Geopoetry by Kat Allen

Malawi Earthquake Risk

Kat Allen, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, started writing poems about science as a graduate student, in part to make studying for qualifying exams less painfully serious. At Lamont, she sent out a poem with each week’s reminder about the geochemistry department’s coffee social hour. Her “Geopoetry” blog grew from there because, she says, “It was just too much fun to stop.” Kat is currently an instructor in Columbia's Frontiers of Science program.

 

When North Itself Wanders

Posted By: Katherine Allen on July 25, 2014

 

Earth's magnetic field lines are almost vertical near the poles. The dancing lights of the aurora borealis are the result of interactions Earth's magnetic field, atmosphere, and energetic particles from the sun. Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Earth’s magnetic field lines are almost vertical near the poles. The dancing lights of the aurora borealis are the result of interactions between Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere, and energetic particles from the sun. Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

 

I love thinking about why my compass points north.

The deep, molten-metal motions, rising

And falling … gargantuan currents of iron

Conceiving vast magnetic fields, revealed

In my hand, by a tiny, quivering red needle.

Even more deliciously disturbing:

The field has been changing; the north pole is wan-der-ing

Towards Siberia, of all places – like a fading,

Frost-bitten explorer, staggering wide curves through the snow.

 

 

_________________________________

Further reading:

Satellites show magnetic field in decline, Nature

Earth’s magnetic field is fading, National Geographic

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University

Tale of a Carbon Atom

Posted By: Katherine Allen on July 18, 2014

carbon fossil history

I am a wild carbon atom,
To others I’ve sometimes been bound,
Not locked in some hard, rocky stratum,
I’m telling you: I get around!

As carbon dioxide I spewed
Forth during floods of basalt
The P-T, some folks have been rude:
They say that it’s partly my fault!

About 50 million years passed;
The air got too crowded for me.
My buddies and I then in-gassed
Down into the salty sea.

There, we broke up some water
Stole an H and an O.
The leftover H found C fodder,
It was hot, reefs struggled to grow.

Oh baby, the early Cretaceous,
Now that was a happenin’ time.
Plankton were rife and bodacious;
I left the party with lime.

On the seafloor I rested, just chillin’,
Then my neighbors and I were dissolved!
They’re still on the hunt for the villain;
Some say methane was involved.

I’ll tell you, if you want to learn
Of acidifications now past:
For sea bugs to feel that harsh burn,
The pH change has to be fast.

If acid’s more rapid than base
(if it beats out the weathering flux)
Then carbonate shells lose the race …
For some critters, that really sucks.

So what? pH’s varied since life began;
Many things drop it or spike it.
I’ve seen crazy things, but this modern world, Man …
I’ve never seen anything like it!

__________________________________________

Further reading:

The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification, Science, 2012

Katherine Allen is a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Iron Fingerprints

Posted By: Katherine Allen on July 11, 2014
Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC (reposted from Nature.com)

Saharan dust in the wind. Photo: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC (reposted from Nature.com)

 

Metals galore in deep Earth,

But at the sea surface, a dearth.

Iron is key

For greening the sea …

To planktic cells, gold has less worth.

 

Whence this precious resource?

Isotopes hint at the source.

Dust takes the lead,

While vents slowly bleed,

Could inputs affect climate’s course?

 

_________________________________

Further reading:

Ocean chemistry: Fingerprints of a trace nutrient, Resing and Barrett, Nature 2014

Quantification of dissolved iron sources to the North Atlantic Ocean, Conway and John, Nature 2014

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Australopithecene Dental Calculus

Posted By: Katherine Allen on June 27, 2014
Phytoliths -- mineral particles formed by plants -- found in the teeth of one of our ancient ancestors.Photo: AG Henry, Nature, 2012.

Phytoliths — mineral particles formed by plants — found in the teeth of one of our ancient ancestors. Photo: AG Henry, Nature, 2012.

Across a mixed landscape, Au. sediba plods
Sometimes on two feet, and sometimes on four,
Munching on fruits and leguminous pods,
Nuts and some seeds … C3 foods galore!
They did have a choice (so coprolites hint);
Lush grasses, fat grazers were also around,
But in these old ancestors (destined for flint?)
New clues, new stories have just now been found.
With lasers and microscopes, old dental plaque –
Tiny, stuck phytoliths show a rich diet!
Scratched-up enamel, it all brings us back
To lives of these creatures that have long been quiet.
What wonders are learned from plaque and from feces,
History bound in compounds beneath!
So, we should say to that wonderful species:
Thanks for not brushing your teeth!

