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GPS in Khulna and the Hidden Temple

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Fri, 02/21/2014 - 04:27
Allan walking on the embankment, or polder.  The land on the river side (left) is about a meter higher than on the inside of the polder.

Allan walking on the embankment, or polder. The land on the river side (left) is about a meter higher than on the inside of the polder (right).

When we got cell phone signal back, we found things did not go according to plan. Scott’s flight had a medical emergency that required a stop in London, so he missed his connection. So did the GPS box, so they both arrived the morning of the 18th.  He was not in Khulna already working. He wasn’t working on the compaction site. Between the flight delays and the ship delays, we had lost a day.

Since I couldn’t meet Scott, it was best for me to go to Polder 32 to check on the GPS there. However, not knowing the situation, we had sailed up the wrong channel. We wouldn’t get to the Polder 32 site until the afternoon. Polder is a Dutch term for an embankment. They have been built around much of the land in coastal Bangladesh to protect it from flooding from the brackish water and

Soyee with some of the local women and their water jugs on Polder 32.

Soyee with some of the local women and their water jugs on Polder 32.

improve farming. An unexpected side effect is that the protected land inside the polder, with no flooding or sediments, has sunk by over a meter. It is lower than the land outside the wall and lower than high tide. When Cyclone Aila hit the area in 2009, it breached the polder and the island was flooded for almost two years. We are studying both the physical environment and the human impact. My part is measuring the subsidence with GPS. The receiver here has a modem so the data can be collected by phone, but it hasn’t worked since Jan. 1. We went to the school that houses it, and I managed to correct the problem.

Mr Islam serves Scott and myself more of the delicious lunch they had prepared.  Eaten with our hands, of course.

Mr Islam serves Scott and myself more of the delicious lunch they had prepared. Eaten with our hands, of course.

Now it was time to join Scott. I left the boat for a bumpy 2.5-hour drive to Khulna and the hotel. We had allotted two days for servicing and installing GPS in Khulna, but we also wanted to visit a 400-year-old temple in the Sundarbans. It is being looked at to measure subsidence since it was built. We could only visit the temple if we could do the GPS work in one day. We started a 7 a.m., picking up Hafizur and heading to his family’s house, where the compaction meter is.  We hoped to finish it quickly, but there were problems with the GPS. The solar panel controller was bad and had to be replaced. Then I found the settings of the GPS were bad; I couldn’t communicate with it. After a struggle, I managed.  The system went bad last June and had recorded no data since then. Scott collected data from the compaction meter and surveyed the monuments, while

Scott adjusting the GPS antenna at the new Khulna site, working into the night.

Scott adjusting the GPS antenna at the new Khulna site, working into the night.

I got the GPS going again.  When it was time to leave, we found that the Islamic family had prepared a huge lunch for us, and we had to stay and eat: sweet rice appetizer, two kinds of fish, chicken, vegetable, rice and a rice pastry in palm juice for dessert.

When we left to go to Khulna University (KU), our chance for the temple looked bleak. We met Professor Rakib Uddin, who did not get our sense of urgency.  The GPS at KU hadn’t been working for years. Set up in the Urban Planning Department, the 20-year-old receiver needed constant care to keep going. We had installed these obsolete instruments when we first started working in Bangladesh and had almost no funding. We would be reestablishing the site, replacing everything.

Scott falls asleep on the M/V Mowali sailing to join everyone on the larger ship after a very long and successful day.

Scott falls asleep on the M/V Mowali sailing to join everyone on the larger ship after a very long and successful day.

Then we would install a new receiver in Rakib’s office in Environmental Sciences. As long as we had some overlap of the two receivers, we could combine the measurements for a longer record. After various formalities, we went to the office. We would need to buy some extra equipment, but the professor had to leave. We called everyone to say we could not do the temple. Then Rakib got the professor to leave the key so we could keep working. It was now a maybe. We arranged for the forest permits not knowing if we could use them. Allan and Towfique went shopping while Scott and I did what we could. By the time they got back and we finished, with multiple time-stealing problems along the way, it was dark. Rakib stayed late and Scott and I rushed to install the new GPS. The new ones are easier to work with, but

Sailing up a small channel to the Shakher Temple with our armed guards and a local fisherman guide (at prow).

