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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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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.

Delivery drone

Could drones deliver packages more efficiently by hopping on the bus?

A computer science PhD student describes how we might combine the flexibility of drones with the capacity of ground-based vehicles to make e-commerce more traffic-friendly.

Wind turbine and shadow

Simulating wind farm development

Engineers have devised a model to describe how, in the process of establishing wind farms, interactions between developers and landowners affect energy production costs.

Pumpjack

Living near oil and gas wells may increase preterm birth risk

New research shows living near oil and gas development in California is a risk factor for preterm birth, the leading cause of infant death in the United States. About 2.1 million Californians live within one mile of an active oil or gas well.

A collapsed brick wall

A new approach to managing earthquake risk from fracking

Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing can damage property and endanger lives. Stanford researchers have developed new guidelines for when to slow or halt fracking operations based on local risks.

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.

Cascade of yellow light illustration

Machine learning could speed the arrival of ultra-fast-charging electric cars

Using artificial intelligence, a Stanford-led research team has slashed battery testing times – a key barrier to longer-lasting, faster-charging batteries for electric vehicles – by nearly fifteenfold.

Hoover Dam

Hydropower dams threaten fish habitats worldwide

New research maps the impacts of past and future hydropower development on fish habitats – and points to where restoration efforts may do the most good.

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.

Emissions

Global carbon emissions growth slows, but hits record high

Coal use is down dramatically in the United States and the European Union, and renewable energy is gaining traction. But rising natural gas and oil use in 2019 increased the world’s carbon dioxide emissions modestly for a third straight year.

smoke from power plant

Tracking power plant emissions in real time

Stanford scientists have developed a precise way to measure U.S. power plant emissions 24/7. The new tool will enable grid operators and big electricity consumers to reduce their carbon footprint in real time.

gas meters.shutterstock

Q&A: Shortages amidst abundance: The paradox of natural gas

Many Americans are ambivalent about natural gas, which produces less carbon dioxide than oil or coal but results in emission of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas in the short term. Stanford experts weigh in on the subtleties of the issue. 

Abstract of colorful smoke

New catalyst can turn carbon dioxide into fuels

A new process shows promise in turning the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide back into usable fuels, and yields four times as much fuel as previous approaches.

Three smokestacks

Are we underestimating the benefits of investing in renewable energy?

Scientists have estimated the emissions intensity of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants from a major electricity distributor and highlighted key consequences – essential information for policymakers shaping decisions to reduce electricity system emissions.

Aerial view of solar panels.

A much cheaper catalyst can generate hydrogen in a commercial device

Replacing today’s expensive catalysts could bring down the cost of producing the gas for fuel, fertilizer and clean energy storage.

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. 

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