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The Worst Drought in 900 Years Helped Spark Syria's Civil War - Mashable

Featured News - Wed, 03/02/2016 - 13:28
The drought that played a role in triggering the catastrophic Syrian Civil War was the worst such climate event in at least the past 900 years, according to a new study published this week and led by Lamont's Ben Cook. Mashable also talks with Richard Seager.

Uptick in Small Earthquakes Raises Questions in New York Area - Wall Street Journal

Featured News - Wed, 03/02/2016 - 12:00
A cluster of low-magnitude earthquakes in the New York region has piqued the interest of residents, while some geologists predict the increase in temblors will continue and a large-scale one could be coming. Lamont's Won-Young Kim discusses the science.

Global Warming in New York - Le Figaro

Featured News - Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:00
Since the ravages of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the massive floods in the U.S. East Coast, New York has focused on creating a new ecosystem to contain the risks of sea level rise. Le Figaro talks with Lamont's Klaus Jacob and Adam Sobel. (In French)

Arctic Sea Ice Growth Could Be Lowest on Record Again - ThinkProgress

Featured News - Tue, 03/01/2016 - 09:29
Arctic sea ice growth has been sluggish this winter. And that's a huge problem for the animals and communities that depend on it, says Lamont's Ray Sambrotto.

Preparing for the Inevitable Sea-Level Rise Caused by Climate Change - The Atlantic

Featured News - Mon, 02/29/2016 - 17:47
Scientists are struggling to figure out the timeline for how climate change will affect vulnerable waterfront communities. The Atlantic talks with Lamont's Maureen Raymo about the challenges.

Trials & Tribulations of Coring the Agulhas Plateau

When Oceans Leak - Sun, 02/28/2016 - 14:03
 Tim Fulton/IODP.

Sedimentologists Thibaut Caley of the University of Bordeaux and Andreas Koutsodendris of the University of Heidelberg and Deborah Tangunan, a paleontologist from the University of Bremen, work in the core lab aboard the JOIDES Resolution. Photo: Tim Fulton/IODP

Read Sidney Hemming’s first post to learn more about the goals of her two-month research cruise off southern Africa and its focus on the Agulhas Current and collecting climate records for the past 5 million years.

A lot has happened since my last post. As we were heading south to the Agulhas Plateau, one of the scientists had to be evacuated by helicopter for medical treatment. We were within a day of the Agulhas Plateau site and had to go back to near Port Elizabeth for the handoff and then return to drill the plateau. The weather at the plateau was bad enough that we were probably going to have a delay anyway, so we didn’t lose too much time. Our colleague is fine now, and our drilling on the Agulhas Plateau has been a success.

We have had some trials and tribulations because of the large ocean swells and because the sediments do not have as strong of a physical property signal as the previous site. Both of these factors increased the challenge for the stratigraphic correlators, so it has been a real cliff-hanger to find out if we can splice together a continuous section. Because of the small signal-to-noise of the physical properties, the scanning took longer and the records for correlating are not quite as clear. This has created a backup in the work flow, and it means the descriptions and scanning (and some sampling) of the split cores will be continuing as we begin our transit. And it means that until all this is completed we will not know for sure how continuous of a record we have. We are reasonably sure we will have few or no gaps in the splice, but it will be nice to see it all completed.

 Tim Fulton/IODP

The end of a fresh core, just brought aboard the JOIDES Resolution. Photo: Tim Fulton/IODP

Meanwhile, we came here thinking that we would get a high accumulation rate record for the last million years, but the accumulation rates are modest between the surface and about 100 meters – approximately 2 cm per thousand years. Below that, they turned out to be really quite nice, approaching 7 cm per thousand years through much of the Pliocene. The low accumulation in the Pleistocene is a disappointment as there is a great interest in the mid-Pleistocene climate transition, but it does look like it is a continuous record. The higher accumulation in the older sediment is exciting because the early Pliocene is a warm time in Earth’s history and the most recent with global temperatures as warm as modern times. So we Earth scientists are quite eager to understand everything we can about this interval. The Agulhas Plateau site, near where the Agulhas Current swings back toward the east, is well situated to provide some important information about linkages of different factors in the climate system.

