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Three Dead, Others Missing After Two-Building Collapse in East Harlem - CBS New York

Featured News - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 11:00
The explosion generated weak seismic signals that were recorded at seismic stations in New York City monitored by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

11 Quakes Recorded in Week - (Youngstown, OH) Tribune Chronicle

Featured News - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 11:00
Lamont-Doherty seismologist Won-Young Kim discusses a string of recent earthquakes near an oil and gas drilling site in Lowellville, Ohio.

Arrival of the seismic equipment!

Sugar - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 18:57
Boxes with seismographs and other equipmentDuring this project, we will deploy 1200 small seismographs along a 200-mile-long (300-km-long) profile across Georgia.  All of these seismographs were shipped to Georgia from Socorro, New Mexico. This is the headquarters of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL), a facility that provides seismic instrumentation to US researchers.  It takes a lot of boxes to hold all 1200 seismographs and the associated equipment and tools.  There are 15 seismographs per box, so that's 80 boxes alone without counting boxes for geophones, etc. 
Fortunately, we have a lot of space! Our field headquarters is located in a historic gym on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, GA.  Faculty and staff at GSW have been extraordinarily generous with their time and expertise. They are allowing us to use the Florrie Chappel gym as our base of operations, and they have helped us enormously with Georgia geology and logistics coordination, handling our huge shipment of equipment and supplies, housing on the campus (many of us are staying in one of the dorms!), setting up the gym with internet access, power, and tables, and much, much more. Today, they moved all of the boxes with our seismic equipment from the shipping warehouse to our field headquarters in the gym. I can sense that all of our seismic instruments are itching to be deployed....Pallets waiting outside the Florrie Chappell gymDonna Shillington
11 March 2014

Oceans Show Evidence of Lead Poisoning - Fast Company

Featured News - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 11:00
New maps released by the GEOTRACES program co-led by Lamont's Robert Anderson show that the lead now banned in gasoline is widely found in the oceans.

Climate Change Led to the Rise of Genghis Khan's Empire - Time

Featured News - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 11:00
Warming temperatures and rainfall led to the rise of Genghis Khan and his Mongol empire, says a new study led by Lamont's Neil Pederson.

Genghis Khan's Secret Weapon Was Rain - National Geographic

Featured News - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 11:00
How did the Mongols build an empire? A new study in PNAS led by Lamont's Neil Pederson suggests that a run of bountiful rains gave them the resources to invade and conquer.

GAO: Climate Change Threatens Energy Infrastructure - Climate Central

Featured News - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 11:00
Lamont seismologist Klaus Jacob comments on a U.S Government Accountability Office report confirming the vulnerability of U.S. energy infrastructure to a changing climate.

Race Against Time in Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 - NBC News

Featured News - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 11:00
The landing of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in shallow water would aid recovery efforts, says Lamont-Doherty oceanographer Arnold Gordon.

More preparations: mini seismic experiments

Sugar - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 10:31
A geophone in grass, awaiting sound waves.
To prepare for our big seismic experiment, we have collected a couple of miniature seismic datasets.  The shallow geology varies substantially along our profile and is very important for planning the depth of drilling and size of our seismic sources. In particular, we need to determine the depth to a limestone layer in a few places.   The same seismic method that we will use to understand the deep geological structures beneath Georgia can also be used at a smaller scale to examine layering in the upper ~100 ft (~30 m) beneath the surface. We recorded the data on 24 geophones attached to a 230-ft-long (70-m-long) cable.  The source was a modified shot gun that looks like a pogo stick.  We drilled small holes in the ground, loaded the gun and stuck it in the hole. To limit the kickback, we weighted the gun down with a metal plate topped by two heavy jugs filled with sand. Hit the plate with a mallet and – BANG – a seismic source! Not a bad way to spend a sunny Sunday!
Check out Dan firing the seismic source...
Donna Shillington
9 March 14

Cold Facts

Geopoetry - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 08:00
oil fields, North Dakota

Satellite view of oil fields at night in North Dakota. Photo: NASA/NPR

Satellites cast their wide gaze

At night, on the bright Bakken blaze;

Bright as a large, sparkly city,

Up close, it’s not quite as pretty.

What fate might this appetite bring?

In government halls, squabbles ring.

