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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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cedar Fire, Sequoia National Forest

Longer, more extreme wildfire seasons

A new study finds that autumn days with extreme fire weather have more than doubled in California since the early 1980s due to climate change.

Coffee plants

Crop diversity can buffer the effects of climate change

The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.

Skyline

Climate change means more extreme weather than predicted

Analysis shows global warming is intensifying the occurrence of unprecedented hot spells and downpours faster than predicted by historical trends. New approaches for incorporating global warming into extreme weather analysis could improve global risk management.

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