Again at this site, as with the previous site, the development of the time scale has been fun and exciting to watch. We have four groups of organisms that are aiding in our time scale – in addition to foraminifera and nannofossils, there are abundant diatoms and dinoflagellates here. This is great for the biostratigraphy and also great for our participants whose post cruise research will use diatoms for documenting paleo-environmental changes. The magnetic stratigraphy started out looking bleak because the weak signal was messed up by the coring process in the first hole, due to the ship’s heave in the waves.  They almost gave up, but the second core preserved a great record. So we are going to have an excellent time scale for this site as well.

Expedition 361's coring sites. APT is the Agulhas Plateau. NV is the Natal Valley.

Expedition 361’s coring sites. APT is the Agulhas Plateau. NV is the Natal Valley. Credit: IODP

Meanwhile the saga continues in our quest to get permission from Mozambique to drill in their waters. We have word from our contact in the American embassy that the form has been signed by the Foreign Ministry and is now with the ministry that deals with fisheries. While that process continues, we have to start toward our next site. Our decision is to head toward the Zambezi site, as it is going to take us six days to get there anyway. If we don’t get permission before we arrive, we’ll have to turn around and head for the Cape site.

The Zambezi and Limpopo sites are near major rivers. We hope they will give us a record of the terrestrial climate variability in southeastern Africa through the last 5 million years that can be compared with the Agulhas Current and other oceanographic factors. The hope is that we will get a continuous record with a variety of proxy data for factors such as precipitation, runoff, distribution of vegetation on the landscape, and surface ocean temperatures. The coring is going to be fast at these sites because they are much shallower. In the happy case that we get to drill there, we will then have another long transit to finish off the analyses.

Sidney Hemming is a geochemist and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She uses the records in sediments and sedimentary rocks to document aspects of Earth’s history.

Snowpacks Relied on for Water are Declining - WAMC Academic Minute

Featured News - Sun, 02/28/2016 - 12:00
Justin Mankin, a postdoctoral fellow at Lamont, describes how a changing climate may change the way cultures get their water in the spring and summer.

7 Years of Earthquakes in Japan in 52 Seconds - TimeOut

Featured News - Thu, 02/25/2016 - 12:00
We know an earthquake involves movement, but what if you could capture these seismic tremors in sounds too? This thought experiment proved to be the catalyst for the Seismic Sound Lab, a project by Lamont geophysicist Ben Holtzman.

The Science Behind Ethiopia’s Hunger Crisis - Mother Jones

Featured News - Thu, 02/25/2016 - 12:00
Ethiopia's last mega-droughts killed hundreds of thousands. Could the same thing happen again? Lamont's Park Williams and Richard Seager weigh in on why the drought is not a surprise.

An Airborne Look Through the Ice - The Antarctic Sun

Featured News - Wed, 02/24/2016 - 13:00
Scientists are working to fill in one of the largest remaining blank spots on ocean charts: the sea floor beneath Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf. Lamont-Doherty's Kirsty Tinto discusses the IcePod and how it's mapping that area.

Changing Faces on the Ice - Nature

Featured News - Wed, 02/24/2016 - 12:00
Diverse faces are coming to work in the polar regions, Lamont's Robin Bell tells Nature.

Coral Reef Growth Is Declining. Is There Hope? - Christian Science Monitor

Featured News - Wed, 02/24/2016 - 12:00
Scientists find more evidence that coral reefs are suffering from environmental changes. But, they say it's not too late. Lamont's Bärbel Hönisch discusses the possibilities.

