Research News All

  • August 24, 2016

    In a new study, Lamont's Michael Previdi and Lorenzo Polvani found that the effect of rising temperatures on snowfall in Antarctica has so far been overshadowed by the frozen continent's large natural climate variability. By mid-century, however, as temperatures continue to rise, the effect of human-induced warming on Antarctica's net snow accumulation should emerge above the noise, and the increase in snowfall could begin to help partially offset sea level rise.

  • August 19, 2016

    Large-scale groundwater pumping is opening doors for dangerously high levels of arsenic to enter some of Southeast Asia’s aquifers, with water now seeping in through riverbeds with arsenic concentrations more than 100 times the limits of safety, according to a new study from scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, MIT, and Hanoi University of Science.

  • August 18, 2016

    A storm that dumped as much as 20 inches of rain over three days flooded thousands of homes in Louisiana in mid-August. Lamont's Adam Sobel writes about the discussion around the role of climate change and attribution studies.  

  • August 05, 2016

    Human actions are changing the oceans’ chemistry. To predict how marine ecosystems are going to respond to these changes, we need to understand how marine biology and ocean chemistry interact today. This week, biologist and geochemists from around the world gathered at Lamont to find new ways to combine their expertise to analyze GEOTRACES data on trace elements and nutrients.

  • July 27, 2016

    A new, donor-led internship program offered by the Center for Climate and Life provides high school students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on research experience while getting a feel for what a career in science involves.

  • July 25, 2016

    In the big data era, the modern computer is showing signs of age. The sheer number of observations now streaming from land, sea, air and space has outpaced the ability of most computers to process it. As the United States races to develop an “exascale” machine up to the task, a group of engineers and scientists at Columbia have teamed up to pursue solutions of their own.

  • July 14, 2016

    Powerful tropical cyclones like the super typhoon that lashed Taiwan with 150-mile-per-hour winds last week and then flooded parts of China are expected to become even stronger as the planet warms. That trend hasn’t become evident yet, but it will, scientists say.

  • July 11, 2016

    A huge earthquake may be building beneath Bangladesh, the most densely populated nation on earth. Scientists say they have new evidence of increasing strain there, where two tectonic plates underlie the world’s largest river delta. They estimate that at least 140 million people in the region could be affected if the boundary ruptures; the destruction could come not only from the direct results of shaking, but changes in the courses of great rivers, and in the level of land already perilously close to sea level.

  • July 06, 2016

    A new study carried out on the floor of Pacific Ocean provides the most detailed view yet of how the earth’s mantle flows beneath the ocean’s tectonic plates. The findings, published in the journal Nature, appear to upend a common belief that the strongest deformation in the mantle is controlled by large-scale movement of the plates. Instead, the highest resolution imaging yet reveals smaller-scale processes at work that have more powerful effects.

  • July 02, 2016

    A 4,000-foot-high mountainside collapsed in Glacier Bay National Park in a massive landslide that spread debris for miles across the glacier below. It was a powerful reminder of the instability of the mountains in this part of Alaska and the risks that that instability creates. Scientists at Lamont discovered the landslide from its seismic signature and are studying it and another recent Alaska landslide and tsunami to improve understanding of landslide risks to this region and globally.

  • June 30, 2016
    There was a period during the last ice age when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere went on a rollercoaster ride, plummeting and then rising again every 1,500 years or so. Those abrupt climate changes wreaked havoc on ecosystems, but their cause has been something of a mystery. New evidence published this week in the leading journal Science shows for the first time that the ocean’s overturning circulation slowed during every one of those temperature plunges – at times almost stopping.
  • June 27, 2016

    Antarctic sea ice is constantly on the move as powerful winds blow it away from the coast and out toward the open ocean. A new study shows how that ice migration may be more important for the global ocean circulation than anyone realized.

  • June 16, 2016

    A new initiative aims to help homeowners in New Jersey cope with arsenic contamination in private wells—a problem that has only come to light in recent years, and about which many homeowners are still unaware. In a series of fact sheets and videos, the project provides important information about the problem to help homeowners understand what may be going on and how to clean up their water.

  • June 15, 2016

    Engaging educators through professional development workshops, public events, and lectures is an important part of the Observatory’s education and outreach mission. Earlier this month, two dozen middle- and high-school educators joined a group of Lamont scientists at a workshop to learn about paleoclimate techniques and how computer models can expand understanding of the causes of hydroclimate variability and changes over the last several millennia.

