News aggregator

Antarctic Sea Ice Affects Ocean Circulation - Europa Press

Featured News - Tue, 06/28/2016 - 12:00
A new study led by Lamont's Ryan Abernathey shows how sea ice migration around Antarctica be more important for global ocean overturning circulation than previously thought. (In Spanish)

Predictions of More Blazing Heat, Drought and Fires in the West - Washington Post

Featured News - Thu, 06/23/2016 - 12:00
The burning sensation in the southwestern United States was diagnosed by climate scientists more than a year ago, the Washington Post writes. The Post cites research by Lamont-Doherty scientist Park William into connections between the California drought and climate change.

California Firefighters Wrangle With Dead Trees - KQED

Featured News - Wed, 06/22/2016 - 12:00
California's overworked firefighters are being forced to take on another task — clearing dead and dying trees. John Upton talks with Lamont's Park Williams about the role of drought and rising temperatures.

Greenland's Vast Melt and Its Influence on Atlantic Circulation - Washington Post

Featured News - Mon, 06/20/2016 - 12:00
High-resolution ocean models that can capture eddies are extremely important for understanding the fate of freshwater in the sea around Greenland, says Lamont's Marco Tedesco.

Water Vapor vs Carbon Dioxide: Which 'Wins' In Climate Warming? - Forbes

Featured News - Mon, 06/20/2016 - 11:33
The fact that water vapor is the dominant absorber in the Earth’s greenhouse effect can lead to a flawed narrative about the role of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) as driver of climate warming. Lamont's Adam Sobel helps explain.

The 6 cent speeding ticket

Chasing Microbes in Antarctica - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:51

I’m going to go way of the normal track here and do a bit of social commentary.  I heard a radio piece on my drive home yesterday about the challenge of paying court and legal fees for low income wage earners.  This can trap those guilty of minor offenses (like a traffic infraction) in a cycle of jail and debt that is difficult to break out of.  It never made sense to me that financial penalties – which by their nature are punitive – don’t scale with income, as is common in some European countries.  I decided to try and visualize how the weight of a penalty for say, a speeding ticket, scales with income.  It was tempting to try and scale up, i.e. what is the equivalent of $300 for someone earning $X?  I decided however, that it would be more informative to try and scale down.

Cost equivalent in minimum wage earner dollars of a $300 penalty for individuals at different income levels. Red text is the cost equivalent (y-axis value). X-axis (income) is on a log scale. See text for income data sources.

In this scenario the penalty is $300.  Someone earning the federal minimum wage and working 40 hours a week makes $15,080/year, so the $300 penalty is roughly 2 % of annual income.  So be it, perhaps that’s a fair penalty.  But what would be the equivalent if the same offender earned more?  A private/seaman/airman who has just joined the military earns roughly $18,561/year.  Paying the same ticket (and I know from experience that the military pays a lot of them) would equate to the minimum wage earner paying $243.72.  A graduate student fortunate enough to get a stipend (and own a car) might earn $25,000/year.  Paying the same ticket would be equivalent to the lowest wage earner paying $180.96, and down it goes along the income scale.  If LeBron James, who earned $77.2 million last year in salary and endorsements (according to Forbes), got the ticket, the penalty would be equivalent to the lowest income wage earner paying $0.06.  Salary data came from a variety of sources, including here and here.  Salaries marked with an asterisk in the plot above are medians from these sources.

Sea Ice Retreat May Accelerate Greenland Melting - Science

Featured News - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:30
Last summer the northern parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced record melting as summer temperatures rose as high as 66°F. Now, a group of scientists led by Lamont's Marco Tedesco has linked the melt pattern with a high-pressure vortex, known as a block, that loitered north of the island during June and July 2015, wreaking weather havoc. Some researchers say such atmospheric blocks are expected to result from melting sea ice.

The Weird Weather that Entrenched California's Drought - Climate Central

Featured News - Tue, 06/14/2016 - 12:28
Climate change has pushed up average temperatures by nearly 2°F worldwide. Most of California was warmer than that from March through May, with some patches of the state more than 4°F warmer than average. “This does not look like a typical El Niño year out West,” said Lamont's Ben Cook.

