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Tree rings may hold clues to earthly impacts of distant supernovas

Massive explosions of energy happening thousands of light-years from Earth may have left traces in our planet’s biology and geology, according to new research by CU Boulder geoscientist Robert Brakenridge. The study, published this month in the International Journal of Astrobiology, probes the impacts of supernovas, some of the most violent events in the known universe. To study those possible impacts, Brakenridge searched through the planet’s tree ring records for the fingerprints of these distant, cosmic explosions. While not conclusive, his findings suggest that relatively close supernovas could theoretically have triggered at least four disruptions to Earth’s climate over the last 40,000 years.

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After a nuclear war, the world’s emergency food supply could be seafood—if overfishing stops now

Scientists working with Nikki Lovenduski write in The Conversation: "As scientists who study the global marine fishery, we are particularly interested in the future supply of seafood. So when some colleagues approached us with the idea of studying the response of the global fishery to nuclear war, we thought it would be a fascinating, though grim topic. As expected, our research showed that nuclear war would have a negative impact on marine fish, although not as bad as we had initially thought. Surprisingly, we also found that marine fish could serve as a crucial global emergency food supply in times of crisis if marine ecosystems were in a healthy state to start with."

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Scientists explore how to protect fisheries, food supply in event of nuclear war

A new study reveals the damage that a nuclear war might take on wild-caught seafood around the world, from salmon to tuna and even shellfish. The aftermath of such a conflict could put a major strain on global food security, an international team of scientists reports. The group estimates that a nuclear war might cut the amount of seafood that fishing boats are capable of bringing in worldwide by as much as 30%. In short span of time, in other words, those impacts could rival the toll that climate change is taking on fisheries across the globe, said study coauthor Nicole Lovenduski.

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A new Cold War in the Himalaya: Asia’s water tower as a climate and geopolitical hotspot

Updates from last week's virtual conference, "The Himalayas: Geopolitics and Ecology of Melting Mountains," that brought together academics and researchers from around the world, including INSTAAR Alton Byers.

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Unprecedented energy use since 1950 has transformed our planetary environment & humanity’s footprint

A new study coordinated by CU Boulder makes clear the extraordinary speed and scale of increases in energy use, economic productivity and global population that have pushed the Earth towards a new geological epoch, known as the Anthropocene. Distinct physical, chemical and biological changes to Earth’s rock layers began around the year 1950, the research found. Led by Jaia Syvitski, CU Boulder professor emerita and former director of the Institute of Alpine Arctic Research (INSTAAR), the paper, published today in Nature Communications Earth and Environment, documents the natural drivers of environmental change throughout the past 11,700 years—known as the Holocene Epoch—and the dramatic human-caused shifts since 1950. Such planetary-wide changes have altered oceans, rivers, lakes, coastlines, vegetation, soils, chemistry and climate.

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For the love of peat

Trees versus peat as carbon sequesters: an example from Scotland.

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