  • June 09, 2016

    Scientists and engineers working at a power plant in Iceland have shown for the first time that carbon dioxide emissions can be pumped into the earth and changed chemically to a solid within monthsradically faster than anyone had predicted. The finding may help address a fear that so far has plagued the idea of capturing and storing CO2 underground: that emissions could seep back into the air or even explode out. 

  • June 09, 2016

    The tropics are already hot, and they’re getting hotter as global temperatures rise. A new study offers a glimpse into just how severely a couple more degrees could disrupt the region’s ecological map. The authors, from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of California, Berkeley, looked at potential effects of a 2°C rise in the average global temperature this century and asked: what would happen if all species tried to migrate to keep their average environmental temperature unchanged?

  • June 09, 2016

    Following record-high temperatures and melting records in northwest Greenland in summer 2015, a new study provides the first evidence linking melting in Greenland to the anticipated effects of a phenomenon known as Artic amplification.

  • June 08, 2016

    Who were our earliest ancestors? How and when did they evolve into modern humans? And how do we define “human,” anyway? Was it when some long-ago ancestor stood and walked; grew a brain of a certain size; or figured out how to make stone tools, control fire, plant crops or brew beer? The possible answers to such questions are themselves evolving, as anthropologists and archaeologists including Lamont's Chris Lepre continually discover new fossils and artifacts that upset old theories and push the known dates of evolutionary milestones back ever further into the past.

  • June 06, 2016

    To understand how quickly ice from glaciers can raise sea level or how moons far across the solar system evolved to hold vast, ice-covered oceans, we need to be able to measure the forces at work. A new instrument designed and built at Lamont's Rock and Ice Mechanics Lab with seed funding from a special innovation fund and support from NASA does just that.

  • June 06, 2016

    Buried deep in seabed sediments off east Africa, scientists have uncovered a 24-million-year record of vegetation trends in the region where humans evolved. The authors say the record lends weight to the idea that we developed key traits—flexible diets, large brains, complex social structures and the ability to walk and run on two legs—while adapting to the spread of open grasslands. The study appears today in a special human-evolution issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • May 30, 2016

    Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico have found that contaminants from the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill lingered in the subsurface water for months after oil on the surface had been swept up or dispersed. In a new study led by Lamont's Beizhan Yan, they detail how remnants of the oil, black carbon from burning oil slicks and contaminants from drilling mud combined with microscopic algae and other marine debris to descend in a “dirty blizzard” to the seafloor.

  • May 24, 2016

    The plate tectonics revolution was a data revolution. The young scientists who led the charge 50 years ago showed how asking the right questions and having access to a wide range of data could open doors to an entirely new understanding of the planet. This week, those scientists and the generations they inspired are meeting at Lamont to look back on their discoveries and to discuss the scientific developments over the decades since that continue to build our understanding of the behavior of Earth’s tectonic plates.

  • May 19, 2016

    The field of paleoceanography emerged in the middle of the last century as scientists began collecting large numbers of deep-sea sediment cores and figuring out how to date the layers that had recorded Earth’s climate history. John Imbrie was one of its pioneers.

  • May 17, 2016

    On a ledge just inside the lip of Chile’s Quizapu volcanic crater, Philipp Ruprecht was furiously digging a trench. Here at an elevation of 10,000 feet, a 1,000-foot plunge loomed just yards away, and wind was whipping dust off his shovel. But the volcanologist was excited. Ruprecht had just found this spot, topped with undisturbed wedding-cake layers of fine, black material that the crater had vomited from the deep earth some 84 years ago. Samples from the currently inactive site might shed light on its exceedingly violent behavior.

  • May 16, 2016

    Over the past half-million years, the equatorial Pacific Ocean has seen five spikes in the amount of iron-laden dust blown in from the continents. In theory, those bursts should have turbo-charged the growth of the ocean’s carbon-capturing algae­ – algae need iron to grow – but a new study led by Lamont Gisela Winckler shows that the excess iron had little to no effect. The results are important today, because as groups search for ways to combat climate change, some are exploring fertilizing the oceans with iron as a solution.

  • May 04, 2016

    One of Earth’s newest islands exploded into view from the bottom of the southwest Pacific Ocean in January 2015. Lamont scientist Vicki Ferrini, who uses geophysical mapping techniques to study the seafloor, was sailing through the area on an unrelated research cruise and created a detailed map of the new island's topography.

