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Flight to Greenland Starts Loud, Ends with Beauty - Poughkeepsie Journal

Featured News - Tue, 07/30/2013 - 09:11
Reporter John Ferro follows Lamont's IcePod team into the field.

‘Lipreading’ the Icesheet

Peering Through Polar Ice - Mon, 07/29/2013 - 17:47
A view from the cockpit of the LC130 aircraft as it moves over the Greenland Icesheet. (Photo M. Turrin)

A view from the cockpit of the LC130 aircraft as it is maneuvered down the fjord by the New York Air National Guard up onto the Greenland ice sheet. Photo: M. Turrin

Even the most skilled of English language lipreaders are only able to tease apart about 30 percent of the information being shared. I learned this reading a recent article (Kolb, 20131). The author, herself deaf, went on to note that in some transmissions the information capture is higher while in others there is nothing collected. An average of 30 percent information transfer…most of us seek more information, we are curious beings. I don’t know anyone who is happy to sit comfortably saying “yes we know 30 percent, that is good enough.”

The team heads to the aircraft at Kangerlussuaq Airbase. (Photo M. Turrin)

The team heads to the aircraft at Kangerlussuaq Airbase. Photo: M. Turrin

I am surrounded by question posers, information seekers, hypothesis formers – scientists are an inquisitive bunch for sure – and that is how we find ourselves back in Greenland in July seeking to learn more about the information operating underneath and deep inside this changing ice sheet, and testing just what our IcePod instruments are capable of telling us. Thirty percent is well in excess of what we currently know about ice sheets and their processes, but every line flown and piece of data collected and analyzed builds upon our current understanding.

Moving onto the edge of the Greenland Icesheet flying up Sondrestrom Glacier. (photo M. Turrin)

Moving onto the edge of the Greenland ice sheet flying up Sondrestrom Glacier. Photo: M. Turrin

Prior to arriving at the base for the morning, flight plans were laid well in advance. Discussions threaded through the series of meetings leading up to our return to Kangerlssuaq, piecing together the right combination of flights that would focus on testing instruments and addressing the science. Instrument range, elevation, seasonal snow conditions, old radar lines all are factored in. Once in Greenland we must weave weather and instrument issues into our planning. Weather is cloudy and reports suggest an improvement during the week, so we will shelve our camera testing for the minute and focus on instruments designed to penetrate through the clouds. Today our flight will focus on tuning our Deep Ice Radar System (DICE).

Tej Dhakal and Chris Bertinato confer over the radar data. (photo M. Turrin)

Tej Dhakal and Chris Bertinato confer over the radar data. Photo: M. Turrin

Located at the crest of the ice sheet the elevation is just over 10,500 ft. and seems just the place to test our deep ice radar. Once aloft, we head for deep ice up over Summit. The weather reports are validated – the whole area is socked in with cloud cover and the pilots switch to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Our survey flight at Summit is 3,000 ft. above ground level (agl), but the aircraft instruments tell us we are 13,000 ft. above sea level (asl). The ice is deep and DICE is the focus of the next few hours as we survey and resurvey in the same area with dialogue, testing, refining and learning with each pass.

Nick Frearson, Robin Bell and Mike Wolovick discuss the possibilities of continuing the flight line or adjusting to focus the day's efforts. (photo M. Turrin)

Nick Frearson, Robin Bell and Mike Wolovick discuss the possibilities of continuing the flight line or adjusting to focus the day’s efforts. Photo: M. Turrin

A question was raised — would we want to move to a second area to look at different conditions? Checking other areas of the ice sheet is tempting, but the science team vetoes this…”We learn more by doing this now,” holding our focus on one location. So we refocused our efforts, collecting more data, making more small adjustments, and consider that with each data point we are improving our lipreading of the ice sheet.

Mike Wolovick and Tej Dhakal troubleshoot radar data wearing appropriate eye protection gear! (Photo M. Turrin)

Cool Dudes! Mike Wolovick and Tej Dhakal troubleshoot radar data wearing appropriate ice sheet eye protection gear. Photo: M. Turrin

For more about IcePod: http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/icepod.