Sailing into a Storm as We Head for the Agulhas Plateau

When Oceans Leak - Fri, 02/19/2016 - 16:49
 " data-cycle-speed="750" data-cycle-center-horz="true" data-cycle-caption="#gslideshow_captions" data-cycle-caption-template="{{alt}}" >
The team aboard the JOIDES Resolution collected the first four cores of Expedition 361 from the Natal Valley site. Here, scientists prepare to open the first. (Tim Fulton/IODP) To drill down into the sea floor, the ship uses a large rig and a professional drilling crew. ( Jens Gruetzner, Alfred-Wegener-Institut for Polar and Marine Research) Professional rig personnel bring the first core aboard. Each segment is 9.5 meters long and is sectioned into smaller pieces for analysis and storage. (Tim Fulton) Scientists work the core catcher, which holds each segment of core in as it lifted from the sea floor. (Tim Fulton) Once the cores are split, they are photographed in shipboard imaging equipment called a Section Half Image Logger. (Tim Fulton) The shipboard labs are ready for scientists to go to work. Kaoru Kubota of the University of Tokyo and Xibin Han of China work on reports in the core lab. (Tim Fulton) Sedimentologists Julien Crespin of the University of Bordeaux and Alejandra Cartagena-Sierra of Notre Dame take down descriptions of the core. (Tim Fulton) Nambiyathodi Lathika, a physical properties specialist from India's National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, enters core data at the sample table. (Jens Gruetzner) Jeroen van der Lubbe of the University of Amsterdam works with a cyrogenic magnetometer to analyze the magnetic properties of a sample. (Jens Gruetzner) A map of the Agulhas Current, which the scientists of Expedition 361 are studying along with southern Africa's climate history. (Courtesy of Arnold Gordon)
The team aboard the JOIDES Resolution collected the first four cores of Expedition 361 from the Natal Valley site. Here, scientists prepare to open the first. (Tim Fulton/IODP)

Read Sidney Hemming’s first post to learn more about the goals of her two-month research cruise off southern Africa and its focus on the Agulhas Current and collecting climate records for the past 5 million years.

We finished up at our first core site yesterday, and now we are steaming south toward the Agulhas Plateau. The groups presented their summaries this morning, and the results from this site are awesome.

Inevitably there is a gap between each sediment core because of how the cores have to be taken. The drilling crew drills down to the level of the previous core’s penetration and then sends the piston core down again. There are potential coring artifacts, such as “suck-in” of sediment at the bottom, “fall-in” of sediment at the top (these are descriptive terms), or loss of sediment because the core catcher didn’t catch. That is the reason for triple – and in this case quadruple – holes at each site. The stratigraphic correlators, Steve Barker and Chris Charles, take data from the physical properties measurement tracks and work fast to determine how the cores that are coming up can be correlated to previous cores. They find the gaps and work with the drillers to ensure that the gaps from all the holes do not overlap. With the help of the lithologic description team, they also avoid parts of the core that have been disturbed by the drilling.

At the Natal Valley site, the correlators were able to achieve a continuous splice going back more than 5 million years!  We obtained samples older than that, but they are “floating”. The splice, like it probably sounds, uses the overlapping physical features in the cores to identify a combination of cores that, when pieced together, yield a full continuous record. This splice is where most of the sampling and measurements will be conducted at the post-cruise sampling party. That will probably take place in September to give enough time for the cores to be shipped to Texas A&M and, we hope, scanned with an XRF scanner in order to construct the best sampling plan.

Women scientists and technicians of Expedition 361 on UN Women in Science Day. (Tim Fulton)

Women scientists and technicians aboard the JOIDES Resolution for IODP Expedition 361 on UN Women in Science Day. (Tim Fulton)

We still do not have permission to drill in Mozambique waters. This is causing considerable anxiety for the team, and by steaming south, we will definitely not be able to drill our northern-most planned site. However, if permission comes before we finish the Agulhas Plateau site, we could still meet our Zambezi and Limpopo objectives. The Zambezi and Limpopo are major rivers that drain from the African continent. We hope to capture sediment coming from those two rivers to answer questions about rainfall and runoff and weathering.

The Agulhas Plateau is also an exciting site. It is a little bit north of the sub-tropical front, which is the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Today, it is under the Agulhas retroflection, where the Agulhas Current swings back toward the east (see the map at the end of the slideshow). Our goal is to understand how the position of the sub-tropical front and the Agulhas retroflection have changed through the last 5 million years, and how those changes are related to climatic variability in southern Africa.

Allison Franzese’s Ph.D. research used a time-slice approach to compare the modern composition of sediments washed in from the continents with those deposited during the last glaciation about 20,000 years ago (ice at that time covered what today is New York City). She has suggested that the path of the Agulhas retroflection was very similar between modern and glacial times. Her results are enigmatic because they indicate both a weakening of the current and a similar path for the retroflection, and these observations are inconsistent with what is predicted from physical oceanographic modeling. The cores we collect here should allow her to extend her studies back to 5 million years and achieve a much greater understanding of how the system has worked under a range of climate conditions, particularly when combined with results from the Natal Valley site and the Cape site (the final site of the cruise).