Sailing up a small channel to the Shakher Temple with our armed guards and a local fisherman guide (at prow).

everything takes time. By the time we finished it was almost 9 p.m.

We rushed to the hotel and packed overnight bags. Bachchu’s other boat, the Mowali, would take us to the Bawali. We left at 10 p.m. after less than 24 hours in Khulna. It took 4 hours to reach the Bawali west of Polder 32. It was 2 a.m., but we made it. No dinner, but a chance to see the only Hindu Temple in the Sundarban. With two armed guards for tigers and a local guide, we sailed to a small channel south of the temple and took the launch to go into the forest. The channel got smaller, with branches occasionally sweeping across the boat. We got stuck, but the tide was rising. Then we had a long hike through the muddy forest, across a log bridge and more mud.

Dan crossing the log bridge on the way to the temple with helpers holding up a railing.

Dan crossing the log bridge on the way to the temple with helpers holding up a railing.

Finally we got there. After examining the temple, we decided more work was needed before we accepted the low subsidence rate estimated for the site. We also visited the rubble of the home for the local community and their protective wall. They were sent here to protect the region from Arakan and Portuguese pirates. They were the ones who built the Shakher temple. We could head back down the channel and return to Khulna on the Bawali. Despite all the problems, we had accomplished all of our goals for this part of the trip.

The group that made the trek to the temple pose in front of the ruins of the house (bari) that the people lived in.

The group that made the trek to the temple pose in front of the ruins of the house (bari) that the people lived in.

The ruins of the ~400 year old Shakher Temple to the Hindu goddess Kali.

The ruins of the ~400 year old Shakher Temple to the Hindu goddess Kali.

Impressively Massive Landslide Detected in Remote Alaska - LiveScience

Featured News - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty seismologists Colin Stark and Goran Ekstrom discuss a massive landslide that shook the Alaska panhandle on Feb. 14 and was detected by the global seismic network.

What’s Causing the Huge Spike in Earthquakes in Oklahoma? - The Nation

Featured News - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 08:51
Lamont postdoctoral researcher Nicholas van der Elst says that the recent uptick in small earthquakes in Oklahoma may be due to the disposal of wastewater in underground injection wells.

Where Does Road Salt Come From? - National Geographic

Featured News - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty researcher Bob Newton explains the origins and chemistry of road salt.

Back to Bangladesh, changing plans as we go

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 11:48
Bawali

The M/V Bawali, the boat we are using to go to Hiron Point in the Sundarbans mangrove forest

In Bangladesh we find that nothing ever goes according to plan, but we have always been able to accomplish our goals. So far on this trip, we have had to adjust from before we even got on the plane. The snowstorm on Feb. 13 cancelled Scott and his student Allan’s flights to New York from Wilmington, N.C. It looked like they would be delayed by a day, but then it worked out for them to drive to South Carolina to catch a flight. I was then able to pick them up on my way to take them to the airport for our flights to Bangladesh. There were seven of us going there together, but only six made it onto the plane. There were problems with his ticket, probably from the attempts to get to New York, and he couldn’t get it fixed in time to make the flight. Allan’s ticket was OK, though.

