EARTH Magazine: CSI La Brea - Tiny Traces Reveal Big Secrets of the Tar Pits

Alexandria, VA - Saber-tooth tigers, dire wolves and woolly mammoths conjure up images of a past when large beasts struggled against the elements, each other, and even against humans for survival. Thousands of these creatures met their demise in the muck of the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, where they slowly sank into the tar and were fossilized. Now, scientists are using traces from hungry, bone-eating insects on these fossils to investigate how long it took for the giant beasts to be swallowed up by the sticky, oozy substance.

EARTH Magazine: Gaming the System in the Caspian Sea: Can game theory solve a decades-old dispute?

A persistent stalemate over ownership and resource allocation, of everything from beluga caviar to energy resources, has hung over the Caspian Sea ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Looking to help advance the discussion over the Caspian toward as efficient and equitable an outcome as possible, scientists are taking a stab at the decades-old dispute by applying game theory and related methods, which use mathematics to study of competition and cooperation and have predominantly been used by economists and sociologists.

EARTH Magazine: Energy Storage Brings a Renewable Energy Future One Step Close

The world is diversifying its energy portfolio with renewable energy technology. However, one of the biggest hurdles renewable technologies need to overcome is inherent variability: Humans can't control when the sun shines or how much the wind blows. There's also variability on the demand side, with people needing more energy during certain times of the day and certain months of the year. Thus, to truly make the most out of renewable energy resources, geoscientists are working with engineers to help translate natural energy fluxes into products that can be delivered to the grid on an as-needed basis.

Trans-Niño Years Could Foster Tornado Super Outbreaks

Researchers are trying to determine if Trans-Niño years, which mark the onset or ebbing of El Niño and La Niña, are the main culprits behind deadly super-outbreaks of tornadoes. Fueled by a powerfully interconnected global atmospheric system, as sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific shift the Jet Stream's course during Trans-Niño years, the favorable conditions for violent weather in the United States are created. Follow as EARTH Magazine explores the implications this study has for citizens of tornado alley in the September issue of EARTH Magazine.

EARTH: Developing a Cyberinfrastructure for the Geosciences

The world is buzzing with the hum of servers containing terabytes of the world's collective datasets. And the geosciences are no different. Geoscientists are awash in data like never before. The challenge now for the geoscience community is how to best integrate disparate datasets for communal use and establish uniform standards for data entry. Now, communities of computer scientists and geoscientists are coming together to tackle the challenge of how best to integrate the wealth of data describing the earth system and to encourage geoscientists to dust off their personal collections for integration into the cumulative data cloud.

EARTH: Hurricane Hunters Fly Toward Improved Storm Forecasts

Each year, as hurricanes hit U.S. coastlines, scientists study them to improve forecasts critical for saving lives and property. Last year, unmanned aircraft from NASA flew into the biggest storms as part of a project to improve hurricane forecasts by 50 percent over the next 10 years. EARTH Magazine reports in the August issue, three projects in particular - the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program, NASA's 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Project Field Experiment and its replacement, the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel Project - may be responsible for a 20 percent error reduction in the hurricane track and intensity forecasts.

EARTH: A Journey Through Cuba's Culture and Geology

Few destinations capture the imagination like Cuba; a forbidden fruit to U.S. citizens. Recently, scientists from the U.S.-based Association for Women Geoscientists travelled there to explore its geology and culture. The expedition is chronicled in the August issue of EARTH Magazine. While Cuba is an intriguing destination as an actor on the global political stage, its geological history captures events that tell scientists even more about the history of the planet.

EARTH: Mapping Field Camp's Past and Present: Exploring a Mainstay of Geoscience Education

EARTH Magazine explores the ritual of field camp as geoscientists' rite of passage for thousands of U.S. college students. Geology field camps date back to the days of great explorers and naturalists like John Muir and his contemporaries. Now young men and women gear up and pack out to geologically unique locations nationwide. Traditional skill sets are now taught alongside relevant technology to keep students workforce-ready.


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