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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!

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 - Wunderground.com

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.
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