Chris Small and Kushal Roy of Khulna University making plans for fieldwork on the Bawali

Chris Small and Kushal Roy of Khulna University making plans for fieldwork on the Bawali

Not having Scott meant rearranging our plans. Plan B. We switched the order of things. Allan and I would go to Hiron Point in the Sundarbans mangrove forest first, since I could service the GPS there alone, but needed him for most of the other work. The silver lining was one of my equipment boxes didn’t arrive. It would not arrive until the next day when Scott could pick it up. I didn’t have to delay leaving Dhaka. After stopping by Dhaka University, I headed to Khulna to join Chris Small and others on the M/V Bawali. Chris was able to rearrange his work so we could sail to Hiron Point first. We got to the ship around 4 p.m. after a day of driving and a two-hour ferry ride across the Padma River, as the combined Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers is known. We waited for Kushal and his students from Khulna University to arrive, then started the trip to Hiron Point near the coast.

A deer stands among the salt-filtering aerial roots of the mangrove trees in the Sundarban

A deer stands among the salt-filtering aerial roots of the mangrove trees in the Sundarban

The trim line of the leaves on the trees marks the height to which the deer can reach. Mud flats are exposed at low tide.

The trim line of the leaves on the trees marks the height to which the deer can reach. Mud flats are exposed at low tide.

We made good time and got to Hiron Point in the morning. We installed a GPS at the forest ranger station near a tide gauge.  The tide gauge measures the water level relative to land, a mixture of sea level rise and subsiding of the land. Our GPS measures just the subsidence of the land, accurate to 8 mm each day. The combination of rising sea level and sinking land puts Bangladesh at greater risk of inundation. Thus the sediment deposited by the rivers is critical for maintaining the land and the mangrove forest. So far, it looks like sediment is keeping pace in the natural environment, but there are problems where man has made changes. We installed the GPS in October 2012. While we put in communication equipment, the site is so remote that there was no cell phone signal to download the data. Hence, our visit to collect it manually.

Everything looked fine, but when I tried to connect to the GPS, I couldn’t. The set-up for the communication equipment meant the settings were different and locked. After a frustrating hour of attempts, including a hard boot to reset the system, I finally found the right settings to talk to the device. The trip wasn’t in vain. Downloading the data, I found something had gone wrong last July. We had good data until July 19, then one giant file with a date in 2025. I hope that it actually contains good data, but I won’t know until I get back and can get it to someone to look at it. Even better, my hard reboot cleared out the problem, and the GPS started recording data properly again. Even if we have a data gap, we will still be able to see the data trend for the subsidence rate. Taking two days to come down here was worthwhile.

We spotted an eagles nest as we sailed down the channel to Hiron Point.

We spotted an eagle’s nest as we sailed down the channel to Hiron Point.

The next problem was that the Bawali couldn’t get out of the small channel by the ranger station until the next high tide. We were stuck for eight hours. We used the time to explore the channels, but we would not be able to get to our next stop on schedule. Time for another change in plans. We are up to Plan C. We decided to go back so I could get off the boat and join Scott, who has hopefully arrived. We will do our on-land work and then rejoin the Bawali in a day and a half, if all goes according to plan. Not a sure bet on this trip.

Fishermen setting nets in a tidal channel near Hiron Point.

Fishermen setting nets in a tidal channel near Hiron Point.

New Mexico in its Worst Drought since 1880s - Albuquerque Journal

Featured News - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 12:49
Work of Lamont-Doherty climate scientist Richard Seager cited.

Are the Droughts in Texas and California Related? - Texas Climate News

Featured News - Mon, 02/17/2014 - 09:31
The long-lasting drought affecting Texas and California could be due to natural climate variation, not climate change, says Lamont tree-ring scientist Edward Cook.

Meteorologists See Silver Lining in Winter’s Storm Clouds - New York Times

Featured News - Sun, 02/16/2014 - 12:00
Much of the raw data that goes into a weather forecast is automated, but you need experts to interpret the results and turn them into a prediction that people can understand, says Lamont atmospheric scientist Adam Sobel.

Science Linking Drought to Global Warming Remains Matter of Dispute - New York Times

Featured News - Sun, 02/16/2014 - 12:00
Lamont climate scientist Richard Seager says the recent California drought may be due more to natural climate variation than a warming climate.

