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Obama Just Explained What a "Gigaton" Is. Here's Why That's a Big Deal - Washington Post

Featured News - 10 hours 36 min ago
President Obama quoted Lamont-Doherty's Meredith Nettles while explaining glacier loss during a speech on climate change in Alaska. The Washington Post picked up on it and explains the importance.

Scouring the Arctic for Traces of Fukushima and Ejections from Cosmic Impacts

TRACES of Change in the Arctic - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 21:50
ice breaker

The Healy is doing a lot more ice breaking now that we have moved into the Arctic ice cap. (Photo Tim Kenna)

Sounds like the basis for a great scifi thriller…”scientists scour Arctic, hunting for traces of nuclear fallout and ejections from cosmic ray impacts”. In reality this thriller theme is the actual core of the GEOTRACES mission. Let’s break it apart a bit to better understand it.

Fukushima and other Nuclear Fallout

The project Tim is focused on is the human introduced (anthropogenic) radionuclides that are released into the environment as a result of nuclear industrial activities, things like weapons production and testing, as well as nuclear power generation and fuel reprocessing. This includes isotopes of plutonium, neptunium, cesium, strontium, iodine, and uranium, which are not normally found in the environment. The major sources of these nuclides include fallout from atmospheric weapons testing and liquid releases from European nuclear fuel reprocessing.

Radionuclides lab

The workspace set aside for the radionuclides work. If you have ever done ‘Where’s Waldo?’ see if you can find Tim’s spot. (Photo Tim Kenna)

One goal of our project is to determine the budgets (overall input and export) of these contaminants. Samples collected along our cruise track combined with those collected on the European GEOTRACES cruise taking place on the Polarstern will allow us to do this.

We are also collecting samples to evaluate for the presence and distribution of contamination related to Fukushima. Two Cesium isotopes were released into the environment as a result of Fukushima; Cesium 137 with a half-life of 30 years, and Cesium 134 with a much shorter half life of two years so little is left from past nuclear testing. Fallout from Fukushima is an excellent tracer to help us learn more about ocean circulation and transport models.

Cosmic Ray Interactions

Paul Aguilar

Paul Aguilar, part of the Beryllium 7 sampling team, signals thumbs up to the winch operator on a hydrocast. Hand signals are a major method of communication between ship operators and scientists and crew on deck. (Photo Tim Kenna)

Another part of the GEOTRACES team is measuring Beryllium-7 (Be-7), a cosmogenic nuclide that is created when a cosmic ray breaks apart heavier atoms into smaller atoms. Be-7 is a short-lived isotope with a half-life of 53 days. We can use this short half-life to tell us something about water circulation and exchange rates under the ice. Currently the team is measuring Be-7 in the marginal ice zone. Once the ship reaches a section of ice that is large and thick enough for the scientists to work on we will drill through to measure under the ice as well.

Yes We Have a Bubble Room!

bubble room

Jess and Sarah work in the heavily protected Bubble Room to keep their samples from being contaminated by elements on the ship. (Photo Tim Kenna)

When we said ‘trace’ elements we weren’t kidding! Jess and Sara are part of the team working on contamination prone trace elements. Their work is done in an inflatable bubble to keep it ultra clean. The bubble is inflated using high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filtered blowers. Trying to measure very small trace elements without contamination is extremely difficult and it is a testament to their skills that they can measure elements such as zinc and iron, which are extremely low in seawater but very common on the ship (rust never sleeps!). Getting an accurate measure means not picking up any of that ship input.

caught wires

Sampling in and among the ice floes can mean equipment wires get caught on the ice like happened here. It can be tricky to untangle caught wires to free equipment. (Photo Tim Kenna)

In order to run all these great experiments we need samples so we are collecting and filtering water at as many stations as we can. Sampling in the ice pack is very different than sampling in an open ocean. Station locations must be very carefully selected to reduce the risks of the equipment getting entangled in the ice and ending up either crushed or ripped away. Even in less dense ice we caught the hydrowire on an ice floe (above).

