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Stanford Earth Matters

Caldor Fire, August 2021

California Burning: Fire, Drought and Climate Change

Western states are once again in severe drought with water in short supply. And California’s fire season is starting earlier and causing more devastation. Buzz Thompson, one of the country’s leading water law experts, discusses California’s wildfires, drought, water and climate change.

NASA Earth satellites

Researchers make alkali metal-chlorine batteries rechargeable

A new type of rechargeable alkali metal-chlorine battery developed at Stanford holds six times more electricity than the commercially available rechargeable lithium ion batteries commonly used today.

Networked city

How to measure an earthquake through the internet

New technologies that detect motion in the Earth’s crust are emerging in surprising places and reshaping our understanding of earthquakes.

Smoky San Francisco

Wildfire smoke exposure during pregnancy increases preterm birth risk, study finds

Smoke from wildfires may have contributed to thousands of additional premature births in California between 2007 and 2012. The findings underscore the value of reducing the risk of big, extreme wildfires and suggest pregnant people should avoid very smoky air.

Rain storm in distance

Researchers use artificial intelligence to unlock extreme weather mysteries

A new machine learning approach helps scientists understand why extreme precipitation days in the Midwest are becoming more frequent. It could also help scientists better predict how these and other extreme weather events will change in the future.

Drone hovering above oil refinery

A better way to track methane in the skies?

Several studies have found that the EPA underestimates the amount of methane leaking from U.S. oil and gas operations by as much as half. A new Stanford-led study shows how better data can lead to more accurate estimates and points to some of the causes of the EPA’s undercount.

Morraine Fire

Q&A: A blueprint for protecting communities and restoring a lower intensity fire regime

California may be headed for another record-breaking wildfire season. Stanford researchers discuss the shift in federal, state and local approaches necessary to turn the tide of destruction.

Farmland during 2012 drought

Global warming increased U.S. crop insurance losses by $27 billion in 27 years

Higher temperatures attributed to climate change caused payouts from the nation’s biggest farm support program to increase by $27 billion between 1991 and 2017, according to new estimates from Stanford researchers. Costs are likely to rise even further with the growing intensity and frequency of heat waves and other severe weather events.

Summit lava lake

Scientists test friction laws in the collapsing crater of an erupting volcano

A new analysis of the 2018 collapse of Kīlauea volcano’s caldera helps to confirm the reigning scientific paradigm for how friction works on earthquake faults. The model quantifies the conditions necessary to initiate the kind of caldera collapse that sustains big, damaging eruptions of basaltic volcanoes like Kīlauea and could help to inform forecasting and mitigation.

EVGO charging external link

EV charging stations multiply, but are often out of reach for disadvantaged populations

California will prohibit the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. But charging-station infrastructure takes time to develop. Already, some places are in danger of being left out, perpetuating historical disparities. (Source: Bill Lane Center for the American West)

Fishing boats external link

Mapping conflicts over marine resources

Scientists Elizabeth Selig and Colette Wabnitz discuss their efforts to systematically map the patterns and drivers of marine resource conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, and how the work may guide more just management and policy solutions. (Source: Center for Ocean Solutions)

Small device on ice sheet with sun in background

Solar radio signals could be used to monitor melting ice sheets

A new method for seeing through ice sheets using radio signals from the sun could enable cheap, low-power and widespread monitoring of ice sheet evolution and contribution to sea-level rise.

Neighborhood with several feet of flooding

Sea-level rise may worsen existing Bay Area inequities

Researchers examined the number of households unable to pay for damages from coastal flooding to reveal how sea-level rise could threaten the fabric of Bay Area communities over the next 40 years.

Peel River

Longest known continuous record of the Paleozoic discovered in Yukon wilderness

Stanford-led expeditions to a remote area of Yukon, Canada, have uncovered a 120-million-year-long geological record of a time when land plants and complex animals first evolved and ocean oxygen levels began to approach those in the modern world.

Tree roots

Stanford ecologists develop a theory about how plants ‘pay’ their microbes

Combining economics, psychology and studies of fertilizer application, researchers find that plants nearly follow an “equal pay for equal work” rule when giving resources to partner microbes – except when those microbes underperform.

East Troublesome Fire, Colorado

Tips to protect against wildfire smoke

Warnings of another severe wildfire season abound, as do efforts to reduce the risk of ignition. Yet few are taking precautions against the smoke. Stanford experts advise on contending with hazardous air quality.

Cornfield

Using nature's miracle bugs to help feed the world

It takes massive energy to make nitrogen fertilizer. Modified bacteria can do it at room temperature.

Muskrat on lake ice

Stanford research shows muskrats are a bellwether for a drying delta

Downstream of hydroelectric dams and Alberta’s oil sands, one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas is drying out. New Stanford University research suggests long-term drying is making it harder for muskrats to recover from massive die-offs. It’s a sign of threats to come for many other species.

Crops with industry pollution in background

Cleaner air has boosted U.S. corn and soybean yields

The analysis estimates pollution reductions between 1999 and 2019 contributed to about 20 percent of the increase in corn and soybean yield gains during that period – an amount worth about $5 billion per year.

Flooded plants

Floods may be nearly as important as droughts for future carbon accounting

In a 34-year global analysis, researchers found that photosynthesis – an important process for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in soil – was controlled by extreme wet events nearly as often as droughts in certain locations.

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