1Kolb, Rachel, Seeing at the speed of sound, in Standford Magazine, March/April 2013 http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=59977

Nom, Nom, Nom: Meals aboard the R/V Langseth

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 07/29/2013 - 07:15

After all these posts about how we live and work onboard the R/V Langseth you may just be wondering what sort of sustenance keeps us going during the long hours.  Well you’re in luck! The excellent cooks serve meals with a smile promptly three times a day at 7:20 am, 11:30 am, and 5:30 pm.  Breakfasts always include mountains of eggs, bacon, sausages, and pancakes and on special occasions scrumptious muffins.  Lunch usually comes with toasty grilled sandwiches, soup that warms your limbs, and crunchy French fries.  Dinner varies but commonly consists of a juicy steak or pork chop, rice, mashed potatoes that put even your Mom’s Thanksgiving potatoes to shame, and a delicious desert like cherry pie.  The salad bar is open 24 hours a day and even this far into the cruise still contains crisp spinach, olives, tomatoes, and a variety of other vegetables.A sampling of the meals served onboard with cooked by the always smiling galley staff.
From left to right breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In the center image the galley staff made up of June, Hervin, and Brian pose behind a lunch of pizza and soda.We are now in the home stretch of our cruise, steaming furiously down our final sail lines to complete our 3D grid.  Can’t believe there’s only four more dinners until we set foot back on dry land!
Natalie AccardoLamont-Doherty

IcePod Prepares for Greenland - The Poughkeepsie Journal

Featured News - Sat, 07/27/2013 - 11:00
Lamont-Doherty engineer Nick Frearson discusses the IcePod project to measure ice loss in Greenland.

5 lessons I have learnt on my first scientific cruise

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sat, 07/27/2013 - 08:40

I was sent to join this cruise half way through because a lot of the scientific party had to leave and nobody more qualified than me could be found at such short notice! I have never been on a cruise before and had no idea what to expect, or any idea how complex and time consuming 3D seismic acquisition is. I have learnt so much about the technical side of acquisition and a little bit about the processing side; however I have also gained a lot of non-scientific tips and tricks!

Here are my top 5 tips: 

1) ‘Boring science is good science’ – If you are bored on a 6 hour watch that is a good thing because it means that everything is running smoothly and good data is being collected. Having things to do is always a bad sign! Things have been running pretty well recently and as a result I have greatly improved my crossword skills.

2) Things will break, don’t panic! – This is a hand me down ship filled with second-hand instruments from industry vessels. Because of this a lot of the equipment is temperamental and repeatedly needs to be fixed. However, I have also seen instruments that have been offline for days randomly start working again so you never know!

3) Duck tape has a million uses – There is no end to the list of things duck tape is used for on this ship: keeping weights in place on streamers, keeping your laptop on the desk during bad weather, taping your ladder to your bunk so it doesn’t bang during rough weather and keeping ropes in place on the deck to name a few. It seems like any problem can be fixed with tape.
If you don't want your office chair rolling around or you need a cable tie just use tape!
4) Hoard food – When food you like is put out in the mess then take it while you can. A few days ago a gigantic tub of mini snickers and bounty bars was put out in the mess….I have never seen chocolate disappear so fast!

5) Taking a shower is the most dangerous activity on the ship – I recommend keeping either an elbow or hand on the wall at all times so you can feel when you start to move. I think taking a shower is probably the best form of exercise on the ship because of the amount of effort and energy it takes just to balance. Also, never soap the bottom of your feet in rough seas. That is probably classified as an extreme sport!

Tessa GregoryUniversity of Southampton

Free Time: Let's see what we have here!

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Fri, 07/26/2013 - 11:35
As Natalie told you, the Main Lab operates for 24 hours a day, but we have a 6 hour shift (nobody can work for 24 hours of course!).  So, what are we going to do in our free time? That is a great question!  Let me show you the Marcus Langseth's free-time facilities.

Located next to the Galley we have our Library which has a lot of good books (I was reading the Che Guevara's travel book before the beginning of this part II, I really want to finish it!) and these excellent chairs...they're really comfortable, believe me. You can also find a variety of mystery, fiction and scientific books on the shelves.
The library with a wide variety of books
Yeah, but John actually I'm not a book lover ...No problem! This is what you need! A 42-inch TV screen and a big collection of movies and TV shows. Ah, and don't forget the PS3, which makes the crew's free-time fun.  I have to admit something to you, I've never used the movie room, but maybe sometime I will go there to catch a movie or documentary.The movie room with seating for plentyBut if you're an athletic person, this is your place, the gym!
It's a little bit small, but if you think we're in the middle of the ocean, the luxury of having some equipment must be appreciated.
The gym ... be careful when the ship is moving!So, there is a treadmill, some free weights, etc. Be aware of the pitch, roll and heave! These are the movements made by the ship.  Instead of explaining them, I'll post an image which can perfectly illustrate what I'm trying to say.
The differences between pitching, rolling, and heavingFor those who appreciate an indoor sport, we also have a ping-pong table. It's located one level below the Galley, at the Main Deck. I didn't use this table either, but I'll launch a challenge: Try to play ping-pong during rough seas! Imagine how cool a ping-pong game is inside a ship facing waves of 5 or 7m (or even higher).
The ping pong table ... this could get interesting in rough seasThank you...or should I say Obrigado?