___________________________________________

Further reading:

Palaeoanthropology: The ancestral dinner table, Nature, 2012

The diet of Australopithecus sediba, Amanda G. Henry et al., Nature, 2012

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Apophis

Posted By: Katherine Allen on June 13, 2014
Images of Apophis. Image: BBC World Service

Images of Apophis from BBC World Service

You may have heard the recent cries:
An asteroid towards us flies!
Apophis, a rocky mass,
Some years from now will closely pass,
Into the “keyhole,” if she falls,
The president will get some calls.
Chances that this fate arrive?
0.000005

_______________________________

Further reading:

Apophis asteroid: Large space rock flies past Earth, BBC News, Jan. 9, 2013

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Lake Goo Clue” first appeared on Allen’s website on Jan. 11, 2013.

Lake Goo Clue

Posted By: Katherine Allen on June 06, 2014
Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania

Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania. Photo: K. Allen

The lands of Africa’s Horn,
Great Valleys sliced by a Rift,
By drought and famine are torn …
What drives such a large rainfall shift?
Detectives of lake muck and goo,
Through models and efforts terrific,
Put forth a paleo-clue
From the Indian, not the Pacific.

__________________________

Further reading:

Multidecadal variability in East African hydroclimate controlled by the Indian Ocean, Tierney et al. Nature 2013

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Lake Goo Clue” first appeared on Allen’s website on Jan. 18, 2013.

Some Do Not Like It Hot

Posted By: Katherine Allen on May 30, 2014
early Triassic, Image: Sun et al. 2012, Science

Image: Sun et al. 2012, Science

The Great Dying, The Big One — The Permo-Triassic!
(In a time machine, not sure if that’s where I’d aim …)
As extinctions go, this one’s a blockbuster classic,
When most of Earth’s species dropped out of the game.
Conodont fossils reveal massive changes
In sea surface temperatures (and CO2?).
Terrestrial critters reduced their lat ranges;
Low-oxygen regions in deep ocean grew.
Peat swamps disappeared (a great gap in coal),
And at the equator, most fish would fry.
At times like these, seems wise to head for the pole!
In a hot-steamy world … adapt, move, or die.

_________________________________________

Further reading:

Lethally Hot Temperatures During the Early Triassic Greenhouse, Yadong Sun et al., Science, 2012

Life in the Early Triassic Ocean, David J. Bottjer, Science, 2012

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Some Do Not Like It Hot” first appeared on Allen’s website on Oct. 19, 2012.

Unexpected Sisters

Posted By: Katherine Allen on May 23, 2014
An artist's rendering of the extinct Elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus), which lived in Madagascar. Aepyornis stood over 3 meters tall. Image  source: BBC Photo Library.

An artist’s rendering of the extinct Elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus), which lived in Madagascar. Aepyornis stood over 3 meters tall. Image source: BBC Photo Library.

 

An ancient island’s trove of treasure: Madagascan fauna
Tenrec, fossa, lemur, hippo, dugong, bat, iguana.
A giant bird – O, wondrous beast! – a half a ton, and tall,
Laid foot-long eggs, had beefy legs, and did not fly at all.
Another ratite, far away within the South Pacific,
The kiwi! Shy, with furry feathers, appetite terrific.
Among the old-jawed birds, you wouldn’t guess that they’re close kin,
But DNA reveals a link from deep, deep down within.
If the kiwi’s closest kin is not its moa neighbor,
Drawing up the family tree might seem a puzzling labor.
The simplest answer blows the mind – it seems that they all flew
With wings they spread across the globe, and filled in niches new.
Dinos gone (darn asteroid) left lots of open spaces,
Birds came in, diversified, flew on an as-need basis.
From this, it seems that flightlessness evolved six separate times!
The song of life, though improvised, with patterns clear it chimes.

 

______________________________________________________

Further reading:

Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution, Mitchell et al., 2014, Science.

