Research News 2017

  • October 19, 2017

    The undersea Corinth rift, in the Gulf of Corinth in central Greece, is one of the most seismically active areas in Europe. Starting this month, researchers will drill into it to discover the rift’s past and future.

  • October 16, 2017

    Despite recent media reports, there’s no imminent threat, says Columbia geologist Einat Lev.

  • October 11, 2017

    In May 2017, the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory held a forum in New York City to discuss how new advances in climate science can inform investments in specific sectors of the global economy. The forum brought the world’s best scientists into a conversation with the world’s best investment professionals while setting aside the politics of climate change.

  • October 09, 2017
    Through interactive exhibits, games, goo, and a few explosions, people of all ages learned about geology, earth science, and climate change.
  • October 09, 2017

    An ongoing study finds that 92 percent of private yards in Greenpoint may have unsafe levels of lead in their soil.

  • October 05, 2017

    Ancient humans migrated out of Africa to escape a drying climate, says a new study–a finding that contradicts previous suggestions that ancient people were able to leave because a then-wet climate allowed them to cross the generally arid Horn of Africa and Middle East.

  • October 04, 2017

    A team of scientists has found new evidence to bolster the idea that the Permian Extinction, which occurred 252 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia.

  • October 03, 2017

    If a serious cyclone were to strike Mumbai, the results could be catastrophic, says a study underway at Columbia.

  • October 03, 2017

    Our Open House promises a day of science-filled fun.

  • September 26, 2017

    The rise of the Vikings was not a sudden event, but part of a long continuum of human development in the harsh conditions of northern Scandinavia. How did the Vikings make a living over the long term, and what might have influenced their brief florescence? Today, their experiences may provide a kind of object lesson on how changing climate can affect civilizations.

  • September 21, 2017

    Three scientists explain what they’re learning about the ocean’s changing conditions. These discoveries will contribute to the sustainable management and conservation of marine resources, helping to secure food for current and future generations.

  • September 14, 2017

    The better climate models become, the harder it is to use them. One team of researchers is working to fix that.

  • September 08, 2017

    Hoaxes have been calling Irma a Category 6 hurricane, but there’s no such thing. Could there be, in the future?

  • September 06, 2017

    As Hurricane Irma batters the Caribbean with winds up to 185 miles per hour, Lamont-Doherty experts are standing by to answer questions from the media.

  • September 01, 2017

    It’s too soon to say there’s a connection, but searching for the fingerprints of climate change shouldn’t take too long.

  • August 28, 2017

    Over the next few decades, global warming-related rises in winter temperatures could significantly extend the range of the southern pine beetle—one of the world’s most aggressive tree-killing insects—through much of the northern United States and southern Canada, says a new study. The beetle’s range is sharply limited by annual extreme temperature lows, but these lows are rising much faster than average temperatures—a trend that will probably drive the beetles’ spread, say the authors. The study was published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

  • August 25, 2017
    Over the past day and a half, Hurricane Harvey’s winds have quickened from about 35 to 109 miles per hour. What’s driving this massive power-up?
  • August 24, 2017

    Lamont experts are on-hand to answer media questions about hurricane physics, rapid intensification, emergency response, and more.

  • August 18, 2017
    With its mission complete, the Rosetta-Ice Project will give scientists an unprecedented look at the Ross Ice Shelf and how it’s changing with the climate.
  • August 18, 2017

    A new study from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis validates that the central core of the East Antarctic ice sheet should remain stable even if the West Antarctic ice sheet melts.

  • August 16, 2017

    Plastic microbeads, common in soap, toothpaste and other consumer products, are flooding waters. A team from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is doing the first large-scale assessment of their impact on New York’s waterways.

  • August 14, 2017

    In this video, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory researchers Robin Bell, Radley Horton, and Adam Sobel explain their research and how it can help improve adaptation practices and make our homes, livelihoods, and the systems we rely on more resilient to extreme weather and sea level rise.

  • August 11, 2017

    Last week, just days before Central Park’s big Ivory Crush, a Lamont-Doherty geochemist and his colleague sawed off samples of the confiscated ivory for DNA testing and radiocarbon dating. Their results could determine where and when each elephant was killed—which could help catch the poachers responsible.

  • August 08, 2017

    A new study analyzing storm intensity and impacts in the New York metro area aims to inform how communities can better prepare for winter storms and enhance resiliency as the effects of climate change exacerbate hazards.

