The massive asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was even more devastating than anyone imagined

The massive asteroid that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs was one of the most significant events in Earth’s history, and without it there’s a really good chance humans might never have existed at all. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine how the space rock’s impact could have been even more devastating than scientists have assumed, but new research suggests exactly that, and paints an even more dire picture of what life was like on Earth in the years that followed.

Results of the study, which focused largely on the impact of the asteroid itself and the amount of various gasses that were ejected during the event, was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

To get an idea of just how dramatic the climate shift would have been in the days, months, and years following the impact, scientists have relied on computer models of the collision. The data comes from knowledge of the impact site, which is now the Chicxulub crater located near the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in present day Mexico.

Previous computer models of the asteroid strike were not as refined as the new version, which takes into account the speed of the gasses that were released. The velocity at which the various material was sent skyward has a huge impact on whether or not it was able to enter the atmosphere and affect the climate on a longer scale. The antiquated models simply assumed all gas that was ejected made it into the atmosphere, which doesn’t appear to have been the case.

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According to this newest round of data, the impact would have released significantly more sulfur gas than previously though, by a factor of three, which would have had a devastating effect on Earth’s temperatures. Previous estimates suggested the planet’s temperature plummeted by as much as 47 degrees Fahrenheit, which would have spelled doom for many, many species, but this new study hints that it might have been even colder than that.

It’s terrifying to consider what would happen to humanity if such an event were to take place today, and we’ve been incredibly fortunate to not have a repeat thus far, but we can never be certain what the future holds.

How NASA is tracking Tropical Storm Harvey

NASA is using a host of technology to track Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall again Wednesday.

The government agency is harnessing satellites and other platforms, including aircraft and even the International Space Station to provide continuous updates and new data on the storm.

NASA has used items such as the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on the agency’s Aqua satellite to capture clouds over Dallas. Data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite has been harnessed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland to capture the storm’s center of circulation with thunderstorms that are located in the center of Harvey, according to Phys.org. These thunderstorms have stretched as far east as Louisiana.

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“NASA focuses on developing new research capabilities that can be used by our partners in the operational and response communities,” said Dalia Kirschbaum, Research Physical Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in a statement. “While we continue to innovate in the type of information from satellites, models, and airborne platforms, the main focus is to ensure that the partners that are responding operationally to this event have the information in the format that they need to make effective decisions on emergency response.”

Kirschbaum added that NASA is continuing to make sure “that the data pipeline is as effective and useful as possible.”

NASA has also used its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the Aqua satellite to detail the flood threat from Harvey.

According to the data provided by AIRS, NASA was able to see the coldest cloud top temperatures and thunderstorms over the southern Texas coast, while also spotting an “area of intense precipitation” over southeast Louisiana.

As of Tuesday night, the storm had dumped nearly 52 inches of rain on the state of Texas, setting the preliminary record for a tropical storm, according to data from the National Weather Service.

The storm has done significant amounts of damage, with more expected to come. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approximately 30,000 have applied for mass care and medical care and 195,000 have applied for federal assistance.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also using heat maps to find trapped people, as well as taking surplus 911 calls, at the rate of 1,000 calls per hour.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this story.

PHOTO: NASA shows dramatic picture of massive new Antarctic iceberg

Multiple NASA satellites have captured images of the dramatic and long-awaited birth of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, which broke off an Antarctic ice shelf this week.

The enormous iceberg contains more than 1.1 trillion tons (1 trillion metric tons) of water and is about the size of Delaware. Its separation from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf occurred sometime between July 10 and today (July 12), and was first reported by scientists with the U.K.-based Project Midas, an Antarctic research group. The calving was confirmed by satellite images from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. [How Satellites Watched the New Iceberg’s Birth Over Time]

Now, images from NASA satellites show the iceberg’s gradual separation from the ice shelf. The crack in the ice shelf that formed the iceberg was first observed in the early 1960s, but remained dormant for decades, according to a statement from NASA. The animation above includes images going back to 2006, collected by NASA and the United States Geologic Survey’s Landsat satellites.

The rift in the ice shelf began to spread northward at a significant rate in 2014, and its progress accelerated in 2016, leading scientists to assume it would eventually create a separate iceberg. Between June 24 and 27, the speed of rift tripled, according to scientists with the Midas Project.

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In November 2016, the rift was estimated to be about 300 feet (91 m) wide and 70 miles (112 km) long. Measurements from this summer put the rift at 124 miles (200 km) long.

The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite use thermal data to show temperature differences in the ice and seawater. In a false-color image taken today (July 12), the crack that created the iceberg is visible as a thin, pink line down the mostly purple ice sheet. The warmer temperature of the crack indicates that ocean water lies not far below the surface.

The Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) on the Landsat 8 satellite also captured temperature data on June 17. The false-color image shows the slightly warmer crack (light blue) running through the very cold ice shelf (mostly white). The image shows warmer areas in orange, including regions of very thin sea ice. [Landsat: Four Decades of Images and Data]

The Larsen C ice shelf is a floating ice shelf, which means the separation of the iceberg will not cause ocean levels to rise, unlike icebergs that calf from land-based ice shelves. Scientists with the Midas Project said they have not found evidence that the iceberg’s formation was directly caused by climate change. However, the scientists said in a statement that this is the farthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history, and they are “going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”

Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield . Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .

Scientific mystery: Beneath Mount St. Helens lies a heart of cold stone

In a June 7, 2015 photo, Mount St. Helens is visible from a trail near Cougar, Wash. The first new hiking trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in two decades opened in 2014 and delivered something that had been missing in the Ape Cave area--a view of the volcano.

In a June 7, 2015 photo, Mount St. Helens is visible from a trail near Cougar, Wash. The first new hiking trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in two decades opened in 2014 and delivered something that had been missing in the Ape Cave area–a view of the volcano.  (Craig Hill/The News Tribune via AP)

Mount St. Helens already stands out as one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Arc and the deadliest in the US, since its 1980 eruption claimed nearly 60 lives.

It’s also an outlier in a literal sense, sitting 30 miles west of the volcanoes that neatly line the Cascade Arc from north to south. Now scientists are reporting in the journal Nature Communications that they’ve discovered another oddity: The volcano appears to be perched atop what Gizmodo calls “a cool wedge of serpentine rock”—dramatically unlike the fiery cauldrons of hot magma beneath other volcanoes.

“We don’t have a good explanation for why that’s the case,” Steve Hansen, a geoscientist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, tells Gizmodo. His team drilled a couple dozen holes, filled them with explosives, and triggered minor earthquakes to watch seismic wave activity beneath Mount St.

Helens, “a bit like a CAT scan,” Hansen says. But their findings leave them with more questions, namely: What’s the volcano’s heat source, if it’s not right below the volcano itself? Hansen surmises that it’s coming from further east, but until his team does more research, it’s what Science News is calling “a cold case.” (Earlier this year, there were dozens of small quakes on the mountain every week.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Beneath Mount St. Helens, a Heart of (Cold) Stone

One of our largest water sources contains toxic salt, too much arsenic

A woman collects water from a tube-well in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in April.

A woman collects water from a tube-well in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in April.(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

A river basin in southern Asia is so enormous that 750 million people rely on it for their groundwater. Now, a new study in Nature Geoscience presents an equally staggering stat: 60% of that water is unfit for drinking or farming because it’s contaminated by salt or arsenic, reports the Guardian.

About 23% of the groundwater in the Indo-Gangetic Basin to a depth of 650 feet is too salty—an issue perhaps caused by poor farmland irrigation or drainage—and another 37% is tainted by toxic levels of arsenic, researchers say.

Like salt, arsenic is present naturally, but levels can spike with mining and the use of fertilizers. The basin, so named because it’s near the Indus and Ganges rivers, serves people in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, and it accounts for one-quarter of the world’s groundwater.

“Elevated arsenic is primarily a concern for drinking water, while salinity affects irrigation and also the acceptability of groundwater for drinking,” the researchers say, per International Business Times.

However, researchers say that “deep tube wells” could penetrate deeper into the basin to pull out non-contaminated water, per Nature World News. Perhaps the only good news from the report is that the amount of water in the basin remained relatively stable, in contrast to other groundwater sources around the world.

(Testing has found issues with 2,000 US water systems.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: One of Our Largest Water Sources Is Contaminated

This tree started growing during the Viking age

By Tia Ghose, Senio
r Writer Published August 24, 2016
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"Adonis," A Bosnian Pine living high in the mountains of Greece, is Europe's oldest officially dated tree, at 1,075 years.
“Adonis,” A Bosnian Pine living high in the mountains of Greece, is Europe’s oldest officially dated tree, at 1,075 years. (Dr Oliver Konter, Mainz)
Europe’s oldest officially dated tree has been uncovered in Greece, and despite living more than a millennium (and counting!), it doesn’t look a day over 200.

The tree, dubbed “Adonis” by the scientists who discovered it, is a Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) that took root in A.D. 941, high in the Pindus mountains of Greece. (In ancient Greek mythology, Adonis was the god of beauty, youth and desire.)

