News and Events

  • 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    The long history of severe droughts across Europe and the Mediterranean has largely been told through historical documents and ancient journals, each chronicling the impact in a geographically restricted area.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.
     

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