João (John) Pedro T. Zielinski
Complutense University of Madrid/Federal University of Santa Catarina

The beginning of the "No Mores"

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Fri, 07/26/2013 - 11:18
Today marks the final day before we start the infamous "No Mores".  No more Saturdays, then no more Sundays, and on and on until it is time for us to set a course towards dry land.  With almost two weeks behind us on this second half of the cruise we have only a handful of sail lines left to complete (see figure below).  Once we finish the lines we will head back down to the bottom half of our work site to fill in holes; isolated spots where we were unable to collect data due to strong currents or short-lived equipment problems.  After that it's back to port where we will wave farewell to the R/V Langseth as it steams towards the waters offshore of Iceland for another scientific adventure.
Don't forget to check out our progress as we fill in the sail lines here

Happy TGIF!

Natalie Accardo
Lamont-Doherty

Hudson River Sewage Spills Breed Illness, Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria - (Rockland, NY) Journal News

Featured News - Fri, 07/26/2013 - 11:00
Water quality study coauthored by Lamont's Andrew Juhl and Gregory O'Mullan cited.

Step into our Office: A tour of the main science lab in the R/V Langseth

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Tue, 07/23/2013 - 08:32
A panorama view of the main science labWe left off last time with a tour of our sleeping quarters thus it seems only appropriate to now walk through the room where we spend most of waking hours; the main science lab.   Located one level below the gun deck, the main lab operates 24 hours a day controlling every aspect of data acquisition from monitoring the multichannel streamers and air-gun arrays to building the computers needed to process the terabytes of data that barrel in.  An up close view of the numerous computer screens in the main labIt can safely be said that when acquiring 3D seismic data during which approximately 6.5 terabytes of raw data will be recorded over 43 days you can never have enough computers.  In the main lab, laptops and computers occupy every surface.  Stand-alone computer monitors duck taped onto desks sit next to laptops anchored by bungee cables.  Power cords, Ethernet cables, and USB connections snake across tables in every direction periodically diving down into a dark power outlet. A bank of computer screens approximately 12 monitors wide and 3 monitors tall encircles nearly half of the lab.  These screens (39 in total) act as terminals that allow us to monitor and control a myriad of processes that are summarized in the image below.  Possibly of greatest importance are the terminals dedicated to “driving the ship.”   We aim to always have the four streamers following in perfect straight lines behind the ship however, cross-currents make this is a difficult charge.  Given the length of 6 km (3.7 miles!) and the weight of the streamers, it is akin to a toy boat towing four 23 m (75 ft) fishing lines straight behind it on a windy day. Thus to keep the streamers in the optimum orientation with respect to our acquisition line we continuously nudge the ship north and south while pulling the heads of the streamers with us. All of the steering is done from a combination of three monitors with the use of the software package “Spectra,” which in the simplest sense determines real time data coverage given the location of the air guns and the streamers.  A labeled view of the bank of computer monitors that dominates the labOf equal importance are monitors that display the health of the four streamers and the two air-gun arrays.  We aim to keep the streamers at a constant depth relative to the air-gun arrays and also at a depth that keeps them protected from passing ship traffic.  In this part of the Atlantic fishing vessels are common and with our gear sitting kilometers behind our ship and 12 m (40 ft) beneath the sea surface one could see how a vessel might not know that it is there.  Therefore, whenever we see an approaching boat we implore them to keep a safe distance away both for the safety of their vessel and for our gear.  

The back of the lab where most of the preprocessing and quality control is done.Additionally, we use this bank of terminals to monitor for the presence of critters in the water, the weather and sea conditions, and the health of the EM122 multi-beam.  Sitting back from the semi-circle of computers is another set of desks where the we, the students and scientists, stake our claim.  Outfitted with no-slip fabric and duck tape, we have covered the back of the room with our computers, which we use for pre-processing and quality control (QC) of the incoming data. 
That about covers the main lab, they keep it pretty cold down here for the sake of the computers so I’m headed up to grab another sweatshirt before I get frost bite.  Stay warm out there!
Natalie AccardoLamont-Doherty

What a difference a month makes!

