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Greenland Ice

Geopoetry - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 10:13
 Christian Morel (Nature)

A Greenland ice core. Photo: Christian Morel (Nature)

If you went to Greenland, almost 80 North,
And drilled your way down … a mile, then more,
You’d find some strange layers, a story’d come forth
A record of ice ages locked in a core.
You’d find glacial ice that is clearer, more soft
Than Eemian ice (long crystals, more rigid)
And clues that the ice height was higher aloft
Than thought for that time (with air temps less frigid).
A puzzle indeed, this view down a hole –
If NEEM endured warmth, whence the sea rise?
Some question the records, some look to South Pole …
In the decades that come, are we in for surprise?

____________________________________________________

Further reading:

Greenland defied ancient warming / But Antarctic glaciers may be more vulnerable than thought, Nature (2013)

NEEM Community Members, Nature (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. “Greenland Ice” first appeared on Allen’s website on Jan. 25, 2013.

Never a Dull Moment - The Antarctic Sun

Featured News - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 11:00
"Nowadays, we have to go out of our way to encounter sea ice, but this year was amazing. We ran into ice throughout the study area. It forced us to be creative when we couldn’t go where we wanted to," said Hugh Ducklow External Non-U.S. government site, lead principal investigator (PI) for the Palmer LTER and a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory External Non-U.S. government site.

El Niño Tests Forecasters - Nature News

Featured News - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 11:00
The model that best predicted earlier El Nino events, developed by scientists at Lamont-Doherty, did not see the destructive 1997-1998 event coming.

Less rainfall not the only risk factor in widespread drought, study shows - CBS News

Featured News - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 11:00
"We know from basic physics that warmer temperatures will help to dry things out," lead author Benjamin Cook said in a statement. "Even if precipitation changes in the future are uncertain, there are good reasons to be concerned about water resources."

Alternate Reality Game Eavesdrops on Climate Changed Future - National Geographic News

Featured News - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 11:00
The year is 20XX: Dallas is covered in 30 inches of snow, San Francisco is experiencing mild tornadoes, and Greenland has become a tropical paradise. At least, this is what inhabitants of possible futures are saying in the new alternate reality game, Future Coast.

Armin Van Buuren, Ancient Wood, and Ghengis Khan: This is not your father’s field research in Mongolia

We never expected this. Enkhbat had us hovering at warp speed along the Millennium Road in the northern shadows of the Khangai Mountains. Armin Van Buuren’s A State of Trance filling our rig. We were starting a new project to study the interaction between climate, fire, and forest history in the land of Chinggis Khaan and a silky voice was lifting us higher, “and if you only knew, just how much the Sun needs you, to help him light the sky, you’d be surprised. Do…do…do.do”. We were exhilarated. The Sun was shining. This was not exactly Chinggis’ steppe. But little did we know, we would eventually be chasing his ghost.

 

Image

Byarbaatar & Amy in front of Khorgo, unknowingly about to meet Chinggis’s ghost. Photo credit: Enkhbat.

After about a day’s travel we started passing the Khorgo lava field. Amy asked, “What’s that?” Neil had forgotten about this landmark despite having walked upon it 10 years prior. It is a ~30 km2 lava field with old trees on it. Gordon Jacoby, Nicole Davi, Baatarbileg Nachin, and others had sampled in the early aughts and put together a ca 700 yr long drought record from Siberian larch. Neil relayed this information to Amy and she said that we should sample on it knowing that a 2,000 yr long record in the American Southwest had been produced on a similar landscape feature. We had a tight schedule, but as we drove out to the western edge of the Khangai’s, sampled sites, witnessed a sheep in the dying throes of a brain worm infection, got snowed on, and then sweated in much warmer temperatures, we decided it was worth the time to see what was out there. Little did we know.

By the time we arrived to start sampling, Neil was getting sick (we learned days later that Neil was coming down with tonsillitis) and we were on fumes from some bone-challenging swings in the weather. Amy pushed on during the first day with Byarbaatar and Balginnyam. The found a pile of dead horse bones and couldn’t get the chainsaw running stopping them from acquiring samples from downed, dead trees. It felt almost hopeless.