  • July 31, 2017

    Scientists probing under the seafloor off Alaska have mapped a geologic structure that they say signals potential for a major tsunami in an area that normally would be considered benign.

  • July 19, 2017

    David Goldberg and Peter Kelemen, scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, are at the forefront of carbon capture and storage research. In this video, they discuss their work and how it will contribute to carbon management solutions and strengthen society’s resilience to climate change.

  • July 13, 2017

    Rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for many aircraft around the world to take off in coming decades, says a new study. During the hottest parts of the day, 10 to 30 percent of fully loaded planes may have to remove some fuel, cargo or passengers, or else wait for cooler hours to fly, the study concludes. The study, which is the first such global analysis, appears today in the journal Climatic Change.

  • July 12, 2017

    One of the largest icebergs ever, roughly the size of Delaware just broke off Antarctica according to scientists who have been observing the area for years. While it’s not unusual for ice shelves to calve, many in the climate community fear that the breaking of Larsen C may be a signal of other events to come

  • July 05, 2017

    Climate change could turn one of Africa’s driest regions wet, according to a new study. Scientists have found evidence in computer simulations for a possible abrupt change in the Sahel, a region long characterized by aridity and political instability. In the study, just published in the journal Earth System Dynamics, the authors detected a self-amplifying mechanism that they say might kick in once the planet’s average temperature goes beyond 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. This threshold, defined as the global danger limit by the Paris climate agreement, could be reached before the end of this century.

  • July 05, 2017

    Iron particles catching a ride on glacial meltwater washed out to sea are likely fueling a recently discovered summer algal bloom off the southern coast of Greenland, according to a new study.

    Microalgae, also known as phytoplankton, are plant-like marine microorganisms that form the base of the food web in many parts of the ocean. “Phytoplankton serve as food for all of the fish and animals that live there. Everything that eats is eating them ultimately,” said Kevin Arrigo, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University and lead author of the study.

  • June 27, 2017

    A warming climate is not just melting the Arctic’s sea ice; it is stirring the remaining ice faster, increasing the odds that ice-rafted pollution will foul a neighboring country’s waters, says a new study.

  • June 26, 2017

    Christine McCarthy, a geophysicist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, scrunches blocks of ice between hunks of rock to study how ice behaves under pressure. Her work provides an important piece of the puzzle of how glaciers move, what makes them speed up, and how they are contributing to sea level rise as the climate warms.

  • June 23, 2017

    An interdisciplinary team of scientists has discovered that, contrary to general scientific belief, iron in nondissolved particle form can stimulate phytoplankton growth, and that the chemical form that particulate iron takes is critical to ocean photosynthesis.

  • June 23, 2017

    The Center has awarded nearly $1 million to four scientists whose research will improve understanding of how climate change impacts the essentials of human sustainability.

  • June 16, 2017

    Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have been around since the early 1900s. Originally used for military operations, they became more widely used after about 2010 when electronic technology got smaller, cheaper and more efficient, prices on cameras and sensors dropped, and battery power improved. Where once scientists could only observe earth from above by using manned aircraft or satellites, today they are expanding, developing and refining their research thanks to drones.

  • June 12, 2017

    Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call for a lot of people in New York City, including Adam Sobel, who’s spent more than two decades studying the physics of weather and climate. He spent a lot of time during and after the storm talking to the media about what was happening, and why. He says the intense public interest made clear to him the need to find ways to apply the esoteric physics of atmosphere and oceans so we can be better prepared for the next extreme event.

  • June 12, 2017

    In November 1983, physical oceanographer Arnold Gordon was the Chief Scientist on the R/V Knorr, sailing around the southern tip of Africa, when the characteristics of his water samples came in terribly off. The temperature and the salinity of the water his team collected did not match the profile of the Southeast Atlantic Ocean. He had seen there characteristics before though, and soon, with more data, he confirmed that this clearer-blue “blob” of water they floated on top of was actually water from the Indian Ocean, coming in through a leak. This water, flowing from the Indian Ocean into the Atlantic, became known as the “Agulhas leakage” and helped us understand how the ocean’s salt is circulated back into the North Atlantic Ocean.