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sat, 07/20/2013 - 12:34

For those of you who have been following our adventure here's a comparison of the sea-state. I know that the few of us who have been out here for both halves definitely appreciate the difference, and for those joining for the second half it looks like smooth seas ahead!
Also, we have now reached 10,000 page views!! So thanks Mom (and everybody else).
James Gibson Lamont-Doherty

Mi Casa es Su Casa : A tour of the living quarters aboard the R/V Langseth

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sat, 07/20/2013 - 06:17
Our home away from home at sunset
We started our tour of the R/V Langseth almost a month ago with a walk through of the mess hall and now with our return to the high seas are excited to pick back up where we left off.  Let’s begin with our sleeping quarters.
As we all know, the most important aspect of real estate is location, location, location and the same can be said for room assignments when at sea.  On first glance, you might be tempted to opt for a room on a higher floor accompanied by a nice porthole to allow full view of the spectacular sea outside.  However, hold that thought!  Remember that the further above sea level you are, the more you will move with each passing wave.  What may feel like a peaceful sway down on the lower levels can turn into a ferocious veer strong enough to topple chairs on the top deck.  Thus, if you have any inclination that you could succumb to seasickness it is probably best to pass on the picturesque vista and opt instead for a windowless cabin below.  Fortunately, for many of the scientists mental struggles over room selection never occurred as cabins had been assigned to us before we walked up the gangway.  Most of the students aboard are sleeping in a suite of cabins that share a common living space endearingly termed the “Snake Pit”.  The origin of the room’s namesake remains mysterious, perhaps previous groups of students did some sort of battle there? Or fought snakes? Who knows, for now though it represents a comfortable room where many spend their off time reading books from the library or taking short siestas in between work. 
The "Snake Pit" where students read and lounge between shifts
All of the cabins aboard share similar features such as a set of bunk beds and matching closets.  Depending on the individual setup, you might find yourself lucky enough to also have a set of desks and perhaps even a small couch though these furnishings are found mostly in the higher rooms reserved for the principle scientists and the superior ship mates.  Given that work continues around the clock on the Langseth, all bunk beds include an individual light for private reading and also black out drapes to both prevent any light from your bed reaching your room mate and conversely any light from your room mate reaching you.  Additionally, all rooms come with either adjoining shared or private bathrooms (termed “heads”).  Given the combination of rolling waves and slippery tiles, it could easily be said that the heads may be some of the most injury prone rooms aboard.  Thus whenever attempting to take a shower, remember to always keep one hand on the hand rail and if the ship starts swaying don’t neglect to hold on tight otherwise you might suddenly find yourself autonomously ejected onto the cold, wet floor.
Our cozy cabin equipped with bunk beds and closets
I think that about does it for now, dinnertime is just around the corner and I can smell the ahi tuna from here. Buenas Noches!
Natalie AccardoLamont-Doherty

Vigo, Illas Cies, and La Cabeza

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 07/18/2013 - 00:00
As Dale said we are back to work!! We have now completed 3 lines of the ~25 that we hope to cover during this second half.

Being at sea again allows me to look back at our extended stay in Vigo (Galicia). The port city of Vigo is a unique and beautiful place. The summer months are particularly nice as this part of the Atlantic coast is rainy most of the year. Vigo is just about 2hrs north of Porto (Port wine), which is in Portugal. The proximity to Portugal and the fact that in the past teaching the English language was not stressed within the school system leads to a population that speaks a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, but not much English. As a result my (poor) Spanish was definitely put to the test as well as my ability to communicate using what are best described as elementary level sketches. 
What Vigoites lack in English they make up in hospitality and a relaxed outlook on life. In short, the idea of a "siesta" is not lost on them. While the bars (and there are hundreds if not thousands) are usually open, the restaurants do not open until 8:30 p.m., and generally not at all on Sunday. However, we did manage to find one that is, and it happened to have very good (and cheap) Tapas. Although off the beaten path it quickly became one of our favorites.
A view down the alley to one of our favorite bar/restaurants.Vigo also has some amazing beaches! After what amounted to a 45 minute walk or a 6 Euro (~$8) cab ride from the ship we could either lay a towel down and get some sun or grab a drink at one of the bars that are literally on the sand. I was shocked to say the least in the shear number of people that were at the beach, and it seemed like there were more during the weekdays than the weekends. Must have something to do with the laid back lifestyle (?)
Playa Samil on a Tuesday.The best beach (Rodas) in the world (The Guardian, 2007) can be found on one of three islands about 45 minutes (16 Euro, ~$20) by ferry named Illas Cies. The archipelago of Cies is also a Spanish National Park. An interesting thing about these islands is that they look like an above sea analog to what we are seeing sub-seafloor in the data. That is to say that they consist of a series of faulted crustal blocks (granite). The style of faulting is termed "Normal," which means that the hanging wall moved down relative to the foot wall. This type of faulting is indicative of extension and is expected along the length of this margin.