We summoned our strength the next day and explored a new section of the lava field. Soon after getting out there we starting seeing Siberian pine, a tree Neil hadn’t seen on his first visit and hadn’t been sampled previously at this site. We decided that after our fire history collection we would sample some pine trees just to see what They might have to say.

 

Image

The Logo Tree: The Siberian pine that clued us into the possibility that there might be something extraordinary on the Khorgo lava field. Photo credit: Amy Hessl

As this collection wasn’t priority, these samples sat until late January of the following year. Here is the first email of the discovery (partially redacted for some sensitive language).

 

The sample “locked in and said the inner ring i measured was 1235…whoa! that was cool b/c i started a good bit from the pith…. i race back to me scope and measuring stage…..make mistakes. going too fast. fix the mistakes…..the PITH is 1142!!!!

 

yes, i can see the yr Chinggis was born. i can see the yr he died. i can see the yrs Mongolia rose to rule Asia!

 

this has been our Holy Chinggis during the entire Mongolian project.

 

this is totally hot censored.

 

neil

 

ps – i guess we are going back to Khorgo, huh?”

 

Image

KLP0010a – the first sample of Siberian pine from the 2010 Khorgo lava collection to break the 1200s. The pith is 1142 CE (Common Era). Photo credit: Neil Pederson

We secured funding and we went back to Khorgo in 2012 with a bigger crew and one goal in mind – collect more wood.

We cannot believe what we have found.

For centuries, common wisdom held that the Mongols were driven to conquest because of harsh conditions – drought. Our new record, dating back with confidence to 900 CE (Common Era), indicates the opposite. After the unification of the Mongols, Chinggis Khan, you know him as Ghengis Khan, led his army from Northern China in 1211 to the Caspian Sea in 1224 CE. Our new record in PNAS indicates that it was consistently wet from 1211-1225, a period we are calling the Mongol Pluvial (look for an open access version of this paper here or contact Amy or me). No years during this period were below the long-term average, which is a singular rare run of moisture conditions in our 1,100 year long record. Independent tree-ring records over extra tropical Asia also indicate that this period was warm.

On the cool semi-arid steppe of Central Asia, water is life and in those days, water was energy. The Mongol diet is heavily based on the meat of grazers. Their mode of transportation was the short, but Pheidippidic horse. So, for food and for travel, grass is life. Grass is energy. An abundance of moisture would seem to provide the horsepower for the rapidly growing Mongol Empire. The Mongol soldier had five steed at their disposal. With a large army, that quickly translates into a huge herd and a huge need for grass.

Our tree-ring record suggests that the grasslands of central Mongolia were likely productive. They strongly agree with satellite estimates of grassland productivity. Going back in time, then, the trees would suggest the Mongol Empire during its rapid expansion was sitting in a sea of grass, a sea of energy, a potential abundance of life.

That is our hypothesis, anyhow, and something we will test in the coming years with historical documents, environmental records from lake sediments, more tree rings, and ecological modeling experiments.

While this record speaks to a rapid transformation of Eurasian culture during the 13th century, it also speaks about an abrupt transformation in Mongol culture today. Towards the end of our tree-ring record we see a prolonged drought from the end of the 20th century into the beginning of the 21st century. This drought followed the wettest century of the last 11 and occurred during the warmest period of the last 1,100 years in Asia. The abrupt transition in the environmental conditions, a transition that saw hundreds of lakes and wetlands disappear from the landscape, occurs during the transition from a more agriculturally-based economy to a more urban-based economy. These severe conditions, in combination with some harsh winters, killed millions of livestock and are thought to be one trigger of a mass migration of Mongols from the countryside into the capital of Ulaanbaatar.