  • June 08, 2017

    Access to adequate fresh water supplies is a critically important societal challenge posed by climate change. With rising heat and shifting rainfall patterns, and reduced water storage resilience, fresh water supplies are already diminishing in the western United States, Mexico, the Middle East, and Mediterranean. Water shortages have been implicated in recent international conflict, and a recent Department of Defense study underscores the geopolitical importance of this problem.

  • June 07, 2017

    The 2004 disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted the cataclysmic effects—superstorms, tornadoes and deep freezes— resulting from the impacts of climate change. In the movie, global warming had accelerated the melting of polar ice, which disrupted circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean, triggering violent changes in the weather. Scientists pooh-poohed the dire scenarios in the movie, but affirmed that climate change could indeed affect ocean circulation—could it shut down the Gulf Stream?

  • June 02, 2017

    In light of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, we have collected resources and commentary from across the Earth Institute relevant to the implications, and the basics of the agreement. Continue to check back here as we update this page with new reactions from Earth Institute experts.

  • June 02, 2017

    Trump has aligned himself with the forces that deny scientific facts and economic realities. History will judge him harshly; our allies and most Americans already do. The law will need to play a major role in pushing back against the attempted dismantling of our environmental and health protections. —Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

  • June 01, 2017

    In recent years, scientists have discovered hundreds of lakes lying hidden deep beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Now a team of researchers has found the remains of at least one sub-ice lake that existed when the ice was far more extensive, in sediments on the Antarctic continental shelf. The discovery is significant because it is thought that such lakes may have accelerated the retreat of glaciers in the past, and could do so again. Their study appears this week in the journal Nature Communications.

  • May 31, 2017

    Antarctica’s ice locks up enough fresh water to inundate coastal regions around the globe. And the ice is on the move: The continent’s vast glaciers are sliding toward the coast and out over the ocean, forming huge ice shelves that in some places are collapsing. Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have spent the last two Antarctic summers flying over the massive Ross Ice Shelf, deploying a custom-made package of instruments to probe the ice. Their goal: to untangle the interactions between ice, ocean and land, to try and gauge the effects of warming climate.

  • May 31, 2017

    The world may be getting set up for similar situation now, they say. Over the past 50 years, the middle and high latitudes in the northern hemisphere have warmed roughly twice as much as the corresponding latitudes in the southern hemisphere, and this disparity may continue to grow as Arctic sea ice continues to decline. Putnam and Broecker predict that as the atmosphere warms more quickly in the north than in the south, the thermal equator and tropical and mid-latitude rain bands will continue to march northward, but migrate less-so southward during the northern winter months.

  • May 22, 2017

    Billy D’Andrea, a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory paleoclimatologist and Center for Climate and Life Fellow is currently doing fieldwork in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. He’s interested in the natural factors that may have influenced the growth of northern agriculture and rise of violent Viking chieftains during the Iron Age, ca. 500 BC to 1100 AD.

  • May 22, 2017

    Falling sulfur dioxide emissions in the United States are expected to substantially increase rainfall in Africa’s semi-arid Sahel, while bringing slightly more rain to much of the U.S., according to a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

  • May 18, 2017

    For years, scientists have been warning of a so-called “hot spot” of accelerated sea-level rise along the northeastern U.S. coast. But accurately modeling this acceleration as well as variations in sea-level rise from one region to another has proven challenging.

  • May 11, 2017

    Scientists aren’t typically known to be emotional, but recently, when I faced a room packed with colleagues, media and my six-month-old daughter, who was wearing her little sunhat and smiling from her perch in my husband’s arms, I had to fight back tears. I had been asked to speak at a press conference addressing the importance of funding for climate science, and I knew it was the right time and place to speak out.

  • May 05, 2017

    As can be seen above, the Waggonwaybreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway, has retreated substantially since 1900. Svalbard’s glaciers are not only retreating, they are also losing about two feet of their thickness each year. Glaciers around the world have retreated at unprecedented rates and some have disappeared altogether. The melting of glaciers will affect people around the world, their drinking water supplies, water needed to grow food and supply energy, as well as global sea levels.

  • May 04, 2017

    By examining the cooling rate of rocks that formed more than 10 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, scientists led by The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences have found that water probably penetrates deep into the crust and upper mantle at mid-ocean spreading zones, the places where new crust is made.

    The finding adds evidence to one side of a long-standing debate on how magma from the Earth’s mantle cools to form the lower layers of crust.

  • 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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