A view of Cies from Playa Samil with faults indicated by the arrows.The part that we had been so patiently waiting for arrived after almost 3 weeks in this unique place. While I will not miss being in port, I am happy to have had the chance to see and experience this part of the world as it truly is a beautiful place.

Arrival of "La Cabeza" (the head).
James Gibson
Lamont-Doherty

The highs of going to sea again!

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Tue, 07/16/2013 - 05:36

Welcome back to our blog! As of yesterday morning, we are back at sea and shortly we will resume acquiring 3D data. The repairs to the engine were more difficult than originally thought. We had the Rolls Royce engineers with us for the whole time, working with our fine engineers on the ship. You may not know that Rolls Royce makes really big engines like those in the Langseth. They worked to clean out the engine, ordered a number of parts, and the parts gradually arrived in Vigo. The engine was reassembled and tested at the dock. It worked again!We sailed from Vigo at 0700 on 15 July with a partially new science team. Several people left the ship because they had conflicts with the extended cruise. They were Donna, Tim, Cesar, Mari, Brian, Steve, Luke, Marianne, Miguel, and Toby. Remaining were Dale, James, Raj, and Sarah. We could hardly do with a science team of four, so we recruited six newcomers. They are Natalie Accardo (Lamont), Milena Marjonovic (Lamont), Gaye Bayrakci (Southampton), Joao Pedro Tauscheck Zielinski (Madrid), Tessa Gregory (Southampton), and Katherine Coates (Southampton). We will try to get photos and bios up shortly.We are deploying the seismic gear now. We have two streamers out and the third almost out. We hope to begin acquisition in the morning.We are all excited about continuing our cruise and completing the 3D survey.
Dale SawyerRice University

A Dream Becomes Reality

It has been a while since we last updated this blog. The reasons are many. The primary reason for the delay is that we have had singular focus in launching our next project, a project that for many is a dream come true.

Before we launch into that and officially start the 2013 field season, let’s do a quick recap of our team’s efforts since last August.

Our academic year started with a bang: our new research project, which was an unexpected off shoot of our efforts to study climate, fire, and forest ecology, was funded by the National Science Foundation in September 2012.

Since then, our team has spent much time presenting prior results, new preliminary results and processing samples. Many, many samples.

 N. Pederson

Acres and acres of treats: xylemite that might as well be gold. Photo: N. Pederson

First, kudos to Nicole Davi work improving a tree-ring based reconstruction of the Kherlen Gol in Mongolia (gol = river). Many of the chronologies used were collected between 2009 & 2011 as a part of the Climate, Fire, and Forest Ecology project. The new work, “Is eastern Mongolia drying? A long-term perspective of a multi-decadal trend” can be found here.

Reconstruction of the Kherlen Gol. Figure by N. Davi

Reconstruction of the Kherlen Gol. Figure by N. Davi

Second, we need to congratulate Cari Leland on persisting and publishing the first paper from her thesis: “A hydroclimatic regionalization of central Mongolia as inferred from tree rings “ – link

Hydroclimatic regionalization of central Mongolia. Map work by C. Leland

Hydroclimatic regionalization of central Mongolia. Map work by C. Leland

Cari’s effort set the stage for our second paper on the climate history of the Mongol Breadbasket: “Three centuries of shifting hydroclimatic regimes across the Mongolian Breadbasket“ – link

The swinging of drought through time and space across the Mongolian Breadbasket. Image by N. Pederson

The swinging of drought through time and space across the Mongolian Breadbasket. Image by N. Pederson

Finally, Tom Saladyga got a nice piece of his dissertation published with the article, “Privatization, Drought, and Fire Exclusion in the Tuul River Watershed, Mongolia“ – link

The spatial and temporal fluctuation of fire in the Tuul watershed. Map work by T. Saladyga

The spatial and temporal fluctuation of fire in the Tuul watershed. Map work by T. Saladyga

We have a few manuscripts in development from our Climate, Fire, and Forest history project, which ends in 2013. And, we are very happy that Byambaa is on the doorstep of completing her dissertation. This project is coming to a very nice completion and we are thrilled.

