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Solar Heartbeat

Geopoetry - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 08:00
 from Charboneau and Smolarkiewicz, Science 2013

Image: from Charboneau and Smolarkiewicz, Science 2013

 

Upon our little spinning rock,
Cosmic rays and debris knock.
Through great fields and waves we race,
Not empty, our broad path through space!
We’re touched, long fingers from afar:
Energy from our bright star.
A fusing, roiling dynamo,
Magnetic fields induced by flow.
Eleven circuits round our wheel,
Her heartbeat’s pulses we can feel.
In search of answers, models run,
Probing rhythms of the sun.

________________________________________________

Further reading: Modeling the Solar Dynamo, 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 4/5/13 on Allen’s website.

Tangail and the Start of the Field School

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 11:21
The Shahid Minar in Dhaka, the monument to language day on the site of the killings.  There are many smaller copies around Bangladesh.  On Language Day, they are covered by wreaths of flowers placed by everyone from politicians to school children.

The Shahid Minar in Dhaka, the monument to Language Day on the site of the killings. There are many smaller copies around Bangladesh. On Language Day, they are covered by wreaths of flowers placed by everyone from politicians to school children.

Feb. 21 is Language Day in Bangladesh. It is a holiday, now adopted by the UN as International Mother Language Day. It commemorates a day in 1952 when a crowd of Bengali students protesting Pakistan’s adoption of “Urdu and only Urdu as the official language of Pakistan” were fired upon by the police. It marks the beginning of the move towards the independence of East Pakistan, the future Bangladesh, from Pakistan. It is a time of plays, book fairs and poetry reading celebrating the Bengali/Bangla language. There are also laying of flower wreaths at the Shahid Minar, the monument where the killings occurred near Dhaka University, and many smaller copies throughout the country.

For us, it was a travel day. A long eight-hour drive from Khulna in SW Bangladesh across the Ganges River and the Jamuna River, as this section of the Brahmaputra is known, to our home for the next week. The eight of us in our

We examined the roof for the GPS.  It would be a good site, but the columns were unfinished rebar rods.  We would have to wait until they were finished.

We examined the roof for the GPS. It would be a good site, but the columns were unfinished rebar rods. We would have to wait until they were finished.

party left the Bawali in two vans, stopped to pickup equipment, and settled in for a long uneventful drive, or as uneventful as driving in Bangladesh can be.

The next day my group went to Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University to try to install a new GPS. After various meetings and cups of tea, we explored the rooftops looking for the perfect site for the antenna. Unfortunately, the building we were in was not quite finished. It was a good site, except the columns on the roof were still a mass of rebar and the concrete was yet to be poured. More meetings, coffee, sweet desserts, and we checked out other roofs. Many buildings at the relatively new university are unfinished. The older finished ones are lower and the clear view of the sky we need is blocked by trees. The

Meeting the the Vice Chancellor of the University (left) and the Dean who helped us with arrangements

Meeting the the Vice Chancellor of the University (left) and the Dean who helped us with arrangements.

first roof was the best choice, but would not be ready for three months. The best we could do was to set up the GPS box and leave all the equipment there. Humayun will come and finish the job in May. Without the installation work, we continued to meet people and have tea, lunch and more tea. We finally left around 4. Time to go back to the Elenga Resort, where we were staying, and prepare for the arrival of students for the Field School.

Our NSF grant from the PIRE (Partnerships for International Research and Education) has a large emphasis on providing American students with international research experience. One of the things we proposed was a two-week Field School in Bangladesh. We have 15 U.S. students, 15

Our first set of American students pose in front of the Martyr's Memorial from the 1971 War of Independence.

Our first set of American students pose in front of the Martyr’s Memorial from the 1971 War of Independence.

