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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

Spiral Jetty

What's likely to cause human extinction – and how can we avoid it?

Stanford epidemiologist Stephen Luby sees three potential outcomes for humanity by 2100: extinction, the collapse of civilization with limited survival, or a thriving society. 

Annapolis flood

What rising seas mean for local economies

High-tide flooding resulting from climate change is already disrupting the economy of Annapolis, Maryland. As sea levels rise, the impacts are expected to get worse for coastal communities.

Clarksburg

Downsizing the Delta tunnel plan: What it means for water and ecosystems

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a plan to downsize a project aimed at diverting water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the Central Valley and Southern California. Stanford experts discuss likely impacts.

Fork and knife

Q&A: Meat, health and the environment

A Stanford nutrition expert discusses the connections between meat consumption, carbon emissions, water needs and health.

Road lights

Why batteries with extra lithium ions fail

Why does stuffing more lithium into battery cathodes lead to their failure? New research illuminating this phenomenon could pave the way to electric cars that can drive longer distances between charges.

Frozen Lake Michigan

Polar vortex: The science behind the cold

Atmospheric scientist Aditi Sheshadri discusses how the polar vortex works, what drives its behavior and why it seems to bring storms and bitter cold more frequently than in past decades.  

Stuff

Our 2.5-million-year obsession with stuff

When early humans first started using tools to make things, they kicked off a cycle of people depending on objects and the materials needed to make them – with ripple effects for the global climate today.

Solar panels

Envisioning an energy future with less fear, more cooperation

SunRun CEO Lynn Jurich argued at Stanford Energy Week that cooperation between utilities and solar providers will be key to building a cleaner, more nimble and cost-effective energy system.

Sendai

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. 

Soap bubbles

A new algorithm acts like facial recognition software for materials

The search for the perfect material can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Researchers are leveraging machine learning to change this, potentially aiding the search for better materials for fuel cells, thermoelectric devices and electric car batteries.

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

A Stanford researcher weighs in on how reconstructing past weather events using coral reefs can help demystify the complex phenomenon known as El Niño.

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.

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