News and Events

  • December 14, 2016

    Off the coast of New Zealand, there is an area where earthquakes happen in slow-motion as two tectonic plates grind past one another. Unlike typical earthquakes that rupture over seconds, these slow-slip events take more than a week, creating an ideal lab for studying fault behavior along the shallow portion of a subduction zone.

  • December 13, 2016

    The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and scientists are seeing the effects across ice and ecosystems. The average annual air temperature over Arctic land is now 3.5°C (6.5°F) warmer than it was 1900, Greenland is experiencing longer melting seasons, and this year’s spring snow cover extent set a record low in the North American Arctic, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s newly released 2016 Arctic Report Card.

  • December 13, 2016

    Most research databases are narrowly focused. They might contain only seismic data from earthquakes, for example, or chemical data from volcanic rocks. The Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance (IEDA)set out to create a different kind of research experience, and the result is fueling groundbreaking multi-disciplinary discoveries worldwide.

  • December 12, 2016

    Declassified spy satellite images are beginning to provide the first consistent look at how glaciers across the Himalayas are changing and what future water supplies might look like for millions of people who rely on their seasonal melt.Until now, knowledge about glacier mass change in the region has been spotty, with inconsistent measurements from glacier to glacier.

  • December 10, 2016

    The Center for Climate and Life has announced the selection of four junior and mid-career scientists as its 2017 Climate and Life Fellows. The Fellows program supports scientists to work on projects that accelerate our understanding of how climate impacts the security of food, water, and shelter, and to explore sustainable energy solutions.  

  • December 09, 2016

    The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced a $3.7 million grant to Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to support research that couples state-of-the-art geophysical observations from unmanned aerial systems with a community-engaged research approach to bridge scientific and indigenous understanding of sea ice change in the Alaskan Arctic.

  • December 07, 2016

    Scientists have found evidence in a chunk of bedrock drilled from nearly two miles below the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet that the ice nearly disappeared for an extended time in the last million years or so. The finding casts doubt on assumptions that Greenland has been relatively stable during the recent geological past, and implies that global warming could tip it into decline more precipitously than previously thought. Such a decline could cause rapid sea-level rise. The findings appear this week in the leading journal Nature.

  • December 07, 2016

    Earth scientists from around the world will be in San Francisco next week to share their latest discoveries at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. You can watch several of their presentations live online through AGU On-Demand, including seven involving scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University’s home for Earth science research. Three Lamont scientists are also being honored this year, and three others will be taking new positions in the AGU's leadership.

  • December 02, 2016

    The Arctic’s frozen ground contains large stores of organic carbon that have been locked in the permafrost for thousands of years. As global temperatures rise, that permafrost is starting to melt, raising concerns about the impact on the climate as organic carbon becomes exposed. A new study is shedding light on what that could mean for the future by providing the first direct physical evidence of a massive release of carbon from permafrost during a warming spike at the end of the last glacial period.

  • December 01, 2016

    A metal tube packed with scientific instruments parachuted into the ice-cold waters of Antarctica’s Ross Sea on Tuesday, marking a new frontier in polar research. This ALAMO float and five others being deployed over the coming weeks are the first explorers of their kind to begin profiling the water adjacent to Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf and sending back data in real time. Their mission: find vulnerabilities where warmer (but still near freezing) water from the deep ocean may be seeping in under the ice shelf and melting it from below. That information, paired with aerial surveys currently mapping the ice shelf and the sea floor beneath it, will help scientists assess the stability of the Ross Ice Shelf as they seek to understand how quickly Antarctica will lose ice in a warming world and what that will mean for sea level rise globally. 

  • December 01, 2016

    Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms kill people and damage property every year, with the largest U.S. impacts resulting from tornado outbreaks, sequences of tornadoes that occur in close succession. Last spring a research team led by Michael Tippett, associate professor of applied physics and applied mathematics at Columbia University’s School of Engineering, published a study showing that the average number of tornadoes during outbreaks – large-scale weather events that can last one to three days and span huge regions – had risen since 1954. But they were not sure why.

  • November 16, 2016

    In the far north, climate is warming two to three times faster than the global average. As a result, both tundra and boreal forests are undergoing massive physical and biological shifts. Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and other institutions are engaged in a long-term project to sort out what allows trees to survive or not in this borderline environment.

  • November 15, 2016

    A new study has found heightened concentrations of some common substances in drinking water near sites where hydraulic fracturing has taken place. The substances are not at dangerous levels and their sources are unclear, but the researchers say the findings suggest underground disturbances that could be harbingers of eventual water-quality problems. The study may be the first of its kind to spot such broad trends.

  • November 14, 2016

    Scientists analyzing a volcanic eruption at a mid-ocean ridge under the Pacific have come up with a somewhat contrarian explanation for what initiated it. Many scientists say undersea volcanism is triggered mainly by upwelling magma that reaches a critical pressure and forces its way up. The new study says the dominant force, at least in this case, was the seafloor itself – basically that it ripped itself open, allowing the lava to spill out. The eruption took place on the East Pacific Rise, some 700 miles off Mexico.

  • November 07, 2016

    Researchers analyzing African elephant tusks seized by global law enforcement have confirmed what many suspect: the illegal ivory trade, now running in high gear, is being fueled almost exclusively by recently killed animals. In the first study of its kind, researchers showed that almost all tusks studied came from animals killed less than three years before the tusks were seized—many probably much more recently. The study bolsters evidence of widespread poaching, and undercuts the idea that many tusks are illegal recycled from older stockpiles.

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