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Earth Sciences



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Environment - Earth Sciences - 29.11.2018
The polar regions communicate via postcards and text messages
The polar regions communicate via postcards and text messages
A new study found two types of climatic connection between the North Atlantic and Antarctica. One is a rapid atmospheric channel and the other a much slower connection through the ocean. During the last glacial period, these links resulted in abrupt climatic changes - and could so again in future. In a study just published in the journal "Nature", an international team of researchers describes how an ocean current repeatedly strengthening and weakening again 60,000 to 12,000 years ago led to an extremely sudden change in the climate.

History / Archeology - Earth Sciences - 26.11.2018
Even the ancient Romans were polluters
Even the ancient Romans were polluters
"We are polluting the rivers and the natural elements, and even ruining the very thing that is essential to life - the air." These words were not spoken by nature conservationists in the 21st century but flowed from the pen of the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. In fact ancient history researchers agree today that even in Roman times the environment was being polluted - by unfiltered wastewater, the mining of metals such as iron or lead and clear-cutting of the forests.

Earth Sciences - 11.10.2018
Sediment bypass tunnels and biodiversity
Sediment bypass tunnels and biodiversity
Mountain rivers swollen by heavy rainfall deposit large amounts of sediment in reservoirs. To prevent the loss of storage capacity, some reservoirs are equipped with bypass tunnels which convey sediment-laden waters to downstream reaches. The fact that such tunnels offer ecological benefits as well as economic advantages was shown, for example, by a study carried out on the Solis reservoir in Graubünden.

Earth Sciences - Environment - 06.08.2018
Earthquakes can be attenuated by groundwater
Earthquakes can be attenuated by groundwater
Researchers from EPFL and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris have found that the presence of pressurized fluid in surrounding rock can reduce the intensity of earthquakes triggered by underground human activities like geothermal energy production. Around 100,000 earthquakes are recorded worldwide every year, but not all are naturally occurring.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 06.08.2018
Tainted idyll: groundwater over-fertilising lagoon in Spain
Tainted idyll: groundwater over-fertilising lagoon in Spain
Lagoons are valuable natural habitats as well as being good for tourism. In the case of the "Mar Menor" in the Spanish province of Murcia, however, such large quantities of nutrients are entering the unique ecosystem via the groundwater that algal blooms are making swimming impossible. Working together with Eawag, Spanish researchers have been modelling the underground water flows in order to develop better cultivation and water management scenarios.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 25.06.2018
Striking the right balance between wind energy and biodiversity
Striking the right balance between wind energy and biodiversity
EPFL researchers have developed a simulator that can calculate the performance of wind farms over 30 years while also factoring in the need to preserve local biodiversity. Tested at a site in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, the simulator could be applied to the Swiss Jura region, which has a similar landscape.

Astronomy / Space Science - Earth Sciences - 03.05.2018
Rumblings deep down in Mars
Rumblings deep down in Mars
On 5 May the lander 'InSight' will commence its journey to Mars from California. Its aim is to gather data to enable a better understanding of the formation and evolution of the Red Planet. One of the key instruments on the NASA mission is a seismometer, which was developed and built under the lead of France together with Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.

Earth Sciences - Environment - 30.04.2018
600 seismographs listen in on the Alps
600 seismographs listen in on the Alps
Switzerland coordinates an extensive network of 600 seismographs stretching from Perpignan to Prague.

Earth Sciences - 27.04.2018
Soils in Swiss nature reserves contain significant quantities of microplastics
Soils in Swiss nature reserves contain significant quantities of microplastics
It is one of the first research projects into the existence of microplastics in the soil: Scientists at the University of Bern investigated floodplain soils in Swiss nature reserves for microplastics - and made a find. They estimate, that there are around 53 tonnes of microplastics lying in the top five centimetres of the floodplain.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 10.04.2018
Arsenic and manganese contamination in Amazonia groundwater
Arsenic and manganese contamination in Amazonia groundwater
Faced with polluted river water, rural communities or aid agencies often drill groundwater wells to obtain water supplies. But data collected systematically for the first time in the Amazon basin show that this "solution" can create new problems: the groundwater may contain elevated concentrations of arsenic, manganese and aluminium - up to 70 times over the recommended limit in the case of arsenic, and up to 15 times for manganese.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 14.03.2018
Climate change drives mountain hares to higher altitudes
Climate change drives mountain hares to higher altitudes
A warming climate will shrink and fragment mountain hare habitat in the Swiss Alps. Populations are likely to decline as a result, concludes an international study led by the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). Specialised species like the mountain hare, adapted to life at high altitudes, are particularly affected by climate change.

Astronomy / Space Science - Earth Sciences - 07.03.2018
University of Basel tests camera for Mars rover
University of Basel tests camera for Mars rover
In 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) is sending a rover into space to examine the surface of Mars for signs of life. Its on-board equipment includes a high-resolution camera developed in Switzerland, and researchers from the University of Basel are currently testing the camera's operation in an artificial Martian landscape.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 05.03.2018
Sacrificing ground floors can save lives
Sacrificing ground floors can save lives
Disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes and dam failures are rare but can have devastating consequences on a country. A thesis at EPFL has shown that appropriate construction methods can substantially reduce the impact of such catastrophic events. Davide Wüthrich, a PhD student at EPFL, has just finished his thesis on methods for reducing the damage caused when a wave hits a building.

Earth Sciences - 01.02.2018

Earth Sciences - 09.01.2018
Evolution of Alpine landscape recorded by sedimentary rocks
Evolution of Alpine landscape recorded by sedimentary rocks
Rock avalanches and torrents started to form V-shaped valleys in the Alps approximately 25 million years ago. This landscape contrasts to the flat and hilly scenery, which characterized the Alps a few millions of years before. Geologists from the University of Bern applied digital technologies to unravel these changes in landscape evolution.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 24.11.2017
Are our lakes on the brink of suffocation?
Are our lakes on the brink of suffocation?
In order to gain insight into how lakes breathe, EPFL scientists have studied oxygen depletion in the depths of Lake Geneva - the first time such research has been carried out. By collecting key data, they were able to enhance their understanding of the lake's ecosystem and how it is likely to evolve over time.

Earth Sciences - Environment - 26.10.2017
The oceans were colder than we thought
The oceans were colder than we thought
A team of EPFL and European researchers has discovered a flaw in the way past ocean temperatures have been estimated up to now. Their findings could mean that the current period of climate change is unparalleled over the last 100 million years. According to the methodology widely used by the scientific community, the temperature of the ocean depths and that of the surface of the polar ocean 100 million years ago were around 15 degrees higher than current readings.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 19.10.2017
Hydroelectric power plants have to be adapted for climate change
Hydroelectric power plants have to be adapted for climate change
Of all the electricity produced in Switzerland, 56% comes from hydropower. The life span of hydroelectric plants, which are massive and expensive to build and maintain, is measured in decades, yet the rivers and streams they depend on and the surrounding environment are ever-changing.

Earth Sciences - 05.10.2017
Magma chambers have a sponge-like structure
Magma chambers have a sponge-like structure
ETH researchers show that magma chambers under supervolcanoes are more like soggy sponges than reservoirs of molten rock.

Earth Sciences - 10.05.2017
Continental crust thanks to the right mixture
Continental crust thanks to the right mixture
For the first time, ETH scientists have successfully recreated the formation of continental crust in the Archean using a computer simulation. The model helps us to better understand processes that took place three to four billion years ago. The present-day formation of continental crust can be investigated in the framework of plate tectonics; however, it is unclear how continental crust could have formed in the Archean, a period three to four billion years ago, when there was no plate tectonics.