where and when uranium is released into aquifers and suggest an easy fix to keep this naturally occurring toxin from contaminating water sources.

SARS-cov-2

What wastewater can reveal about COVID-19

A new wastewater testing approach capable of better detecting viral infection patterns in communities could prove a crucial step toward an informed public health response to diseases like COVID-19.

Helicopter

Flying the foothills

Stanford researchers, in collaboration with groundwater managers, are leading an airborne survey effort to investigate where water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains could recharge groundwater aquifers in California’s Central Valley.

Kilauea lava fountain

Crystals may help reveal hidden Kilauea Volcano behavior

Stanford researchers used millimeter-sized crystals from the 1959 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano to test models that offer insights about flow conditions prior to and during an eruption.

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