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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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Recharge pond

Finding the 'sweet spots' for managed aquifer recharge

Rapidly worsening drought and a mandate to bring aquifer withdrawals and deposits into balance by 2040 have ignited interest in replenishing California groundwater through managed aquifer recharge. Stanford scientists demonstrate a new way to assess sites for this type of project using soil measurements and a geophysical system towed by an all-terrain vehicle.

Phytoplankton

Fungus creates a fast track for carbon

New research focused on interactions among microbes in water suggests fungal microparasites play a bigger than expected role in aquatic food webs and the global carbon cycle.

Pregnant woman with water glass

Higher levels of nitrate in drinking water linked to preterm birth, study finds

Women exposed to higher levels of nitrate in drinking water were more likely to deliver very early, according to a study of 1.4 million California births.

Jordan desert with video play button

Jordan's worsening water crisis a warning for the world

Prolonged and potentially destabilizing water shortages will become commonplace in Jordan by 2100, new research finds, unless the nation implements comprehensive reform, from fixing leaky pipes to desalinating seawater. Jordan’s water crisis is emblematic of challenges looming around the world as a result of climate change and rapid population growth. 

East Branch California Aqueduct in Palmdale, Calif. in 2014

The future of America's drinking water

Naming priorities such as better land management, an evolved portfolio of 21st-century solutions and more funding for research and development, Stanford experts highlight areas central to success as the Biden-Harris administration aims its sights on safeguarding U.S. drinking water.

Environmental issues collage

Understanding Biden's environmental challenges and actions

The Biden administration’s ambitious plans for environmental progress face complex obstacles. The findings, expertise and policy experience of Stanford researchers working across multiple fields could help contribute to sustainable, cost-effective solutions. 

Katse Dam in Lesotho, South Africa

How much do humans influence Earth’s water levels?

A new study provides the first global accounting of fluctuations in lake and reservoir water levels. The research shows 57 percent of the variability occurs in dammed reservoirs and other bodies of water managed by people, highlighting the dominant role humans now play in Earth’s water cycle.

Dry Searsville Lake

New study allows regional prediction of uranium in groundwater

Stanford researchers can predict where and when uranium is released into aquifers and suggest an easy fix to keep this naturally occurring toxin from contaminating water sources.

SARS-cov-2

What wastewater can reveal about COVID-19

A new wastewater testing approach capable of better detecting viral infection patterns in communities could prove a crucial step toward an informed public health response to diseases like COVID-19.

Helicopter

Flying the foothills

Stanford researchers, in collaboration with groundwater managers, are leading an airborne survey effort to investigate where water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains could recharge groundwater aquifers in California’s Central Valley.

Dry landscape

In a warming world, Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ drought won’t be an anomaly

Using new high-resolution simulations, researchers conclude that climate change made the Cape Town ‘Day Zero’ drought five to six times more likely and suggest extreme drought events could become common in southwestern South Africa by the end of the 21st century.

Northern California coast

Newly identified 'landfalling droughts' originate over ocean

Researchers have identified a new type of “landfalling drought” that originates over the ocean before traveling onto land, and which can cause larger, drier conditions than other droughts.

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.

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.

Infrastructure

Understanding environmental rollback

In a Q&A, environmental law Professor Deborah Sivas discusses a recent executive order that empowers federal agencies to override legal requirements for environmental reviews and community feedback related to major infrastructure projects.

Yangtze River

Accounting for nature in economies

Gross Domestic Product, the standard metric for measuring national economies, doesn’t account for the valuable services provided by nature. A new approach could help fill the gap.

Wastewater treatment

Desalination solution

Desalination – the conversion of saltwater to freshwater – has been limited by high operational costs. A new device capable of turning desalination waste into commercially valuable chemicals could make the process cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

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.

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.

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