  • May 04, 2016

    Is it an album cover for a 1980s hair band, or a thin section micrograph of precious minerals? A model of ice streams in glacial lakes, or a 3D laser light show from a dance club? This past week at the third annual Research as Art exhibit at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, scientists traded in lab coats and goggles for artist smocks and easels as they demonstrated that when the line between science and art is allowed to get tenuous, the results are anything but.

  • May 03, 2016

    Maureen Raymo, a marine geologist and paleoceanographer whose name is connected with key theories about how ice ages wax and wane and how sea levels change, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors awarded to engineers and scientists in the United States. She is the 11th current scientist from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory invited to join the Academy for their excellence in original scientific work.

  • April 25, 2016

    In southern Greenland in summer, rivers have been streaming off the ice sheet, pouring cold fresh water into the fjords. Attention has focused on the West Coast, where the majority of the meltwater has been entering the ocean in recent years, but a new study from Lamont's Marco Tedesco suggests that a greater risk to global climate may actually be coming from the East.

  • April 20, 2016

    A new statistical method inspired by economics is helping scientists identify old volcanic eruptions through temperature changes in a consistent, automated way. In addition to helping separate volcanic impacts on climate from random climate variability, the new method has a wide range of policy applications.

  • April 19, 2016

    Fifty years ago, a graduate student named Walter Pitman made a discovery that would change the way we see our planet. It was late at night, and Pitman was reviewing charts of ship data that had just come off the computer. What Pitman saw in those lines confirmed the theories behind seafloor spreading and set the stage for our understanding of plate tectonics.

  • April 19, 2016

    Christopher Scholz is being awarded the Harry Fielding Reid Medal for his pioneering work in rock mechanics and his skill at communicating earthquake science. The Seismological Society of America cites Scholz’s wide range of contributions over a nearly 50-year career.

  • April 05, 2016

    Surfers have a saying: Never turn your back on the ocean. The World Surf League (WSL) is giving that phrase new meaning – it is teaming up with marine scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to launch WSL PURE, an innovative new philanthropy dedicated to supporting ocean research at a critical time.

  • March 21, 2016

    Researchers have predicted that as the planet is warmed by human-produced CO2, plants may add to the emissions and amplify the warming. Now, the most comprehensive global study of its kind yet suggests that this effect has limits, and that increases in plant respiration may not be as big as previously estimated. It shows that rates of increase slow in an easily predictable way as temperatures mount, in every region of earth, from tropics to tundra.

  • March 21, 2016

    In much of France and Switzerland, the best wine years are traditionally those with abundant spring rains followed by an exceptionally hot summer and late-season drought. This drives vines to put forth robust, fast-maturing fruit, and brings an early harvest. Now, a new study shows that warming climate has largely removed the drought factor from the centuries-old early-harvest equation. It is only the latest symptom that global warming is affecting biological systems and agriculture.

  • March 18, 2016

    Jay Ardai was the guy you wanted in your sea ice camp after the ship left, or in the Alaska wild when your plane had mechanical trouble. He earned his reputation in remote locations like these as a super-technician who could fix anything using whatever he could find.

  • March 15, 2016

    When Arnold Finck joined Lamont Geological Observatory as its first business administrator, he had a big job ahead and no template to follow. The Observatory had just opened its doors, and its scientists needed laboratories, equipment and ships, as well as administrative procedures. Finck spent more than 25 years helping build the Lamont campus and designing the procedures that made it run. Former colleagues described Finck, who passed away March 13 at the age of 96, as a problem solver who calmly steered the observatory’s financial course.

  • March 15, 2016
    One foggy spring morning just after a hard rain, Park Williams was tromping through the woods deep in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains. Toiling down a steep slope, he supposedly was keeping a simultaneous eye out for rattlesnakes, copperheads, poison ivy and big old trees. Williams seemed mostly focused on the trees, though; attention to the other stuff was just slowing him down. Williams studies how forests react to changes in climate, and the Ozarks’ deeply dissected hills and hollers are a kind of ground zero for this.
  • March 11, 2016

    If you asked scientists a few years ago if a specific hurricane has been caused by climate change, most would have told you that, while it raises the risks, no single weather event could yet be attributed to climate change. That’s starting to change. In a new report, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, including Lamont Professor Adam Sobel, assesses the young field of attribution studies for several types of extreme events. It recommends future research and guidance to help the field advance and contribute to understanding of the risks ahead.

