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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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Lava lake

Hunting down clues to Earth's early molten days

Scientists are still trying to piece together how Earth transformed from a molten planet to one with living creatures walking around on its silicate mantle and crust. Hints lie in the strange ways materials behave under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Deteriorated road

Seismic map of North America reveals geologic clues, earthquake hazards

A new stress map that reveals the forces acting on the planet’s crust will contribute to safer energy exploration, updated seismic hazard maps and improved knowledge about the Earth.

Hot Jupiter

What other planets can teach us about Earth

Scientists exploring space are bringing back insights about Earth’s deep past, its complicated relationship with life and our planet’s future.

Diamonds

A better way to build diamonds

With the right amount of pressure and surprisingly little heat, a substance found in fossil fuels can transform into pure diamond.

Amazon rainforest

Where in the world can plants best soak up carbon emissions?

Plants around the world are growing at a slower than expected. Researchers say insufficient nutrients in the soil may be the culprit. A new world nutrient map provides a framework for predicting what areas around the world will be successful carbon sinks in the future. 

 

water abstract

Microbial DNA can reveal water’s underground origins

Stanford researchers have sequenced microbial communities in samples of reservoir fluids to identify where water traveled through underground networks and pathways.

2019 text

Editor's picks: Top 10 Stanford Earth Matters stories of 2019

In a roundup that spans energy, geology, geophysics and Earth systems, here are some of the most interesting, high-impact and popular research stories from 2019.

Satellite view of Hurricane Harvey

Damaging rains from hurricanes can be more intense after winds begin to subside

New research shows rains that occur after a hurricane has weakened may be more intense than when the storm is at its strongest.

Greenland

Flatten Greenland, and the Atlantic jet stream goes with it

Building off previous research showing the Atlantic jet stream hovers between three preferred latitudes, researchers found the topography of Greenland is responsible for its northernmost position.

Bumblee bee

Interactive map shows nature’s contributions to people

The researchers set out to understand where nature contributes the most to people and how many people may be affected by future changes. By 2050, up to 5 billion people could be at higher risk of water pollution, coastal storms and underpollinated crops.

Submarine canyon

Global analysis of submarine canyons may shed light on Martian landscapes

On a map, submarine canyons seem identical to land canyons – so much so that researchers surmised they are shaped by the same physical laws. New research reveals distinct differences for the first time.

Bubbles

Under pressure: Viewing how hydrogen transforms

Researchers have determined how hydrogen molecules are packed at extremely high pressures. Their work solves the long-standing mystery of the structure of the dense form of hydrogen, called phase IV. 

River between mountains

Why are mountains so high?

Researchers have analyzed mountain ranges worldwide to show that a theory relating erosion and mountain height doesn’t always add up.

Olympic National Park

Researchers explain earthquakes we can’t feel

Researchers have explained mysterious slow-moving earthquakes known as slow slip events with the help of computer simulations. The answer, they learned, is in rocks’ pores.

Yellow and green treetops

How much longer will trees absorb carbon dioxide?

By analyzing decades of experiments, researchers mapped the potential of carbon dioxide to increase forest biomass by the end of the century, when atmospheric concentrations of the gas could nearly double. This, in turn, will enable plants and trees to store more carbon.

Landscape near water

How the weathering of rocks cooled the Earth

Earth’s climate entered a long phase of cooling 15 million years ago, resulting in an ice age. A team of researchers has now found new indications as to what initiated this cooling and kept it going.

Surface meltwater on Greenland Glacier

Researchers discover more than 50 lakes beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet

Researchers have discovered 56 previously uncharted subglacial lakes beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet, contributing to our understanding of how the ice sheet will likely respond dynamically to rising temperatures.

California coast

Atmospheric rivers getting warmer along U.S. West Coast

New research shows that atmospheric rivers – plumes of moisture that deliver much of the west’s precipitation – have gotten warmer over the past 36 years.

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