Global weirding?

Geopoetry - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 15:12

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Mountains of snow line the street,

And some days I envy a beard.

Ask any shoveler you meet –

The weather this winter is weird!

 

How strange is it, really? Some wonder,

If sea-ice melt unleashed the Vortex.

Has warming torn systems asunder;

Should we invest big in Gore-Tex?

 

We’ve been gripped by deep-freeze before;

Sometimes it’s just wicked cold.

The overall trends worry more:

How will it be when we’re old?

 

Thermostat’s tending to heat;

We wait as the sea gently rises.

Our future we surely will meet,

And always, we’ll get some surprises.

________________________________________________

Photo Credit: Figure generated by Cameron Beccario (EARTH.NULLSCHOOL.NET); Results sourced from the NCEP/NOAA Global Forecast System

Further reading:

A letter in Science Magazine: “Global Warming and Winter Weather”

Maps of recent temperature anomalies: Climate Reanalyzer, University of Maine

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Visit Allen’s website for more.

 

Time Is Running Out to Save the Rhino - Telegraph

Featured News - Wed, 02/12/2014 - 15:29
Cites horn and tusk-dating work of Lamont postdoctoral researcher Kevin Uno.

Understanding Fukushima - World Science Festival

Featured News - Tue, 02/11/2014 - 14:33
Lamont geophysicist Heather Savage explains the mechanics of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami off Japan that swamped a power station and led to a partial nuclear meltdown.

What Wiped Out the American West? Investigating a Triassic Extinction - Discover

Featured News - Tue, 02/11/2014 - 09:23
Did a meteor strike in Canada 215 million years ago trigger a mass extinction in North America? Lamont scientist Paul Olsen is working in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona to find out.

The Story at the Bottom of the South China Sea

Opening the South China Sea - Mon, 02/10/2014 - 10:17

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Sediments drilled from beneath the South China Sea are a window into the region’s past geology and climate. (Bill Crawford/IODP)







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We have drilled 2,600 feet below the sea floor and in another 500 feet, will reach the crystalline igneous basalt of the ocean crust. Though finding the age of the basalt is our main aim, the thick sediments that overly the crust also have a story to tell. As the sediments build up over time, they record the geological and climate history of the region.

There are the muds, silts, and sands, shaken loose from shallower depths and transported by gravity down-slope to the deep basin, where our first drill site is located. Ultimately, these sediments come from erosion of the surrounding land, and in this tectonically active part of the world, there is a lot of erosion going on. The island of Taiwan, for example, is being tectonically uplifted at a rate of about 0.2 inches per year, and is being eroded at about the same rate. This may not sound like much uplift, but imagine a world without erosion, Taiwan would stand 12 miles high after 4 million years. All that eroded rock ends up on the seabed, and some of it may find its way to our site.

There are the tiny shells of foraminifera and coccolithophores (familiar to us as chalk, in their pure rock form). They form a continual rain from the sea surface, and build up slowly but steadily on the seabed. The overturn of marker species shows us the age of the sediments, and their chemistry carries a record of ocean temperatures in the past.

Finally, there are volcanic sediments – from thin ash layers from distant volcanoes, to thick beds containing coarse chunks of rock exploded from nearby volcanoes. The close volcanoes are no longer active, and some have sunk beneath the sea to become seamounts. We will know from the depth of these beds in the sediment succession when the volcanoes erupted and for how long they were active.

This diversity means there is always something new and interesting to see in each 33-foot-long core that comes up from the sea bed, each another chapter in the geological history of the South China Sea. Among the 32 scientists on board, we have specialists in sedimentology, micropaleontology, volcanology and other fields. We are an international group; about half of us hail from China, a quarter from the U.S, and the rest from Australia, Brazil, France, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines (so there’s a good mix of music in the core laboratory – very nice). And that’s just the science party – the ship’s crew is almost as diverse.