We are equally thrilled with the start of our new project, “Pluvials, Droughts, Energetics, and the Mongol Empire”. We’ve gotten a silly amount of press here, here, here, here, and here – it has been great. Both institutions have made nice videos and overviews of the project: here is an example of WVU‘s and here is LDEO‘s. Awareness of this project has been widespread. We meet new scholars from various parts of the world and it seems they are already familiar with the new study. Neil presented preliminary results at the PAGES meeting in Goa, India – that was hard work

Amy Hessl garnered two invites based upon our work. The first was a workshop primarily populated with historians on migration and empires across Eurasia. The setting and out-discipline experience was fantastic. The second was an archeology-based workshop on Chinggis Khaan in Jerusalem – sounds like that was equally hard work!

We are now gathering in Ulaanbaatar to launch the first season of ‘complete’ field work. By complete fieldwork, I mean that we will not only be collecting tree cores and cross-sections from dead trees, but Avery Shinneman Cook will be leading the effort in collecting lake sediments in central Mongolia to better understand long-term environmental history and the impact of the Mongol Empire on the landscape in and around the ancient capitol, Karakorum.

Prior to that, we will hold a 4-day workshop introducing ourselves to our wonderful and diverse team (a dream team? Besides Amy Hessl and Neil Pederson, team members include: Baatarbileg Nachin, Hanchin Tian, Nicola Di Cosmo, Avery Shinneman Cook, Kevin Anchukaitis, Oyunsanaa Byambasuren, and PhD students, Caroline Leland and John Quinn Burkhart) and their specific research. We will visit historical sites and lakes to begin the discussion on how to address some questions originally posed in our grant: did the rise of the Mongol Empire, driven literally by horsepower, benefit from an abundant climate and a surplus of ecosystem energy? Did the construction of the Mongol population, army, and herds of grazers significantly impact the landscape? Answers to the ful climatic context of the Mongol Empire has been a primary goal of the Mongolian-American Tree-RIng Project, (MATRIP) since the mid-1990s. We finally have the chance to address these questions. We do not know the answers yet, but stay tuned.

 N. Pederson

Essense. Photo: N. Pederson

_________________

Brief Observations on an alternative approach to Mongolia:

This is my 9th trip to Mongolia. It is hard to believe that I have visited this far-away land so many times. But, when I smell the steppe as we enter the airport, I relax and hit a new mode that is akin to putting on old slippers. I go through customs with nary a concern knowing that Baatar will be waiting for me with a warm greeting and hug. The drive to UB is filled with the same conversation – “How are you? How is Mongolia? How are things going? How is your family? How are your students? My, Mongolia has changed“. It is wonderful.

What changed for me this year was how I got to Mongolia. I typically venture west and enter through eastern Asia. This time, I traveled east, stopping in Turkey, re-fueling in Bishkek, and then flying over western China and western Mongolia.

The sky was clear upon entering western China and the scenery was stunning. Really. I stopped my movie and just drooled out the window [akin to a dog?]. It adds a few hours of travel time at most, but I’d do it again.

Scenes of Going East to go East

Sun Rising over western Asia

Sun Rising over western Asia. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Mountains west of Urumqi, China. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Mountains eastern of Urumqi, China. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Western Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Western Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Photo: N. Pederson

Will 2013 provide another gem-quality set of data?

Will 2013 provide another gem-quality set of data?


Categories: TRL

In Ethiopian Desert, a Window into Rifting of Africa

A new study in the journal Nature provides fresh insight into deep-earth processes driving apart huge sections of the earth’s crust. The process, called rifting, mostly takes place on seabeds, but can be seen in a few places on land—nowhere more visibly than in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. (See the slideshow below.) Here, earthquakes and volcanoes have rent the surface over some 30 million years, forming part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. What causes this, and does it resemble the processes on the seafloor, as many geologists think?

The study suggests that conventional ideas may be wrong. Past calculations done by scientists predict that the solid rock under the Afar should be stretching and thinning substantially as the continent tears apart; thus molten rock should not have far to travel to the surface. Led by David Ferguson, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, researchers analyzed the chemical makeup of lava chunks they collected from the Afar. They showed that magmas actually came from quite deep–greater than 80 kilometers, or 45 miles, within the earth’s mantle–and formed under extraordinarily high temperatures, above 1,450 degrees C, or 2,600 F.

This implies that magmas are generated by a long-lasting plume of mantle heat. It also indicates that magma must make its way up through a surprisingly thick lid of solid rock, called the lithosphere. This idea has been supported by some seismic images of the Afar subsurface.

