‘Hidden’ magma pools under volcanoes may pose alarming eruption threats

A recent study of Iceland's Krafla volcanic caldera suggests hidden magma pools may be lurking under many of the world's volcanic systems.

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  • The study analyzed magma collected from a 2009 incident in which geothermal drillers encountered magma that geophysical surveys failed to detect.
  • Currently, magma imaging technology can't accurately detect magma pools under a certain size.
  • Hidden magma pools pose safety concerns because magma from other sources might combine with the hidden magma, which could trigger unexpectedly explosive eruptions.
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160-million-year-old ‘Monkeydactyl’ was the first animal to develop opposable thumbs

The 'Monkeydactyl' was a flying reptile that evolved highly specialized adaptations in the Mesozoic Era.

Credit: Zhou et al.
  • The 'Monkeydactly', or Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, was a species of pterosaur, a group of flying reptiles that were the first vertebrates to evolve the ability of powered flight.
  • In a recent study, a team of researchers used microcomputed tomography scanning to analyze the anatomy of the newly discovered species, finding that it was the first known species to develop opposable thumbs.
  • As highly specialized dinosaurs, pterosaurs boasted unusual anatomy that gave them special advantages as aerial predators in the Mesozoic Era.
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A new warning sign to predict volcanic eruptions?

Satellite imagery can help better predict volcanic eruptions by monitoring changes in surface temperature near volcanoes.

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  • A recent study used data collected by NASA satellites to conduct a statistical analysis of surface temperatures near volcanoes that erupted from 2002 to 2019.
  • The results showed that surface temperatures near volcanoes gradually increased in the months and years prior to eruptions.
  • The method was able to detect potential eruptions that were not anticipated by other volcano monitoring methods, such as eruptions in Japan in 2014 and Chile in 2015.
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The evolution of modern rainforests began with the dinosaur-killing asteroid

The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.

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  • One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
  • A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
  • The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.
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Lightning strikes will double in Arctic as climate warms

The uptick in Arctic lightning could cause more wildfires, potentially triggering a feedback loop that releases massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

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  • In recent years, researchers have recorded unusually high numbers of lightning strikes and wildfires in Arctic regions.
  • A new study explored how increased lightning could cause a "lightning-fire-vegetation feedback loop" that could accelerate permafrost loss.
  • To better monitor changing conditions in the Arctic, the researchers called for more high-quality lightning monitoring systems.
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