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Stanford Earth Matters

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'A bad time to be alive': Study links ocean deoxygenation to ancient die-off

Researchers present new evidence that the deoxygenation of the ocean wiped out biodiversity during one of the “Big Five” mass extinctions in Earth’s history – relevant information as climate change contributes to decreasing oxygen in the oceans today.

Squid

How social squid communicate in the dark

Researchers begin to reveal how social squid communicate in the near-blackness of the deep sea.

Giant clam

Smaller animals faced surprisingly long odds in ancient oceans, Stanford study finds

New fossil research shows extinction for smaller marine animals across most of the past 485 million years was more common than once believed. Why?

Hawksbill sea turtle

Q&A: Making the case for mobile marine protected areas

Ocean sanctuaries whose boundaries can shift can reduce conflicts between humans and marine life and help protect species under climate change.

School of fish

Reimagining ocean conservation

Stanford experts help guide Palau’s initiative to create one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries. The protected area will diversify food options for Palauans while reducing overfishing and protecting marine life amid mounting climate pressures.

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.

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.

Pacific Ocean

Archaea hold clues to ancient ocean temperatures

Scientists at Stanford have identified molecules that tough microbes use to survive in warming waters, opening a window more broadly into studying conditions in ancient seas.

View from the cockpit

Vintage film shows Thwaites Glacier ice shelf in Antarctica melting faster than previously observed

Newly available archival film has revealed the eastern ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is melting faster than previous estimates, suggesting the shelf may collapse sooner than expected.

Ocean

The case for managed retreat

Katharine Mach and Miyuki Hino make the case for managed retreat for vulnerable communities in the face of climate change.

Churning seawater

New technology harnesses energy from mixing of freshwater and seawater

A new battery made from affordable and durable materials generates energy from places where salt and fresh waters mingle. The technology could make coastal wastewater treatment plants energy-independent and carbon neutral.

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.

Hydrothermal

How deep-ocean vents fuel massive phytoplankton blooms

A new study suggests vents in the seafloor may affect life near the ocean’s surface and the global carbon cycle more than previously thought. 

San Francisco Bay

Can a drone reveal the murky secrets of San Francisco Bay?

Measurements of suspended sediment concentrations reveal a lot about the health of a waterway, but until now such data has been difficult to obtain.

Water

Understanding saltwater intrusion through remote sensing

New research provides insight on a common cause of drinking water contamination in coastal areas: intrusion of ocean saltwater into freshwater aquifers.

Pacific yellowfin tuna

Tunas, sharks and ships at sea

Researchers combine maps of marine predator habitats with satellite tracks of fishing fleets to identify regions where they overlap – a step toward more effective wildlife management on the high seas.

Sendai

Q&A: Designing a better local tsunami warning system

New research outlines a more accurate and consistent way to warn coastal residents when and where tsunami waves are likely to hit. 

Divers collecting coral sample.

Q&A: Corals reveal patterns in past weather events

A Stanford researcher weighs in on how reconstructing past weather events using coral reefs can help demystify the complex phenomenon known as El Niño.

Ocean

Why deep oceans gave life to the first big, complex organisms

Why did the first big, complex organisms spring to life in deep, dark oceans where food was scarce? A new study finds great depths provided a stable, life-sustaining refuge from wild temperature swings in the shallows.

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