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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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Indian village school

How extreme heat affects learning

Extremely hot days may directly affect students’ capacity to learn and teachers’ capacity to teach, especially in schools without air conditioning, according to a new study. Worsening climate change is likely to deepen educational inequities.

Manure truck

Why laughing gas is a growing climate problem

Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is the most important greenhouse gas after methane and carbon dioxide and the biggest human-related threat to the ozone layer. Now, emissions of the gas are rising faster than expected.

Thomas Fire, 2017

The science behind the West Coast fires

A collection of research and insights from Stanford experts on wildfires' links to climate change, the health impacts of smoke, and promising strategies for preventing huge blazes and mitigating risks.

Santa Clara Unit Lightning Complex Fire

Does experiencing wildfires create political consensus on resilience measures?

Though partisanship makes it difficult to enact policy to deal with climate change, research shows that experience with wildfires might diminish the partisan gap.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito-borne disease threat

A warming climate and urbanization will likely lower rates of malaria, while increasing rates of other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue fever, in Sub-Saharan Africa. Public health strategies must adapt to avoid a public health crisis.

Loon balloon in flight

Gravity wave insights from internet-beaming balloons

A better understanding of how gravity waves in the upper atmosphere interact with the jet stream, polar vortex and other phenomena could be key to improved weather predictions and climate models.

Woodward Fire

Wildfire weather

Unusual lightning strikes sparked the massive wildfires burning across California. Stanford climate and wildfire experts discuss extreme weather’s role in current and future wildfires, as well as ways to combat the trend toward bigger, more intense conflagrations.

Sliced sugarcane

Exploring the sustainability of the Indian sugar industry

Researchers analyzed the interconnected food, water and energy challenges that arise from the sugar industry in India – the second-largest producer of sugar worldwide – and how the political economy drives those challenges.

Masked farmer

COVID-19 opportunities

Researchers hypothesize outcomes of the pandemic’s unprecedented socioeconomic disruption, and outline research priorities for advancing our understanding of humans’ impact on the environment.

Soil

New soil models may ease atmospheric CO2, climate change

An international, interdisciplinary group of scientists propose the creation of new soil carbon-persistence models through the lens of “functional complexity” – the interplay between time and space in soil carbon’s changing molecular structure that drives carbon sequestration.

Aerial view of factory emissions

Identifying sources of deadly air pollution in the U.S.

New research finds that air pollution from sources in the U.S. leads to 100,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. While about half of all air pollution-related deaths from fine particulate matter result from burning fossil fuels, the remaining are largely from animal agriculture, dust from construction and roads, and burning wood for heating and cooking.

Storm clouds

Data analytics can predict global warming trends, heat waves

New research shows three days of heat variances, compared to the 30-year record, can predict an extreme weather event.

Global methane

Global methane emissions soar to record high

The pandemic has tugged carbon emissions down, temporarily. But levels of the powerful heat-trapping gas methane continue to climb, dragging the world further away from a path that skirts the worst effects of global warming.

Phytoplankton bloom in the Arctic

'Regime shift' happening in the Arctic Ocean

Stanford scientists find the growth of phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean has increased 57 percent over just two decades, enhancing its ability to soak up carbon dioxide. While once linked to melting sea ice, the increase is now propelled by rising concentrations of tiny algae.

Forest

When planting trees threatens the forest

The first-of-its-kind study reveals that subsidies for the planting of commercially valuable tree plantations in Chile resulted in the loss of biologically valuable natural forests and little, if any, additional carbon sequestration.

Plants

Predicting plant water needs in a warmer, drier world

New research suggests dry air and warmer temperatures may prompt bigger than expected changes in how water moves through plants. The adjustment may allow plants to survive with less water in future droughts, while downshifting how much carbon they absorb.

Close-up of plants in soil

Human waste treatment helps solve climate change puzzle

New research shows composting human waste produces an effective fertilizer for agriculture while increasing safety, sustainability and jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste-borne illnesses.

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.

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