Globalized Economy More Susceptible to Weather Extremes, Scientists Warn - Reuters

Featured News - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 17:44
The globalization of the world's economy this century has made it far more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather, including heat stress on workers, according to a new study from Lamont's Anders Levermann.

Warmer Arctic, Melting Glaciers Accelerating Greenland Ice Loss - CBC

Featured News - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 12:00
2015 was a record year for high temperatures and melting glaciers in western Greenland, an effect that is amplifying itself and could lead to accelerated warming in the Arctic, new research from Lamont's Marco Tedesco explains.

A New Solution to Carbon Pollution? - Science

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 18:03
Researchers working in Iceland, including Lamont's Martin Stute, say they have discovered a new way to trap the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide deep underground by changing it into rock.

Martin Stute: Putting CO2 Away for Good by Turning It to Stone - The Conversation

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 17:00
Lamont's Martin Stute writes about the CarbFix project in Iceland, where he has been working with other scientists and engineers to capture CO2 emissions and create permanent storage by turning CO2 to stone.

Weird Jet Stream Behavior Could Be Making Greenland's Melting Even Worse - Washington Post

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 16:00
Reanalyzing Greenland's last melt season, Lamont's Marco Tedesco found something odd and worrying. Greenland had shown much more unusual melting in its colder northern stretches than in the warmer south, and that this had occurred because of very strange behavior in the atmosphere above it.

Is Wacky Weather Helping Melt Greenland? - Science

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 15:24
A new analysis of the Greenland Ice Sheet led by Lamont's Marco Tedesco points to an underappreciated culprit that could accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet: wind.

Iceland Carbon Capture Project Quickly Converts Carbon Dioxide Into Stone - Smithsonian Magazine

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 14:27
A pilot in Iceland project that sought to demonstrate that carbon dioxide emissions could be locked up by turning them into rock appears to be a success. Smithsonian Magazine talked with Lamont's Juerg Matter, who has been involved in the project, and Dave Goldberg.

Iceland Carbon Dioxide Storage Project Locks Away Gas, and Fast - New York Times

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 14:20
Lamont scientists have come up with a way to store carbon dioxide that dissolves the gas with water and pumps the resulting mixture — soda water, essentially — down into certain kinds of rocks, where the CO2 reacts with the rock to form a mineral called calcite. By turning the gas into stone, scientists can lock it away permanently.

Climate Change Could Force Huge Migrations Near the Equator - Washington Post

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 12:00
New research from Lamont's Adam Sobel and alumnus Solomon Hsiang suggests that even a moderate amount of warming could force populations in the tropics to undergo huge migrations — longer journeys than they would have to take if they lived anywhere else on the planet.

Study Links Greenland Melting with 'Arctic Amplification' - UPI

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 10:43
New research led by Lamont's Marco Tedesco links Greenland's 2015 record temperatures and melting with the phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.

Arctic's Melting Ice Creates Vicious Warming Circle - USA Today

Featured News - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 05:58
As Arctic sea ice hit a record low, scientists led by Lamont's Marco Tedesco announced the first link between melting ice in Greenland and a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification, the faster warming of the Arctic compared to the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.

Photo Essay: Seeking Humanity’s Roots

East Africa’s rift valley is considered by many to be the cradle of humanity. In the Turkana region of northwest Kenya, researchers Christopher Lepre and Tanzhuo Liu of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are cooperating with colleagues to study questions of human evolution, from the creation of the earliest stone tools to climate swings that have affected developing civilizations. Startling new discoveries are coming from this region at a rapid pace. Here are images from a recent field expedition. READ THE FULL SCIENTIFIC STORY or WATCH A VIDEO