Little kiwi, huge extinct elephant bird were birds of a feather, Reuters

The Surprising Closest Relative of the Huge Elephant Birds, National Geographic

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Weak Underbelly

Posted By: Katherine Allen on May 16, 2014
A view of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (Landsat). Source: New York Times.

A view of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (Landsat). Source: New York Times.

 

Antarctica’s uncertain fuse,
A “weak underbelly,” said Hughes.
Pine Island and Thwaites,
Thrown open, the gates?
As humans, what path should we choose?

The East’s held strong millions of years,
Despite cries of wolf from some peers.
West into the sea,
Up one foot, or three?
Uncertainty some meet with sneers.

Below salty waves, ice is grounded …
In this case, we see fears are founded.
In our defense,
Some centuries hence,
I hope they’ll say reason resounded.

 

__________________________________________

Further reading:

Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt, Justin Gillis and Kenneth Chang, New York Times.

Marine Ice Sheet Collapse Potentially Underway for the Thwaites Glacier Basin, West Antarctica, Joughin et al., 2014, Science.

Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica from 1992 to 2011, Rignot et al., 2014, PNAS.

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The New World

Posted By: Katherine Allen on May 09, 2014
Archaeological expedition in the Peruvian Andes (Kurt Rademaker, University of Maine at Orono).

Archaeological expedition in the Peruvian Andes (Kurt Rademaker, University of Maine at Orono).

 

On a man in the mountains, dusk falls;

Shadows seep upward and spread.

Scaling the black, chiseled walls,

He silently seeks the dead.

 

The Andes, sharp spine of Peru,

Shelter small secrets of stone.

That night, an ancient milieu:

Obsidian, jasper, bone.

 

Into deep history, peer:

Sharp edges of tools, human craft!

Adventurous people lived here,

Climbed, feasted, laughed.

 

Archaeological expedition in the Peruvian Andes (Kurt Rademaker, UMaine)

Archaeological expedition in the Peruvian Andes (Kurt Rademaker, UMaine)

 ____________________________________

Further reading:

Science-2014-Gibbons-567-8 (pdf)

“New Sites Bring the Earliest Americans Out of the Shadows,” Ann Gibbons, Science, 2014

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The Breathing Ocean

Posted By: Katherine Allen on May 02, 2014
Image: Jaccard et al. (2013) Science

Image: Jaccard et al. (2013) Science

Far south and farther south, where winds are cold and screaming,
Waters churn, and deep below, old sediments lie dreaming.
A million years’ residuum of life and death and dust,
A library of ice ages reposed upon Earth’s crust.
Very finely teased apart, this elemental tale,
On barium and opal deep into the past we sail.
With all the evidence aligned, a pattern brightly blazes:
Descent into an ice age world proceeds in two key phases.
An orchestra with many players ‘tween warm-cold inflecting;
Tiny cells, abyssal flow, great winds … now, who’s directing?

_________________________________________________

Further reading:

Two Modes of Change in Southern Ocean Productivity Over the Past Million Years, Jaccard, Hayes et al., Science, 2013

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “The Breathing Ocean” first appeared on Allen’s website on March 22, 2013.

Hell’s Chicken

Posted By: Katherine Allen on April 25, 2014
The dinosaur Anzu wyliei. Illustration: Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The dinosaur Anzu wyliei. Illustration: Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

From our great, wild west, those rusty, dusty hills,
Bones of a beast who would give a cowboy chills.
A fierce-looking crest – a mohawk made of bone!
Claws, beak, bony tail, locked within hard stone.
Heavy as a tiger, scary yet absurd;
Anzu, feathered giant: a dino, not-quite-bird.
Mysterious, its habits – egg-eaters? A chance.
But this terrifying creature may have also eaten plants.
We piece together dreams of the verdant late Cretaceous,
Shards, broken clues from the patient and tenacious.
How I wish I could’ve seen this dinosaur humungous;
I guess I’ll have to settle for their relatives among us!

______________________________________________

chickens free ranging © Wikipedia:NVO

© Wikipedia:NVO

A New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian Theropod Dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of Western North America, PLoS One, 3/19/14

Dinosaur dubbed ‘chicken from hell’ was armed and dangerous, The Guardian, 3/19/14

National Geographic, 3/19/14

Huffington Post, 3/19/14

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. You can read more on Allen’s website.