  • March 07, 2016

    Mercury’s dark surface is revealing intriguing new clues about the formation of the solar system, including evidence described in a new study that the planet closest to the Sun may have formed in part from carbon, a key component of life.

  • March 04, 2016

    A group of surfer-scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has teamed up with the World Surf League and GoFlow to launch Bleach Patrol, a citizen science project and app designed to track coral bleaching and help scientists learn more about its causes and how corals recover.Bleach Patrol turns surfers, divers and other ocean enthusiasts into the eyes of the scientists on the reef.

  • March 03, 2016

    In their quest to unravel the physical and chemical processes controlling volcanic eruptions, Einat Lev and colleagues headed to South America and the volcanoes of Chile. She writes about the trip and what they hope to learn from their work, and shares video from their drone flights over the lava flows.

  • March 03, 2016

    Greenland's snowy surface has been getting darker over the past two decades, absorbing more heat from the sun and increasing snow melt, a new study of satellite data shows. That trend is likely to continue, with the surface's reflectivity, or albedo, decreasing by as much as 10 percent by the end of the century, the study says.

  • March 01, 2016

    In the years before the Syrian conflict erupted, the region’s worst drought on record set in across the Levant, destroying crops and restricting water supplies in the already water-stressed region. A new study shows that that drought, from 1998-2012, wasn’t just the most severe in a century of record-keeping—it was the Levant’s most severe drought in at least 500 years and likely more than 900 years.

  • February 23, 2016

    When you examine the behavior of the global oceans closely – really closely, at scales smaller than 100 kilometers – eddies and jets and fronts start to appear. For Ryan Abernathey, who was just awarded a 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship, this is where ocean physics gets interesting.

  • February 22, 2016

    Scientists have developed a new model to help coastal planners assess the risks of sea level rise. Put to use on a global scale, it estimates that the oceans will rise at least 28 centimeters on average by the end of this century – and as much as 131 cm if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow unchecked.

  • February 22, 2016

    Deep beneath Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, down where the pressure and temperatures have become so high that rock starts to flow, new continental crust is being born. Scientists have long believed that continental crust forms in volcanic arcs – they know the magma brought up in the arcs’ volcanoes is geochemically very similar to continental crust. The lingering question has been how exactly that happens. While the magma that reaches the surface is similar to continental crust, the lower crust beneath volcanic arcs is quite different from the lower half of continental crust.

  • February 08, 2016

    Humans have been burning fossil fuels for only about 150 years, yet that has started a cascade of profound changes that at their current pace will still be felt 10,000 years from now, a new study shows. Coastal areas, in particular, will experience the long-term effects as rising seas slowly redraw the world map as we know it and continue to rise long after emissions are brought down. Even in a scenario in which global temperatures warm to only about 2° Celsius above pre-industrial times, the analysis shows that several of the world’s coastal megacities will eventually be submerged.

  • February 04, 2016

    Last Thursday, thousands of people from southern New Jersey to Long Island and coastal Connecticut felt the earth tremble. Between 1:20 pm and 2:40 pm, dishes, desks and buildings shook for up to 20 seconds—in some locations, several times. With everyone thinking earthquake, Twitter and Facebook lit up; news reporters scrambled; calls poured into police, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which maintains the region’s network of 50-some seismographic stations.

  • February 03, 2016

    Twenty thousand years ago, when humans were still nomadic hunters and gatherers, low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere allowed the earth to fall into the grip of an ice age. But despite decades of research, the reasons why levels of the greenhouse gas were so low then have been difficult to piece together.

  • February 02, 2016

    On every continent and ocean, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory field researchers are studying the dynamics of climate, geology, natural hazards and ecology, and their practical applications to modern problems. Below are some of their expeditions in rough chronological order. Work in and around New York City and the U.S. Northeast is listed separately toward bottom. Use the interactive world map above to explore these projects.

  • February 01, 2016

    If the Montreal Protocol had been rejected and the risks of ozone depleting substances had been ignored by the world, we would be facing even more intense tropical cyclones in the near future, according to a new study.

