Getting to Grips With the Sixth Mass Extinction

Featured Image: It is well-understood that the Earth’s biodiversity is in severe decline. However, it is less clear if this decline can now be called a mass extinction. Public domain image via. The Wilderness Society.

Paper: The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction, or speculation?

Authors: Robert H Cowie, Philippe Bouchet & Benoît Fontaine

Human-driven emissions and land use changes have impacted Earth’s biosphere greatly, causing global extinction rates to climb fast. However, does the current undeniable biodiversity crisis meet the requirements to be called a mass extinction? 

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What Makes a Supervolcano “Super”?

Featured Image: Yellowstone National Park attracts millions of people a year and has been a major focal point for discussions about supervolcanoes in recent decades. Public domain image via pixabay.

Paper: Capturing the Extreme in Volcanology: The Case for the Term “Supervolcano”

Authors: S. De Silva & S. Self

The earth sciences can be challenging to communicate. Definitions change over time and, in some cases, become widely reported in the media and often without a formal definition. A recent paper by Shanaka de Silva and Stephen Self addresses these issues surrounding the popular word “supervolcano.” The authors discuss the variables used to distinguish between these extreme events and regular eruptions. They then suggest a new working definition for researchers to use moving forward, clearing up much confusion that surrounds the word. The concept of supereruptions exploded in popularity after the 2005 Discovery TV/BBC documentary Supervolcano, promoted with the by-line “Is Yellowstone Overdue?

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How Machine Learning Helps in the Fight Against Climate Change

Featured Image: Machine Learning has proven itself to be an effective tool in interdisciplinary research, but how can it be useful in understanding climate change? CC BY-NC 4.0, via. Dean Long

Paper: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning (Chapter 8)

Authors: David Rolnick et al.

Machine Learning (ML) gives researchers extremely valuable ways of revealing patterns within enormous datasets, and making predictions. Climate change research is one of many fields that is beginning to explore ML approaches. There are three major areas of interest: (1) climate prediction/modeling, (2) assessing impacts, and (3) exploring solutions as we attempt to decarbonize energy production. Rolnick and his coworkers explored the merit of machine learning in climate research and where it can support scientists best. The authors also call for greater collaboration between researchers of different backgrounds to advance our understanding of such a complex issue.

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What caused the end-Triassic Mass Extinction in the Oceans?

Feature Image: Outcrop of volcanic rock associated with the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province. This Large Igneous Province has a strong correlation to the onset of a mass extinction ~200 million years ago, however, an exact mechanism for the extinction has been difficult to determine. CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Paper: Two-pronged kill mechanism at the end-Triassic mass extinction

Authors: Calum P. Fox; Jessica H. Whiteside; Paul E. Olsen; Xingquian Cui; Roger E. Summons; Kliti Grice

Journal: Geology

A recent study by Calum Fox and colleagues sheds light on what caused one of the “big five” mass extinctions on Earth since complex life emerged ~540 million years ago. They found that repeated pulses of volcanic activity were responsible for the extinction in two main ways: ocean poisoning caused by gaseous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) rising through the water column (known as euxinia) and ocean acidification.

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Defining and Contextualising the Anthropocene

Feature Image: Huge amounts of waste symbolise the impact of human activity on the Earth System. Public domain image by Antoine Giret

Paper: The Anthropocene: Comparing Its Meaning in Geology (Chronostratigraphy) with Conceptual Approaches Arising in Other Disciplines

Authors: Jan Zalasiewicz et al.

Journal:  Earth’s Future


We are now entering a new geologic time due to the planetary-scale impact of human activity. The Anthropocene is widely accepted as this new epoch, but debate is still ongoing about its scientific basis and when this new epoch began. As so many different disciplines are involved in defining and characterizing the Anthropocene, it has become difficult to properly define. A recent paper by Jan Zalasiewicz and colleagues aims to provide context as the broad subject spills over into other areas of science, art and the humanities. They emphasise that future studies should stick to the original stratigraphic and Earth System Science meaning of the term to avoid confusion around the term.

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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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