Supersized

Everything is supersized on a ship like the Healy, from the large metal A-frame support that is used to lower collection equipment (yellow/buff colored) to the circular metal rosette which is filled with niskin collection bottles for gathering water samples. The deployment of a rosette for sampling is called a ‘hydrocast’. This allow scientists to collect water at a variety of different depths. The images below are from a few days ago before we hit the denser pack ice.

hydrocast

You can see if you look carefully at the photos that these bottles have snapped closed sealing the water sample inside. When deployed the bottles are opened at both ends so water freely flows through as the rosette descends to the sample depth. (Photo Tim Kenna)

The rosettes can hold up to 36 bottles. Each bottle can be programmed to snap closed at a specific depth, so in one deployment water can be collected at up to 36 different depths. This is extremely valuable for teasing apart circulation through tracking small particles entrained in the water column at different depths. The water collected in these sampling bottles will be used for a range of studies.

hydrocast

The rosette takes several people to stabilize and guide it over the side of the ship and the A frame is several stories high. (Photo Tim Kenna)

This sequence of the retrieval of this hydrocast involves 4 people to collect and stabilize the rosette, as well as the personnel up above operating the winch to lower the equipment, and several people in a console monitor verifying both the depth of the rosette and that the cable on the equipment is sending up the necessary data. Operating the equipment on a ship is labor intensive but each deployment retrieves enough sample material for not only the team onboard the Healy, but for colleagues and partners waiting back at their home institutions for samples.

Margie Turrin is blogging for Tim Kenna, who is reporting from the field as part of the Arctic GEOTRACES, a National Science Foundation-funded project.

For more on the GEOTRACES program, visit the website here.

 

How Hurricane Katrina Changed Climate Research - Climate Central

Featured News - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 06:00
Hurricane Katrina helped galvanize hurricane-climate change research, and 10 years later, significant strides have been made. Two leaders in the field, Lamont's Adam Sobel and Suzana Camargo, explain.

How Natural Disasters Harm the Poor More than the Rich - Slate

Featured News - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 12:00
It was true before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, and it’s true now, writes Lamont-Doherty's John Mutter.

This Year’s Wildfires May Change Western Forests Forever - Take Part

Featured News - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:00
Instead of aiding regeneration, the megafires we're seeing today are destroying forests, Lamont-Doherty's Park Williams says. "What comes back might not be anything like what we consider the natural state of the forest.”

Hurricanes May Get Stronger, and Society Needs to Prepare - The Chronicle Herald

Featured News - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty's Adam Sobel, head of the Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative and author of Storm Surge, speaks in Halifax about hurricane risk.

10 Years Later, No One Knows How Many People Died Because of Katrina - FiveThirtyEight

Featured News - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:00
After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Lamont's John Mutter and others began looking into the lack of standards for counting the human toll of hurricanes. They set out to develop new methods.

Sea Ice: Ancient Oceans Birthed Diamonds - Live Science

Featured News - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 06:00
"We can look at diamonds as time capsules, as messengers from a place we have no other way of seeing," says Lamont-Doherty's Yaakov Weiss.

Is New Jersey Overdue for Another Earthquake? - Asbury Park Press

Featured News - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty's Art Lerner-Lam discusses earthquake risks to infrastructure in New Jersey and the importance of resilient development.

Yes, Climate Change Has a Hand in the California Drought - Ars Technica

Featured News - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 06:00
Lamont-Doherty's Park Williams explains how warming-driven evaporation adds to the severity of the California drought.

Moving into the realm of the polar bear

TRACES of Change in the Arctic - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 18:15
Looking out over the Arctic sea ice as the ship moves out over the deeper ocean. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Looking out over the Arctic sea ice as the ship moves out over the deeper ocean. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

The Healy has now moved off of the shallow continental shelf that extends around the Arctic land border (shown in white in the map below) into the deeper center of the Arctic Ocean. In our last blog we noted that some of the questions Arctic GEOTRACES is addressing include quantifying the fluxes of trace elements and isotopes (TEI) into and out of the Arctic Basin from the two oceans through choke points like the Bering Strait, as well as characterizing how much TEI comes from rivers.  Arctic GEOTRACES is also studying what regulates the Arctic shelf to deep basin exchange, and the role of sea ice in the transport of TEI.

The position of the research vessel Coast Guard cutter Healy on August 24, 2015.

The position of the research vessel Coast Guard cutter Healy on August 24, 2015.