  • January 28, 2016

    In an effort led by current and former Lamont Tree Ring Lab scientists, the N-TREND consortium (Northern Tree-Ring Network Development) was created to develop a global database of tree-ring research that improves on efforts for developing large-scale temperature reconstructions across the Northern Hemisphere.

  • January 27, 2016

    Scientists plumbing the depths of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean have found ancient sediments suggesting that one proposed way to mitigate climate warming—fertilizing the oceans with iron to produce more carbon-eating algae—may not necessarily work as envisioned.

  • January 25, 2016

    In the water above natural oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, where oil and gas bubbles rise almost a mile to break at the surface, scientists have discovered something unusual: phytoplankton, tiny microbes at the base of the marine food chain, are thriving. The oil itself does not appear to help the phytoplankton, but the low concentration of oil found above natural seeps isn’t killing them, and turbulence from the rising oil and gas bubbles is bringing up deep-water nutrients that phytoplankton need to grow, according to a new study appearing in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

  • January 22, 2016

    The Columbia Center for Climate & Life at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has announced its 2016 Fellows. Michael Puma is focusing on food security and climate shocks, and Park Williams is exploring the influence of climate change on droughts and wildfires.

  • January 22, 2016

    As the second most recent ice age was ending and its glaciers began to retreat, the Earth experienced a large, abrupt climate change that shifted the thermal equator southward by about 4 degrees, according to a new study that for the first time tracks that shift in millennial detail, showing how the Northern Hemisphere cooled and the Southern Hemisphere warmed over the span of a few hundred years. The change would have affected the monsoons, today relied on to feed more than half the world’s population, and could have helped tip the climate system over the threshold for deglaciation, said lead author Allison Jacobel.

  • January 07, 2016

    The bottom of the ocean just keeps getting better. Or at least more interesting to look at. In an ongoing project, mappers at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have been gathering data from hundreds of research cruises and turning it all into accessible maps of the ocean floor with resolutions down to 25 meters.

  • December 18, 2015

    Over the last six years, seismologists Göran Ekström and Colin Stark have been perfecting a technique for picking out the seismic signature of large landslides from the stream of seismic data from earthquakes and other activity around the world. The details they are able to extract could one day help governments sound tsunami warnings, help rescuers find landslide-struck villages faster, and warn of risks such as landslide-dammed rivers that could soon burst through.

  • December 15, 2015

    Why does sea level change at different rates? How has it changed in the past? Who will be at risk from more extreme weather and sea level rise in the future? Our scientists often hear questions like these. To help share the answers more widely, we created a new app that lets users explore a series of maps of the planet, from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the ice at the poles. You can see how ice, the oceans, precipitation and temperatures have changed over time and listen as scientists explain what you’re seeing and why.

  • December 15, 2015

    Understanding how lava flows is critical when homes and roads are in a lava flow’s path. A community may have a day to evacuate, or its residents may have a week or more, with enough time to move what they can to safer ground.

  • December 09, 2015

    As excess carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, it is starting to have profound effects on marine life, from oysters to tiny snails at the base of the food chain.

  • December 04, 2015

    A new study questions the popular notion that 10th-century Norse people were able to colonize Greenland because of a period of unusually warm weather. Based upon signs left by old glaciers, researchers say the climate was already cold when the Norse arrived—and that climate thus probably played little role in their mysterious demise some 400 years later. On a larger scale, the study adds to building evidence that the so-called Medieval Warm Period, when Europe enjoyed exceptionally clement weather, did not necessarily extend to other parts of the world.

  • December 04, 2015

    Over the last century, glaciers in Greenland have been retreating quickly – at a rate at least twice as fast as any other time in the past 9,500 years, according to a new study. The study also provides new evidence for just how sensitive glaciers are to temperature changes, showing that they responded to abrupt and even short-lived cooling and warming in the past that lasted decades to centuries.

  • November 24, 2015

    When the most recent eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano started last June, Melvin Sugimoto at first did not think much of it. Hawaii, where he has lived all his life, is made entirely of hardened lava, and Kilauea, perhaps the world’s most active volcano, has been adding more off and on for the last 300,000 years. “Lava is everywhere, but I never thought in a million years it would come through here,” said Sugimoto, who lives in the small town of Pahoa.

  • November 24, 2015

    The fate of the ice sheets has a direct impact on populations worldwide: as the land-based ice melts, it raises sea level, and that can threaten coastal communities and economies.

