What can a delta’s history tell us about groundwater’s future?

Feature image: Mosiac of the the Ganges Delta in false color created with imagery from the Sentinal 2 satilite. CC-By Annamaria Luongo, via Wikimedia Commons


Article: Linking the Surface and Subsurface in River Deltas—Part 2: Relating Subsurface Geometry to Groundwater Flow Behavior
Authors: Xu, Z., Hariharan, J., Passalacqua, P., Steel, E., Paola, C., & Michael, H. A.

Deltas are striking features on Earth’s surface, where rivers meet large water bodies. Their flow spreads out into many channels, depositing the sediment they have been carrying, potentially since their headwaters. This sediment creates and sustains the delta, which can be hundreds of miles across. Beyond being mesmerizing, deltas are essential to human civilization, past and present. Nearly half a billion people live on deltas around the world, where the deposited sediment hosts some of the most fertile agricultural land available.

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ExxonMobil and Climate Change Communications: A Case Study in Propaganda

Feature image from Pixabay

Article: Rhetoric and Frame Analysis of ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications

Authors: Geoffrey Supran & Naomi Oreskes


It’s no secret that ExxonMobil is a major architect of the climate crisis. The oil giants have allocated incredible amounts of time and resources to undermining climate science while continuing to pollute the planet. Now, a recent One Earth publication by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes unpacks the way Exxon has so successfully spread propaganda while borrowing techniques from another destructive industry: that of tobacco. Exxon and other oil companies (often supported by powerful right-wing think tanks) have embarked on a propaganda campaign that has morphed from outright denial into a campaign aimed at distracting us, dividing political opinion, and convincing us that climate action is hopeless. Supran and Oreskes delve into the evolution of Exxon’s harmful contribution to this narrative.

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Ancient trees tell the story of modern climate change

Featured Image: Larch trees.  Image courtesy North Cascades National Park, used with permission.

Paper: Spring arctic oscillation as a trigger of summer drought in Siberian subarctic over the past 1494 years

Authors: Olga V. Churakova Sidorova, Rolf T. W. Siegwolf, Marina V. Fonti, Eugene A. Vaganov, Matthias Saurer

Seemingly straight out of a fairytale, ancient trees are able to convey details about Earth’s complex history to the scientists willing and able to listen.  Deep in the Siberian Arctic lie the secrets of past weather events, ocean currents, and droughts that occurred thousands of years ago, locked away in petrified wood and in the oldest living larch trees.  We often hear in the news how the Siberian forest is victim to extreme drought and fire—something that is new as of the recent century.  But how “new” are these events, and what exactly is perpetuating this new cycle? 

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Call of Cthulhu — Can we uncover the secret of Pluto’s red spots?

Featuring image: Pluto is an icy object in the outer solar system. Its surface it not only covered by ice, but also by an unidentified red material. The largest of these red areas is the Cthulhu region in the southern hemisphere. NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI, public domain (CC0)

Paper: Testing tholins as analogues of the dark reddish material covering Pluto’s Cthulhu region

Authors: M. Fayolle, E. Quirico, B. Schmitt, L. Jovanovic, T. Gautier, N. Carrasco, W. Grundy, V. Vuitton, O. Poch, S. Protopapa, L. Young, D. Cruikshank, C. Dalle Ore, T. Bertrand, A. Stern

Pluto is an icy object beyond Neptune. Its surface is not only covered by innocent pale ice, but also by mysterious dark-red fields. What lurks in these hellish regions and where do they come from?

Far behind Neptune’s orbit, the icy body Pluto orbits our Sun. Pluto got a lot of attention in 2006, when it lost its status as a planet. Since then, it remained as a trans neptunian objects (TNO) of major interest. In 2015, Pluto presented itself in high resolution pictures for the first time in history, when NASA’s space probe New Horizons explored the outer regions of our solar system. What the pictures showed, was not the expected icy desert, but multiple areas of deep red all over Pluto’s surface. The largest of them is located on the southern hemisphere. As a homage to the master of subtle horror, H. P. Lovecraft, the area is called Cthulhu region, because some of the most mysterious and powerful beings in Lovecraft’s world originate from Pluto (in Lovecraft’s stories called Yuggoth). Fayolle and co-workers tried to better understand the origin of these red materials by using laboratory experiments and numerical modelling in comparison with the data recorded by the New Horizons space probe.

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How does smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. change the regional climate?

Feature image from Pixabay

Article: Biomass Burning Smoke and Its Influence on Clouds Over the Western U. S.

Authors: C. H. Twohy, D. W. Toohey, E. J. T. Levin, P. J. DeMott, B. Rainwater, … & E. V. Fischer

The area burned by wildfires has been increasing in the western U.S. in recent years and is expected to continue to increase due to climate change. In fact, a large wildfire is currently burning in Sequoia National Park in California, threatening to impact some of the largest and oldest living trees in the world. While wildfires directly impact people, wildlife, and the environment in many ways, a lesser-known impact, involving clouds, can influence the regional weather and climate.

