Earth Science

Courtney Gallaher’s Women in Science students at Northern Illinois University created quilt blocks representing astrophysicist Margaret J. Geller, biologist Rachel Carson, and mathematician Ada Lovelace.

Inside the Growing Movement to Share Science Through Quilting

The classic medium allows researchers, students and artists to tell stories about science, technology, engineering and math

The creation of clouds over forested areas shows that reforestation would likely be more effective at cooling Earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, a Princeton study says.

Planet Positive

Planting Trees Encourages Cloud Formation—and Efficiently Cools the Planet

New study examines cooling effect of clouds produced by deciduous forests under pressures of climate change

Lightning strikes the iconic Washington, D.C. landmark “twice per year on the high end and once every five years on the low end,” says meteorologist Chris Vagasky.

Watch a Bolt of Lightning Strike the Washington Monument

The iconic obelisk remains temporarily closed as workers repair an electronic access system damaged by the storm

The Humboldt Forum opened in the heart of Berlin on July 20.

Why Germany's Newly Opened Humboldt Forum Is So Controversial

Critics cite the Berlin museum's ties to the country's colonialist past

James Smithson was the Smithsonian’s founding donor, bequeathing approximately one ton of gold British sovereigns.

Smithsonian 175

Why Did James Smithson Leave His Fortune to the U.S. and More Questions From Our Readers

You've got questions. We've got experts

A proposed government plan will move the A303 highway, pictured here in the distance behind Stonehenge's iconic structures, underground. But Unesco warned in a report Monday that the efforts might endanger the site's OVU, or outstanding universal value.

Unesco Weighs Changes to Stonehenge's Cultural Heritage Status

A new report also cited Venice and the Great Barrier Reef as sites that might be placed on the World Heritage in Danger list

An artist’s illustration shows an asteroid hitting Earth. Large impactors hit the planet every one to three million years.

New Research of Impact Crater Blows Away Previous Estimates of Its Age

Scientists say the Boltysh crater in Ukraine formed well after the impact in Mexico that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct

A photo of the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii where scientists measure atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

New Research

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Reaches New High Despite Pandemic Emissions Reduction

Global carbon emissions in 2020 were lower than they were in 2019, but those reductions would need to be sustained for years to slow the climate crisis

Combining carbon dioxide and calcium creates calcium carbonate rocks such as limestone.

To Combat Climate Change, Researchers Want to Pull Carbon Dioxide From the Ocean and Turn It Into Rock

Running seawater through an ocean carbon capture plant could chemically convert carbon dioxide to limestone on a grand scale

Zircons are the oldest minerals in the world and come in colors like the rich blue above. Researchers have now used these gemstones to identify when modern plate tectonics began.

Smithsonian Voices

Earth's Oldest Minerals Hold Clues About the Likely Start of Plate Tectonics

New research reveals how one of Earth’s defining geologic features likely formed—and set the stage for the emergence of life

Iran's Lake Urmia, once one of the largest saltwater lakes in the world, is vanishing due to climate change.

Innovation for Good

Can Climate Fiction Writers Reach People in Ways That Scientists Can't?

A new subgenre of science fiction leans on the expertise of biologists and ecologists to imagine a scientifically plausible future Earth

The dunes of White Sands National Monument stretch for hundreds of miles in New Mexico.

How Extreme Temperature Swings in Deserts Stir Sand and Dust

Understanding the movement of particles, some of which enter the atmosphere, may help scientists improve climate models and forecast dust storms on Mars

Monday's dust storm left Beijing, China, in an orange haze (left). By Tuesday the air was much clearer (right).

Largest Dust Storm in More Than a Decade Blanketed China This Week

Air quality readings in Beijing reached dangerous levels while residents were urged to stay indoors

A fulgurite made of fused quartz found in Florida

Ancient Lightning May Have Sparked Life on Earth

More than a billion strikes a year likely provided an essential element for organisms

To investigate how these glowing clouds form, Richard Collins a space physicist, and his team in 2018 launched a suborbital rocket filled with water, known as NASA's Super Soaker Rocket, into the Alaskan sky to try and create an artificial polar mesospheric cloud.

To Study Night-Shining Clouds, NASA Used Its 'Super Soaker' Rocket to Make a Fake One

In summer months above the North and South Poles, glowing clouds occasionally form naturally at sunset under the right conditions

A polynya opens up in the Weddell Sea.

How Rivers in the Sky Melt Huge Holes in Antarctic Ice

New research is causing scientists to rethink how polynyas—massive openings in the sea ice—are formed

The study begins with fossilized Kauri trees (pictured) that died over 41,000 years ago.

New Research

Did an Ancient Magnetic Field Reversal Cause Chaos for Life on Earth 42,000 Years Ago?

The study links new, detailed data about Earth’s atmosphere to a series of unfortunate events that occurred around the same time

Fin whale songs are some of the loudest animals in the ocean, producing calls that can reach 189 decibels and are almost as loud as container ships.

New Research

Researchers Use Whale Calls to Probe Undersea Geology

The study finds that fin whale songs are powerful enough to reverberate through the Earth’s crust, allowing scientists to study its thickness and structure

This is a giant spindle magnetofossil, created by a mysterious creature over 50 million years ago. So far, the iron fossils have only been found during two periods of intense global warming.

Smithsonian Voices

New Way to Study Magnetic Fossils Could Help Unearth Their Origins

Now that scientists can detect these fossils in geologic materials faster, they will be able to look for past evidence of the fossils more efficiently

Soil samples collected throughout the western United States show the wide variety of minerals and colors belowground.

Art Meets Science

Meet the Soil Scientists Using Dirt to Make Stunning Paints

Professors in California and Wyoming use the unique palettes to teach geology

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