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Researchers reveal US corn crop’s growing sensitivity to drought

Like a baseball slugger whose home run totals rise despite missing more curveballs each season, the U.S. Corn Belt’s prodigious output conceals a growing vulnerability. A new Stanford study reveals that while yields have increased overall—likely due to new technologies and management approaches—the staple crop has become significantly more sensitive to drought conditions. The research, published Oct. 26 in Nature Food, uses a novel approach based on wide differences in the moisture-holding capabilities among soils. The analysis could help lay the groundwork for speeding development of approaches to increase agricultural resilience to climate change.

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The uncertain future of the oceans

The ocean plays a key role in the current climate change, as it absorbs a considerable part of the atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted by mankind. On the one hand, this slows down the heating of the climate, and on the other hand, the dissolution of CO2 in seawater leads to acidification of the oceans. This has far-reaching consequences for many marine organisms and thus also for the oceanic carbon cycle. One of the most important mechanisms in this cycle, is called the biological carbon pump. Part of the biomass that phytoplankton forms in the surface ocean through photosynthesis sinks to the depths in the form of small carbonaceous particles. As a result, the carbon is stored for a long time in the deep sea. The ocean thus acts as a carbon sink in the climate system. How strongly this biological pump acts varies greatly from region to region and depends on the composition of species in the ecosystem.

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Irregular appearances of glacial and interglacial climate states

During the last 2.6 million years of Earth’s climate has altered between glacial and interglacial states. As such, there have been times in which the transition between the two climate states appeared with either regular or irregular periodicity. AWI researcher Peter Köhler has now discovered that the irregular appearance of interglacials has been more frequent than previously thought. His study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Earth’s fundamental climate changes.

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Tiny moon shadows may harbor hidden stores of ice

Hidden pockets of water could be much more common on the surface of the moon than scientists once suspected, according to new research led by the University of Colorado Boulder. In some cases, these tiny patches of ice might exist in permanent shadows no bigger than a penny.

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Super-resolution microscopy and machine learning shed new light on fossil pollen grains

Plant biology researchers at the University of Illinois and computer scientists at the University of California Irvine have developed a new method of fossil pollen identification through the combination of super-resolution microscopy and machine learning. The team, led by Dr. Surangi Punyasena and Ms. Ingrid Romero (associate professor and graduate student in Plant Biology, respectively), developed and trained three convolutional neural network models to identify fossil pollen specimens from an unknown group of legumes.

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