Rifting here is fairly slow—one or two centimeters a year, or 0.4 to 0.8 inches, and this may partly explain why so much solid rock persists. As the lithosphere is pulled apart, it does stretch, crack and thin. However, because the process in this region takes so long, the base of the lithosphere has time to cool down by losing heat to the colder rock above. This keeps the relatively cold, brittle lithosphere thicker than would be expected, and counteracts stretching. Sometimes, though, magma suddenly spurts long distances to the surface, and the earth visibly cracks and pulls apart during spectacular rifting events. That includes a series of events that started in 2005, and was closely observed by scientists.

Parts of the rift have already sunk below sea level. In the distant future–maybe 10 million years from now–the process will advance so far that the Red Sea will break through and flood the region. A new sea will open up, whether or not there is anyone around to name it.

In East Africa, earth’s crust is stretching and cracking, in a process called rifting. Here in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, hundreds of faults and fissures have formed over time.In East Africa, earth’s crust is stretching and cracking, in a process called rifting. Here in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, hundreds of faults and fissures have formed over time. (David Ferguson)

 

An important force driving the rifting is magma created beneath earth’s rocky outer shell, which has forced its way upward to push apart the crust. This eruption happened in the Afar in June 2009. (David Ferguson)An important force driving the rifting is magma created beneath earth’s rocky outer shell, which has forced its way upward to push apart the crust. This eruption happened in the Afar in June 2009. (David Ferguson)

 

This crevice opened in a matter of hours, during a sequence of very large earthquakes in September 2005. It formed in response to magma being injected into the shallow crust, and is still emitting volcanic gases. This injection of magma was the largest event of its kind to be observed by scientists. (Lorraine Field)

This crevice opened in a matter of hours, during a sequence of very large earthquakes in September 2005. It formed in response to magma being injected into the shallow crust, and is still emitting volcanic gases. This injection of magma was the largest event of its kind to be observed by scientists. (Lorraine Field)

 

Fresh lava erupted onto the desert floor preserves fragile surface textures, formed as the viscous molten rock cooled and hardened. Over time, these sharp features will erode away. (David Pyle)

Fresh lava erupted onto the desert floor preserves fragile surface textures, formed as the viscous molten rock cooled and hardened. Over time, these sharp features will erode away. (David Pyle)

 

A remote field site within the rift. Afar is one of the hottest and most sparsely populated regions on the planet. (David Pyle)

A remote field site within the rift. Afar is one of the hottest and most sparsely populated regions on the planet. (David Pyle)

 

In a region that is vast, largely roadless and dominated by armed tribes, scientists depend on helicopters to get around, and on local people to act as guides and security guards. The climate necessitates large amounts of portable drinking water. (David Ferguson)

In a region that is vast, largely roadless and dominated by armed tribes, scientists depend on helicopters to get around, and on local people to act as guides and security guards. The climate necessitates large amounts of portable drinking water. (David Ferguson)

 

ethiopia-7

Lavas forming the rift surface cracked apart during an earthquake in 2005 to form this fault. The horizontal boundary between the light and dark area marks the pre-2005 ground surface, and shows that the area in the foreground dropped several meters during the quake. The geology of Afar provides many clues to the tectonic and magmatic process operating beneath our feet. (David Pyle)

The highs of hump day and the lows of engine failure…

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 10:00

June 22 was officially hump day – we were halfway through our 43-day cruise. Happily, we were also about halfway through our data collection; we had just finished acquiring the primary lines in the southern part of our survey area, which was a major milestone.  The data are looking very nice (stay tuned for an upcoming post with some of the first images of features below the seafloor here from our new data!).  Now that we have been out for a while and the survey was proceeding smoothly, everyone had settled into their shifts and routines, and the science party was consumed with onboard processing and archival of the incoming data stream. Funny enough, hump day and the near completion of half of our survey almost coincided with the summer solstice and a very full moon!  It seemed like the convergence of many lucky omens.
Alas, it was not so. In the wee hours of the morning on June 24, the port engine failed as we were steaming along collecting data.  The ship has two engines (partially in case of just such an event!).  Fixing things at sea is obviously more complicated than fixing them on land, and the engineers onboard determined that the damage was significant and not quickly repaired. While we have the parts onboard to replace most of the known broken pieces, making the repairs and assessing the full extent of the damage is best done dockside. Thus we decided to pick up all our seismic gear and head back to Vigo to make the repairs.  It took us >3 days to deploy all of the streamers, paravanes, and associated kit, but only about 12 hours to recover them! Now we are limping back to Vigo through relatively rough (3-4 m) seas powered by one engine.  Once the damage and remedies for the port engine can be fully assessed, we can figure out our next move. Wish us luck!
Donna Shillington
LDEO

How to launch an XBT

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 19:09

All of us on the science team have had our turn being indoctrinated in the "perils" of XBT deployment. In this video, Luke demonstrates the proper technique for launching an XBT.