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Northwest Kenya's Turkwel River runs through ancient lands where many key fossils and artifacts left by early humans have come to light. The region is now inhabited by the Turkana people. Near sunset, three boys frolic on their way to fetch water. Further south, at a site called Olorgesalie, professional fossil hunter Bonface Kimeu visits some of thousands of stone axes left by proto-humans who lived here 500,000 to 1 million years ago. Bonface's father, Kamoya Kimeu, has found many of the world's most important fossils; these include a 1.6 million-year-old Homo erectus skeleton dubbed Turkana Boy, still the most complete early human remains ever found.  The Turkana region once had a climate hospitable for humans and their ancestors; now it is brutally hot and dry. Here, a local man crosses what was a lakebed as little as 5,000 years ago. The present-day Turkana people survive mainly by herding goats and camels. Near the Turkwel River, Lamont-Doherty geologist Christopher Lepre surveys layers of rocks and sediments dating back about 3.6 million years. In many places, wind, water and tectonic forces have shredded the surface into badlands, exposing many sequences across time--ideal for finding fossils and artifacts. "You get the whole human story in this one small place," says Lepre. Lamont-Doherty geochemist Tanzhuo Liu inspects eroding sediments left by a long-gone lakebed. Off near the horizon, what was probably once an island where thousands of years ago people erected stone monoliths and harpooned fish. Most research in the remote region is based out of the Turkana Basin Institute, which provides facilities for scientists. A wall at the institute documents the stream of major discoveries coming out of here. Until 2015, the stone tool displayed at lower left was considered the world's oldest, at 2.6 million years. (Actually it is a replica from a set.) Then Lepre and colleagues at Stony Brook University dated a set of tools from the Turkana region to 3.3 million years. This has reset the entire archaeological record. Lepre prepares to sample an outcrop of ancient sediments. He establishes the ages of objects found within or near layers using magnetostratigraphy--the study of how earth's magnetic field periodically reverses itself. Changes in polarity can be identified by the orientation of mineral grains. A whitish layer of compacted volcanic ash, or tuff, runs through one section. As Africa slowly tears apart along the seam of the rift valley, volcanic eruptions are commonly generated. A tuff sample chiseled out for later lab analysis. Lepre has etched an arrow into the sample to indicate which way pointed north before he removed it. Earthquakes are also frequent, as evidenced by this erosion-resistant old fault snaking though the landscape. Faults tend to confuse the chronological picture, because they thrust up some sections of land while dropping others down, putting layers out of sequence. Lepre scrambles to a high point to survey the area. Getting reliable dates means taking dozens of samples, from top to bottom. Measuring radioactive decay of certain minerals is another way to date rocks. Back at the research station, geologist Andrew Gleadow of Australia's University of Melbourne pans out heavy grains used for such analyses. A model skeleton of our own species, Homo sapiens, is used at the research station for teaching comparative anatomy to visiting students. Liu is charting past lake levels using desert varnishes--thin coatings on rocks whose compositions reflect moisture levels at the time they were deposited. Here, he hunts specimens that may have lain undisturbed for millennia. This rock has a nice varnish coating, "Look at this specimen--it's beautiful!" says Liu. Remains of the past are everywhere. By chance, the researchers spot a projectile point--maker and age unknown. They are careful to leave it in place; such artifacts are the province of archaeologists. The petrified roots of a onetime forest, from wetter times during the Pliocene, which started 5.3 million years ago. The soil and trees that grew above them are long gone, eroded away by time. Fossilized animal bones--possibly ancestors of modern antelopes or pigs--bleed from a seasonal riverbed. Nearby, in the 1990s, anthropologists found bone fragments of a distant human relative who lived around 3.5 million years ago, and may have hunted such animals. A Turkana herder stops by. Many Turkana remain deeply traditional, retaining their own language, religion and clothing. Turkana teens each carry the traditional curved stick and portable stool used for long hours of goat herding in the bush. But Kenya is modernizing fast; they also have a cell phone. The diverse hustle of Nairobi, Kenya's capital, is drawing people from many rural areas. Rapid urbanization is a global phenomenon; for the first time ever, more than half of people live in cities--a momentous step in human migration. At Nairobi's Kenya National Museum, two Homo sapiens visit the Homo erectus known as Turkana Boy. Continuing discoveries in evolution serve as powerful reminders that all humans come from, and remain, one family.
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Further south, at a site called Olorgesalie, professional fossil hunter Bonface Kimeu visits some of thousands of stone axes left by proto-humans who lived here 500,000 to 1 million years ago. Bonface's father, Kamoya Kimeu, has found many of the world's most important fossils; these include a 1.6 million-year-old Homo erectus skeleton dubbed Turkana Boy, still the most complete early human remains ever found.

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