The sixth mass extinction—the one that seven billion humans are doing their darnedest to trigger at this very moment—is shaping up to be like nothing our planet has ever seen. That’s the conclusion of a sweeping new analysis, which compared marine fossil records from Earth’s five previous mass extinction events to…
For the record, planet Earth is still in the Holocene.
We’ve heard a lot of buzz recently about the Anthropocene, the geologic epoch of man and machine. Does it exist? Are we in it right now? Later this summer, the International Stratigraphic Union will convene and attempt to answer these weighty questions.
Something strange is happening to the oceans. As coral reefs wither and fisheries collapse, octopuses are multiplying like mad. As soon as they perceive weakness, they will amass an army and invade the land, too.
How the dinosaurs went extinct is a contentious topic of endless scientific debate. Were they killed by a giant asteroid, a rash of volcanic eruptions, or some deadly combination of the two? Or, perhaps, we’ve been thinking about the problem all wrong.
Africa is one of the last great holdouts for charismatic megafauna. But as the human population continues to grow and industrialize, lions, zebras, and elephants are being edged out of existence. A harrowing new series by photographer Nick Brandt makes this transformation visceral.
A vast region of Greenland is experiencing a freakishly early spring thaw. Summer-like temperatures—a balmy 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit)—have created a melt area encompassing 12 percent of the planet’s northernmost ice sheet, according to analysis by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI). That’s not…
Something strange is happening to our planet. Around the year 2000, the North rotational pole started migrating eastward at a vigorous clip. Now, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have figured out what’s going on—and you’ll be shocked to learn that humans are behind it.
History has a way of repeating itself. Humans are currently conducting a grand experiment with Earth’s climate, but the outcome of that experiment may be foretold. According to Penn State climate scientist Richard Alley, the future—or a somewhat diluted version of it—happened 55.9 million years ago.
If we want to know what sorts of creatures will survive the next mass extinction, the best place to look is the fossil record. After examining the bones of Lystrosaurus, a vertebrate that famously thrived during the worst apocalypse in the history of life on Earth, a team of paleontologists think they know how it…
The tale of Europeans explorers’ arrival in the Americas is a dark one, colored 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.
For years, the term “Anthropocene” has been used to informally describe the human era on Earth. But new evidence suggests there’s nothing informal about it. We’re a true force of nature — and there’s good reason to believe we’ve sparked a new and unprecedented geological epoch.
Human beings are having an overwhelming impact on Earth’s ecosystems, whether we’re pouring plastic into the ocean or filling the skies with carbon. But it’s not just modern society that’s to blame — our environmental legacy stretches way back into history. Since dawn of civilization, we’ve caused nearly half of the…
Earth is the only planet in our Solar System where life is known to exist. Note the use of the word “known,” which indicates that our knowledge of the Solar System is still in its infancy, and the search for life continues. However, from all observable indications, Earth is the only place in our Solar System where…
Landfills, E-waste piles, and ocean garbage patches are a part of our world we’d rather not see, but these eyesores aren’t going away. Rather than simply accept that our planet is being swallowed by garbage, one artist has started turning this discarded junk into something beautiful.
The Anthropocene, for the uninitiated, is a proposed (albeit still informal) geological epoch, characterized by the global impact of human activity. But the question these days, at least among researchers concerned with such things, doesn't have to do with what the Anthropocene is, but when.
And tomorrow's Americans will be louder, still.
Using 24 key social, economic, and environmental indicators, our friend Félix Pharand-Deschênes has created a dashboard that shows how human pressure on planet Earth is reaching critical level. Fast. The acceleration shown over the last 60 years is absolutely crazy. Zoom in. Freak out.
When most of us think of what humans will leave behind when we go, we imagine skeleton buildings or toxic landfills. But according to some geologists, the longest-lasting impact we'll have on Earth is actually beneath our feet—in the form millions of tunnels, deep boreholes, and mines.
Our planet has been witness to plenty of strange weather happenings recently, from devastating floods to the polar vortex. These events are providing a glimpse of what it was like during the pre-Holocene era — a time of volatility and destruction. But it could also be a demonstration of where climate change is taking…