Key to the carbon debate

Is the last Termination’s change rate.

What’s our scenario worst?

Was warming or CO2 first?

New ice core studies profess

A 200-year lag — or less.

A puzzle to solve ere we burn:

The process of compacting firn.


Further reading:

Synchronous Change of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature During the Last Deglacial Warming, Parrenin et al., Science 2013

Leads and Lags at the End of the Last Ice Age, Brooks, Science 2013

Study of Ice Age Bolsters Carbon and Warming Link, Gillis/NYT 2013

A Mysterious Patch Of Light Shows Up In The North Dakota Dark, Krulwich/NPR 2013

The New Oil Landscape, Dobb/National Geographic 2013

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 3/1/13 on Allen’s website.

Bricks, an Archeological Site and Home

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 07:33
One of the myriad brick factories in Bangladesh.  The lack of rocks means bricks are widely used for construction.

One of the myriad brick factories in Bangladesh. The lack of rocks means bricks are widely used for construction.

It was time to pack up and leave. Shofiq, who is from Sylhet, was dropped off near his home and the fellowship of the rocks was broken. We settled in for another long drive. We made an impromptu stop at one of the numerous brick factories scattered across Bangladesh. Here, the workers immediately started snapping pictures of us with their phones. We walked past the rows of drying unfired bricks to the massive kiln built from the bricks themselves. We saw them feeding coal into the hot, actively firing part and unloading bricks from the completed quadrant. This would be followed by loading of raw bricks for the 12-hour firing. This factory makes around 9,000,000 bricks in the six-month season. Although it was their lunch break, they demonstrated the mixing of the mud with a little sand and let me carry a half-full wheelbarrow load to where the bricks were

Tw of the workman shape the bricks using a mold.

Two of the workman shape the bricks using a mold.

shaped. I spilled a full load when I tried to move it. The experienced brickmakers took about 30-seconds per brick.

We stopped for lunch at the same roadside restaurant, then went to find Wari-Betashwar. Getting to the archeological site was not easy, but a mixture of my hand-held GPS with a Landsat image and a Bangladeshi phone with completely inaccurate Google maps eventually got us there a little after 4 p.m. We toured the site with the chief archeologist, but all the excavations had been filled in to protect them during the off-season. As we walked around the 600m by 600m protective wall, Prof. Rahman explained the history of the site. This urban

Jim standing by the remains of the 600x600m rampart wall that protected the town.

Jim standing by the remains of the 600x600m rampart wall that protected the town.

center was founded around 500 BC on land slightly uplifted by one of the anticlines. The slight extra elevation protected the land from flooding. The site was by the side of an old path of the Brahmaputra River and was thus a major trading center. Artifacts from as far as Greece and Rome were found here. After a gap in the record, the city flourished again in the 7th century AD, before being abandoned. The rise and fall of the center may be tied to avulsions, or switches in position of the Brahmaputra, making the site an interesting confluence of tectonics, rivers and people.

Continuing on, the students got a taste of Dhaka traffic as we approached our hotel near the airport. Now came the real

I very tired group of travelers waiting a Dhaka airport early in the morning.

A very tired group of travelers waiting at Dhaka airport early in the morning.

splitting up of the group. The foreigners would stay overnight to begin our return home, while the Bangladeshis would fight the traffic to return to Dhaka University and their homes. Many of us spent most of the time until our 2:30 a.m. departure talking.  Twenty-three of us and our luggage and equipment managed to squeeze into a 21-seat bus and made it to the airport. Now, once again problems with our tickets arose. While most of us were fine, almost half only got boarding passes as far as Abu Dhabi, or none at all. Eventually they fixed the problem for most of them, and all of us were able to board the delayed aircraft. The delays here and in the flight to New York and Chicago will mean that the vast majority will miss connections.  At least my nightmare scenario of missed flights and connections was happening on the way back. Not the smoothest ending, but it has been a great trip and a very successful field school. Several of the students are trying to figure out how to get back to Bangladesh, and a lot of lasting friendships and connections have been made.

Field School: Sylhet Tectonics

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 06:46
Eating breakfast at the Nazimgarh Resort.

Eating breakfast at the Nazimgarh Resort.