Ship Tour – The Mess

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 08:49
We’re starting a new series of posts here on the Galicia 3D blog to give our readers a piecemeal tour of our home away from home, the R/V Marcus G. Langseth. Every few days or so, you will see new parts of the ship with detailed descriptions and hopefully a few interesting stories to go with them. Today we focus on the mess and galley (dining area and kitchen), arguably the most important area of the ship, but stay tuned for the engine room, bridge, the rack, main lab, aft decks, gym, steel beach, the ping pong table and more! 

Prior to boarding the Langseth, my expectations of the food on board were clouded with visions of elementary school cafeteria slop doled out in aluminum trays and eaten with sporks and a side of plastic bag infused with milk. Little did I know that the folks on board take their food quite seriously. The three meals prepared each day are easily the most anticipated events of a crews’ day.

The galley (a.k.a. the kitchen in land dweller speak) is manned by a cook and steward who are responsible for sustaining the morale for the 53 people on board. The mess is regularly stocked with snacks like crackers, raisins, peanuts, dried prunes (yuck!), popcorn, cold cereal, microwave pasta, deli meats and cheeses, an assortment of milks and juices, coffee, tea, ice cream, and “fresh” fruits and vegetables (which will slowly be replaced with canned fruits and vegetables as the days go by). Cookies and pastries are also available at select times during the day if one is lucky enough to get there before they’ve all been consumed.



Between snacking times are the three glorious meals. Breakfast has the most stable menu of all the meals with a selection of eggs, potatoes, hot cereal, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, ham, and a fruit platter that is now transitioning from fresh to canned fruits. Lunch generally consists of a type of sandwich, soup, French fries and/or onion rings, hot vegetables, rice, and other unpredictable delights. Supper has been quite intriguing as of late. We’ve been blessed with several kinds of steak, beef tenderloin, meatloaf, spaghetti, and many other varieties of taste bud tantalizing foods. For those who sleep during dinner and require a stomach recharge at 3am (yours truly and a good number of the crew on the midnight to noon shift), the galley staff save plates of dinner for “breakfast” that can be eaten during off times – I like to call this meal “brupper”, but am having difficulty getting the name to stick.


Lunch at the mess with Luke, Sarah, and Tyler.It has been entertaining to watch our young British colleagues become exposed to American cuisine for the first time with foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, meatloaf (although they’ve been informed that it’s never as good as my mom’s – love you mom!), French toast, sausage in patty form, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup. It is also quite obvious that a 2,000 mile pond provides for the generation of different mealtime habits. For example, Luke was quite disgusted that I would dip a chocolate-chip cookie in a cold glass of milk; I shared his disgust when he spiced his French toast (sans-syrup) with salt and pepper and ate it like a normal piece of toast (apparently this was his first French toast experience). I’m guessing there will be some sort of payback if we ever meet in England sometime.
Well folks, speaking of the devil, I’m off to the mess for a warm breakfast. I hope you enjoyed the tour and stay tuned for the next one!

Brian Jordan
Rice University

Calm after the storm

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Tue, 06/18/2013 - 05:46

We made it! According to the 30 minute log, which is one of the duties that we are given while on watch, we sustained up to 40 knot (74 km/hr, 46 mph) winds and ~7m (23 ft) seas for a few hours last night. That said, and aside from a relative lack of sleep, most of us seem to be no worse for wear. We also managed to travel north of our next sail line by almost an entire degree of latitude, which translates to ~111km (69 miles). We have now turned around, and are heading back to the survey area while working on streamer one. We will then re-deploy the air guns, and re-engage the survey in a couple of hours. 

Same view taken this morning.
James GibsonLamont-Doherty

Preparations for the storm

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/17/2013 - 00:08
As a follow up to Donna's post, we are making individual preparations, which include taking the motion sickness medicine of choice or default depending on where you come from.
Spanish, English, and American motion sickness remedies. We are also securing (tying down) our stuff and preparing our beds, which includes a new to us method coined "tacoing." To "taco" a bed means to use whatever you can find e.g. dirty clothes, luggage, random foam (Luke found some foam in the bird lab) in order to form a taco shape between your mattress and the wall. This way the roll has less of an affect on you as you try to get some sleep.. At least that's the theory.
My laptop's ready!Brian in a reasonably "taco'd" bed... And Luke's version.
Will update from the other side of the storm.
James GibsonLamont-Doherty
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