Research News 2016

88 news release for the current year.

  • 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.

  • November 01, 2016

    Figuring out how far sea level rose during past warm periods in Earth’s history starts with a walk on the beach, a keen eye for evidence of ancient shorelines, and a highly accurate GPS system. The math isn’t as simple as subtracting the distance from the old shoreline to the water’s edge, though. As massive ice sheets retreated during past ice ages, their weight on the land below lifted and the land rebounded. On longer time scales, circulation within the Earth’s mantle has changed the shape and height of the crust, as well.

  • October 24, 2016

    Earth has limits to the amount of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere before the environment as we know it starts to change. Too much CO2 absorbed by the oceans makes the water more acidic. Too much in the atmosphere warms the planet. With emissions from our carbon-based economies rising, scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are developing way to prevent CO2 produced by power plants and industries from ever entering the atmosphere, and they are exploring ways to take CO2 out of the environment.

  • October 19, 2016

    A new film takes viewers from the eastern highlands of India to the booming lowland metropolis of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh—and explores an ever-more detailed picture of catastrophic earthquake threat that scientists are discovering under the region.

  • October 13, 2016

    A special section in the October issue of BioScience examines the effects of a single season of intense melting on two Antarctic ecosystems, tracking impacts all the way from microbial food webs to shifting penguin populations.

  • October 12, 2016

    The American Geophysical Union (AGU) election results are in, and three Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientists will be taking key leadership roles in the internationally influential Earth and space sciences organization: polar explorer Robin Bell will become AGU president-elect, Kerstin Lehnert will join the Board of Directors, and Robert F. Anderson will become Ocean Sciences Section president-elect.

  • October 11, 2016

    Twenty-three million years ago, the Antarctic Ice Sheet began to shrink, going from an expanse larger than today’s to one about half its modern size. Computer models suggested a spike in carbon dioxide levels as the cause, but the evidence was elusive – until now. Ancient fossilized leaves retrieved from a lake bed in New Zealand now show for the first time that carbon dioxide levels increased dramatically over a relatively short period of time as the ice sheet began to deteriorate. The findings raise new questions about the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet today as atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise to levels never before experienced by humans.

  • October 10, 2016

    A new study says that human-induced climate change has doubled the area affected by forest fires in the U.S. West over the last 30 years. According to the study, since 1984 heightened temperatures and resulting aridity have caused fires to spread across an additional 16,000 square miles than they otherwise would have—an area larger than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. The authors warn that further warming will increase fire exponentially in coming decades.

  • October 10, 2016

    Thousands of visitors toured the labs and crowded around science demonstrations on Saturday at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Open House 2016, a day of hands-on experiments and conversations with some of the world’s leading scientists in the Earth, environmental, and climate sciences.

  • October 05, 2016

    As the American Southwest grows hotter, the risk of severe, long-lasting megadroughts rises, passing 90 percent likelihood by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, a new study says. If we aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, we can cut that risk substantially, the authors write.

  • October 03, 2016

    Letters of recommendation – critical to young scientists’ chances of being hired for postdoctoral research positions – may be disadvantaging women from the very start of their careers, and the professors writing those letters may not realize it, a new study suggests.

  • September 27, 2016

    The high school students who spend their summers in the Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are quick to praise Program Director Bob Newton for being a pillar of support who has built their confidence, given them opportunities to hone their leadership skills, and helped them feel at home discussing research with some of the world’s leading scientists.

  • September 23, 2016

    When an earthquake strikes, it sends waves of energy ringing through the interior of the planet. The waves are too slow for us to hear in their original state, but speed them up and the earthquake’s global impact comes to life. A group of scientists and sound artists working with the Seismic Sound Lab at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are turning seismic waves into sound and images for an eye-opening educational performance about earthquakes and what seismic waves can tell us about our planet. You can see, hear and feel seismic data from enormous earthquakes, witness the patterns of decades of earthquakes in minutes, and see the seismic effect of ocean storms, including Hurricane Sandy, all as though you were inside the planet.

  • September 21, 2016

    Along the walls of Oceanographer Canyon, fish dart in and out of colorful anemone gardens and sea creatures send up plumes of sand and mud as they burrow. Bill Ryan, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, watched the scenes through the windows of a mini research submarine in 1978 as he became one of the few people to explore the seafloor canyons that President Obama has now designated a national monument.

  • September 13, 2016

    Gaze into the viewing screen of an electron microscope, and you slip into a world of living geometry, where the plates surrounding a tiny coccolithophore become an intricately armored sphere and the spikes of a radiolarian look like daggers. Dee Breger took us into that world through her photographs of objects too small to see with the human eye.