 

Image

Ulaanbaatar in 2006. The homes on the far hills likely reflect climatic and economic refugees moving from the countryside into the city. Photo credit: N. Pederson

Though we cannot connect this heat drought to climate change (though maybe we kind of can), warming temperatures have stacked the deck towards higher evaporative demand, so even if the amount of precipitation remains the same, high temperatures will generate a more intense drought.  That’s what we observed in the early 21st century and based on past moisture variation in Mongolia and future predictions of warming, we would expect to see similar events in the future.

From Armin Van Buuren to Chinggis Khaan to Armin Van Buuren again. We had no clue of how Summer 2010 would light the sky.*

 

_____________

 

* this post was requested by a media outlet so they could have the ‘author’s voice’ on this discovery. That version was ultimately sanitized for your protection. Here it is unadultered.

 

 


Categories: TRL

Keys to Success

Geopoetry - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 08:00

 

Jed Fuhrman, Nature 2013

Image: Jed Fuhrman, Nature 2013

 

Humans hate to catch the flu,

But here’s a fact that’s less well-known:

Bacteria get infections too

As many cultures have now shown.

In the ocean, P. ubique

(growing, growing everywhere)

Is plagued by viruses that seek

To hijack ubique’s gene hardware.

The key to beating strong predation:

Nutrients and conjugation!

__________________________________________________

Further reading:

Abundant SAR11 viruses in the ocean, Zhao et al., Nature (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 2/15/13 on Allen’s website.

Digging Deep for Safer Water - Chemistry World

Featured News - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:00
Alexander van Geen, a geochemist at Columbia University in New York, US, has been focusing his efforts on testing wells that are already in use. In 2000, his team measured the levels of arsenic in 5000 wells in Bangladesh and, armed with the GPS location of each well, looked at the spatial variability. 'What was striking is that the distribution was very heterogeneous,' he says. 'We calculated that, over our area, 50% of the people had wells with water that they should not be drinking from. However, 90% of these same households lived within 100m of a safe well.'

Long lines and lots of instruments

Sugar - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:38
If you want to image the Earth’s crust and upper mantle with seismic data, you need to record the arrival of seismic waves that have propagated down to, in our case, depths of up to ~30 km.  These deep-diving phases travel quickly through the denser, higher velocity rocks of the lower crust and upper mantle, and they arrive back at the surface ahead of shallower phases at long source-receiver offsets (see video below).  




To record these lower-crustal and upper-mantle phases as “first arrivals”, where they are not obscured by the arrival of energy from shallow paths, we use long lines.  Long lines mean lots of receivers and lots of driving to deploy and recover these instruments.  We could have used lots of sources instead, but the blasts we used to get seismic energy into the lower crust and upper mantle in this experiment take a lot of time and money to setup.  Receivers are much cheaper, so we used a lot of them.  (For similar wide-angle/long-offset work at sea, airgun sources are cheaper than putting seismometers on the seafloor, so we use many shots and a smaller number of receivers out there.)

This time-lapse video shows Team 13 of 14 recovering 89 of the 1200 total short-period seismograph stations from where our line crossed Fort Benning, near the northwestern end of the line.



Nathan Miller, LDEO

Deploy in the rain, recover in the sunshine…

Sugar - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 23:32


Weather map during deployment. When the time came to install our 1200 small seismographs across Georgia at the flagged positions, the rains came….   A lot of rain.  During our first deployment day, we received 1-2 inches of rain, and another wave of rain clouds came through on Day 2 (check out map). Roads that used to be easily passable became mudholes or were flooded with water. All-wheel-drive vehicles and drill rigs alike got stuck, and a few station locations could only be reached on foot. Our hard-working field crew labored in the rain digging holes and deploying seismometers.  Vehicles, equipment and people were covered in the famous Georgia red clay (and other muds and sands of Georgia and northernmost Florida). Adding insult to injury, problems with the programming of some of the instruments meant that we actually had to pick up and redeploy many of them. It was a mudbath.  Nonetheless, our field crew managed to deploy 1200 seismometers across Georgia by Tuesday at sundown. It was an impressive show of endurance, and an inspiring display of positivity given the number of people that were still smiling and upbeat at the end of it all.  A couple of days later, after our seismic shots, it was already time to pick up the instruments, and the weather changed completely.  The sun shined on SW Georgia, and we picked up almost every last seismometer in just one day under blue skies….  Donna Shillington, LDEO

New Zealand Dust May Have Cooled Earth During Ice Age - LiveScience

Featured News - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:00
Researchers just returned from a month in backcountry New Zealand trying to determine whether dust from New Zealand may have contributed to the last ice age.

