Scientists Just Measured the Drought that May Have Brought Down the Ancient Maya

The ancient Maya were an innovative people. They constructed intricate cities throughout the tropical lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, communicated using one of the world’s first written languages, and created two calendar systems by studying the stars. But despite their achievements, the thriving Mayan civilisation mysteriously collapsed sometime between the eighth and ninth centuries. We still don’t know exactly why. Read More >>

The Black Death May Have Had a Surprising Effect on the Environment

From 1347 to 1351, a nightmare disease ravaged Europe, afflicting victims with putrid black boils, fevers, vomiting, and in short order, death. Daily life ground to a halt as the Black Death spread along medieval trade routes, claiming an estimated 20 million lives with ruthless efficiency. Now, a team of researchers is asserting that the plague had an unexpected impact: clearing the air of a toxic pollutant for the first time in over a thousand years. Read More >>

The Greenland Ice Sheet May Be Far Less Stable Than We Thought

The Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea levels 24 feet should it all melt. And a massive melt-out is exactly what seems to have happened about a million years ago, according to a groundbreaking analysis of a unique geologic sample from Greenland’s rocky underbelly. Read More >>

Our Atmosphere Is Leaking Oxygen and Scientists Don’t Know Why

It’s nothing to lose sleep over—really, I promise—but Earth’s atmosphere is leaking oxygen. Atmospheric oxygen levels have dropped by 0.7 per cent over the past 800,000 years, and while scientists aren’t sure why, they’re rather excited about it. Read More >>

The Day After Tomorrow Happened 30,000 Years Ago

Toward the end of the last ice age, Earth’s climate was a turbulent beast, warming up and chilling out again every 1,500 years. Research published today in Science links these abrupt temperature swings to changes ocean circulation, filling an important gap in our understanding of past climate change. Read More >>

Carbon Emissions Haven’t Been This High Since Dinosaurs Went Extinct

Carbon hasn’t entered our atmosphere this quickly in at least 66 million years – since an asteroid slammed into our planet and wiped out the dinosaurs, or perhaps even earlier. Our addiction to fossil fuels has pushed the planet into a “no-analogue” state that’s “likely to result in widespread future extinctions”, an exceedingly humourless study published in Nature Geoscience concludes. Read More >>

We Were Wrong About What Happened After Europeans Reached America

The tale of Europeans explorers’ arrival in the Americas is a dark one, coloured by slavery, slaughter, and smallpox. But a new study calls key details of that story into question, including how quickly Native American societies succumbed to disease, and how Earth’s climate responded. Read More >>

A Vast River Network Once Crisscrossed the Sahara

The Sahara is about the worst place on Earth to find water today, but that wasn’t always the case. Thousands of years ago, its sandy dune fields were lush and verdant. A new scientific paper helps explain why: the Western Sahara used to be irrigated by a vast river network. Read More >>