  • November 24, 2015

    Earth’s magnetic field has been getting weaker, leading some scientists to think that it might be about to flip, but the field may simply be coming down from an abnormally high intensity rather than approaching a reversal, scientists write in a new paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • November 20, 2015

    A snapshot of the changing climate of the West Antarctica Peninsula, where the impact of fast-rising temperatures provides clues about future ecosystem changes elsewhere.

  • November 19, 2015

    The Indonesian peat fires that have been choking cities across Southeast Asia with a yellow haze are creating more than a local menace—the burning peat releases immense stores of CO2, contributing to global warming, writes Jonathan Nichols.

  • November 16, 2015

    Rarely a day goes by without earthquakes shaking the Alaska Peninsula, a string of volcanoes curving off the Alaska mainland into the Pacific. Just off shore, two tectonic plates are converging: The Pacific plate is bending under the North American plate and pushing deep into the Earth. Along this subduction zone, scientists have noticed something unusual. Two adjacent sections that appear almost identical in large-scale characteristics—temperature, angle of subduction, age of the rocks—are exhibiting very different earthquake behaviors over short spans of just tens of kilometers. One section is highly active with small earthquakes; the other is more quiet but has large earthquakes every 50 to 75 years. To get a closer look, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s research ship, the R/V Marcus G. Langseth, ran seismic surveys to map the ocean floor and the earth beneath it.

  • November 12, 2015

    Gradual melting of winter snow helps feed water to farms, cities and ecosystems across much of the world, but this resource may soon be critically imperiled. In a new study, scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins across the northern hemisphere currently serving 2 billion people that run the risk of declining supplies in the coming century. The basins take in large parts of the American West, southern Europe, the Mideast and central Asia. They range from productive U.S. farm land to war-torn regions already in the grip of long-term water shortages.

  • November 11, 2015

    Much of the modern understanding of climate change is underpinned by pioneering studies done at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Starting in the 1950s and continuing today, researchers at sea, on land and in the lab have worked in disciplines including oceanography, atmospheric physics, magnetism, geochemistry, glacial geology, paleontology, tree-ring studies and more.

  • November 06, 2015

    The long history of severe droughts across Europe and the Mediterranean has largely been told through historical documents and ancient journals, each chronicling the impact in a geographically restricted area. Now, for the first time, an atlas based on scientific evidence provides the big picture, using tree rings to map the reach and severity of dry and wet periods across Europe and parts of North Africa and the Middle East year-by-year over the past 2,000 years.

  • October 23, 2015

    Hurricane Patricia intensified incredibly rapidly as it approached the Mexico coast on Oct. 23, exploding from a tropical storm with wind speeds of 63 mph to a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds over 160 mph only 24 hours later, and it continued to strengthen, reaching 200 mph. While most of the models predicted strengthening, they all underestimated how quickly and how strong the wind speeds would become.

  • October 20, 2015

    The global overturning circulation of the ocean plays a fundamental role in our climate by redistributing some of the excess heat accumulated around the Equator. The coldest deep waters of the global circulation are created in localized regions near the poles. How these deep waters return to shallower depths through vertical mixing is still not, as yet, fully understood.

  • October 15, 2015

    A new study in Science questions the provocative idea that climate change may shape the texture of the sea floor. Lamont's Jean-Arthur Olive and his co-authors argue that the fabric of the sea floor is better explained by faults that form, offsetting the crust as the plates pull apart. Their paper is the first to explain the characteristic spacing of abyssal hills quantitatively as a function of seafloor spreading rate within a single theoretical framework.

  • October 15, 2015

    The Research Vessel Marcus G. Langseth, operated by Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, sails the world exploring oceans and probing the sea floor and the layers deep beneath it. A new video produced by Columbia University takes a tour of the Langseth and talks to the scientists who work on its decks collecting data.

  • October 13, 2015

    Nicolás Young was just named a winner of a 2015 Blavatnik Award for his work measuring ice sheets in changing climates of the past and their contribution to sea level rise. His new projects are taking glacier tracking to the next level.

  • October 12, 2015

    Tiny microbes called phytoplankton are churning away in the oceans, taking in carbon dioxide and producing the oxygen we breathe. Scientists recognize their value, but many questions remain about what will happen to their productivity as the oceans warm, carbon dioxide levels rise, and the nutrients they rely on become scarce. A new study explores those questions using a mix of techniques from genomics and oceanography and a newly created database of millions of phytoplankton RNA strands contributed by scientists from labs around the world.

