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Joaquin? There’s No Perfect Forecast, So Stay Tuned, Be Prepared - WX Shift

Featured News - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 12:00
Models present a range of possible outcomes, and right now forecasters are still weighing the odds for Hurricane Joaquin, writes Lamont-Doherty's Adam Sobel.

California Drought Will End, but It's Not the Last - CNBC

Featured News - Tue, 09/29/2015 - 12:00
Droughts will likely become more frequent in the state than they have been in the past. CNBC talks to Lamont-Doherty's Park Williams about the changes.

Scientists Declare an Urgent Mission – Study West Antarctica, and Fast - Washington Post

Featured News - Tue, 09/29/2015 - 12:00
Scientists who have been raising alarms about the endangered ice sheet of West Antarctica say they’ve identified a key glacier that could pose the single most immediate threat to the world’s coastlines — and are pushing for an urgent new effort to study it. Lamont-Doherty's Robin Bell is quoted.

New York City Flood Risk Rising Due to Climate Change - USA Today

Featured News - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 12:00
Lamont's Adam Sobel, author of the book "Storm Surge" about Superstorm Sandy, comments on new research about flood risks from extreme weather in New York City.

Is Biking in the City Bad for Your Health? Researchers Want to Find Out - PRI

Featured News - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 12:00
Exercise is one of the top benefits for cyclists, but the health effects of air pollution on riders is less well-known. Scientists including Lamont-Doherty's Steven Chillrud are trying to figure out what those health effects might be to help create a safer commute.

Microbial ecology of the cryosphere

Chasing Microbes in Antarctica - Wed, 09/23/2015 - 13:38

A quick post on an excellent review published last week by Antje Boetius and co-authors (including Jody Deming, my PhD advisor) in Nature Reviews Microbiology, titled Microbial ecology of the cryosphere: sea ice and glacial habitats.  The review, focused on viral, bacterial, and archael microbes, provides an excellent overview of the major habitats within the cryosphere (broadly glacial ice, sea ice, and snow), the challenges and opportunities for microbial life, and the observed distribution of taxa and genes (to the extent that we know it).  Like most Nature Reviews it is written for a broad audience and assumes no deep knowledge of microbial ecology or the cryosphere.

Taken from Boetius et al., 2015.

Taken from Boetius et al., 2015.  Top: a schematic of different elements of the cryosphere, b: warm, summertime sea ice, c: the supraglacial environment, featuring a meltriver, d: cold winter sea ice, e: the subglacial environment, featuring the Blood Falls outflow from Taylor Glacier.

Plenty of reviews have been written on microbial life at low temperature, what makes this one stand out to me is the ecological focus.  Although discussions of biogeography (i.e. what taxa are where) and metabolism are woven throughout the review, the emphasis is on habitats, including newly recognized habitats like frost flowers and saline snow.  Check it out!

Arctic Magic – One research vessel multiplies to hundreds!

TRACES of Change in the Arctic - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 16:16
Ship crew is deployed to position the boxes of small 'seaworthy vessels' and the tracking buoy onto the ice. (Photo Bill Schmoker)

Ship crew is lowered in a basket down to the ice to deploy two boxes of small ‘seaworthy vessels’ and the tracking buoy onto the ice, part of the ‘Float Your Boat’ project. (Photo Bill Schmoker)

Geoscientist Tim Kenna works with his son's class to decorate boats for the Float Your Boat project. Jack Kenna works to get his boat 'Arctic ready'.

Geoscientist Tim Kenna works with his son’s fifth grade class to decorate boats for the ‘Float Your Boat’ project. Jack Kenna works to get his boat ready for an Arctic deployment.

In preparation for their Arctic work GEOTRACES linked with “Float Your Boat”, an education program with a unique concept. ‘Float Your Boat’ blends the themes of historic Arctic drift studies, modern GPS technology and hands on science, to engage local communities with work in remote science locations. Scientists currently onboard the Research Vessel Healy spent time last spring recruiting and meeting with school groups to share information about the Arctic, their upcoming science cruise and collecting small student decorated wooden boats that would become part of the project.

A note on the computer station of Tim Kenna announces that it is time to deploy the  'Float Your Boat' project.

