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

Photos: J. Cohen for the photograph of S. crassicornus; P. Herring, P. bifrons; and P. Batson (, 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!

Time is Running Out for California Drought Relief - Climate Central

Featured News - Mon, 02/03/2014 - 15:35
When viewed in a regional context over the last 13 years, California's dry spell may qualify as a mega-drought, says Lamont climate scientist Benjamin Cook.

California's Sierra Snowpack Only 12 percent of Average -

Featured News - Fri, 01/31/2014 - 12:00
Tree-ring records show that at least two megadroughts hit the West during Medieval times, with one dry spell lasting 29 years and the other 28 years, says Lamont tree-ring scientist Edward Cook.

Latimeria Chalumnae

Geopoetry - Thu, 01/30/2014 - 11:52
 Laurent Ballesta/andromede Oceanologie (Science)

The African coelacanth. Photo: Laurent Ballesta/andromede Oceanologie (Science)

Just imagine: one fine day, a fish revealed to you …
With proto-limbs, a monstrous face, all tinged with silver-blue!
Huge and strange and other-worldly, long thought to be lost,
In the flesh (starting to smell!) so many epochs crossed.
The coelacanth! Good Old Four Legs, to some, the “Living Fossil,”
The animal itself is big, its history colossal!
Ms. Latimer, she recognized its weirdness and allure;
Decades later, of its story some things were not sure.
But now we have its genome clear and plain for all to see,
Shedding light on autopods, immune systems, and pee!
More closely tied to humans than to tuna or to trout,
Holding secrets of the beasts who from the sea, climbed out.


Further reading:

Living fossil genome unlocked, Nature News

African coelacanth genome provides insights into tetrapod evolution, Amemiya et al., Nature 2013

First posted 4/19/13 at Katherine Allen’s website.

State of the Union Preview: Energy and the Environment - US News and World Report

Featured News - Tue, 01/28/2014 - 15:44
Jason Smerdon, a climate researcher at Lamont-Doherty, comments on President Obama's stance on coal-fired power plants.

Dead Plants Hold Earthquake Secrets - Live Science

Featured News - Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:17
With a few tricks borrowed from the oil industry, scientists are hoping to one day better understand why earthquakes start and stop. Lamont's Heather Savage discusses her work in this emerging field.

The Noble Worm

Geopoetry - Thu, 01/23/2014 - 14:50
  Caron et al., Nature 2013

Image: Caron et al., Nature 2013

Behold! New treasures from the Burgess Shale,

In black and silent strata long held firm.
From features soft, a bold ancestral tale …
Be proud, descendants of the noble worm!

Oh, glorious the hemichordate line,
Spartobranchus tenuis among them,
On slime and mud they heartily do dine;
History has surely under-sung them.

From which deep root, vertebral creatures grew?
A scarcity of fossils long obscured;
Into this question we can dive anew,
With gorgeous, detailed imprints that endured.

A wondrous time, the Cambrian Explosion …
Move over, Eve; my roots are in the ocean!


Further reading:

First posted on 3/29/13 at Katherine Allen’s website.

California Drought: Water Supply Could Tighten in Mega Droughts - Time

Featured News - Thu, 01/23/2014 - 12:00
California's long-ago era of mega-droughts could be back, research by Lamont's Richard Seager and others suggests.

Researcher Wins Grant to Launch Extreme Weather Initiative - Columbia Daily Spectator

Featured News - Wed, 01/22/2014 - 12:00
Lamont atmospheric scientist Adam Sobel wins a €250,000 two-year grant to pursue research on climate and extreme weather; Lamont atmospheric scientist Suzana Camargo comments.

AD 536: The Year That Winter Never Ended - New Scientist

Featured News - Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty scientist Dallas Abbott discusses early findings that dust from the passing of Halley's comet in 530 triggered a cooling of the climate and crop failures in the year 536.

Climate Change: The case of the Missing Heat - Nature News

Featured News - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 12:00
Lamont climate scientist Mark Cane discusses why global warming appears to have stalled since 1998.

USGS Says It May Learn Cause of Texas Quakes within Months - Energy Wire

Featured News - Thu, 01/09/2014 - 12:00
The U.S. Geological Survey may know within two months whether the earthquakes around Azle, Texas, can be linked to natural gas drilling activity. Research by Lamont's Won-Young Kim and John Armbruster on induced earthquakes in Ohio discussed.

Record Cold Doesn't Disprove Global Warming - CNN

Featured News - Tue, 01/07/2014 - 16:51
Global warming is as real and serious as ever, writes Lamont-Doherty scientist Adam Sobel in this op-ed, it's just exceedingly gradual compared with the dramatic temperature swings that are still part of living in midlatitudes in winter.

Award Hails Efforts to Protect Endangered Geoscience Data - Eos

Featured News - Tue, 01/07/2014 - 12:00
Commentary from Kerstin Lehnert, who heads the Integrated Earth Data Systems facility based at Lamont, and seismologist Paul Richards.

Scientists Model More Than Climate In 2014 Calendar - Weather Channel

Featured News - Mon, 01/06/2014 - 13:35
A group of scientists from Columbia University model more than just Earth's climate in an all-new calendar for 2014, with each month devoted to the issues around climate change that they study.

Climate Scientists Pose for Pinup Calendar - Scientific American

Featured News - Thu, 12/26/2013 - 12:00
Columbia University showcases the planet's hottest" climate science and the people behind it.

Hope in Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan - The National

Featured News - Thu, 12/19/2013 - 12:00
"Haiyan is precisely the kind of storm that we expect to become more frequent due to climate change,” Lamont-Doherty scientist Adam Sobel tells the Abu Dhabi paper, The National.
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