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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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Someday, even wet forests could burn due to climate change

Millions of years ago, fire swept across the planet, fueled by an oxygen-rich atmosphere in which even wet forests burned, according to new research by new PhD graduate F. Garrett Boudinot and Julio Sepúlveda. The study, published today in Nature Geoscience, provides geochemical evidence showing that forest fires expanded dramatically, potentially burning up to 30 or 40 percent of global forests during a 100,000 year interval more than 90 million years ago. While today's fires are exacerbated by dry conditions, they found that forest fires during this period increased even in wet regions due to changes in global climate.

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Tracing past glacial floods in Kangchenjunga

Satellite imagery is useful, but involving local people in research can often help fill gaps in research of glacial floods. Article by Alton Byers in the Nepali Times shares some of the detailed knowledge of local residents who witnessed glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) over the last four decades in the Kangchenjunga area of Nepal.

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Increase in fresh water in Arctic Ocean could affect global climate systems

A new study, led by Alexandra Jahn, shows increased precipitation and ice melt caused by climate change have left Arctic waters less salty. Repercussions will be felt much farther south.

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Agriculture replaces fossil fuels as largest human source of sulfur in the environment

A new paper in Nature Geoscience identifies fertilizer and pesticide applications to croplands as the largest source of sulfur in the environment—up to 10 times higher than the peak sulfur load seen in the second half of the 20th century, during the days of acid rain. As a result, Eve-Lyn Hinckley, John Crawford, and their coauthors recommend greatly expanded monitoring of sulfur and examining possible negative impacts of this increase, including increasing levels of mercury in wetlands, soil degradation and a higher risk for asthma for populations in agricultural areas.

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