News and Events

  • April 19, 2017

    In the first such continent-wide survey, scientists have found extensive drainages of meltwater flowing over parts of Antarctica’s ice during the brief summer. Researchers already knew such features existed, but assumed they were confined mainly to Antarctica’s fastest-warming, most northerly reaches. Many of the newly mapped drainages are not new, but the fact they exist at all is significant; they appear to proliferate with small upswings in temperature, so warming projected for this century could quickly magnify their influence on sea level. An accompanying study looks at how such systems might influence the great ice shelves ringing the continent, which some researchers fear could collapse, bringing catastrophic sea-level rises. Both studies appear this week in the leading scientific journal Nature.

  • March 22, 2017

    Nearly 1,000 feet below the bed of the Dead Sea, scientists have found evidence that during past warm periods, the Mideast has suffered drought on scales never recorded by humans—a possible warning for current times. Thick layers of crystalline salt show that rainfall plummeted to as little as a fifth of modern levels some 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago. Today, the region is drying again as climate warms, and scientists say it will get worse. The new findings may cause them to rethink how much worse, in this already thirsty and volatile part of the world.

  • March 06, 2017

    On every continent and every ocean, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientists are studying climate, geology, natural hazards, ecology and more.

  • March 02, 2017

    Food, it turns out, is the great unifier. One of the few bipartisan pieces of legislation to emerge in recent years was the Global Food Security Act of 2016, which allocated over $7 billion to improve agriculture and nutrition in developing countries. The rationale, beyond the altruistic aspects of the legislation, was that investing in the alleviation of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty worldwide is squarely in the national security interests of the U.S. With so much upside, it is no surprise that Democrat and Republican alike lined up in support of the act.

  • February 14, 2017

    Aaron Putnam sits atop a boulder high in the Sierras of central California, banging away with hammer and chisel to chip out a sample of ice age history. Each hunk of rock is a piece of a vast puzzle: How did our climate system behave the last time it warmed up like it’s doing today?

  • February 09, 2017

    A new Indonesian coral-based record of surface ocean salinity shows that the location of the most significant hydroclimatic feature in the Southern Hemisphere, the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ), a band of high clouds and precipitation, influences a major current in the far western Pacific Ocean.

  • February 06, 2017

    The annual summer monsoon that drops rain onto East Asia, an area with about a billion people, has shifted dramatically in the distant past, at times moving northward by as much as 400 kilometers and doubling rainfall in that northern reach. The monsoon’s changes over the past 10,000 years likely altered the course of early human cultures in China, say the authors of a new study.

  • February 02, 2017

    More than 85 percent of the ocean floor remains unmapped, leaving us in the dark about much of the earth’s topography. A global, non-profit effort will try to remedy that by 2030. The effort will affect everything from climate research and weather prediction to mineral resource exploration and fisheries.

  • February 02, 2017

    Many giant shelves of ice hanging off Antarctica into the Southern Ocean are now melting rapidly. But up to now, it has been a mystery why much of the resulting fresh water ends up in the depths instead of floating above saltier, denser ocean waters. Scientists working along one major ice shelf believe they have found the answer: earth’s rotation is pushing meltwater sideways as it bleed off the ice, preventing it from reaching the surface. The finding has implications for how ocean circulation may affect the planet’s future climate. The research was published this week in the journal Nature.

  • January 24, 2017

    Two scientists who untangled the complex forces that drive El Niño, the world’s most powerful weather cycle, have won the 2017 Vetlesen Prize for achievement in earth sciences. The $250,000 award will go to S. George Philander of Princeton University and Mark A. Cane of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The men laid out the cyclic interaction of winds and currents that sweep the tropical Pacific Ocean every two to seven years, affecting weather across the world. Their work led to practical forecasts of such swings; institutions worldwide now monitor warning signs to help prepare for crop planting, disease control, and floods or droughts.

  • January 19, 2017

    Researchers studying the West Antarctic Peninsula marine ecosystem will recognize President Obama’s efforts to combat global warming by collecting climate data at an oceanographic station they named for the 44th president.

  • January 18, 2017

    Rainfall patterns in the Sahara during the six-thousand-year “Green Sahara” period have been revealed by analyzing marine sediments, according to new research.

    What is now the Sahara Desert was the home to hunter-gathers who made their living off the animals and plants that lived in the region’s savannahs and wooded grasslands 5,000 to 11,000 years ago.

  • January 17, 2017

    Natural disasters have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide with associated costs of hundreds of billions of dollars in property damage. Providing timely warnings of damaging ground-shaking from earthquakes and the imminent arrival of tsunamis is an ongoing challenge. Networks of instruments developed in recent years by researchers at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and elsewhere have improved our ability to provide those predictions for vulnerable populations. A new pilot program led by Lamont aims to make those warnings earlier and more accurate.

  • January 05, 2017

    When summer temperatures rise in Greenland and the melt season begins, water pools on the surface, and sometimes disappears down holes in the ice. That water may eventually reach bedrock, creating a slipperier, faster slide for glaciers. But where does it go once it gets there, and what happens to it in the winter? A new study helps answer these questions.

  • January 01, 2017

    Across the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus, scientists are exploring undersea volcanoes, monitoring coastal erosion along hard-to-reach shorelines, and studying the movement of sea ice – all in real time. By loading drones with high-tech instruments and using satellites and undersea cables that are interacting with sensors in some of the most remote locations on Earth, they are uncovering the secrets of our planet.

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