Video of shots L1-05, 06, 07 and 08

Sugar - Sat, 03/22/2014 - 21:52
Shooting a land refraction experiment is more difficult in almost every way than collecting a comparable dataset at sea.  Far more difficult.  But I can't think of anything at sea that compares to the experience of setting off a series of shots at night.  On the first night of shooting, Steve, Nathan, Meghan and I detonated shots L1-05, 06, 07 and 08, while Galen, Donna and Natalie shot 14, 13, 11, and 10, and Tina, Adrian, James and Semir shot L1-04.  I recorded the video clips linked below at our shots (05-08).

To someone who hasn't seen a seismic source shot before, there really isn't a good way to describe what a good shot feels like, except as something you haven't felt before.  We had a number of students watching L1-05 being shot, since this location is quite close to Americus.  The video of L1-05 is completely lacking in drama, which is a good thing; but that shot gave us all a great ride.  The 100 pounders 06 and 07 were also surprisingly good.

We made gathers for most of the shots today. The dataset is fantastic, and 05, 06 and 07 produced super record sections.  L1-08 committed most if its energy to the air, but it shook the ground nicely and I've got a feeling those data are going to be great too.


The video is here:  http://youtu.be/DNINWj2kf1s



Dan

Sea Change

Geopoetry - Fri, 03/21/2014 - 09:06
 www.argo.ucsd.edu

Photo: www.argo.ucsd.edu

Gliders and buoys and robots — oh my!

Over and through the ocean they fly.

Oodles of data from sensors galore,

Studied by many, far from the sea’s roar.

A real revolution, there seems little doubt,

But what of the crew who never sail out?

To peer in the great briny main without drinking …

How might that impact the next wave of thinking?

___________________________________

Further reading:

A Sea Change for U.S. Oceanography, Science 2013

The New Generation of Sea Scientist, Science 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.

Possible Debris in Treacherous Waters - CNN

Featured News - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 11:00
Lamont oceanographer Arnold Gordon lists the difficulties in finding the plane in this part of the Indian Ocean.

Random Pictures from the Road (and otherwise)

Sugar - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 12:43
As a follow follow up to Chastity's post, I thought a few random pictures from the road would be entertaining. I have been part of group 5 and as such responsible for the part of the line that spans from Hahira in the south to just north of Adel.

 South-central part of the seismic line. The yellow line is team 5's section.  We have been in a relatively rural part of Georgia and as a result have not encountered many locals save a few who have stopped to ask if we are ok. However, we have seen quite a few interesting things that are quite out of the ordinary (to me at least).

Friendly Muscovy duck.Rocks in a stream bed with associated pink spongy material (?)
Spanish moss.Linguoid (current) ripples on a washed out road. We have also seen quite a few old abandoned farm houses in various stages of aging...



At least 10-15 dogs were standing guard at this house, including about 8 puppies.
Caroline making some new friends.
All said we have dug 122 holes in team 5's stretch. We have also helped deploy instruments in other sections as well and while doing so have seen others hard at work.

Meghan and Nate getting it done!Along the way the cars have taken quite a beating and have actually held up pretty well. Although there have been a few instances where people got stuck, I think that the people with the toughest job will be the guys that have to detail the cars upon their return...



A more appropriate vehicle (?)And lastly here's a couple more random pictures that I thought were interesting.

The large disparity in fuel grade gas prices.
A ~perfectly leveled geophone (it's harder than you'd think).Hopefully this random selection of pictures was entertaining. Up next we will post about last night's "shots." In the meantime, I can say that they were all successful with varying degrees of excitement. The most important thing is that all of our hard work is being realized as the instruments are recording refractions from buried geology that will help us unravel some of the mystery that surrounds events that happened in this area long ago.