Bangladeshi, a few other invitees (France, Singapore, India) plus the scientists and students from our project and our advisory board. Most were scheduled to arrive on Sunday. During the day, I started receiving messages about delayed and cancelled flights. My nightmare scenario was arrivals scattered over several days with no way to know where or when. Most of the delays were absorbed by the long layovers at JFK and O’Hare, where experienced Bangladesh hands would lead them to the promised Field School.  Our travel agent shifted one of the cancellations to another flight.Then I learned that Steve Goodbred, leader of the JFK troop, had his flight cancelled and would fly a day later. Mike Howe, a grad student with one trip to Bangladesh, was in charge. Worse, the flight was delayed and could miss its connection in

The American and Bangladeshi students, along with our instructors get to know each other on the bus as we transition from metropolitan traffic to driving by green rice fields.

The American and Bangladeshi students, along with our instructors, get to know each other on the bus as we transition from metropolitan traffic to driving by green rice fields.

Abu Dhabi. One student was MIA. I stayed up late to follow the flight and, yes, it missed the connection. I went to bed thinking that most of the U.S. students would be a day late.

I awoke early to find that they had been rebooked through Delhi and would arrive late afternoon. Better still, I learned that the missing student had been rebooked to the Chicago route. Then Humayun called and asked if I was meeting the on-time group for breakfast. I rushed out and Babu drove Chris and myself to the Parjatan restaurant across from the Martyr’s memorial. We got there just after they did. We had breakfast and then dodged traffic to cross the street to the memorial. While there, the Dhaka University contingent arrived for breakfast and we joined them. The Field School was on. Three-quarters of the people had arrived; most of the rest would be here by dinner. Only Steve and Ryan would be a day late.

NY State Expects All Utilities to Prep for Climate Change - Climate Central

Featured News - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 12:00
Lamont's Klaus Jacob comments on a new measure encouraging utilities in New York state to prepare for the warmer temperatures and greater risk of flooding expected under climate change.

Study Links Temperature to a Peruvian Glacier’s Growth and Retreat - New York Times

Featured News - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 12:00
Lamont's Aaron Putnam comments on new results showing that warmer temperatures, more than reduced snowfall, are responsible for the spectacular retreat of tropical glaciers in recent centuries.

Huge Landslide Photographed in Alaska - LiveScience

Featured News - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 09:02
New images confirm the location of a landslide detected by Lamont geophysicists Colin Stark and Goran Ekstrom last week in southeastern Alaska.

Shag, Before It Was Cool

Geopoetry - Fri, 02/21/2014 - 14:20
woolly rhino

Science, 2011

More cuddly than a dino,
The Zanda woolly rhino!
This pioneer of old
Grew shag before the cold.
The high Tibet plateau
Was higher then, you know!
And when the ice expanded,
(with you I will be candid):
They did some procreation
And made a woolly nation!
We still have some Tibetan yak …
But I want that rhino back!

________________________________________________

Further reading: Out of Tibet: Pliocene Woolly Rhino Suggests High-Plateau Origin of Ice Age Megaherbivores, Tao Deng et al., Science 2011

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 9/2/11 on Allen’s website.

Atlantic Current Can Shut Down for Centuries, Disrupting Climate - Science

Featured News - Fri, 02/21/2014 - 12:00
Lamont's Jerry McManus comments on new results suggesting that overturning currents in the North Atlantic slowed or even stopped during a warm period 100,000 years ago.

Antarctic Glacier Thinned As Rapidly in the Past - Climate Wire

Featured News - Fri, 02/21/2014 - 11:34
West Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier may continue thinning at a high rate based on new results of the glacier's past behavior published in Science by Lamont geochemist Joerg Schaefer and colleagues.

GPS in Khulna and the Hidden Temple

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Fri, 02/21/2014 - 04:27
Allan walking on the embankment, or polder.  The land on the river side (left) is about a meter higher than on the inside of the polder.

Allan walking on the embankment, or polder. The land on the river side (left) is about a meter higher than on the inside of the polder (right).

When we got cell phone signal back, we found things did not go according to plan. Scott’s flight had a medical emergency that required a stop in London, so he missed his connection. So did the GPS box, so they both arrived the morning of the 18th.  He was not in Khulna already working. He wasn’t working on the compaction site. Between the flight delays and the ship delays, we had lost a day.