The oval shaped blue area in the map above is the basin of the Arctic Ocean, ranging from ~3500 meters to ~5000 meters at its deepest. The Healy is currently over a ridgeline named the Mendeleev Ridge after a Russian chemist and inventor Dmitri Mendeleev, long dead when the ridge was first discovered by fellow Soviets in 1948. Mendeleev Ridge is about 1000 meters shallower than the deep Arctic, bottoming out at ~2500 meters in depth. The Russians maintain that the ridge, with its long reach into the Arctic basin, gives them claim to large sections of the ocean stretching out to the North Pole. The claim remains unresolved, in part because there are so many questions that still remain about the Arctic. As we move into the basin we will be sampling to try and better constrain what happens at the shelf/basin interface.

polar bear text

All hands on deck alert – huge polar bear 100 yards ahead! (photo credit Tim Kenna)

When we venture into the Arctic for research for most of us there is the lingering hope that a polar bear will appear on our watch; at least as long as we are safely outside of its reach. Several polar bear have been spotted by the watchful eyes of the crew as we have moved into the more tightly packed heavy ice away from the marginal ice zone. However today a very large bear (yes the alert text says ‘huge’!) was spotted and it seemed to have us under thoughtful consideration. The following is a string of images that relay the majesty of this incredible creature in its natural environment moving with great agility over the sea ice.

Polar Bear takes a drink (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear taking a drink and assessing the ship full of researchers. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar Bear (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear carefully testing the thinning stretch of sea ice.  (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar Bear (photo credit Tim Kenna)

The polar bear coloring matches easily to the Arctic ice surroundings. (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear live only in the Arctic and are dependent on sea ice, relying almost entirely on the marine sea ice environment for their survival. They use the ice in every part of their daily life, for travel, for hunting ringed seal, their favorite food, for breeding and in some cases for locating a birthing den. Their wide paws, which you might be able to see in these photos, distribute their weight when they walk on the sea ice, which late in the season can be quite thin in the annual ice region, melting down to only a thin crust over the water. Their large size, clearly visible in these photos, belies the fact that they are excellent swimmers, helped by their hollow fur, which traps air to keep them buoyant, as well as the stiff hair and webbing on their feet. For all their cuddly appearance they are strong hunters. Currently polar bear range in Conservation Status from Vulnerable Internationally, to Threatened in the U.S. primarily the result of a warming climate that is melting their habitat…sea ice.

Polar Bear moving easily across the ice. (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear moving easily across the ice even though males can weigh up to 1,500 lbs. (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear

Polar bear use their natural agility to avoid the thinner sections of sea ice. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar Bear takes measure of the Healy. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear takes measure of the Healy. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear taking a moment to drink. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Polar bear taking a moment to drink from an open lead in the Arctic. (Photo credit Tim Kenna)

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Daily Arctic sea ice extent August 23, 2015. (from the National Sea Ice Data Center http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/)

The Arctic is approaching the annual low for sea ice extent, which occurs each year in September. An image of sea ice extent for today (shown in white) against an average of the last thirty years (outlines in yellow) shows how our annual sea ice cover has dropped. Today’s cover is 2.24 million square miles (5.79 million square kms) which is  521,200 sq miles (1.35 million square kms) below the last 30 yr. average period. Aside from being of concern to the polar bear, this is part of why Arctic GEOTRACES is so important. We need to understand the role of sea ice in current circulation patterns and delivery of TEI in the Arctic, and then bring this more complete understanding forward to our careful examination of the changing Arctic.

Tim Kenna captures himself in the field surrounded by Arctic sea ice. (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Tim Kenna captures himself in the field surrounded by Arctic sea ice. (photo credit Tim Kenna)

Margie Turrin is blogging for Tim Kenna, who is reporting from the field as part of the Arctic GEOTRACES, a National Science Foundation-funded project.

For more on the GEOTRACES program, visit the website here.

First to arrive and last to leave…

Sugar - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 18:17
It is hard to believe that just a few days ago, the hotel had 30+ college students
roaming the hallways and the parking lot was full of SUV’s washed in clay, sand and
mud. When most of the second phase of the SUGAR project had come to a halt, there
was still work to be completed by the Seismic Source Team (SST). In order to
understand why, let me take you through the work schedule of the SST.
Dr. Harder and I drove to Atlanta on July 1st after completion of the ENAM
project in North Carolina and began scouting the shot-holes we would need to drill, load
and stem i.e. fill before the shot dates, which were scheduled for August 7th and 8th for
Line 2 and August 14th for Line 3. When scouting, you want to ensure that the shot-hole
locations selected have good, accessible roads and enough space for the drillers as well as
work crew to move in and out of easily. However beforehand, you want to ensure that
you have the permits to access different properties and have the correct keys for the
property entrance/exit gates, which Donna took care of. Scouting holes took 4 days
before drilling began on July 7th until July 29th.
An example of a good, accessible road for the drillers and SST to use.Pick a lock, any lock. One of the entrance/exit gates to a shot location. Thankfully, we
had the key. I just had to test it on each lock to open the gate. A typical workday would consist of waking up at 6:30 am, eating breakfast at 7
am and leaving to work at 7:30/8 am. We would arrive on site about an hour later and the
drillers would set up and begin drilling. This would take about 2-3 hours at some holes
and 3-4 hours at others. The last hole composed of hard rock took about 14 hours to
complete. That does not include the time it took for us to stem the hole. We would
prepare the charges to load into the hole when the drillers had ~20 ft left to drill. They
drilled up to ~80 ft at the 2 shot-holes on the ends of Line 2 and ~70 ft for the remaining
13 shot-holes. For Line 3, they drilled all 11 holes to ~60 ft. After drilling and loading
the charges into the ground, Dr. Harder would lead the drillers to the next shot-hole while
Galen, Yogi and I would stay behind to stem the hole with gravel, sand and plug it with
bentonite. We would also check the detonators to make sure they worked before heading
off to the next shot-hole to repeat the process. On average, we would drive anywhere
from 100 – 200 miles per day depending on what we were doing and where we needed to
go.



