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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Bright triangle pattern

Squeezing a rock-star material could make it stable enough for solar cells

A promising lead halide perovskite is great at converting sunlight to electricity, but it breaks down at room temperature. Now scientists have discovered how to stabilize it with pressure from a diamond anvil cell.

Contaminated soil

Pervasive health threats of unregulated battery recycling

A new study in Bangladesh finds that a relatively affordable remediation process can almost entirely remove lead left behind by unregulated battery recycling – and raises troubling questions about how to effectively eliminate the poison from children’s bodies.

R/V Roger Revelle

Sulfur plays a role in the ocean carbon cycle, study finds

The results suggest a possible feedback that could help trap carbon in the ocean’s low-oxygen zones, but the impact on climate change remains unclear.

Wildfire and smoke

The shifting burden of wildfires in the United States

Wildfire smoke will be one of the most widely felt health impacts of climate change throughout the country, but U.S. clean air regulations are not equipped to deal with it. Stanford experts discuss the causes and impacts of wildfire activity and its rapid acceleration in the American west.

Flooded neighborhood

Climate change has caused billions of dollars in flood damages

Flooding has caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage in the U.S. over the past three decades. Researchers found that 36 percent of the costs of flooding in the U.S. from 1988 to 2017 were a result of intensifying precipitation, consistent with predictions of global warming.

Cobalt

How better mineral exploration makes better batteries

Finding and extracting deposits of cobalt, lithium, nickel and other materials used in batteries is expensive and environmentally fraught. Geoscientists are now using artificial intelligence to quickly identify new resources, get the most out of those we already know about and improve refining processes. 

Carbon simulation

COVID lockdown causes record drop in carbon emissions for 2020

Carbon dioxide emissions from oil, gas and coal this year are predicted to reach approximately 34 billion tons, a 7 percent drop from fossil emission levels in 2019. Emissions from transport account for the largest share of the global decrease.

Editor's picks 2020 banner

Editor's picks: Top 10 stories of 2020

Our list includes a mix of favorites, high-impact stories and some of our most-read research coverage from a tumultuous year.

Lifeless landscape

The science behind extinction

A collection of research and insights from Stanford experts who are deciphering the mysteries and mechanisms of extinction and survival in Earth’s deep past and painting an increasingly detailed picture of life now at the brink.

Dry Searsville Lake

New study allows regional prediction of uranium in groundwater

Stanford researchers can predict where and when uranium is released into aquifers and suggest an easy fix to keep this naturally occurring toxin from contaminating water sources.

SARS-cov-2

What wastewater can reveal about COVID-19

A new wastewater testing approach capable of better detecting viral infection patterns in communities could prove a crucial step toward an informed public health response to diseases like COVID-19.

Helicopter

Flying the foothills

Stanford researchers, in collaboration with groundwater managers, are leading an airborne survey effort to investigate where water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains could recharge groundwater aquifers in California’s Central Valley.

Kilauea lava fountain

Crystals may help reveal hidden Kilauea Volcano behavior

Stanford researchers used millimeter-sized crystals from the 1959 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano to test models that offer insights about flow conditions prior to and during an eruption.

Reef crevice

Combining light and sound to see underwater

The “Photoacoustic Airborne Sonar System” could be installed beneath drones to enable aerial underwater surveys and high-resolution mapping of the deep ocean.

Barb fish in river

Community conservation reserves protect fish diversity in tropical rivers

Freshwater ecosystems across the world have experienced rapid species declines compared to ecosystems on land or in the ocean. New research shows that small, community-based reserves in Thailand’s Salween River Basin are serving as critical refuges for fish diversity.

Sunlight

Scientists invent ultrafast way to make solar modules greener

High-speed manufacturing could advance the commercialization of perovskite modules, a green alternative to conventional solar panels made of silicon.

Under ice bloom

Understanding the Arctic's hidden phytoplankton blooms

A growing body of evidence suggests tiny marine algae can bloom in the darkness below sea ice in the Arctic Ocean – and that such blooms occurred even before climate change began affecting the region's ice cover.

Aerial view of Monterey Bay, California

Could kelp help relieve ocean acidification?

A new analysis of California’s Monterey Bay evaluates kelp’s potential to reduce ocean acidification, the harmful fallout from climate change on marine ecosystems and the food they produce for human populations.

Ocean storm

Undersea origins of Earth's mysterious Love waves

Supercomputer simulations of planetary-scale interactions show how ocean storms and the structure of Earth’s upper layers together generate much of the world’s seismic waves. Decoding the faint but ubiquitous vibrations known as Love waves could yield insights about Earth’s storm history, changing climate and interior.

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