Since I couldn’t meet Scott, it was best for me to go to Polder 32 to check on the GPS there. However, not knowing the situation, we had sailed up the wrong channel. We wouldn’t get to the Polder 32 site until the afternoon. Polder is a Dutch term for an embankment. They have been built around much of the land in coastal Bangladesh to protect it from flooding from the brackish water and

Soyee with some of the local women and their water jugs on Polder 32.

Soyee with some of the local women and their water jugs on Polder 32.

improve farming. An unexpected side effect is that the protected land inside the polder, with no flooding or sediments, has sunk by over a meter. It is lower than the land outside the wall and lower than high tide. When Cyclone Aila hit the area in 2009, it breached the polder and the island was flooded for almost two years. We are studying both the physical environment and the human impact. My part is measuring the subsidence with GPS. The receiver here has a modem so the data can be collected by phone, but it hasn’t worked since Jan. 1. We went to the school that houses it, and I managed to correct the problem.

Mr Islam serves Scott and myself more of the delicious lunch they had prepared.  Eaten with our hands, of course.

Mr Islam serves Scott and myself more of the delicious lunch they had prepared. Eaten with our hands, of course.

Now it was time to join Scott. I left the boat for a bumpy 2.5-hour drive to Khulna and the hotel. We had allotted two days for servicing and installing GPS in Khulna, but we also wanted to visit a 400-year-old temple in the Sundarbans. It is being looked at to measure subsidence since it was built. We could only visit the temple if we could do the GPS work in one day. We started a 7 a.m., picking up Hafizur and heading to his family’s house, where the compaction meter is.  We hoped to finish it quickly, but there were problems with the GPS. The solar panel controller was bad and had to be replaced. Then I found the settings of the GPS were bad; I couldn’t communicate with it. After a struggle, I managed.  The system went bad last June and had recorded no data since then. Scott collected data from the compaction meter and surveyed the monuments, while

Scott adjusting the GPS antenna at the new Khulna site, working into the night.

Scott adjusting the GPS antenna at the new Khulna site, working into the night.

I got the GPS going again.  When it was time to leave, we found that the Islamic family had prepared a huge lunch for us, and we had to stay and eat: sweet rice appetizer, two kinds of fish, chicken, vegetable, rice and a rice pastry in palm juice for dessert.

When we left to go to Khulna University (KU), our chance for the temple looked bleak. We met Professor Rakib Uddin, who did not get our sense of urgency.  The GPS at KU hadn’t been working for years. Set up in the Urban Planning Department, the 20-year-old receiver needed constant care to keep going. We had installed these obsolete instruments when we first started working in Bangladesh and had almost no funding. We would be reestablishing the site, replacing everything.

Scott falls asleep on the M/V Mowali sailing to join everyone on the larger ship after a very long and successful day.

Scott falls asleep on the M/V Mowali sailing to join everyone on the larger ship after a very long and successful day.

Then we would install a new receiver in Rakib’s office in Environmental Sciences. As long as we had some overlap of the two receivers, we could combine the measurements for a longer record. After various formalities, we went to the office. We would need to buy some extra equipment, but the professor had to leave. We called everyone to say we could not do the temple. Then Rakib got the professor to leave the key so we could keep working. It was now a maybe. We arranged for the forest permits not knowing if we could use them. Allan and Towfique went shopping while Scott and I did what we could. By the time they got back and we finished, with multiple time-stealing problems along the way, it was dark. Rakib stayed late and Scott and I rushed to install the new GPS. The new ones are easier to work with, but

Sailing up a small channel to the Shakher Temple with our armed guards and a local fisherman guide (at prow).

Sailing up a small channel to the Shakher Temple with our armed guards and a local fisherman guide (at prow).

everything takes time. By the time we finished it was almost 9 p.m.

We rushed to the hotel and packed overnight bags. Bachchu’s other boat, the Mowali, would take us to the Bawali. We left at 10 p.m. after less than 24 hours in Khulna. It took 4 hours to reach the Bawali west of Polder 32. It was 2 a.m., but we made it. No dinner, but a chance to see the only Hindu Temple in the Sundarban. With two armed guards for tigers and a local guide, we sailed to a small channel south of the temple and took the launch to go into the forest. The channel got smaller, with branches occasionally sweeping across the boat. We got stuck, but the tide was rising. Then we had a long hike through the muddy forest, across a log bridge and more mud.

