News aggregator

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.

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

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

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

Parts of California are Sinking - Al Jazeera America

Featured News - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 12:00
In a video interview, Lamont-Doherty's Peter DeMenocal explains how increased groundwater pumping amid the California drought is causing some land in the state to sink.

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 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.

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

Featured News - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 08:00
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.

How Diamond Formation Depends on the Ocean - Hakai Magazine

Featured News - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 12:00
Lamont geochemist Yaakov Weiss shows in a new study how diamonds from Canada’s Northwest Territories owe their existence in part to ancient salt water.

Tracing the Arctic

TRACES of Change in the Arctic - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 00:07
Leaving Dutch Harbor

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy leaving Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and heading to the high Arctic for the GEOTRACES research cruise. It doesn’t take long to move from a landscape of steep carved cliffs to one of endless waves on an Arctic passage. Photo: T. Kenna

Dutch Harbor Alaska is located on that long spit of land that forms the Aleutian Islands of Western Alaska. Research vessels launch from this location and head northeast into the Bering Sea on their way to the Bering Strait, the gateway to the Arctic.

map of Dutch Harbor

Dutch Harbor, Alaska (from http://www.vacationstogo.com)

Our research cruise is part of the international Arctic GEOTRACES program, which this summer has three separate ships in the Arctic Ocean. The Canadian vessel headed north in early July, and the German vessel will follow a week behind the Healy. Each will be following a different transect in the Arctic Ocean to collect samples. The U.S. vessel has 51 scientists on board, each with a specific sampling program. We will focus our time in the western Arctic, entering at the Chukchi Sea.

What is GEOTRACES studying? The program goal is to improve our understanding of ocean chemistry through sampling different trace elements in the ocean waters. Trace elements can be an asset or a liability in the marine system, providing either essential nutrients for biologic productivity, or toxic inputs to a rapidly warming system. This part of the larger program is focused on the Arctic Ocean, the smallest and shallowest of the world’s oceans and the most under siege from climate change. Results from this cruise will contribute to our understanding of the processes at work in the Arctic Ocean, providing both a baseline of contaminants for future comparisons as well as insights into what might be in store for our future.

The land surrounding the Arctic Ocean is like a set of cradling arms, holding the ocean and the sea ice in a circular grasp. Within that cradle is a unique mix of waters, including freshwater from melting glacial ice and large rivers, and a salty mix of relatively warm Atlantic water and cooler Pacific water. Our first sample station lasts over 24 hours and focuses on characterizing the chemistry of the water flowing into the Arctic from the Pacific Ocean. This is critical for locking down  the fluxes and totals of numerous elements in the Arctic.

Map of sea ice

Daily map from the ship showing sea ice cover. Yellow is the marginal ice, and the red is heavy ice. The location of the Healy is visible at the lower edge of the photo at the edge of the red dot.

In the past the “embrace” of the Arctic land has served as a barrier, holding in the sea ice, which is an important feature in the Arctic ecosystem. In 2007, however,  winds drove large blocks of sea ice down the Fram Stait and out of Arctic. In recent years the Arctic sea ice has suffered additional decline, focusing new attention on the resource potential of this ocean.

Unexpectedly this year, the sea ice is projected to be thick along the proposed cruise track, thick enough that it might cause the ship to adjust her sampling plan.

Walrus

Walrus resting on Arctic sea ice. Photo: T. Kenna

The walrus in the above image are taking advantage of the Arctic sea ice. Walrus use the ice to haul out of the water, rest and float to new locations for foraging. Walrus food of preference is mollusks, and they need a lot of them to keep themselves satisfied, eating up to 5,000 a day, using the sea ice as a diving platform. As the ship moves further from shore, we will lose their company.

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.

L2-14

Sugar - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 22:33
... so my mother can see I'm wearing a hardhat (Hi Mom).  Galen getting done, Natalie with commentary, Yogi counting it down ...