 

Delaware's Shake Was Not a Quake - (Delaware) News Journal

Featured News - Fri, 02/07/2014 - 11:05
Lamont seismologist Won-Young Kim attributes shaking near Ocean City, Md. on Thursday afternoon to supersonic jets passing overhead.

Bioluminescence

Geopoetry - Fri, 02/07/2014 - 10:51
 J. Cohen for the photograph of S. crassicornus; P. Herring, P. bifrons; and P. Batson (DeepSeaPhotography.com), C. faurei, from Science 2010

Photos: J. Cohen for the photograph of S. crassicornus; P. Herring, P. bifrons; and P. Batson (DeepSeaPhotography.com), C. faurei; from Science 2010

Out in the ocean, where strange things are growing
(Jellies and fishes and creepies unknown)
You might be surprised how many are GLOWING,
With Halloween faces that chill to the bone.
At twilight depths, where darkness meets light
Life’s a grim game of hide-and-go-seek,
A massive migration when day turns to night,
All eyes are peeled for a peek.
If you’ve got the right stuff (or bacterial friends):
Some luciferin and luciferase,
You can flash, you can glow from your eyes to your ends –
And put on a show to amaze!
“I’m not good to eat,” “I’d like to have sex,”
“You’re blind, now I’ll run away,”
“My belly’s the sky,” and subjects complex,
Such wonderful things you can say!

_________________________________________

Further reading: Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity, E.A. Widder, Science 2010

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 5/14/10 at Allen’s website.

Tremors felt in Ocean City, Md., But No Earthquake - Wall Street Journal

Featured News - Thu, 02/06/2014 - 12:00
Lamont seismologist Won-Young Kim attributes shaking near Ocean City, Md. on Thursday to supersonic jets passing overhead.

Why Winter Olympics Bypass the Southern Hemisphere - LiveScience

Featured News - Tue, 02/04/2014 - 12:00
"To have a Winter Olympics, you need a place with snow," said Lamont's Richard Seager. "In the Southern Hemisphere, that would pretty much limit you to the Andes."

Drilling Deep into the South China Sea’s Past

Opening the South China Sea - Tue, 02/04/2014 - 10:56

SCS mapFive days after leaving Hong Kong, the JOIDES Resolution is on site and drilling into the muds and silts of the South China Sea. The expedition’s main objectives are tectonic in nature, and I’m not really a tectonicist (I’m on board for the borehole logging), so for me this cruise is a crash course in the geological history of this area.

The origin of the ocean crust under the South China Sea is enigmatic, and there is ongoing scientific debate about which tectonic forces pulled apart the crust here to form the basin. In one hypothesis, the collision of India into Asia that built the Himalayas and pushed out Indochina to the southeast had the collateral effect of causing extension to form the South China Sea. The leading rival hypothesis says that the extension resulted from slab-pull from subduction at the southern edge of the basin (Borneo and Padawan). Of course, there are theories that mix the two, as well as minor-party candidates (plumes!).

The expedition aims to test the competing hypotheses by dating the earliest ocean crust (at the northern edge of the basin) and the youngest ocean crust (close to the now-inactive spreading center). If the age interval of sea floor spreading matches the age of the extrusion of Indochina (lets say 35 to 16 million years ago), then the Indochina extrusion hypothesis gains support; but if we find different ages, other hypotheses will move up the leader board. The debate and this expedition add to our understanding of the basic forces that shape the Earth’s surface.

Until now, the dating and interpretations rely on magnetic sea floor anomalies and other geophysical surveys. We will date the rocks directly for the first time, by argon-argon dating of the basalt that forms the ocean crust, and by the age of the sediments sitting on the basalt. The tricky part is that the basalt lies under 950 meters of sediments at the first site, and under 1850 meters at the second. To drill to this depth and bring back 100 meters of basalt is challenging to say the least, but there is a highly experienced drilling crew on board, so we are in with a shot. I’ll let you know how we get on!

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