  • October 12, 2015

    A new study has found that powerful winds are removing massive amounts of snow from parts of Antarctica, potentially boosting estimates of how much the continent might contribute to sea level. Up to now, scientists had thought that most snow scoured from parts of the continent was simply redeposited elsewhere on the surface. However, the new study shows that in certain parts, called scour zones, some 90 percent—an estimated 80 billion tons per yearis instead being vaporized, and removed altogether. 

  • October 09, 2015

    A new study finds that the Horn of Africa has become progressively drier over the past century and that it is drying at a rate that is both unusual in the context of the past 2,000 years and in step with human-influenced warming. The study also projects that the drying will continue as the region gets warmer. If the researchers are right, the trend could exacerbate tensions in one of the most unstable regions in the world.

  • October 02, 2015

    Scientists working off west Africa in the Cape Verde Islands have found evidence that the sudden collapse of a volcano there tens of thousands of years ago generated an ocean tsunami that dwarfed anything ever seen by humans. The researchers say an 800-foot wave engulfed an island more than 30 miles away. The study could revive a simmering controversy over whether sudden giant collapses present a realistic hazard today around volcanic islands, or even along more distant continental coasts. The study appears today in the journal Science Advances.

  • September 29, 2015

    As Superstorm Sandy headed for New York City, Adam Sobel’s phone started ringing with calls from reporters, and it kept ringing as the subway tunnels filled with water, the storm passed, and the city started to clean up. The reporters wanted to understand the science behind the storm and what it meant for the future. Their questions and Sobel’s conversations with colleagues across Columbia University working on issues related to extreme weather inspired him to write “Storm Surge,” a 2014 book about Sandy that just won the American Meteorological Society’s Louis J. Battan Author’s Award.

  • September 29, 2015

    Most rainfall occurs in the tropics, where it is concentrated in a band circling the Earth near the equator (see Fig. 1). Understanding how this rain band and its local constituents, i.e. the monsoon systems over land and the intertropical convergence zone over the ocean, will respond to climate change is one of the most stubborn questions in climate science (Bony et al., 2015; Voigt and Shaw, 2015). It is also one that has important implications for climate adaption. For example, because the rain band is so localized, small changes in its position can lead to large local rainfall changes.

  • September 22, 2015

    Ancient pollen grains that were floating in the air when mammoths roamed Southern California are providing new insights into historic droughts in the region, including how a series of mega-droughts between about 27,500 and 25,500 years ago changed the ecological landscape. A new scientific paper tracks these changes and suggests that warm ocean conditions similar to what we see off Southern California today fueled that 2,000-year stretch of droughts.

  • September 16, 2015

    Over 40 years, the scientists of the internationally renowned Lamont Tree Ring Lab have hiked the continents in search of tree-ring records. They have documented droughts that stretched for hundreds of years, dated historic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and found in trees around the world evidence of how the planet cooled and then started warming. The Lab has expanded dendrochronology’s capabilities and becme a global leader in research, training and technology.
     

  • September 15, 2015

    What makes someone a good mentor? Is it the way she is always available, even when 3,000 miles away? Or the way he gets to know his students as individuals who have lives outside the lab? We got some insight last night from two award-winning mentors and the students whose lives they have changed.

  • September 14, 2015

    Even the simplest research questions can lead to far-reaching public benefits. Consider Chris Small and Joel Cohen’s study of global population by altitude, being honored this week with a Golden Goose Award at the Library of Congress.

  • September 10, 2015

    “In the last 10 years, we were afraid that the Southern Ocean was going to quit giving us a break from climate change,” said coauthor Taro Takahashi of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “This study shows that it’s recovered its ability to take up carbon dioxide, and that’s good news.” Takahashi has been working for decades to understand the cycling of CO2 between air and oceans, and is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject.

  • September 02, 2015

    Two solar farms will soon be powering 75 percent of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, whose high-tech laboratories are home to some of the world’s leading Earth and climate scientists. The new power sources are expected to cut the campus’s electricity bill by 20 percent and reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by half.