As an aside, I am pretty pleased that even though we are sailing through a storm with about 30 knot winds right now and the ship is swaying, I’m still feeling pretty good. Apparently this could change – we are heading toward the “roaring 40s”.

Sidney Hemming is a geochemist and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She uses the records in sediments and sedimentary rocks to document aspects of Earth’s history.

Sea Level Rise Could Put NYC's Proposed Transit System Under Water - Vice News

Featured News - Fri, 02/19/2016 - 09:31
Lamont geologist Klaus Jacob says that while the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector project solves desperate transportation needs, the problem is that it runs along current and future flood zones.

Can Germany's Renewable Energy Revolution Be Replicated in the US? - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Featured News - Thu, 02/18/2016 - 12:00
As governments around the world invest in new energy policies and climate strategies, none has gone as far as Germany. Could the model be replicated? Lamont adjunct research scientist Beate Liepert explores the possibilities.

How the Climate Challenge Could Derail a Brilliant Human Destiny - New York Times

Featured News - Mon, 02/15/2016 - 12:00
A conversation on the importance of sustained engagement on a big challenge, whether intellectual, as in revealing spacetime ripples, or potentially existential, as in pursuing ways to move beyond energy choices that are reshaping Earth for hundreds of generations to come. Cites Lamont's review and research by a group that included Lamont Adjunct Senior Research Scientist Anders Levermann.

6 Million Years of Sediment, Studded with Tiny Fossils

When Oceans Leak - Fri, 02/12/2016 - 21:25
Jeroen van der Lubbe examines the first core brought up by the team aboard the Joides Resolution.

Jeroen van der Lubbe examines the first sediment core of Expedition 361 brought up by the team aboard the JOIDES Resolution. Photo: Sidney Hemming

Read Sidney Hemming’s first post to learn more about the goals of her two-month research cruise off southern Africa and its focus on the Agulhas Current and collecting climate records for the past 5 million years.

We have our first core! The team pulled up 254.1 meters of sediment from the Natal Valley site off southern Africa, near the start of the Agulhas Current. We think we have about 6 million years of history in that core that should be able to tell us details about the how the region’s currents and climate changed through time.

The whole core (IODP 361 U1474A) is actually several cores. Each is 9.5 meters long and is cut into sections that are 1.5 meters for analysis and storage. The top of each of those cores was jostled by the coring process, but we hope we will be able to fill the gaps with cores from the two other holes we plan to drill at the Natal Valley site. It has become standard in the International Ocean Discovery Program’s (IODP) paleoceanography drilling to core three holes, deliberately offsetting the gaps, in order to have a full record from the site. This presents a challenge for our stratigraphic correlators, Steve Barker and Chris Charles, but they are definitely up for it. They spent the time in port and during transit working hard to master the software.  I understand it is powerful, but not easy to work with (a sign on one of their computers says: “exercise extreme patience”).

 Sidney Hemming

Steve Barker’s computer used for correlations comes with a warning: “Caution: exercise extreme patience.” Photo: Sidney Hemming

Seeing our first core come up was very exciting. As it was happening, we were getting age estimates in real time from the paleontologists, and not too much later from the paleomagnetists. The paleomagnetic measurements appear robust, and they show several magnetic reversals, so we can use the known magnetic reversal time scale to help date each part of the core. The foraminifera and calcareous nannofossil species changes in the core catchers (more on this below) are providing a similar estimate of the ages as the paleomagnetics. This is so exciting to watch in real time, I keep thinking about whether there is a way we could reenact this in a classroom setting.

Now we are on the second hole. Hole B is primarily being taken for squeezing out pore waters – this is the water captured in pores of the deep sediment. We hope it can tell us about the salinity and oxygen isotope composition of the water long ago. The oxygen isotope composition of glacial water is important for understanding how much ice there was, as well as the temperature of the deep ocean. Sophie Hines, a graduate student working with Jess Adkins at Caltech, is leading the effort. She and the other four geochemists, including Lamont’s Allison Franzese, are working hard to get the pore waters squeezed. It is a tough operation, and the presses are not always as cooperative as one might wish. The geochemists decorated the most cantankerous press with a photo of Jess, who wrote the proposal for the pore waters project, to ensure they remember whom to blame.

