Earth

By combining data from 48 studies of coral reefs from around the Caribbean, researchers have found that fish densities that have been stable for decades have given way to significant declines since 1995. The study appears online on March 19th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

Two decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill devastated a vast stretch of the Alaskan coast, governments and industry in the Arctic would be unable to effectively manage a large oil spill, according to a new report by World Wildlife Fund. As the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill approaches on March 24, WWF renewed its call for a time-out on new offshore oil development in the Arctic until technologies improve to ensure adequate clean-up of an oil spill. WWF is also calling on the Obama Administration to permanently protect Alaska's fish-rich Bristol Bay from drilling.

Berkeley -- A newly-laid, 32-mile underwater cable finally links the state's only seafloor seismic station with the University of California, Berkeley's seismic network, merging real-time data from west of the San Andreas fault with data from 31 other land stations sprinkled around Northern and Central California.

Researchers today worry about the collapse of West Antarctic ice shelves and loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but little is known about the past movements of this ice. Now climatologists from Penn State and the University of Massachusetts have modeled the past 5 million years of the West Antarctic ice sheet and found the ice expanse changes rapidly and is most influenced by ocean temperatures near the continent.

A five-nation scientific team has published new evidence that even a slight rise in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, one of the gases that drives global warming, affects the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The massive WAIS covers the continent on the Pacific side of the Transantarctic Mountains. Any substantial melting of the ice sheet would cause a rise in global sea levels.

Earth's crust melts easier than previously thought, scientists have discovered.

In a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, geologists report results of a study of how well rocks conduct heat at different temperatures. They found that as rocks get hotter in Earth's crust, they become better insulators and poorer conductors.

The findings provide insights into how magmas are formed, the scientists say, and will lead to better models of continental collision and the formation of mountain belts.

Burnaby, B.C. – March 18, 2009 – In Canada, campaign spending limits for candidates during a federal election are stipulated by the Canada Elections Act. A study recently published in the Canadian Journal of Economics uses these spending limits to evaluate the impact of candidate spending on voting outcomes. Results show that higher spending by candidates is found to lead to better chance of the candidate winning the election, and that spending limits are good for democracy.

CIUDAD OBREGÓN, MEXICO (17 March 2009)— The world's leading wheat experts from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas—invited to Mexico by Nobel Prize Winner Norman Borlaug—today reported significant progress in developing new varieties of wheat capable of resisting a virulent form of an old plant disease that threatens wheat production worldwide.

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Cliff I. Davidson, Joseph B. Kadane and Nanjun Chu have found that polluted air in the highly populated East End areas of Pittsburgh are more affected by major sources to the city's southeast than previously thought.

Because more than three-quarters of particulate matter found in the city originates from outside the Pittsburgh urban area — mainly to the west — the importance of certain air quality sources had not been quantified in the past.

The Earth explorer satellite GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer), built by the European Space Agency ESA, was successfully launched today at 15:21 GMT from the Russian Cosmodrome Plesetsk. GOCE is the first satellite mission within the framework of the Living Planet Programme of ESA and will map Earth's gravity field in unprecedented detail.