Dan crossing the log bridge on the way to the temple with helpers holding up a railing.

Dan crossing the log bridge on the way to the temple with helpers holding up a railing.

Finally we got there. After examining the temple, we decided more work was needed before we accepted the low subsidence rate estimated for the site. We also visited the rubble of the home for the local community and their protective wall. They were sent here to protect the region from Arakan and Portuguese pirates. They were the ones who built the Shakher temple. We could head back down the channel and return to Khulna on the Bawali. Despite all the problems, we had accomplished all of our goals for this part of the trip.

The group that made the trek to the temple pose in front of the ruins of the house (bari) that the people lived in.

The group that made the trek to the temple pose in front of the ruins of the house (bari) that the people lived in.

The ruins of the ~400 year old Shakher Temple to the Hindu goddess Kali.

The ruins of the ~400 year old Shakher Temple to the Hindu goddess Kali.

Impressively Massive Landslide Detected in Remote Alaska - LiveScience

Featured News - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty seismologists Colin Stark and Goran Ekstrom discuss a massive landslide that shook the Alaska panhandle on Feb. 14 and was detected by the global seismic network.

What’s Causing the Huge Spike in Earthquakes in Oklahoma? - The Nation

Featured News - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 08:51
Lamont postdoctoral researcher Nicholas van der Elst says that the recent uptick in small earthquakes in Oklahoma may be due to the disposal of wastewater in underground injection wells.

Where Does Road Salt Come From? - National Geographic

Featured News - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:00
Lamont-Doherty researcher Bob Newton explains the origins and chemistry of road salt.

Back to Bangladesh, changing plans as we go

Geohazards in Bangladesh - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 11:48
Bawali

The M/V Bawali, the boat we are using to go to Hiron Point in the Sundarbans mangrove forest

In Bangladesh we find that nothing ever goes according to plan, but we have always been able to accomplish our goals. So far on this trip, we have had to adjust from before we even got on the plane. The snowstorm on Feb. 13 cancelled Scott and his student Allan’s flights to New York from Wilmington, N.C. It looked like they would be delayed by a day, but then it worked out for them to drive to South Carolina to catch a flight. I was then able to pick them up on my way to take them to the airport for our flights to Bangladesh. There were seven of us going there together, but only six made it onto the plane. There were problems with his ticket, probably from the attempts to get to New York, and he couldn’t get it fixed in time to make the flight. Allan’s ticket was OK, though.

Chris Small and Kushal Roy of Khulna University making plans for fieldwork on the Bawali

Chris Small and Kushal Roy of Khulna University making plans for fieldwork on the Bawali

Not having Scott meant rearranging our plans. Plan B. We switched the order of things. Allan and I would go to Hiron Point in the Sundarbans mangrove forest first, since I could service the GPS there alone, but needed him for most of the other work. The silver lining was one of my equipment boxes didn’t arrive. It would not arrive until the next day when Scott could pick it up. I didn’t have to delay leaving Dhaka. After stopping by Dhaka University, I headed to Khulna to join Chris Small and others on the M/V Bawali. Chris was able to rearrange his work so we could sail to Hiron Point first. We got to the ship around 4 p.m. after a day of driving and a two-hour ferry ride across the Padma River, as the combined Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers is known. We waited for Kushal and his students from Khulna University to arrive, then started the trip to Hiron Point near the coast.

A deer stands among the salt-filtering aerial roots of the mangrove trees in the Sundarban

A deer stands among the salt-filtering aerial roots of the mangrove trees in the Sundarban

The trim line of the leaves on the trees marks the height to which the deer can reach. Mud flats are exposed at low tide.

The trim line of the leaves on the trees marks the height to which the deer can reach. Mud flats are exposed at low tide.