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Mineralogy on other worlds

Featuring image: Titan seen in infrared light. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stéphane Le Mouélic, University of Nantes, Virginia Pasek, University of Arizona, public domain (CC0)

Paper: Titan in a Test Tube: Organic Co-crystals and Implications for Titan Mineralogy

Authors: M. L. Cable, T. Runčevski, H. E. Maynard-Casely, T. H. Vu and R. Hodyss

Titan, Saturn largest moon, is a strange world. Its surface is covered by ice, dunes and haze of organic molecules and lakes of liquid methane. It even rains. The diversity of surface features may remind us of our own home planet, but the chemistry between these two celestial bodies lies worlds apart.

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Doubling Electricity Production by Storing it!

Pumped Hydro Storage

Paper: The value of CO2-Bulk energy storage with wind in transmission-constrained electric power systems

Authors: Jonathan D. Ogland-Hand, Jeffrey M. Bielicki, Benjamin M. Adams, Ebony S. Nelson, Thomas A. Buscheck, Martin O. Saar, Ramteen Sioshansi

Some storage solutions give back more than we put in

Energy is lost when batteries charge. This is the case for most energy storage solutions – we get out less than we put in. Some storage solutions, however, give back more than we put in, such as hydro-power dams. In these dams, energy is stored as elevated water (potential energy), and rivers add more water (more energy). An international team of researchers recently described an underground storage solution which could more than double the electricity put in and also help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Mysterious methane on Mars

Featuring image: northern rim of Gale Crater viewed by Curiosity. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, public domain (CC0)

Paper: Day-night differences in Mars methane suggest nighttime containment at Gale crater

Authors: C. R. Webster, P. R. Mahaffy, J. Pla-Garcia, S. C. R. Rafkin, J. E. Moores, S. K. Atreya, G. J. Flesch, C. A. Malespin, S. M. Teinturier, H. Kalucha, C. L. Smith, D. Viúdez-Moreiras and A. R. Vasavada

Methane is a gas often connected to life on Earth. NASA’s Mars rover reported the detection of methane, but discrepancies with other missions puzzled researchers. Is there methane on Mars or not? A new study tries to answer this question in a windy way.

Methane is a possible biosignature for extraterrestrial life and therefore, one of the goals of the Mars rover Curiosity was to search for methane. Curiosity was able to detect varying amounts of this gas over the years, but the existence of methane in the Martian atmosphere could not be confirmed by analysis from satellites. Now, Christopher Webster and his group were able to explain the variations as well as the discrepancy between ground-based and satellite analysis by developing a detailed model of the wind systems at Gale crater.

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Mysteries of the deep (and bumpy) seafloor

Featured image: Elevation map of a seamount in the central Pacific, shown in a persepctive view. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (public domain).

Paper: Fluid-rich subducting topography generates anomalous forearc porosity
Authors: Christine Chesley, Samer Naif, Kerry Key, Dan Bassett

Open any geology textbook, and you’re guaranteed to find a cartoon of a subduction zone showing how an incoming oceanic plate dives down beneath another tectonic plate (either continent or ocean) on its way back into Earth’s deep interior. These simple sketches typically show the top of the incoming plate as a smooth, gently curved line meeting and joining another smooth line at the base of the overriding plate – and that’s not exactly wrong, given the enormous scale of a subduction zone compared to the smallness of the drawing. But if you zoom in far enough on oceanic tectonic plates, the seafloor is often rough and bumpy. What happens, then, when rough seafloor heads into a subduction zone?

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The Search for Life on Mars Begins on Earth

Self portrait of NASA's Curiosity rover. Curiosity is currently climbing Moount Sharp, which can be seen rising on the right-hand side of the image, seeking signs that Mars have been a habitable planet in the past.

Article: Fatty Acid Preservation in Modern and Relict Hot-Spring Deposits in Iceland, with Implications for Organics Detection on Mars

Authors: Williams, Amy J., Kathleen L. Craft, Maëva Millan, Sarah Stewart Johnson, Christine A. Knudson, Marisol Juarez Rivera, Amy C. McAdam, Dominique Tobler, and John Roma Skok.

The quest to find signs of life on Mars is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. For some researchers, the quest is a chemical one. A search for the biomolecular remains of life that may have lived when Mars was warmer and wetter billions of years ago. However, finding and recognizing molecular fossils is no easy task, even for a rover as sophisticated as Curiosity. Now, new research from Dr. Amy Williams and her colleagues provides fresh insights into where Mars rovers should look for these fossils, what the signatures may look like, and a simple procedure for how to detect them.

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