Yogi (Victor Avila, left) and Galen preparing 2  charges to be lowered into the shot-hole. Each charge contains 2 detonators attached  to 2 boosters indicated by the sets of wires.The drillers lowering the charge into the hole with Yogi carefully holding the detonator (orange wire) chords. On the left is the water truck and to the right is the drill rig."The Beast" with a 1.1 Explosives placard after transporting the source materials to the shot location.Galen taking a GPS waypoint of the loaded shot-hole while Ashley tests the detonators to ensure that they are working.Dr. Harder (left) and Kent splicing the wires at one of the shot-holes to connect the detonators in order to shoot. The routine changed once drilling was complete. We made our way to Vidalia
where we met with Donna, Dan and everyone at the instruments center and began
preparing our equipment for the nights we were going to shoot. Shots would start at 11
pm and last until as late/early as sunrise depending on the weather conditions as well as if
the detonators would connect. The days that the deployment team members were
flagging and deploying instruments, we were busy driving to shot-holes and cleaning the
ones that blew out. The idea is that you make the shot-hole location look the way it did
before the shot took place.
Shot-hole 7 on Line 3. It looks like a regular hole, but it is actually about 5ft deep and has a 5ft diameter cavity.Using the backhoe to clean up the above shot-hole.After clean up!!
I can honestly say there was never a dull moment while working on the SST. I
remember Donna saying at our farewell dinner something along the lines, “We do all this
work for just a disk of data, but it’s all worth it.” She could not have summed it up any
better than that.

Here’s to another successful project….salud!

Ashley Nauer - UTEP

Climate Change Intensifies California Drought, Scientists Say - New York Times

Featured News - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 12:00
A new study finds that global warming has measurably worsened the California drought by as much as a quarter, Lamont-Doherty's Park Williams, the lead author, explains how how a warming climate drives moisture from plants and soil into the air, changing the baseline amount of water available.

Scientists Strengthen Link Between Climate Change and Drought - High Country News

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:00
In a new study led by Park Williams, researchers found that unusually hot temperatures attributable to anthropogenic climate change intensified the California drought.

Scientists Say Global Warming Has Made California Drought Worse - Washington Post

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:00
Lamont's Park Williams explains that while natural weather patterns that push away atmospheric moisture that carries rain are normal for California, warming adds to the resulting dryness and heat. A small amount of moisture stored in plants and the soil evaporates into the drier atmosphere.

Park Williams on How Global Warming has Worsened the California Drought - Democracy Now

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty's Park Williams talks with Democracy Now about a new study gauging the role of a warming climate in worsening the California drought.

California Can Blame Climate Change for Fifth of Its Drought - Bloomberg

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 09:00
California can blame about a fifth of the state’s record drought on climate change, says a new study led by Lamont's Park Williams.

Scientists Figure Out Just How Much of California's Drought Can Be Blamed on Climate Change - Salon.com

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 09:00
Climate change has made the California drought measurably worse - likely between 15 and 20 percent, says Lamont's Park Williams.

California Drought: Climate Change Plays a Role, Study says. But How Big? - Los Angeles Times

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 09:00
A group of researchers led by Lamont's Park Williams have estimated the extent to which climate change has worsened the California drought: as much as 27 percent.

Global Warming Worsened the California Drought, Study Confirms - Xinhua

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 07:00
Human-caused global warming has measurably worsened California's crippling drought, according to a new study led by Lamont's Park Williams.

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