We made good time and got to Hiron Point in the morning. We installed a GPS at the forest ranger station near a tide gauge.  The tide gauge measures the water level relative to land, a mixture of sea level rise and subsiding of the land. Our GPS measures just the subsidence of the land, accurate to 8 mm each day. The combination of rising sea level and sinking land puts Bangladesh at greater risk of inundation. Thus the sediment deposited by the rivers is critical for maintaining the land and the mangrove forest. So far, it looks like sediment is keeping pace in the natural environment, but there are problems where man has made changes. We installed the GPS in October 2012. While we put in communication equipment, the site is so remote that there was no cell phone signal to download the data. Hence, our visit to collect it manually.

Everything looked fine, but when I tried to connect to the GPS, I couldn’t. The set-up for the communication equipment meant the settings were different and locked. After a frustrating hour of attempts, including a hard boot to reset the system, I finally found the right settings to talk to the device. The trip wasn’t in vain. Downloading the data, I found something had gone wrong last July. We had good data until July 19, then one giant file with a date in 2025. I hope that it actually contains good data, but I won’t know until I get back and can get it to someone to look at it. Even better, my hard reboot cleared out the problem, and the GPS started recording data properly again. Even if we have a data gap, we will still be able to see the data trend for the subsidence rate. Taking two days to come down here was worthwhile.

We spotted an eagles nest as we sailed down the channel to Hiron Point.

We spotted an eagle’s nest as we sailed down the channel to Hiron Point.

The next problem was that the Bawali couldn’t get out of the small channel by the ranger station until the next high tide. We were stuck for eight hours. We used the time to explore the channels, but we would not be able to get to our next stop on schedule. Time for another change in plans. We are up to Plan C. We decided to go back so I could get off the boat and join Scott, who has hopefully arrived. We will do our on-land work and then rejoin the Bawali in a day and a half, if all goes according to plan. Not a sure bet on this trip.

Fishermen setting nets in a tidal channel near Hiron Point.

Fishermen setting nets in a tidal channel near Hiron Point.

New Mexico in its Worst Drought since 1880s - Albuquerque Journal

Featured News - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 12:49
Work of Lamont-Doherty climate scientist Richard Seager cited.

Are the Droughts in Texas and California Related? - Texas Climate News

Featured News - Mon, 02/17/2014 - 09:31
The long-lasting drought affecting Texas and California could be due to natural climate variation, not climate change, says Lamont tree-ring scientist Edward Cook.

Meteorologists See Silver Lining in Winter’s Storm Clouds - New York Times

Featured News - Sun, 02/16/2014 - 12:00
Much of the raw data that goes into a weather forecast is automated, but you need experts to interpret the results and turn them into a prediction that people can understand, says Lamont atmospheric scientist Adam Sobel.

Science Linking Drought to Global Warming Remains Matter of Dispute - New York Times

Featured News - Sun, 02/16/2014 - 12:00
Lamont climate scientist Richard Seager says the recent California drought may be due more to natural climate variation than a warming climate.

Global weirding?

Geopoetry - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 15:12

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Mountains of snow line the street,

And some days I envy a beard.

Ask any shoveler you meet –

The weather this winter is weird!

 

How strange is it, really? Some wonder,

If sea-ice melt unleashed the Vortex.

Has warming torn systems asunder;

Should we invest big in Gore-Tex?

 

We’ve been gripped by deep-freeze before;

Sometimes it’s just wicked cold.

The overall trends worry more:

How will it be when we’re old?

 

Thermostat’s tending to heat;

We wait as the sea gently rises.

Our future we surely will meet,

And always, we’ll get some surprises.

________________________________________________

Photo Credit: Figure generated by Cameron Beccario (EARTH.NULLSCHOOL.NET); Results sourced from the NCEP/NOAA Global Forecast System

Further reading:

A letter in Science Magazine: “Global Warming and Winter Weather”

Maps of recent temperature anomalies: Climate Reanalyzer, University of Maine

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Visit Allen’s website for more.

 

Time Is Running Out to Save the Rhino - Telegraph

Featured News - Wed, 02/12/2014 - 15:29
Cites horn and tusk-dating work of Lamont postdoctoral researcher Kevin Uno.
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