The drive from Tangail to Sylhet turned out to be grueling. We took a longer route that skirted Dhaka to avoid the traffic jams that people hit earlier in the week. Unfortunately, with the slower buses that route took 13 hours. We didn’t hit our lunch stop until 4:30 p.m., where Badrul and Ashraf had been waiting to join us for five hours.  It was dark by the time we drove past the first anticlines, and we didn’t get to the resort until 11 p.m.  We picked our roommates, got our rooms and had a very late dinner. Most field trips have a “death march” hiking a long way through forest, swamps, hills or deserts to get to a remote outcrop. We have a “death bus ride” instead.

View of the Shari River.

View of the Shari River.

The new resort where we were staying was tucked away in a corner of Bangladesh along the Shari River about a kilometer from the Indian border. With a cold pool and only slightly warmer not-hot tub, views of the woods and hills, this is by far the nicest place I’ve stayed in Bangladesh. Given the late arrival, we delayed the start of the classroom day by an hour.  The classroom was in a separate building closer to the river The first classroom day covered the stratigraphy and structure of the sediments and rocks we would see the next day. With lots of questions, the day ran late.

We started early and argued over an outcrop on the driveway of the resort. We continued down to the Shari River, where I had previously visited the geology by boat. Numerous

Riding Johnny the elephant.

Riding Johnny the elephant.

country boats were mining and transporting sand from the river. We worked along the shore, climbing over and visiting outcrops.  The beds dipped steeply into the ground, folded by the tectonics, but also provided evidence that a large braided river used to flow here. One possibility is that it was the Brahmaputra from a time before the uplift of the 2 km-high Shillong block pushed it 200 miles to the west. Eventually, we could not go farther along the river. We took an inland path farther north, but when we rejoined the shore, we were blocked again. A short time later, after a conversation with the Bangladeshi border guards stationed here, they flagged us a passing boat. It ferried us across the river, but not before

Badrul explaining the significance of the rock outcrop.

Badrul explaining the significance of the rock outcrop.

several on our party practiced their cliff jumping technique.

After spending some time on an outcrop where we were filmed last year, we took an inland path. Along the way we met Johnny the elephant, and a few groups of students got elephant rides. We continued past tea gardens and rice paddies and finally emerged to a large outcrop of shallow marine sediments along the river. At this earlier time, the coastline was north of us, and the delta was prograding to the south as a result of all the sediments eroding from the Himalayas. The younger river sediments we had seen earlier had been deposited after the coast had pushed past here. We stopped for lunch, looking across the river at the India-Bangladesh border and a pile of watermelons waiting for a

Overview of where the Dauki River exits the Shillong Plateau and enters Banglaedsh.

Overview of where the Dauki River exits the Shillong Plateau and enters Bangladesh.

boat to take them downstream. Two students swam across and purchased two for dessert. Then Badrul flagged down a large boat to taxi us downstream back to where we started.

After a few geology stops along the way, we reached Jaflong.  At this site, there is a mixture of mining of sands and gravels from the river, and tourists looking to view the massive Shillong uplift in India. We stopped at an overlook near our GPS and seismology stations. Then a group of us descended to some outcrops and the chance to join the tourists at the international border. The river had shifted a little since I last was here, and now the best viewing site was officially in India. The Indian and Bangladeshi border guard let us and everyone else cross the

Standing in India by the Dauki River and Shillong Plateau at Jaflong..

Standing in India by the Dauki River and Shillong Plateau at Jaflong.

border to the little spit of land for a better view. Many photos later, we walked back to the buses and returned to the resort. Dinner was delayed and about half of us took the opportunity for a dip in the freezing pool to rinse off the sweat and grime.

Our final classroom day conversation included multiple aspects of the interaction of the rivers and the tectonics that our project focuses on. We ended with several students presenting their research from places across the globe. The last item was a group photo close to the Shari River. The last field day took us farther southwest to Sylhet City itself. The Cricket Stadium is surrounded by outcrops that we walked around, passing a pet monkey as well.  After lunch at the stadium and a peek inside, we had to make a decision. There was not enough time for

Celine wading through a river to get to better outcrop.