Black Holes

Posted By: Katherine Allen on April 18, 2014
Image Credit: SCIENCE VIDEOLAB

Image Credit: Science Videolab

In most observed galaxy hearts,
Massive black holes reside,
Formed from dark-baryon parts,
As huge stars collapse or collide.
Telescopes secrets divulge,
Hinting at coevolution,
The key: a galaxy’s bulge?
We do not yet know the solution.
Whence the crucial gas-fuel
With which to feed a black hole?
Do galaxies, holes often duel?
Or play a more symbiont role?
Next, we tackle all spectra;
Our tools, from low to high climb,
Sensing waves from far plectra,
Over the whole Hubble time.

__________________________________________

Further reading:

The Formation and Evolution of Massive Black Holes, M. Volonteri, Science, 2012

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Black Holes” first appeared on Allen’s website on Aug. 6, 2012.

Lords of the Past

Posted By: Katherine Allen on April 11, 2014
Paraceraurus trilobite, Ordovician, from the Volchow River, Russia. Photo: Vassil/Alias Collections.

Paraceraurus trilobite, Ordovician, from the Volchow River, Russia. Photo: Vassil/Alias Collections.

With life, legged and finned, Earth had been teeming,
Slitherers, predators, graceful trees tall …
Now, of these species, we are only dreaming:
Glossopteris, trilobites, eurypterids, all.

Creatures of intrigue, lords of the past!
How did they grow; their color, what hue?
Why did some perish, and why did some last?
In Earth’s litholibrary, sometimes a clue.

Catastrophe beautifully carved into stone,
Graveyards ‘neath graveyards, so deep do we ply,
Silent yet eloquent, shadows of bone,
The greatest extinction, the big one – but why?

Deserts and oceans spanned latitudes wide,
Lava erupted as oceans of fire,
What means of death? It’s hard to decide:
Heat, acid, darkness, a host of things dire.

Yet from these strange ashes (if ashes they be)
Life rose up gorgeously, brilliantly new!
From lucky survivors, a vast, branching tree;
Some tendrils persisted, and weird, wild things grew!

Time is the key to death and new life,
And time can lie hidden, awaiting fresh eyes.
A haze of uncertainty, cut with a knife –
From zircon in China, chronologies rise!

To stand at the Permo-Triassic, it seems,
One faces a shockingly sharp, razor brink;
Of rapid events, the Meishan bed screams …
The “Great Dying” flew by in a mere cosmic blink.

_______________________________________________

 Further reading:

An extinction in the blink of an eye, MIT News, 2/10/14

High-precision timeline for Earth’s most severe extinction, PNAS, 2014

Earth’s Greatest Killer Finally Caught, LiveScience, 12/12/13

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. You can read more on Allen’s website.

Greenland Ice

Posted By: Katherine Allen on April 07, 2014
A Greenland ice core. Photo: Christian Morel (Nature)

A Greenland ice core. Photo: Christian Morel (Nature)

If you went to Greenland, almost 80 North,
And drilled your way down … a mile, then more,
You’d find some strange layers, a story’d come forth
A record of ice ages locked in a core.
You’d find glacial ice that is clearer, more soft
Than Eemian ice (long crystals, more rigid)
And clues that the ice height was higher aloft
Than thought for that time (with air temps less frigid).
A puzzle indeed, this view down a hole –
If NEEM endured warmth, whence the sea rise?
Some question the records, some look to South Pole …
In the decades that come, are we in for surprise?

____________________________________________________

Further reading:

Greenland defied ancient warming / But Antarctic glaciers may be more vulnerable than thought, Nature (2013)

NEEM Community Members, Nature (2013)

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Greenland Ice” first appeared on Allen’s website on Jan. 25, 2013.

Keys to Success

Posted By: Katherine Allen on March 28, 2014

 

Jed Fuhrman, Nature 2013

Image: Jed Fuhrman, Nature 2013

 

Humans hate to catch the flu,

But here’s a fact that’s less well-known:

Bacteria get infections too

As many cultures have now shown.

In the ocean, P. ubique

(growing, growing everywhere)

Is plagued by viruses that seek

To hijack ubique’s gene hardware.

The key to beating strong predation:

Nutrients and conjugation!

__________________________________________________

Further reading:

Abundant SAR11 viruses in the ocean, Zhao et al., Nature (2013)

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 2/15/13 on Allen’s website.

