Earth & Environment

The "third rock from the Sun"—Earth. With an orbit neither too close nor too far from the Sun, it occupies a unique position in the Solar System. It's the only planet known to man with the right conditions for the origin and evolution of life. During Earth's 4.5 billion-year history, a combination of processes has transformed it into a watery blue, living planet. The Earth's ecosystems involve complex interactions between the biological (living) and physical (non-living) worlds. Scientific research helps us comprehend our effects on the environment and how the environment in turn responds to impacts of our activities.

The PALEON project

The PALEON Project is an international collaboration between terrestrial ecosystem modelers, statisticians, and experts in paleoecological data spanning more than 25 institutions and led by the Univiersity of Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative.

SkyTEM aquifer mapping

Ever wonder where your water comes from when you fill up a glass to quench your thirst? Chances are, it's from underground water sources called aquifers. Watch how geologists are using a new high-tech rig, towed by helicopter, to detect and map these underground water reserves.

Science360 EXTRA Rewind: Home grown

Did you know that the dust in your house could predict your geographic region and the gender of its occupants? In this super science EXTRA Rewind, Charlie and Jordan talk about life at home...microscopic life, that is.

Microbial monsters: algae, Vampirococcus and Halloween

Learn how algae can suffocate a pond of all its life; discover the vampire bacterium known as Vampirococcus, who literally sucks the life out its victims; and watch out for those sweet Halloween treats that can leave holes in your teeth!

Cloud chamber research

Clouds play a crucial part in regulating climate, but precious little is actually known about clouds' inner workings and their role on Earth.

When Nature Strikes: Tsunamis

The massive wave of a tsunami can start thousands of miles offshore, but travel quickly across the ocean and devastate coastal communities. Anne Trehu and Dan Cox of Oregon State University are studying how tsunamis form and behave in order to prepare people for their potential devastation.

When Nature Strikes: Wildfires

Wildfires can burn thousands of acres, devastate communities, and sometimes even claim lives. Janice Coen at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is studying how weather and fire interact in order to develop a wildfire prediction system to forecast fire behavior.

NSF Science Now: Episode 37

In this week's episode, we examine tunable prosthetics, explore origami engineering and duck-billed dinosaurs, and discover how king crabs are migrating to the warming seas off the Antarctic Peninsula. Check it out!

When Nature Strikes: Space weather

Space weather has the potential to wreak havoc on everything from satellite communications to electric power. Sarah Gibson at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is studying the behavior of the sun to help warn against a serious solar storm should it threaten Earth.

When Nature Strikes: Tornadoes

Tornadoes can form in minutes, making early and accurate warnings crucial to saving lives. Howard Bluestein at the University of Oklahoma and Adam Houston at the University of Nebraska are trying to understand why some storms produce tornadoes and others don't.

When Nature Strikes: Landslides

Landslides occur when material like debris, rock, and soil become dislodged from the earth and slide downward at speeds that can approach 100 miles per hour. David Montgomery at the University of Washington studies past and present landslides to try to understand what causes them.

When Nature Strikes: Flash floods

Flash floods can happen anywhere, but factors such as heavy precipitation, geography and soil conditions can put some areas at greater risk. Russ Schumacher at Colorado State University is studying these factors to make more accurate forecasts.

When Nature Strikes: Hurricanes

Hurricanes are one of nature's most powerful natural hazards. Jenni Evans of Pennsylvania State University and Jeff Donnelly of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are studying how hurricanes form and what factors influence where and when they make landfall in an effort to save lives.

When Nature Strikes: Volcanoes

Volcanoes are one of the most powerful natural hazards on Earth, but supervolcanoes are so large that they have the ability to alter the world's climate. Michael Manga from the University of California, Berkeley, is investigating a supervolcano that erupted hundreds of thousands of years ago, and could do so again.

When Nature Strikes: Earthquakes

John Vidale and his team at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network are monitoring ground motion across Washington State and Oregon to prepare residents for one of the most powerful natural hazards on the planet--a magnitude 9 "megathrust" earthquake.

When Nature Strikes: On the front lines

Natural disasters can bring death and destruction to communities in the United States and around the world, but they can also teach us about Earth's natural processes. Teams of scientists are gathering new information about dangerous natural events, using cutting-edge methods and technology to help people understand them better.