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“It is quite remarkable that this large, complex and impressive organism has survived so long in such an inhospitable environment, in a land that has been civilized for over 3,000 years,” Paul J. Krusic, a dendrochronologist at Stockholm University in Sweden, and the leader of the expedition that found the tree, said in a statement. (Dendrochronology is the study of tree-ring dating.) [Nature’s Giants: Photos of the Tallest Trees on Earth]

The venerable tree lives within a pristine forest of ancient pines that are nearly as old, the researchers said.

Grove of ancient trees
Researchers first discovered the tree during a research trip run by the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), which was analyzing tree rings for evidence of the region’s past climate. Krusic had first heard about this grove of ancient trees while studying for his thesis, but it was only recently that he was able to visit.

To determine Adonis’ true age, the team drilled a core from the tree that reached from its heart to the outer bark. Then, they counted the tree rings, which alternate by season. The thickness and color of tree rings can also reveal clues about the historical climate. To officially date the tree, the team also compared Adonis’ tree rings to those of its neighbors in the forest. Because trees occasionally have skipped rings or lay down extra rings because of drought or other environmental conditions, comparing a tree to nearby ones to account for such anomalies is the only way to get an accurate estimate of a tree’s age from its rings, Krusic told Live Science.

When the researchers tallied up the rings, they found that Adonis was an impressive 1,075 years old and had a core of 3.3 feet (1 meter). When Adonis was just a seedling in A.D. 941, the Vikings were still raiding the European coastlines.

Still, while the Greek tree is incomprehensibly old compared to the average human or even the oldest living animal, it is a young whipper snapper compared to other European trees believed to be older, yet not officially dated. For instance, the oldest tree in Europe, the Llangernyw yew tree in Wales, is thought to be at least 3,000 years old, while Kongeegen (or the “king’s tree”) in Denmark’s royal hunting forest is thought to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.

The world’s oldest tree, an unnamed bristlecone pine that lives high up in the White Mountains in California, is more than 5,000 years old, while dozens of giant sequoias in California are thought to be between 3,000 and 3,500 years old.

Meanwhile, a clonal colony of quaking aspen in Utah called Pando is thought to be at least 80,000 years old. (Clonal colonies are made up of groups of genetically identical creatures.)

Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Devastating plant fungus may eradicate bananas within five years

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Cavendish bananas are the most popular variety in the U.S. But they are facing a deadly fungal disease compound. (AP)

If you love bananas, better buy all the bunches you can because the sweet yellow fruit you know and love might be extinct within the next five to 10 years.

According to plant pathologist Ioannis Stergiopoulos, a fast-advancing disease compound, known as the Sigatoka complex, could be a lethal threat to the world’s banana supply.

The Sigatoka complex is made up of three fungal diseases — yellow Sigatoka, eumusae leaf spot and black Sigatoka.

Of the three, black Sigatoka poses the greatest risk to the 100 million tonnes of bananas grown annually in almost 120 countries.

To understand how the fungi attack, Mr Stergiopoulos sequenced the genomes of eumusae leaf spot and black Sigatoka, and then compared results with the previously sequenced yellow Sigatoka genome.

What he found was the three fungal diseases not only shut down the immune system of the banana tree, but the metabolism of the fungi also adapted to match that of the host plant.

This means the fungi can produce enzymes to break down the plant’s cell walls to feed on its sugars and other carbohydrates.

“We have demonstrated that two of the three most serious banana fungal diseases have become more virulent by increasing their ability to manipulate the banana’s metabolic path ways and make use of its nutrients,” he told Digg.

“This parallel change in metabolism of the pathogen and the host plant has been overlooked until now and may represent a ‘molecular fingerprint’ of the adaptation process.

“It is really a wake-up call to the research community to look at similar mechanisms between pathogens and their plant hosts.”

Mr Stergiopoulos pointed out Cavendish bananas — those most commonly found in the supermarket — are grown from shoot cuttings, which means a disease capable of wiping out one plant could destroy them all.

“The Cavendish banana plants all originated from one plant and so as clones, they all have the same genotype — and that is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Mr Stergiopoulos suggested the ready availability of bananas gives them an “image problem” because consumers think the supply will never cease to exist.

In order to prevent the global banana industry from being wiped out in the next decade, farmers need to make 50 fungicide applications to their banana crops annually.

“Thirty to 35 per cent of banana production cost is in fungicide applications,” he said.

“Because many farmers can’t afford the fungicide, they grow bananas of lesser quality, which bring them less income.”

Despite the negative outlook, there is the possibility scientists can create a defense against the complex. In 2001, Australia’s largest banana production area – Tully in far north Queensland – was close to extinction after Black sigatoka was discovered.