Celine wading through a river to get to better outcrop.

both the outcrops at the airport and shopping in Sylhet. The group split, and each bus went to one of the sites. I chose the outcrop. The river sediments at the airport were clearly different from the stadium and showed that the sediments were deposited while the 80m-high Sylhet anticline was growing.  They were muddier where the anticline was tilting the land northwards, and sandier with gravels on the other side of the anticline where the southward tilting had steepened the river.  We headed back, stopping to at least buy some tea from the region. However, we got back too late to hold the bus vs. bus cricket match. Just some practice would have to do, until the BBQ that evening.

Jim Best examining the outcrop near the airport.

Jim Best examining the outcrop near the airport.

The pet monkey we saw near the cricket stadium.

The pet monkey we saw near the cricket stadium.

Rebecca and Nichole in the saris they purchased.

Rebecca and Nichole in the saris they purchased.

A Climate Analyst Clarifies the Science Behind California's Water Woes - New York Times Dot Earth

Featured News - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 12:00
NOAA scientist Martin Hoerling echoes Lamont climate scientist Richard Seager's view that California's ongoing drought is due to natural climate variation and not global warming.

Sixty-eight Million Ton Landslide in Alaska - Anchorage Daily News

Featured News - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 12:00
New pictures and information about the Alaska landslide discovered by Lamont's Colin Stark, Goran Ekstrom and Clement Hibert.

Laying the groundwork

Sugar - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 22:56

We have just arrived in sunny Americus, GA from the cold north to ramp up for the SUGAR project. The peaceful, pastoral landscapes of southern Georgia mask geological structures created by a series of dramatic events that were central to the formation of the North American continent.  During SUGAR, we will use sound waves to image these geological structures.   Less than 2 weeks from now, we’ll deploy 1200 small seismographs along a 200-mile-long line that extends from north of Columbus to south of Valdosta with the help of a cadre of students from across Georgia and beyond. These instruments will record sound waves generated by a series of controlled blasts in deep drill holes.
Spanish moss lined trees along our transect south of ValdostaCollecting these data will involve a week of intense work by >30 people. However, just laying the groundwork for this effort has already required a long list of (sometimes novel) tasks.  When we conceived of this project, we drew a couple of straight lines on a map that would enable us to capture the geological features that we wish to study: the South Georgia Basin, the Suwanne Suture, and frozen magmas from the huge Central Atlantic Magmatic Province.  In reality, we must create this line by knitting together a patchwork of roads.  During a couple of planning trips, we bumped along on dirt roads, cruised county lanes, and zoomed down state highways mapping out the best route. 
Dan and Steve scouting our route. Our seismometers will line county and state roads across southwestern Georgia, and both seismometers and seismic sources will cross private properties. Identifying private landowners to request permission has transformed us into detectives. In most cases, the name and address of the owner are easily found on the tax assessor's website for each county.  But actually getting in touch with people is not so easy! We mailed letters. We put flyers directly into people’s mailboxes. We searched for phone numbers online and left messages (sometimes multiple messages…). We found websites and email addresses for companies, and sometimes wrote to people about our project through website forms (including those for a bank, a dentist's office and a website selling organic beef!).  Happily, once we made contact, individuals and companies have been very welcoming and graciously granted us permission – southern hospitality in action!  A litany of other preparations have already been completed or are currently underway. Drilling of the holes for seismic sources has just begun, and the seismometers will arrive very soon. We are definitely ready for the transition from preparing to doing....  
Donna Shillington
5 March 2014

If No One's around to See a Landslide, Does It Make a Noise? You Bet. - (Juneau, Alaska) Capital City Weekly

Featured News - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 12:00
The massive landslide in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park discovered by Lamont's Colin Stark, Goran Ekstrom and Clement Hibert discussed.

Imagining, and Measuring, the Unimaginable - Oculus

Featured News - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 12:00
Lamont's Klaus Jacob speaks at the Center for Architecture about earthquake risk in New York City.

Finding New Worlds in New York City’s Old Snow Piles - New York Times

Featured News - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:00
Lamont's Kirsty Tinto takes a saw to a New York City snow pile to see what can be learned about recent weather patterns.

Field School: The Brahmaputra River

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 23:29
With our students all finally arrived, we started the classroom component to provide the background on the geology of Bangladesh.

With our students all finally arrived, we started the classroom component to provide the background on the geology of Bangladesh.

