Geology & Geophysics News

This Week: Glacier Mice and Melancholy Blossoms

What Earth and space science stories are we recommending this week?


Herd of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists. Okay, this made me smile: Moss balls live on glaciers, and scientists have found that they roll around in synch. Nicknamed “glacier mice,” the green balls of puffy moss aren’t attached to anything, but live perched on glaciers. Scientists figured they must move around to keep their rounded shape, so they tagged 30 moss balls and monitored them for a few months. They found that the colony of moss balls moved at the same speed and in the same directions, almost as though they were a herd. Moss balls travel, on average, an inch a day, and scientists still don’t know why. Winds, downhill slopes, and solar radiation couldn’t explain their movements. Picturing moss herds marching along a glacier is just too delightful!

Jenessa Duncombe, Staff Writer


Green glacier mice? It seems a bit of a mossy, fluffy story, but it turns out to be a fascinating puzzle: How do these globs of moss move across glaciers, sometimes an inch a day? I’m reminded of the Racetrack at Death Valley.

—Naomi Lubick, International Editor


Demo-2, Here We Go!

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching with anticipation as the United States prepares to launch astronauts from our home turf for the first time since 2011. I have my issues with the Artemis program, but I can’t deny that it’s exciting to see my country launch astronauts again—whenever it may happen. As I write this, on Wednesday morning, 27 May, there’s a “will they/won’t they” going on as Tropical Storm Bertha heads toward the East Coast. Everyone is crossing their fingers for a smooth and safe launch.

Kimberly Cartier, Staff Writer


The First Footprints on Mars Could Belong to This Geologist. If you’re looking for an inspiring and uplifting quick read, check out this fun interview with a member of NASA’s latest class of new astronauts, who also happens to be a planetary geologist and who could one day set foot on Mars.

Timothy Oleson, Science Editor


Splendid Isolation: A Surreal Sakura Season.

Woodblock print of a busy 19th-century Japanese street flanked by cherry blossoms
Japan’s usually bustling sakura season (flourishing here in 1849) was cut short this year by COVID-19. Credit: Utagawa Hiroshige/LACMA

I loved this sparkling riff on Japan’s millennia-long history of celebrating sakura (cherry blossoms). It’s geoscience as social history, art, commerce, identity, and the nature of melancholy.

Caryl-Sue, Managing Editor

Citation: AGU (2020), This week: Glacier mice and melancholy blossoms, Eos, 101, Published on 29 May 2020.
Text © 2020. AGU. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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