In the typical textbook picture, volcanoes, such as those that are forming the Hawaiian islands, erupt when magma gushes out as narrow jets from deep inside Earth. But that picture is wrong, according to a new study.
By analyzing stalagmites, a team of Caltech researchers has determined that the climate signature in the tropics through four glacial cycles looks different in some ways and similar in others when compared to the climate signature at high latitudes. The results suggest that Earth's climate system might have two modes of responding to significant changes.
The second-largest mass extinction in Earth's history coincided with a short but intense ice age. Although it has long been agreed that the so-called Late Ordovician mass extinction was related to climate change, exactly how the change produced the extinction has not been known. Now, a team led by Caltech scientists has determined that the majority of extinctions were caused by habitat loss due to falling sea levels and cooling of the tropical oceans.
The field of study of Andrew Thompson, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at Caltech, presents not only theoretical challenges but logistical ones as well. That's because he is interested in the circulation and ecology of the Southern Ocean and the role it plays in global climate. The hostile environment of this area makes long-term research difficult, so he's part of a team that is seeking to monitor the region with autonomous underwater vehicles called gliders.
Identifying the composition of the earth's core is key to understanding how our planet formed and the current behavior of its interior. While it has been known for many years that iron is the main element in the core, many questions have remained about just how iron behaves under the conditions found deep in the earth. Now, a team led by mineral-physics researchers at Caltech has honed in on those behaviors by conducting extremely high-pressure experiments on the element.
A catastrophic landslide 22,500 years ago dammed the upper reaches of northern California's Eel River, forming a 30-mile-long lake—which has since disappeared—and leaving a living legacy found today in the genes of the region's steelhead trout, according to scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Oregon.
An international team led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has used radar sounding technology developed to explore the subsurface of Mars to create high-resolution maps of freshwater aquifers buried deep beneath a desert on Earth.
For Andrew Thompson, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering who joined GPS in August, growing up in Rhode Island gave him a natural affinity for the ocean. Now, he studies physical ocean science, focusing on eddies. While Thompson studies the way sea storms move things around, new faculty member and alum Victor Tsai, assistant professor of geophysics, is busy measuring the seismic noise produced by the movements of the ocean—partly from the crashing of waves onto the shore.
Were dinosaurs slow and lumbering, or quick and agile? It depends largely on whether they were cold or warm blooded. Now, a team of researchers led by Caltech has developed a new approach to take body temperatures of dinosaurs for the first time, providing new insights into whether dinosaurs were cold or warm blooded.
When geologists survey an area of land for the potential that gas or petroleum deposits could exist there, they must take into account the composition of rocks that lie below the surface. Previous research had suggested that compaction bands might act as barriers to the flow of oil or gas. Now, researchers led by José Andrade have analyzed X-ray images of Aztec sandstone and revealed that compaction bands are actually more permeable than earlier models indicated.
A team of scientists led by researchers from Caltech report in this week's issue of the journal Nature that the rocks on which much of a theory on how the "Snowball Earth" ice age ended was based were formed millions of years after the ice age ended, and were formed at temperatures so high there could have been no living creatures associated with them.