It has been an incredibly busy week. We have had between 42 and 48 people here for the field school, including 35 students and 12 instructors (seven to 10 at a time). The first day was very light for the jet-lagged students, just a short introduction to the field school and some background, and then introductions all around as we started to get to know each other. The final group of nine students finally arrived around 9 p.m. They were the most worn-out, bedraggled bunch of travelers I have ever seen.

After a good night’s sleep we started on the first classroom day. Our full five days near the Brahmaputra River would focus on the river processes and the stratigraphy they produce. We stopped the lectures at 4 and all piled into the bus

We rented country boats to get a view of the embankment at Sirajganj from the Brahmaputra River

We rented country boats to get a view of the embankment at Sirajganj from the Brahmaputra River

to see the embankment built to protect the city of Sirajganj from the westward migrating river. As is often the case in the dry season, they were repairing the embankments from last summer’s collapses. We rented two country boats and sailed along the embankment and walked back to the buses on the top of it. It is an impressive structure, but in need of continual repair to keep up with the river.

The next two days were spent on the river and its mobile islands, called chars. Setting up the equipment for the river surveying was hampered by a lack of power for drilling holes. A Bangladeshi drill and bow solved the problem, but not before rearranging the schedule. On the first day we all visited the char near the 5 km

One of the students collecting a sample for OSL dating for her research while we visited  the char on the Brahmaputra River.

One of the students collecting a sample for OSL dating for her research while we visited the char on the Brahmaputra River.

Bangabandu Bridge over the river. We spent the day viewing sedimentary structures and seeing the villages on this island that is almost entirely underwater during the monsoon. For the second day, we had to split the group. One contingent joined Jim Best as we surveyed the river with an ADCP, which measures water velocities from the top to the bottom of the river, and a sidescan that provides images of the bottom on either side of the boat using sound. The other, yielding to student requests, went to Tangail, the nearest city, for shopping. When everyone returned, we held a cricket match, with most Americans learning the rules on the fly. We finished the five overs per side as darkness fell.

We went back to the classroom the next day for more lectures on remote sensing of changes on the delta, stratigraphy,

A group of students measure magnetic susceptibility of well samples that were collected the day before. The measurements help distinguish whether the sediments were deposited by the Brahmaputra or other rivers.

A group of students measure magnetic susceptibility of well samples that were collected the day before. The measurements help distinguish whether the sediments were deposited by the Brahmaputra or other rivers.

subsidence and arsenic contamination. The hands-on experience was analysis of two sets of well samples that had been drilled the days before. Everyone had a chance to describe the samples, measure magnetic susceptibility and use a portable XRF machine to measure chemistry. We have found that magnetic susceptibility and strontium content are a good way to characterize whether sediments have come from the Brahmaputra River or not.

Finally, our last field day here was doing a resistivity imaging survey over the two bore holes and across the boundary between the Brahmaputra floodplain and the upland strata of the Madhupur tract. Generations have debated whether the transition is a fault contact or not. We would collect some data to try to answer the question. The students also got

One of the Bangladeshi students checks the resistivity meter during the experiment while a local resident looks on.

One of the Bangladeshi students checks the resistivity meter during the experiment while a local resident looks on.

to visit another tube well being drilled. Tube wells, drilled primarily for drinking water, is a local drilling method whereby a team of a handful of people can drill a 100m well in a day by hand. After everyone helped set up the 750m long resistivity line, most of the American students went to see the tube well drilling. The Bangladeshis, who have all seen tube well drilling, stayed with me to help run the resistivity line. As it turns out, Liz Chamberlain was pulled into a local villager’s home to have her hands tattooed with henna by a woman and her daughters. She missed the tube well drilling, but gained an exciting personal experience. It was also the first time the students were in a Bangladeshi village. We were the center of attention and many photos were snapped by both sides. We gathered up the resistivity equipment and then had informal student

Sunset over the  Brahmaputra River as we prepare to depart the region for NE Bangladesh.

Sunset over the Brahmaputra River as we prepare to depart the region for NE Bangladesh.

presentations before the final night barbeque. We had successfully completed the first half of the course, and all the students (and instructors) were bonding.

El Niño May Return Late this Year, Experts Say - Los Angeles Times

Featured News - Sun, 03/02/2014 - 12:00
Lamont's Richard Seager and the IRI's Tony Barnston comment on the odds of an El Nino event developing this year in the tropical Pacific.
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