An intense de-leafing programme was undertaken for the entire production area within a 50-kilometre radius. Additionally, Tully growers conducted a weekly aerial spraying campaign, covering some 4,500 hectares. In 2003, a team of scientists confirmed a world-first had been completed, with the Black sigatoka being completely eradicated.

However, as this complex is made up of three fungal diseases, it might not be so easy to destroy.

The discovery was reported online in PLOS Genetics.

Stunning photo captures ‘dinosaur lightning’

Lightning in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on July 26, 2013.

Lightning in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on July 26, 2013. (NPS/Hallie Larsen)

The U.S. Department of Interior has shared a stunning photo on their Twitter feedthat shows a jagged bolt of lightning that evokes the shape of a tyrannosaurus rex.

A spokesperson for the department tells FoxNews.com that the photo was taken on July 26, 2013, in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park.

Credit goes to the National Park Service’s Hallie Larsen, who took the striking photograph.

Scientists discover hidden Antarctic lake

File photo - A satellite view of Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2012. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

File photo – A satellite view of Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2012. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

A large, ribbon-shaped lake may be hiding beneath the ice that covers Antarctica, and it may contain countless life forms – unlike any others on earth – that have been trapped, undisturbed, in the frozen continent for millions of years.

Scientists presented radar data that suggest the presence of the lake at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna last week.

The lake, presumed to be lying in a massive canyon system along the continent’s eastern coast in Princess Elizabeth Land, is thought to be 87 miles long and 12 miles wide – much smaller than Lake Vostok, which at 160 x 30 miles is Antarctica’s largest subglacial lake.

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But the new lake, if confirmed, lies only 62 miles from the nearest research base, which would make it much more accessible than Vostok, which is in a very remote area of the frozen continent.

“We’ve seen these strange, linear channels on the surface, and are inferring these are above massive, 1000-kilometer-long channels, and there’s a relatively large subglacial lake there too,” Martin Siegert of Imperial College of London, a member of the team that collected the data, told New Scientist.

A group of researchers from China and the U.S. flew over the area recently to collect ice-penetrating radar images. Scientists are optimistic that a review of their data next month will confirm the existence of the lake.

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“It’s the last un-researched part of Antarctica, so it’s very exciting news, but it’s still tentative pending full confirmation,” Bryn Hubbard of the University of Aberystwyth, U.K., told New Scientist.

Other subglacial Antarctic lakes have revealed numerous life forms that have been buried, untouched, under the ice for millions of years. Scientists say the discovery of microbes and single-cell organisms frozen in ice raises the possibility that similar life may be found in ice on the moon, or in the polar ice cap of Mars, or on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Siegert said the lake’s proximity to the research base will make it much easier for scientists to investigate its biology.

Hiding in the Amazon’s muddy waters, a massive reef

File photo - Virgin Amazon jungle is seen in this aerial photo taken over Mato Grosso State, one of the Brazilian states of greatest deforestation, May 18, 2005 (REUTERS/Rickey Rogers).

File photo – Virgin Amazon jungle is seen in this aerial photo taken over Mato Grosso State, one of the Brazilian states of greatest deforestation, May 18, 2005 (REUTERS/Rickey Rogers).

You don’t hear a lot of good news about coral reefs these days, so the the discovery of more than 3,600 square miles of undiscovered reef at the mouth of the Amazon River is a pretty big deal.

The Atlantic reports researchers in the 1970s caught a few types of fish that indicated a reef might be present along the coast of northeastern Brazil, but it wasn’t taken seriously.

The waters at the mouth of the Amazon are some of the muddiest in the world, according to the Guardian. Sediment and other debris from all over South America are rocketed hundreds of miles out to sea, blocking the sunlight believed necessary for coral reefs to form.

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Even so, a Brazilian oceanographer hitched a ride on an unrelated research mission and convinced them to hunt for the rumored reef. The result of that expedition, which was announced Friday, was a 600-mile-long reef of coral and sponges containing 73 species of fish, 60 species of sponges, and more.

Researcher Patricia Yager tells the Atlantic she was “flabbergasted” to find a reef where conditions seemed to preclude its existence. But that existence—under environmentally difficult conditions—could be a great sign for the future of reefs currently being threatened by climate change.

(Nearly the entire Great Barrier Reef is currently suffering from coral bleaching and much of it may not recover, Science Alert reports.) Unfortunately for the new reef, its existence is only getting more difficult.

The Brazilian government is allowing dozens of oil drilling operations essentially on top of the newly discovered reef. (Under Yellowstone, scientists found an enormous magma reservoir.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: The Amazon’s Muddy Waters Have Been Hiding a Massive Reef