James Gibson, LDEO

Rain, geophones, and animals … Oh my!

Sugar - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 16:15

Chastity AikenGeorgia Institute of Technology

Before and After Images of Enormous Alaska Landslide - Earth & Sky

Featured News - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 11:00
The landslide on Alaska's Mount La Perouse, discovered by a team of Lamont scientists, is thought to be the largest known natural landslide on Earth since 2010.

Mercury Is Wrinkling Like A Raisin - Forbes

Featured News - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 11:00
“This discrepancy between theory and observation, a major puzzle for four decades, has finally been resolved,” said Sean Solomon, principal investigator on the NASA mission and director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “It is wonderfully affirming to see that our theoretical understanding is at last matched by geological evidence.”

Flags, Flags, and More Flags - Locating the sites for 1200 instruments

Sugar - Sat, 03/15/2014 - 22:14
Many of the SUGAR field team arrived in Americus, GA on Wednesday to start helping with the massive charge of deploying 1200 seismic instruments along the SUGAR seismic line.  The seismic line spans 200 miles from northwest Georgia to just past the Georgia-Florida border; a 4+ hour car drive from end to end!  Everyone gathered early Thursday morning on the idyllic Georgia Southwestern State campus to meet with the chief scientists and learn about the proper techniques for identifying installation sites for the seismographs (just the first step in installing the instruments).  With neon orange safety jackets, numerous maps, GPS devices, packets of official permitting documents, and heads full of safety precautions the field team split into seven two-person pairs each equipped with their own squeaky clean rental car (though they didn’t stay clean for very long!).  The fleet of SUGAR rental cars looking clean and shiny before being driven
into the field where they undoubtedly got a little mud on their tires. Each pair of field assistants was given a segment of the seismic line to drive and flag locations for instrument installation deemed safe both from the seismograph (i.e. dry, firm soil) and the install team (i.e. a safe distance from the road).  Given the shear distance of the seismic line, teams found themselves amid diverse backdrops from rolling farmland with overly friendly cows to buzzing residential neighborhoods to sandy stretches flanked by towering groves of Ponderosa Pine trees. Antonio placing a flag and using a GPS device to note the location where a
seismograph will be installed amid the sandy surroundings of a Ponderosa Pine farm.Every team was able to flag all their sites within just two days leaving us the luxury of a sunny Saturday morning free for exploring more of our beautiful Georgia surroundings.  Next up is the actual task of installing the 1200 seismographs which will involve twice the people, six more (temporarily clean) vehicles, and of course countless exciting adventures from the field.  Happy (almost) St. Patrick’s Day from Americus!A picturesque county road near Jasper, FL along which instruments will be deployed.-- Natalie Accardo, LDEO




A day with the seismic source team in photos

Sugar - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 22:43
The source of sound waves for the SUGAR experiment will be a series of controlled blasts along the profile.  For each of these, we drill a 60-100 ft deep hole, place emulsion explosives with boosters and caps at the base of the hole, and fill in the rest of the hole with dirt and gravel.  Each seismic source location requires a substantial amount of work by drillers and the UTEP seismic source team.  Below, Adrian Gutierrez shows a day in the life of the source team with pictures (Donna Shillington, 13 March 2014)

Adrian Gutierrez, 13 March 14
7:30 am: Leave Georgia Southwestern State University, where we are staying, and head to the site8:20 am: Arrive at site 8:30 am: Start drilling and take geological samples every 5 ft.
9:00 am: Dyno Nobel truck arrives; load emulsion into cut PVC pipe sections that serve as a holders for emulsion. 9:30 am: Surprise visit from other scientists on the project9.50 am: Setting up the booster in the emulsion.11.20 am: Loading the explosives into the drill hole12.00 pm: Drill crew starts removing their equipment12.45 pm: Tagging the charges and plugging the hole3.15 pm: Move onto the next drill site.Nighttime: Finally back to the dorm.


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