Sometimes the best way to deliver information on a ship is to tack up a sign on a high use item. A note on the computer station of Tim Kenna is used to notify him that it is time to deploy the ‘Float Your Boat’ project. (Of course smiley faces always help!)

For over a month the science team has been anticipating the deployment of these small wooden vessels since this builds a direct connection to their families and communities back home.

The student boats are deployed in a 100% biodegradable box lowered carefully onto an iceberg along with an iridium satellite tracking buoy. The tracker is activated ‘calling home’ so that it can be used to track the circulation of the ice. Over time the ice is expected to melt and the box will biodegrade sending these small floating wooden boats into the high seas of the Arctic Ocean.

The location of the Arctic drift boats was close to the North Pole. In many earlier years his would have been an area that was inaccessible for a ship to penetrate to set up this drifter experiment.

The location of the Arctic drift boats was close to the North Pole. In many earlier years this area would have been inaccessible for a ship to penetrate to set up this drifter experiment.

Once the box degrades the boats will be separated from the tracker, but each boat has been identified by the students with their school and their own name and stamped with the project contact information. If any of the boats wash up onshore there is enough information for the locator to contact ‘Float Your Boat’ with a date and location. Through online tracking of the iridium satellite this project provides opportunities for students to learn about Arctic change, marine circulation, marine debris transit and maritime careers.

Boxes one and two are deployed on the ice with the tracker and the sip crew is pulled back up to the Healy. (Photo T. Kenna)

Boxes one and two are deployed on the ice with the tracker and the ship crew is pulled back up to the Healy. (Photo T. Kenna)

The ‘Float Your Boat’ project concept comes from early Arctic science, when drifting ice floes were used to track Arctic circulation. In the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) Lamont scientist Ken Hunkins resided for two 6 month stints on Ice Station Alpha, a station built on top of the Arctic sea ice. Science teams were flown in by plane and dropped, along with their equipment, about 500 miles north of Alaska. There they studied a range of ocean parameters, including tracking their own progress as they moved along with the ice drift. The 18 months of operations tracked the ice floe movement as it shifted ~2000 miles around the Arctic in a clockwise manner until it was just north of Ellesmere Island, Canada. (map below)

Annotated historic map from the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) of the Floating Arctic Stations. Red line shows Alpha Station, the US first floating ice research station, representing some of the original 'Arctic drift studies'. (Photo/annotation M. Turrin; map Ken Hunkins)

Annotated historic map of the Floating Arctic Stations, from the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) . The red line shows Alpha Station, the US first floating ice research station, and one of the original ‘Arctic drift studies’. (Photo/annotation M. Turrin; map Ken Hunkins)

Somehow the rigid presence of the Healy seems infinitely more secure than a few tents and rigs set directly on the mile long by half-mile wide section of sea ice under station Alpha.

Float Your Boat 'vessels' were loaded into boxes and shipped to the Healy in advance of the deployment.

Float Your Boat ‘vessels’ were loaded into boxes and shipped to the Healy in advance of the deployment.

But even earlier than the science drift experiments were the expeditions of early Arctic explorers, like Fritdjof Nansen, who froze his ship the “Fram” into the northern icepack during his voyage of 1893-1896 in hopes of drifting to the North Pole. He did not succeed, however he did learn about Arctic drift and spurred additional research on this topic, perhaps leading to these young Arctic researchers and their ‘vessels’.

Tim Kenna is shown here on the right with Marty Fleischer on the left at the North Pole. Tim  worked with several groups of local students including  Pearl River High School A.P. Environmental Science Students and his son's fourth grade class at Upper Nyack Elementary School. 

Tim Kenna is shown here on the right with Marty Fleisher on the left at the North Pole. Tim worked with several groups of local students including Pearl River High School Marine Science Club and his son’s fifth grade class at Upper Nyack Elementary School in the ‘Float Your Boat’ project for GEOTRACES.

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.

Celebrating the Winners of the 2015 Golden Goose Award - AAU

Featured News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 14:00
In a video, Lamont-Doherty geophysicist Chris Small discusses his work that led to a 2015 Golden Goose Award, presented at the Library of Congress.