I mentioned the foraminifera and calcareous nannofossils (calcareous means they build their shells with calcium carbonate) that were found in the core catchers. At the bottom of the core barrel – remember Lisa’s analogy to the straw in the milk shake – there is a mechanism that is open when the barrel is going down into the mud. When the core barrel has penetrated into the sediment and the rig starts to pull it up, that mechanism snaps shut, thereby catching the core and keeping it from falling back out, hence the term core catcher. Some of the sediment goes into the core catcher, and it’s a bit messy, so it is taken immediately and used for examining the microfossil content. Sometimes it’s disappointing, but in this case, the microfossils except for the siliceous ones are working out really well. More about the siliceous ones in another post.

Sidney Hemming is a geochemist and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She uses the records in sediments and sedimentary rocks to document aspects of Earth’s history.

Court Ruling on Clean Power Plan a Setback, But…

The 2015 Paris Climate Summit - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 16:47
 Wikimedia Commons

Big Bend Power Station, a coal-fired plant, near Apollo Beach, Fla. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court this week put a hold on one of the key programs in the United States’ efforts to control CO2 emissions and combat global warming. The decision puts aside new regulations to control emissions from power plants until a challenge from more than two dozen states is resolved in federal appeals court.

The court’s 5-4 decision to postpone implementation of the Clean Power Plan represents a clear setback for the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change; but the damage to the U.S. ability to meet pledges it made at the Paris climate summit in December “is less than it might seem,” says Michael Gerrard in a commentary posted on the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s website.

“That is not because the Clean Power Plan wasn’t important; it is because the plan didn’t do nearly enough,” says Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center.

Gerrard notes that the plan’s emissions reductions won’t begin until 2022, meaning they won’t play a role in meeting the nation’s stated goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020. Even beyond that date, the plan alone won’t be enough to meet the goal of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. That, and future reductions, will depend on many other measures. Those would include higher efficiency standards for buildings and appliances and greater efforts to reduce energy consumption in the industrial and transportation sectors.

“In sum,” Gerrard writes, “while the Clean Power Plan is the biggest game in town in terms of achieving the Paris goals, it is by no means the only game in town. While we express our justifiable fury over the Supreme Court’s action, we need to bear in mind that there are many other things that the U.S. must do in the next several years to control greenhouse gas emissions.”

You can read the full commentary at the Sabin Center’s website.

For more on the court’s ruling:

Gearing Up for Our First Cores

When Oceans Leak - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 14:56
Bubba Attryde, a core technician, shows scientists on the <i>Joides Resolution</i> some of the ship's drilling tools. Tim Fulton/IODP

Bubba Attryde, a core technician, shows scientists on the JOIDES Resolution some of the ship’s drilling tools. Tim Fulton/IODP

Read Sidney Hemming’s first post to learn more about the goals of her two-month research cruise off southern Africa and its focus on the Agulhas Current and collecting climate records for the past 5 million years.

Our first day on the ocean was pretty rough. We left the harbor in Mauritius into high winds and choppy seas, and I don’t think I was alone in feeling pretty miserable.  I woke up the next day to calm seas and a much better perspective.

We have been busy with meetings, training sessions, and planning for the core flow, and I think people are getting close to being ready for the 12-hour shifts. My shift is 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., and my co-chief scientist Ian Hall’s is the opposite. It works out pretty well relative to our home clocks (when I start my shift, it’s 8 a.m. back in New York), and we’ll have significant overlap. I plan to get started by noon, and Ian will hang around until 6 or so before going to bed. We have decided we’ll take a break for exercise—should be a good strategy.

The staff is wonderful on the ship. They feed me great meals, and there is even an espresso machine right outside the science office where I sit. Today Kevin Grieger, our operations manager, gave us a tour to the bridge, the drilling rig and the core shack, where we met Bubba Attryde, who has been the core specialist since Glomar Challenger days and continues to make innovations. We went down through the motors and pumps, past the moon pool, and out to the JOIDES Resolution‘s helideck.

The helideck has a special role this cruise. On March 26, Ian Hall and Steve Barker will be running in the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships. It requires 328 laps around the deck, which is noisy and hot. They are doing it to raise money for a small South African charity called the Goedgedacht Trust, which promotes education to help poor rural African children escape grinding poverty. Ian has learned that the money raised will help bring solar power to schools. When we reach Cape Town, some of the children plan to tour the ship.