Shot L3-01 video

Sugar - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 21:52


HUGE THANKS to all the volunteers who worked so hard to make this project such a great success. It  was a pleasure working with you and getting to know you all.  Also mega thanks to all the landowners who were kind enough, and trusting enough, to let us put a source on their property.  None of this could have happened without your generosity and spirit of curiosity.  Thanks so much.

Dan



What goes bump in the night? We do.

Sugar - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 11:30
Controlled blasts in deep holes are the source of sound waves for our program.  We set them off in the middle of the night because that is when it is quietest along the county and state roads where our instruments are shallowly buried on profiles across eastern Georgia and listening for sound waves.  During the nights of Aug 7, 8 and 11, our blasting experts Steve Harder, Galen Kaip and Ashley Nauer prepped and detonated 25 blasts along our lines, with some help from other enthusiastic scientists (like me).  Our shots have between 200 and 1600 lbs of explosives – mostly ammonium nitrate emulsion. At each shot, we connect a long wire between the drill hole and a blast box, move back a safe distance from the shot site, wait for the appointed time, and set off the blast. The blast box is used to detonate the shot at a very accurate time. There were two shooting teams, and each has different time windows for blasting to ensure that we only do one blast at a time. If two blasts occurred at the same time, the sound waves could interfere with one another.
Ashley Nauer and Kent Anderson wire up a shot.
When the blast goes off, you feel it more than hear it.  The sound waves radiate out from the shot traveling both within the earth and along the surface. Waves that travel along the surface of the earth (“surface waves”) cause the most ground shaking. If the ground is wet, sometimes a geiser briefly occurs 5-10 seconds are the explosion.  Not surprisingly, plenty of people are interested in experiencing this besides us!  Several of the property owners who very kindly gave us permission to set off these blasts on their land came out in the middle of the night to spectate.
Even putting aside the obvious rush of setting off a bunch of blasts, its fun to be out and about in the Georgia country side at night.  A cacophony of sounds echo around the forests from crickets and frogs.  Immediately after a shot, all of these creatures very briefly go silent – they know that something has happened! And then they ramp up again.  We also see other animals prowling around, including amardillos. A meteor shower occurred during our final night of blasting, which we could see quite well from the rural stretches of Georgia, far from light pollution of population centers.

Jim Gaherty illuminates a steaming hole that formed over the shot site from the blast.
The shot team filled in this hole the next day.Armadillo patrols one of shot sites.

Explaining the "Godzilla" El Nino - MSNBC

Featured News - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty's Adam Sobel explains to MSNBC what El Nino is and what a strong El Nino could mean for the U.S. this year, including drought-stricken California.

Small Earthquake Rattles New Jersey - ABC News

Featured News - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 07:00
Won-Young-Kim, who heads the seismic network for Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, discusses the size and location of the earthquake.

By 2100, Earth Will Have an Entirely Different Ocean - Motherboard

Featured News - Thu, 08/13/2015 - 12:00
As the oceans acidify, shellfish and many creatures whose exoskeletons are made of calcium carbonate will be in trouble, and with them, the marine food chain, Lamont-Doherty's Taro Takahashi tells Motherboard.

Glacial Earthquakes May Help Forecast Sea-Level Rise - Phys.org

Featured News - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 12:00
Meredith Nettles explains how monitoring the earthquakes created by calving glaciers in Greenland could be used to forecast sea-level rise.

Report Recommends New Goals for U.S. Antarctic Program - Science

Featured News - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 12:00
A National Academies committee co-chaired by Lamont's Robin Bell proposed a new vision for the U.S. Antarctic Program, focusing on the study of ice loss, genomics, and radiation from the beginning of the universe.

NYC High School Students Team with Lamont Researchers to Study the Environment - NY1

Featured News - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 08:00
Dozens of New York City high school students are attending a different kind of summer school. They're working with researchers at Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute to study changes in the Hudson River environment.

The Plundering of the Poor After Natural Disasters - WNYC Leonard Lopate Show

Featured News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 12:00
Lamont's John Mutter writes in his new book "The Disaster Profiteers" about how the rich exploit natural disasters and can end up profiting off the poor.

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