Biking and Breathing - Columbia Magazine

Featured News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 12:00
Lamont's Steve Chillrud and Columbia Public Health's Darby Jack are outfitting New York City cyclists with air-monitoring equipment to determine how the intensity of their workouts affects the amount of pollution they inhale and the impact pollution has on their cardiovascular systems.

Scientists Find Tools that Predate Earliest Known Humans - Columbia Magazine

Featured News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 12:00
“The prospect that somebody else was turning rocks into cutting instruments half a million years before our earliest known ancestors were walking around northern Africa rewrites the book on everything we thought we knew about early tool usage,” said Lamont geologist Christopher Lepre.

The Exxon Research Program That Advanced Understanding of Climate Change - InsideClimate News

Featured News - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 12:00
Lamont's Taro Takahashi used Exxon's tanker records to conclude that the oceans absorb only about 20 percent of the CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities. The paper earned Takahashi a "Champions of the Earth" prize from the United Nations.

From the U.S. House: Recognizing Golden Goose Award Winner Chris Small - Congressional Record

Featured News - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 12:00
Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin honored Lamont-Doherty's Chris Small from the floor of the U.S. House for his work that won a 2015 Golden Goose Award.

The Southern Ocean Is Breathing in Carbon Dioxide at a Healthy Rate - Ocean News & Technology

Featured News - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 12:00
Newly updated ship and satellite data analyzed by Lamont's Taro Takahashi show that CO2 uptake started growing again in 2002, and that the Southern Ocean is now absorbing proportionately as much CO2 as ever.

Sen. Ed Markey on the Golden Goose Award - Huffington Post

Featured News - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 07:00
Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts joined colleagues in praising the winners of the 2015 Golden Goose Award, including Lamont-Doherty geophysicist Chris Small.

And now…

Chasing Microbes in Antarctica - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 00:24

…for something completely different.  My wife and I are expecting our first child in a few months, which is wonderful and all, but means that we are faced with the daunting task of coming up with a name.  Being data analysis types (she much more than me), and subscribing to the philosophy that there is no problem that Python can’t solve, we decided to write competing scripts to select a good subset of names.  This is my first crack at a script (which I’ve titled BAMBI for BAby naMe BIas), I’ve also posted the code to Github.  That will stay up to date as I refine my method (in case you too would like Python to name your child).

My general approach was to take the list of baby names used in 2014 and published by the Social Security Agency here, bias against the very rare and very common names (personal preference), then somehow use a combination of our birth dates and a random number generator to create a list of names for further consideration.   Okay, let’s give it a go…

First, define some variables. Their use will be apparent later.  Obviously replace 999999 with the real values.

get = 100 # how many names do you want returned? wife_bday = 999999 my_bday = 999999 due_date = 999999 aatc = 999999 # address at time of conception size = (wife_bday + my_bday) / (due_date / aatc) start_letters = ['V','M'] # restrict names to those that start with these letters, can leave as empty list if no restriction desired sex = 'F' # F or M

Then import the necessary modules.

import matplotlib import numpy as np import matplotlib.pyplot as py import math import scipy.stats as sps

Define a couple of variables to hold the names and abundance data, then read the file from the SSA.

p = [] # this will hold abundance names = [] # this will hold the names with open('yob2014.txt', 'r') as names_in: for line in names_in: line = line.rstrip() line = line.split(',') if line[1] == sex: if len(start_letters) > 0: if line[0][0] in start_letters: n = float(line[2]) p.append(float(n)) names.append(line[0]) else: n = float(line[2]) p.append(float(n)) names.append(line[0])

