“Planet Earth Report” connects you to headline news on the science, technology, discoveries, people and events changing our planet and the future of the human species.
Pyrocumulonimbus clouds, or pyroCbs, can generate thunder, lightning and tornado-force winds, in addition to belching out burning embers. In 2016, reports Denise Chow for NBC, a wildfire so large and destructive that it was nicknamed “The Beast” tore through Fort McMurray, a town in northeastern Alberta surrounded by boreal forests in the middle of the Canadian province’s oil-rich tar sands. More than 88,000 people were evacuated, and 2,400 homes and buildings were destroyed in the inferno. It would become one of the costliest and most destructive wildfires in the country’s history, but scientists had other reasons to pay close attention to it. As the fire raged and threatened to engulf the community, The Beast started to exhibit some odd behavior, growing so intense that it spawned “fire clouds” that created their own weather.
Summer sea ice could vanish later this decade, with disastrous consequences. It all depends on the physics of ice. Arctic ice is disappearing — the question is how fast. Summer sea ice, reports Shannon Hall for Quanta, could endure 100 more years, or it could vanish later this decade, with disastrous consequences for the rest of the planet. To nail down the answer, an expedition to the top of the world has to untangle the knotty physics of ice.
The Voyager mission has not lacked for highlights, having beamed back the first glimpses of methane oceans, erupting volcanos on a Jovian moon and a thunderstorm on Saturn. But Prof Ed Stone, who has been at Voyager’s scientific helm since 1972, says there is one place above all that he longs to visit again. “We really need to get back and look at that moon,” said Stone, 83, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology. “We know there’s water ice evaporating – geysering – from its south pole. It’s snowing all the time. That means there’s liquid water beneath the icy crust. Here on Earth, wherever there’s water there’s microbial life.”
A strange microbe may mark one of life’s great leaps, reports New York Times “Matter” columnist Carl Zimmer from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life about a “bizarre tentacled microbe” discovered on the floor of the Pacific Ocean that may help explain the origins of complex life on this planet and solve one of the deepest mysteries in biology which is how, two billion years ago, simple cells gave rise to far more complex cells that simply appeared out of nowhere –the bridge from small, simple organisms called archaea ave no nuclei, lysosomes, mitochondria or skeletons.
Phosphorus, present in our DNA and cell membranes, is one of the six main elements that make up the human body and an essential element for life as we know it. Unlike hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and calcium, phosphorus is rare. It is even more scarce in the rest of the Solar System. The source of its arrival on early Earth has long been up to debate.
In places with particularly hot fires, these eerie shadows have been baked into the ground. Walking through the wreckage of a bushfire disaster zone, one of the first things you notice is the trees, writes Gavin Butler for Vice. Those left standing are usually skeletal, stripped naked by wind and blackened by flames. Others lay fallen and shattered on the ground, branches strewn around, their mangled stumps still smoldering. I saw hundreds, maybe thousands of burned trees in the bushland of southern New South Wales recently, where some of the most devastating bushfires Australia has ever seen swept through just 10 days earlier. And then, after a while, I started noticing something else: not quite trees but the outlines of trees, stark white silhouettes printed like x-rays onto the bone-dry soil.
Scientists just found the crater. –Scientists knew the impact happened; they just didn’t know where. About 790,000 years ago, reports Mindy Weisberger for Live Science a meteor slammed into Earth with such force that the explosion blanketed about 10 percent of the planet with shiny black lumps of rocky debris. Known as tektites, these glassy blobs of melted terrestrial rock were strewn from Indochina to eastern Antarctica and from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific. For more than a century, scientists searched for evidence of the impact that created these pitted blobs. But the crater’s location eluded detection — until now.