Sea Change

Posted By: Katherine Allen on March 21, 2014
Photo: www.argo.ucsd.edu

Photo: www.argo.ucsd.edu

Gliders and buoys and robots — oh my!

Over and through the ocean they fly.

Oodles of data from sensors galore,

Studied by many, far from the sea’s roar.

A real revolution, there seems little doubt,

But what of the crew who never sail out?

To peer in the great briny main without drinking …

How might that impact the next wave of thinking?

___________________________________

Further reading:

A Sea Change for U.S. Oceanography, Science 2013

The New Generation of Sea Scientist, Science 2013 

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 3/1/13 on Allen’s website.

The Dawn of Plate Tectonics

Posted By: Katherine Allen on March 14, 2014
Image: Dr. Mark Reagan, Science Now

Image: Dr. Mark Reagan, Science Now

An ancient grain of zircon found

In Jack Hill sandstone north of Perth,

Inside its crystal lattice bound:

Secrets of our planet’s birth.

 

The oldest grain (we rock hounds swoon),

Tells of magma oceans past,

An early impact yields the moon;

And all of this occurred so fast!

 

The zircon’s old, which then implies

That solid rocks must be still older.

In Canada, a sequence lies,

With implications even bolder!

 

A pattern locked within old lava

Echoes patterns from the deep;

Mariana-like subduction …

To plate tectonics, take the leap!

 

Hadean times are cloaked in intrigue,

Eons distant, full of strife,

Yet it seems these rocks held promise,

Full of boron, primed for life!

 

_______________________________________________

In the news:

New Record for Oldest Earth Rock, Sky and Telescope

Hadean age for a post-magma-ocean zircon confirmed by atom-probe tomography, Nature Geoscience

The Dawn of Plate Tectonics, Science Now

Heading down early on? Start of subduction on Earth, Geology

Cold Facts

Posted By: Katherine Allen on March 07, 2014
oil fields, North Dakota

Satellite view of oil fields at night in North Dakota. Photo: NASA/NPR

Satellites cast their wide gaze

At night, on the bright Bakken blaze;

Bright as a large, sparkly city,

Up close, it’s not quite as pretty.

What fate might this appetite bring?

In government halls, squabbles ring.

Key to the carbon debate

Is the last Termination’s change rate.

What’s our scenario worst?

Was warming or CO2 first?

New ice core studies profess

A 200-year lag — or less.

A puzzle to solve ere we burn:

The process of compacting firn.

___________________________________________________________

Further reading:

Synchronous Change of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature During the Last Deglacial Warming, Parrenin et al., Science 2013

Leads and Lags at the End of the Last Ice Age, Brooks, Science 2013

Study of Ice Age Bolsters Carbon and Warming Link, Gillis/NYT 2013

A Mysterious Patch Of Light Shows Up In The North Dakota Dark, Krulwich/NPR 2013

The New Oil Landscape, Dobb/National Geographic 2013

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 3/1/13 on Allen’s website.

Solar Heartbeat

Posted By: Katherine Allen on February 28, 2014
Image: from Charboneau and Smolarkiewicz, Science 2013

Image: from Charboneau and Smolarkiewicz, Science 2013

 

Upon our little spinning rock,
Cosmic rays and debris knock.
Through great fields and waves we race,
Not empty, our broad path through space!
We’re touched, long fingers from afar:
Energy from our bright star.
A fusing, roiling dynamo,
Magnetic fields induced by flow.
Eleven circuits round our wheel,
Her heartbeat’s pulses we can feel.
In search of answers, models run,
Probing rhythms of the sun.

________________________________________________

Further reading: Modeling the Solar Dynamo, Science 2013

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 4/5/13 on Allen’s website.

Shag, Before It Was Cool

Posted By: Katherine Allen on February 21, 2014
woolly rhino

Science, 2011

More cuddly than a dino,
The Zanda woolly rhino!
This pioneer of old
Grew shag before the cold.
The high Tibet plateau
Was higher then, you know!
And when the ice expanded,
(with you I will be candid):
They did some procreation
And made a woolly nation!
We still have some Tibetan yak …
But I want that rhino back!

________________________________________________

Further reading: Out of Tibet: Pliocene Woolly Rhino Suggests High-Plateau Origin of Ice Age Megaherbivores, Tao Deng et al., Science 2011

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 9/2/11 on Allen’s website.