Excellent. Now the key feature of my method is that it biases against both very rare and very common names. To take a look at the abundance distribution run:

py.hist(p, bins = 100)

figure_1Ignore the ugly X-axis.  Baby name abundance follows a logarithmic distribution; a few names are given to a large number of babies, with a long “tail” of rare baby names.  In 2014 Emma led the pack with 20,799 new Emmas welcomed into the world.  My approach – I have no idea if it’s at all valid, so use on your own baby with caution – was to fit a normal distribution to the sorted list of names.  I got the parameters for the distribution from the geometric mean and standard deviation (as the arithmetic mean and SD have no meaning for a log distribution).  The geometric mean can be calculated with the gmean function, I could not find a ready-made function for the geometric standard deviation:

geo_mean = sps.mstats.gmean(p) print 'mean name abundance is', geo_mean def calc_geo_sd(geo_mean, p): p2 = [] for i in p: p2.append(math.log(i / geo_mean) ** 2) sum_p2 = sum(p2) geo_sd = math.exp(math.sqrt(sum_p2 / len(p))) return(geo_sd) geo_sd = calc_geo_sd(geo_mean, p) print 'the standard deviation of name abundance is', geo_sd ## get a gaussian distribution of mean = geo_mean and sd = geo_sd ## of length len(p) dist_param = sps.norm(loc = geo_mean, scale = geo_sd) dist = dist_param.rvs(size = sum(p)) ## now get the probability of these values print 'wait for it, generating name probabilities...' temp_hist = py.hist(dist, bins = len(p)) probs = temp_hist[0] probs = probs / sum(probs) # potentially max(probs)

At this point we have a list of probabilities the same length as our list of names and preferencing names of middle abundance. The next and final step is to generate two pools of possible names. The first pool is derived from a biased-random selection that takes into account the probabilities, birth dates, due date, and address at time of conception. The second, truly random pool is a subset of the first with the desired size (here 100 names).

possible_names = np.random.choice(names, size = size, p = probs, replace = True) final_names = np.random.choice(possible_names, size = get, replace = False)

And finally, print your list of names! I recommend roulette or darts to narrow this list further.

with open('pick_your_kids_name.txt', 'w') as output: for name in final_names: print name print >> output, name

Scientists Say California Hasn't Been This Dry in 500 Years - Washington Post

Featured News - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 12:00
California is in the fourth year of a severe drought with temperatures so high and precipitation so low that rain and snow evaporate almost as soon as they hit the ground. Cites research by Lamont's Park Williams.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack Worst in Five Centuries - Discovery News

Featured News - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 12:00
“This really highlights the need for more tree ring data for the Sierra Nevada," says Lamont's Park Williams.

A Week of Firsts for This Arctic Nation

TRACES of Change in the Arctic - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 18:06
47 AM the ship reached the North Pole, becoming the 1st U.S. surface vessel to do so unaccompanied. (photo U.S. COAST GUARD)

Gathered at the North Pole are the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy and the GEOTRACES science team. On Sept. 5 at 7:47 a.m., the ship reached the North Pole, becoming the first U.S. surface vessel to do so unaccompanied. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

We are closing in on a week of intense focus and excitement for GEOTRACES and for the United States around the Arctic. It was barely a week ago (Aug. 31) that President Obama became the first sitting president to visit Alaska, refocusing the other 49 states on the fact that we are indeed an Arctic Nation. This historic first was followed closely by another, the Sept. 5 arrival of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy with the U.S. GEOTRACES scientists on board at the North Pole, completing the first U.S. surface vessel transit to the pole unaccompanied by another icebreaker. Combined with this, U.S. GEOTRACES became the first group ever to collect trace metals at the North Pole. You might assume these three items are unrelated, but they are in fact tightly linked.

GLACIER Conference logo

GLACIER Conference logo

In convening the GLACIER Conference (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement & Resilience) in Alaska, President Obama focused on a region that is fast changing due to its fragility and vulnerability to climate change. The meeting timing aligned nicely with the U.S. assuming chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and was a perfect platform for the president to address climate change, an issue that he has tackled aggressively. Conference sessions on the global impacts of Arctic change, how to prepare and adapt to a changing climate, and on improved coordination on Arctic issues all align with the work of Arctic GEOTRACES, although tackled from a different angle.

It was while he was in Alaska that President Obama announced a commitment to push ahead the schedule for adding to the U.S. icebreaker fleet. The “fleet” has dwindled to just 3 U.S. vessels at present, and limits our ability to work in the Arctic. The goal of adding another icebreaker by 2020 will help to address this. “Working” in the Arctic for this Coast Guard cutter includes supporting the research that is critical to our being able to develop a baseline understanding of conditions and more accurately predict the future changes.

