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Earth Sciences News

<em>Eotiaris guadalupensis</em> fossil discovered by Jeffrey Thompson in the Smithsonian collections. Image courtesy of David Bottjer.

Oldest Urchin

November 9, 2015

Researchers have uncovered a sea urchin fossil that pushes back a fork in its family tree by 10 million years, according to a new study. A team from USC Dornsife found the fossil — Eotiaris guadalupensis — in…

James Moffett, professor of biological sciences and earth sciences, served as chief scientific officer for a recent ocean expedition that was the first to find dissolved iron as far as 2,500 miles from its source in hydrothermal vents. Photo by Darrin S. Joy.

Deep Sea Surprise

November 6, 2015

Iron is the single most abundant element on Earth. It’s also one of the most important for living organisms, which use it for myriad biological processes. An expedition in the South East Pacific Ocean may have found the…

Earthquakes and other disasters — both natural and man-made — pose a significant threat to lives and economies around the Pacific Rim. Photo courtesy of Walter D. Mooney/USGS.

Pacific Preparedness

October 23, 2015

Not far from Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, an alarm pierces the air. At a nearby elementary school, hundreds of children drop to the floor, scramble beneath their desks and hold on for dear life. It’s March 9, 2012, two…

NASA scientists recently announced data suggesting that there may be liquid water on Mars. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Shining Light on Mars

October 6, 2015

The red planet made a splash in the media this past week, due to the combined efforts of Ridley Scott’s film The Martian and NASA’s announcement of new evidence for the existence of water flowing on the surface of…

The Hebgen Lake earthquake, magnitude 7.1-7.3, struck southwestern Montana in August 1959, causing significant damage. Photo courtesy of USGS.

Strange Earthquakes

August 31, 2015

It’s not a huge mystery why Los Angeles experiences earthquakes. The city is right along a boundary between two tectonic plates — they shift, we shake. But what about places that aren’t along tectonic plate…

Material from landslides is filling up riverbeds with sediment. Photo by Greg Willis.

Quakes, Landslides, Now Floods?

July 28, 2015

For Nepal, the hits just keep coming. It started with a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April, which led to aftershocks that are ongoing even now. All of the shaking triggered what are estimated to be more than 5,000 landslides,…

Donn Gorsline, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at USC Dornsife, taught marine geology from 1962-98. Recognized as a major figure in his field, he is pictured here in 1986. Photo courtesy of USC University Archives.

In Memoriam: Donn Sherrin Gorsline, 88

June 3, 2015

Donn Sherrin Gorsline, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at USC Dornsife, has died. He was 88. Gorsline died at his home in Los Angeles on May 27. Considered by many as the leading marine geologist of the latter half of…

A tsunami caused by the San Andreas? Nope. Image from <em>San Andreas</em> courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Experts: Quake Movie a Bit Shaky

June 2, 2015

The new disaster flick San Andreas takes a harsh look at what might happen if the largest earthquake in history struck the West Coast: crumbling skyscrapers, a towering tsunami and gaping gashes in the ground. But could it…

Freeway collapses were among the damage from the 1994 Northridge quake, caused by a previously unknown fault. Photo courtesy of FEMA, by Robert Eplett.

Little-known Faults

June 1, 2015

Beneath Los Angeles rise peaks of staggering height — an unnamed mountain range standing nearly 2 miles tall. Though they rival the San Gabriels in stature, you can’t see them: They’re hidden beneath…

The jet stream over North America. Photo courtesy of

5 Factors Affecting California’s Drought

May 27, 2015

What conditions and factors prompted our drought? Why has it persisted? Why are we running out of water? Five experts — from USC Dornsife, USC Viterbi School of Engineering and USC Price School of Public Policy —…