It is now official that we will start with the Natal Valley site while we wait for clearance from Mozambique to work on what would have been our first site.

The Natal Valley is at the beginning of the Agulhas Current, where the waters flowing through the Mozambique Channel and the East Madagascar Current come together and flow along the southern Africa coast. A central goal of the expedition is to understand the history of the Agulhas Current and its role in climate variability, and this site could help us characterize how the microorganisms and the land-derived sediments it carries have changed over the last 5 million years.

Recently published evidence from the past 270,000 years from very close to the Natal Valley site also shows that there have been significant changes in rainfall in southern Africa on millennial time scales. We are very interested in getting a longer record of rainfall changes with this expedition. So in effect, we have the dual goals of understanding the nearby climate record from Africa and understanding the ocean currents below which the core is located—both the Agulhas Current and deep water circulation, which currently flows north along the western Natal Valley and is the reason for the sediment “contourite” accumulation that we are coring.

We will be getting to the Natal Valley site about 8 p.m. local time on Tuesday, so we should have cores coming in before daylight on Wednesday. You can feel the excitement start to build. Our staff scientist, Leah, has organized everybody well. The groups gave reports on their methods this morning and will turn in drafts of their methods before we get to the first site. It’s getting close!

Sidney Hemming is a geochemist and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences atLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She uses the records in sediments and sedimentary rocks to document aspects of Earth’s history.

On the Surface, Feeling Further Away from the Ocean than Ever

Sampling the Barren Sea - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 11:11

By Frankie Pavia

How far is five kilometers, vertically? We leaned over the edge of the boat, staring into the water, watching the last glimmer of light from the in-situ pump disappear into the abyss. The furthest down we could see the pump was 50 meters from the surface—remarkably far to still see light anywhere in the ocean, courtesy of the life-devoid upper waters of the South Pacific.

That’s a comprehensible depth, 50 meters. It’s about the same as a 15-story building. But five kilometers? My German colleague and I could conceptualize five kilometers horizontally—the same as her bike ride to work, the same as the first ever race I ran. Neither of us could quite grasp what flipping 5 kilometers 90 degrees might mean, as our pump continued on its 3-hour vertical journey to that depth.

Ocean researcher Frankie Pavia.

Ocean researcher Frankie Pavia.

The spirit of exploration is embedded within all scientific research. It is a quest to probe and understand the unknown. But oceanographers and astronauts have something more than that—the work they do also involves the physical exploration of spaces that have yet to come under dominion of humanity. The ocean and space have not yet been rendered permanently habitable. No human lives at sea or in space without having to depend on land for survival.

I expected to conclude the cruise with a deeper connection to the ocean. I expected to feel like I had performed an act of exploration by sailing from one land mass to another, and as a result to have gained some fundamental understanding of the ocean’s spatial domain.

Yet a week after I stepped foot from the FS Sonne for good, I am left feeling like the ocean is further from my grasp than ever. Five kilometers depth, and all I did was sail across a tiny fraction of the surface. Sure, I hauled back samples from the deep, and I will certainly learn an incredible amount about it from chemical measurements. But did I explore the deep ocean? Is it possible to explore a place without actually traveling there?

I wonder how astronauts feel when they return to Earth. Just like oceanographers experience only the top of the ocean, astronauts only scratch the surface of an incomprehensibly large volume of space. Does it make them feel like a part of something greater, or does experiencing its massive scale make them feel even smaller?

While the ocean is a vast nexus of life, space is seemingly devoid of it. The ocean certainly holds clues as to how life formed on our planet, and where it may exist on distant moons in our solar system. On Mars, it is the locations of long-dessicated oceans and running water where life is thought to have been possible in the distant past. In habitability, oceans are our pluperfect, Earth is our future perfect, space is our future.

The connection between oceans and space will certainly be a source of excitement for science in the coming years. Ice-covered moons in our solar system have liquid water oceans; surely there are planets and moons orbiting stars other than ours that have them as well. How will we ever understand them if we have only seen such a small portion of the ocean’s volume on Earth?

And so we plunge onward into the indomitable vastness of the oceans, of space. I came away feeling further than ever from the oceans after this cruise. To fix that, I must keep exploring.

Frankie Pavia is a second-year graduate student studying oceanography and geochemistry at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.



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