Ship camera as the US Cutter Healy arrives at the North Pole. (Photo US Healy)

Ship camera as the U.S. Cutter Healy arrives at the North Pole. Photo: U.S. Healy)

Evidence for change in the Arctic is found in the ability of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy to cross the Arctic ocean along its longest axis (the Bering Strait route) and penetrate deep into the sea ice to make it to the North Pole unaccompanied. The ice has been thinner than expected and experiencing a much higher degree of melt. Ice stations, where the science team gets out onto the ice to sample, have been postponed because of safety concerns from the thin ice conditions. Everyone, including the captain, has been surprised by the conditions. The thin ice has increased the speed of travel. Although some thick (up to 10 feet) and solid ice has been encountered, much of the cruise has been spent traveling at up to 6 knots, and much less fuel has been used than expected because of this.

Members of the team who are not out on deck with the equipment 'manage' the cast from the aft control room. (photo T. Kenna)

Members of the team who are not out on deck with the equipment “manage” the cast from the aft control room. Photo: T. Kenna

The last week has been action packed for all 145 people on the Healy. First. a “superstation” was run, a 57-hour sampling stop with a large number of samples collected in the ~4,000-meter-deep water. A super station includes additional hydrocasts and pump sampling for the groups like Tim Kenna’s, that require large volumes of sample water. This was also a crossover station with the German GEOTRACES cruise on the Polarstern. Crossover means some of the extra samples collected can be used to do intercalibration (check to see that the results compare) between the science teams on the two ships. The German ship will collect at the exact same location. With large sampling projects using multiple labs and sampling teams, intercalibration becomes extremely important for interpreting the results.

The 'man-basket' lowering Tim Kenna and crew member to the ice via crane to do sampling from a pressure ridge. (photo Bill Schmoker)

The “man-basket” lowering Tim Kenna and crew member to the ice via crane to do sampling from a pressure ridge. Photo: Bill Schmoker

After our long superstation, the team went almost immediately into a dirty-ice station (ice that entrains sediment as it freezes). This ice can form in several ways: during the spring thaw when ice dams in Arctic streams force sedimented water out onto the ice, where it refreezes; during cold storms that churn up sediments in the shallow shelf regions to refreeze on the surface ice; and when shallow areas freeze solid, collecting sediment at the base, and later break away. Once the ice is formed, it moves into the Arctic circulation pattern, so identifying the source of the sediment can help us better understand the temporal and spatial nature of Arctic circulation. This type of ice has high value for Tim’s research, since short-lived radioactive isotopes are frozen into the ice with the sediments, providing a timer for the formation of the ice.

The dirty ice station was followed by an ice-algae station. Both of these entail stopping the ship and craning over two people in a “man-basket” where they can get out and sample (see image). This was followed closely by two full ice stations, where many groups went out on the ice to do their sampling; some for over 12 hours (brr). The second ice station had wind chills of -14 C.

Field time, especially in the polar regions, is expensive and limited, so while in the field it is critical to complete as much science as possible. Sleep happens later when the team is back home.

Lamont Note: As part of the Healy’s instrument package, they standardly carry a CO2 instrument from Lamont’s Taro Takahashi. This was onboard when the Healy reached the North Pole (89.997 °N). The partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in seawater was found to be 343.3 micro-atmospheres at the water temperature of -1.438 °C. This is about 50 micro-atmospheres below the atmospheric pCO2 of 392.7 micro-atmospheres, and indicates that the Arctic Ocean water is rapidly absorbing CO2 from the air. The measurements confirm that the Arctic Ocean is helping to slow down the accumulation of the green house gas in air and hence the climate warming.

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.

Does Air Pollution Deflate Urban Bikers' Health? - Science Friday

Featured News - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty geochemist Steven Chillrud describes his study underway that is fitting cyclists across New York with sensors to map out air quality around the city.

Award Recognizes Research on Human Distribution by Altitude - Space Ref

Featured News - Thu, 09/10/2015 - 19:40
Lamont geophysicist Chris Small has won a 2015 Golden Goose Award for his work on how human populations are distributed with respect to altitude. The award was created by a coalition of business, university, and scientific organizations.

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