Global weirding?

Posted By: Katherine Allen on February 14, 2014

F1.small

Mountains of snow line the street,

And some days I envy a beard.

Ask any shoveler you meet –

The weather this winter is weird!

 

How strange is it, really? Some wonder,

If sea-ice melt unleashed the Vortex.

Has warming torn systems asunder;

Should we invest big in Gore-Tex?

 

We’ve been gripped by deep-freeze before;

Sometimes it’s just wicked cold.

The overall trends worry more:

How will it be when we’re old?

 

Thermostat’s tending to heat;

We wait as the sea gently rises.

Our future we surely will meet,

And always, we’ll get some surprises.

________________________________________________

Photo Credit: Figure generated by Cameron Beccario (EARTH.NULLSCHOOL.NET); Results sourced from the NCEP/NOAA Global Forecast System

Further reading:

A letter in Science Magazine: “Global Warming and Winter Weather”

Maps of recent temperature anomalies: Climate Reanalyzer, University of Maine

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Visit Allen’s website for more.

 

Bioluminescence

Posted By: Katherine Allen on February 07, 2014
Photos: J. Cohen for the photograph of S. crassicornus; P. Herring, P. bifrons; and P. Batson (DeepSeaPhotography.com), C. faurei, from Science 2010

Photos: J. Cohen for the photograph of S. crassicornus; P. Herring, P. bifrons; and P. Batson (DeepSeaPhotography.com), C. faurei; from Science 2010

Out in the ocean, where strange things are growing
(Jellies and fishes and creepies unknown)
You might be surprised how many are GLOWING,
With Halloween faces that chill to the bone.
At twilight depths, where darkness meets light
Life’s a grim game of hide-and-go-seek,
A massive migration when day turns to night,
All eyes are peeled for a peek.
If you’ve got the right stuff (or bacterial friends):
Some luciferin and luciferase,
You can flash, you can glow from your eyes to your ends –
And put on a show to amaze!
“I’m not good to eat,” “I’d like to have sex,”
“You’re blind, now I’ll run away,”
“My belly’s the sky,” and subjects complex,
Such wonderful things you can say!

_________________________________________

Further reading: Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity, E.A. Widder, Science 2010

This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. First posted 5/14/10 at Allen’s website.

Latimeria Chalumnae

Posted By: Katherine Allen on January 30, 2014
The African coelacanth. Photo: Laurent Ballesta/andromede Oceanologie (Science)

The African coelacanth. Photo: Laurent Ballesta/andromede Oceanologie (Science)

Just imagine: one fine day, a fish revealed to you …
With proto-limbs, a monstrous face, all tinged with silver-blue!
Huge and strange and other-worldly, long thought to be lost,
In the flesh (starting to smell!) so many epochs crossed.
The coelacanth! Good Old Four Legs, to some, the “Living Fossil,”
The animal itself is big, its history colossal!
Ms. Latimer, she recognized its weirdness and allure;
Decades later, of its story some things were not sure.
But now we have its genome clear and plain for all to see,
Shedding light on autopods, immune systems, and pee!
More closely tied to humans than to tuna or to trout,
Holding secrets of the beasts who from the sea, climbed out.

_____________________________________________

Further reading:

Living fossil genome unlocked, Nature News

African coelacanth genome provides insights into tetrapod evolution, Amemiya et al., Nature 2013

First posted 4/19/13 at Katherine Allen’s website.

The Noble Worm

Posted By: Katherine Allen on January 23, 2014
Image:  Caron et al., Nature 2013

Image: Caron et al., Nature 2013

Behold! New treasures from the Burgess Shale,

In black and silent strata long held firm.
From features soft, a bold ancestral tale …
Be proud, descendants of the noble worm!

Oh, glorious the hemichordate line,
Spartobranchus tenuis among them,
On slime and mud they heartily do dine;
History has surely under-sung them.

From which deep root, vertebral creatures grew?
A scarcity of fossils long obscured;
Into this question we can dive anew,
With gorgeous, detailed imprints that endured.

A wondrous time, the Cambrian Explosion …
Move over, Eve; my roots are in the ocean!

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Further reading:

First posted on 3/29/13 at Katherine Allen’s website.