News and Events

  • May 14, 2015

    Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for every living organism, well known for its role in fueling everything from the human body to farm fields. But up to now, surprisingly little has been known about how the element cycles through the oceans. A new study has broken through some of this mystery, by showing the hidden role that the oceans’ tiniest creatures play. The study appears this week in the leading journal Science.

  • May 12, 2015

    A new study shows that ozone pollution in the western United States can be increased by La Niña, a natural weather cycle at the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have come to recognize that La Niña and its opposite phase, El Niño, affect various kinds of weather around the world; the ozone finding is first to show that it also directly affects pollution. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications.

  • April 27, 2015

    Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has signed a $35 million, five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to manage scientific support services for U.S. scientists studying the world’s ocean floors. Lamont will use the award to manage U.S. scientific support services for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), a 26-nation collaboration that explores earth’s geologic history and dynamics via the seafloors. The award, the result of a national competition conducted by NSF, was announced today at a press conference by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland counties), and top Lamont staff.

  • April 14, 2015

    Tiny Iceland is a prime exemplar of the complexities wrought by warming climate. It is 11 percent covered by ice, but it is basically also one very large, very active volcanic system. The island has seen fast-increasing temperatures since the 1970s, and glaciers–a big source of tourism and runoff for hydropower–are visibly receding. This cuts various ways. Iceland gets almost all its electricity and heat from hydropower and geothermal wells. Increased glacial runoff means increased generation potential; on the other hand, in 50 or 100 years, Iceland may be mostly land and very little ice, and the runoff could dry up.

  • March 06, 2015
    A Toronto-based company has been convicted of selling illegal ivory in the first case to use a technique for dating ivory developed by a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in collaboration with other colleagues.
     
  • February 12, 2015

    During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming, a new study predicts.

  • February 05, 2015

    Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans are presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. But a new study shows that they flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years—and, that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. The pulses—apparently tied to short- and long-term changes in earth’s orbit, and to sea levels--may help trigger natural climate swings. Scientists have already speculated that volcanic cycles on land emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide might influence climate; but up to now there was no evidence from submarine volcanoes. The findings suggest that models of earth’s natural climate dynamics, and by extension human-influenced climate change, may have to be adjusted. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

  • January 30, 2015

    Naturally occurring arsenic in private wells threatens people in many U.S. states and parts of Canada, according to a package of a dozen scientific papers to be published next week. The studies, focused mainly on New England but applicable elsewhere, say private wells present continuing risks due to almost nonexistent regulation in most states, homeowner inaction and inadequate mitigation measures. The reports also shed new light on the geologic mechanisms behind the contamination. The studies come amid new evidence that even low doses of arsenic may reduce IQ in children, in addition to well documented risks of heart disease, cancer and reduced lung function. The reports comprise a special section in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

  • January 28, 2015

    Ice ages come and go. So do pulses of volcanic eruptions on land and at sea, maybe, on roughly the same time scale. Could the two be related? A recent two-week oceanographic expedition aimed to find out. The overarching hypothesis: As water accumulates on land in the form of massive ice sheets, the pressure of the overlying ice puts a lid on volcanoes. A corresponding drop in sea level allows volcanic vents on the seafloor to let loose. Then, when the planet warms, causing ice to melt and sea levels to rise, hydrothermal venting is suppressed, while volcanoes on land become more active.

  • January 20, 2015

    Volcanoes can have multiple personalities, peaceful one minute, explosive the next. A geologist who has untangled these complicated states on land and at sea, improving our ability to see deadly eruptions coming, will receive the 2015 Vetlesen Prize. Stephen Sparks, a volcanologist at the University of Bristol, will be awarded a medal and $250,000 at a ceremony in New York in June.

  • December 16, 2014

    In Portuguese, fogo means fire, and for hundreds of years, Fogo volcano in the Cape Verde islands off Senegal has lived up to its name. It has spouted off every 20 years or so, at least as far back as 1460 when the Portuguese settled here. Nearly 20 years after its last eruption, in 1995, Fogo awoke on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Within a week, it had buried two villages high in Fogo’s caldera – Portela and Bangaeira – under lava, leaving 1,200 people homeless.

  • November 18, 2014

    Time ravages mountains, as it does people. Sharp features soften, and bodies grow shorter and rounder. But under the right conditions, some mountains refuse to age. In a new study, scientists explain why the ice-covered Gamburtsev Mountains in the middle of Antarctica looks as young as they do.

  • November 07, 2014
    A team of scientists has published the most comprehensive picture yet of how acidity levels vary across the world’s oceans, providing a benchmark for years to come as enormous amounts of human-caused carbon emissions continue to wind up at sea.
     
  • October 30, 2014
    New York State will acquire a conservation easement for the Black Rock Forest, protecting the 3,800-acre preserve 50 miles north of New York City for both public use and scientific research.
     

    No land is changing hands, and the area has essentially been protected since 1929, when owner Dr. Ernest G. Stillman established it as a research forest. Stillman left the land to Harvard University in 1949. Now the forest is maintained by the Black Rock Forest Consortium, comprising two dozen educational and cultural institutions, including Columbia University.

  • October 23, 2014

    Once a year, Piermont Pier becomes a field station, and local students, a team of environmental investigators. On Tuesday, scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory led students through a series of field experiments designed to teach them more about the Hudson River. The students took water chemistry measurements and compared them to the Hudson’s tidal cycles. They cored sediments from the river bottom and pictured their stretch of the Hudson covered in glaciers. They mapped out how high the river may rise under several CO2-emissions scenarios.

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