  • September 01, 2015

    The Amazon Rainforest sprawls across more than 2 million square miles of South America, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as “the lungs of the planet.” When they’re healthy, the world’s tropical forests and vegetation absorb up to 30 percent of the CO2 produced by human activities, but during droughts, that capacity falls off. To understand what that will mean as global warming produces more intense and frequent droughts, we need to understand the water and carbon cycles of the Amazon and how those cycles interact.

  • August 24, 2015

    Geochemist Yaakov Weiss deals in diamonds. Not the brilliant jewelry-store kind, but the flawed, dirty-looking ones used more for industry than decoration. Gem-grade diamonds are generally pure crystallized carbon, but many lower-grade stones contain so-called inclusions–chemical intruders bottled up inside the crystal. Inclusions lower the stone’s value; but they contain worlds of information about the deep, inaccessible regions where diamonds come from. Their compositions speak to not only how diamonds form (and maybe how to find them), but other basic processes below. “They are the most pristine samples we can get from underlying depths,” says Weiss, who works at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “After a diamond captures something, from that moment until millions of years later in my lab, that material stays the same. We can look at diamonds as time capsules, as messengers from a place we have no other way of seeing.” Some of his recent studies are providing new insights to these regions.

  • August 24, 2015

    People have been finding loose diamonds across the United States and Canada since the early 1800s, but for the most part, no one knows where they came from. It was not until the 1990s that geologists tracked down the first commercial deposits, on the remote tundra of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Yaakov Weiss, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is investigating the origins of these rich diamond mines. He also hopes to explore the mysteries of the much rarer loose stones found in places like the U.S. Rockies and rural Arkansas. Will prospectors ever make a big strike closer to civilization? Here, a brief pictorial look at the history and science of North American diamonds. It is based on the book Barren Lands: An Epic Search for Diamonds in the North American Arctic.

  • August 21, 2015

    Trees can record centuries of history in their rings – changes in rainfall and temperatures, even evidence of fires sweeping through a region or the climatic impacts of volcanic eruptions. Annual rings are common in trees that experience seasonal climate variability and dormancy, but in the tropics, these records are rare. Now, for the first time, scientists have documented consistent annual tree rings in a native species on Hawai’i. The history recorded in the ring widths could improve our understanding of the climate in the eastern tropical Pacific,  a region where much of the variability of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) originates.

  • August 20, 2015

    A new study says that global warming has measurably worsened the ongoing California drought. While scientists largely agree that natural weather variations have caused a lack of rain, an emerging consensus says that rising temperatures may be making things worse by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse: as much as a quarter. The findings suggest that within a few decades, continually increasing temperatures and resulting moisture losses will push California into even more persistent aridity. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

  • August 19, 2015

    The New Jersey shoreline that sea birds wandered during the last ice age is about 90 miles east of today’s beaches, tens of meters beneath the sea floor. As the ice melted, sea level gradually rose and flooded the coastal terrain, and sedimentation carried out its relentless burial of things past.

    This summer, a group of scientists spent several weeks aboard the R/V Marcus G. Langseth looking into that past. Using sound waves, they collected data that will be used to build 3D images of the sediment beneath the ocean floor. They hope to be able to peel back layers of the 3D images to see how coastal landscapes responded to rising sea levels and hurricanes through history.

  • August 18, 2015

    In the D’Entrecasteaux Islands off Papua New Guinea, the rocks are giving rise to new ideas about the ways in which mountain chains form. A new scientific model inspired by data from the islands shows how the seemingly opposite processes of tectonic compression and extension can take place in the same region.  It also shows how sections of earth’s crust that have been pushed deep under the surface can reverse course and rise in what in the geological time scale would be an instant. The model has implications for the understanding of how many mountain belts form.

  • August 17, 2015

    If you’re ever lost in a marsh and need to build a battery that can power LED lights, these teens can help you out. They can show you how to track the flow of nutrients into and out of a marsh, and how to take sediment samples and analyze them for carbon, methane or metals. They can also show you how to rehabilitate a marsh that has been overrun by invasive species – they just spent the summer working with scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Piermont Marsh putting all of these projects and their own hypotheses to the test.

  • August 11, 2015

    Dennis E. Hayes was a marine geophysicist who advanced mapping of the world’s ocean floors over five decades at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. He died Aug. 6 at the age of 86.

     

  • August 10, 2015
    In his new book The Disaster Profiteers, Lamont-Doherty professor John Mutter argues that natural disasters can devastate the poor – while the rich may profit.

     

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