  • September 09, 2016

    Seismologist Won-Young Kim heard the first reports of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center as he drove to his job at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. From his office on the west bank of the Hudson River, 21 miles north of lower Manhattan, Kim runs a network of seismic instruments that monitors the U.S. Northeast for earthquakes. When he got to work, everyone was glued to the radio. Soon, he was inundated by calls from government officials and reporters. In the initial chaos, it was unclear exactly what had hit, and when; had the seismographs picked up anything?

  • September 06, 2016

    The raw materials of some volcanic islands are shaped by some of the same processes that form diamonds deep under the continents, according to a new study. The study asserts that material from diamond-forming regions journeys nearly to earth’s core and back up to form such islands, a process that could take two and a half billion years or longer – more than half of earth’s entire history. The research challenges some prevailing notions about the workings of the deep earth, and their connections to the surface.

  • September 01, 2016

    This past July was Earth’s hottest month since record keeping began, but warming isn’t the only danger climate change holds in store. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the simultaneous occurrence of extremely cold winter days in the Eastern United States and extremely warm winter days in the Western U.S., according to a new study. Human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are likely driving this trend, the study finds.

  • August 31, 2016

    Lamont's Andy Juhl and a team of scientists working with the non-profit Riverkeeper conducted an unprecedented health check of the entire Hudson River system, starting at the headwaters high in the Adirondacks and going all the way to New York Harbor, where the river meets the ocean. They released their results today, giving the 315-mile-long Hudson River a spotty but mostly positive health report with some important insights.

  • August 31, 2016

    The ocean plays a vital role in Earth’s climate system, shaping weather and climate on land. Lamont's Ryan Abernathey and Richard Seager are studying how changes in the ocean cause sea surface temperature to vary, and how these anomalies drive changes in atmospheric circulation to create extreme weather events.

  • August 24, 2016

    In a new study, Lamont's Michael Previdi and Lorenzo Polvani found that the effect of rising temperatures on snowfall in Antarctica has so far been overshadowed by the frozen continent's large natural climate variability. By mid-century, however, as temperatures continue to rise, the effect of human-induced warming on Antarctica's net snow accumulation should emerge above the noise, and the increase in snowfall could begin to help partially offset sea level rise.

  • August 19, 2016

    Large-scale groundwater pumping is opening doors for dangerously high levels of arsenic to enter some of Southeast Asia’s aquifers, with water now seeping in through riverbeds with arsenic concentrations more than 100 times the limits of safety, according to a new study from scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, MIT, and Hanoi University of Science.

  • August 18, 2016

    A storm that dumped as much as 20 inches of rain over three days flooded thousands of homes in Louisiana in mid-August. Lamont's Adam Sobel writes about the discussion around the role of climate change and attribution studies.  

  • August 05, 2016

    Human actions are changing the oceans’ chemistry. To predict how marine ecosystems are going to respond to these changes, we need to understand how marine biology and ocean chemistry interact today. This week, biologist and geochemists from around the world gathered at Lamont to find new ways to combine their expertise to analyze GEOTRACES data on trace elements and nutrients.

  • July 27, 2016

    A new, donor-led internship program offered by the Center for Climate and Life provides high school students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on research experience while getting a feel for what a career in science involves.

  • July 25, 2016

    In the big data era, the modern computer is showing signs of age. The sheer number of observations now streaming from land, sea, air and space has outpaced the ability of most computers to process it. As the United States races to develop an “exascale” machine up to the task, a group of engineers and scientists at Columbia have teamed up to pursue solutions of their own.

  • July 14, 2016

    Powerful tropical cyclones like the super typhoon that lashed Taiwan with 150-mile-per-hour winds last week and then flooded parts of China are expected to become even stronger as the planet warms. That trend hasn’t become evident yet, but it will, scientists say.

  • July 11, 2016

    A huge earthquake may be building beneath Bangladesh, the most densely populated nation on earth. Scientists say they have new evidence of increasing strain there, where two tectonic plates underlie the world’s largest river delta. They estimate that at least 140 million people in the region could be affected if the boundary ruptures; the destruction could come not only from the direct results of shaking, but changes in the courses of great rivers, and in the level of land already perilously close to sea level.

  • July 06, 2016

    A new study carried out on the floor of Pacific Ocean provides the most detailed view yet of how the earth’s mantle flows beneath the ocean’s tectonic plates. The findings, published in the journal Nature, appear to upend a common belief that the strongest deformation in the mantle is controlled by large-scale movement of the plates. Instead, the highest resolution imaging yet reveals smaller-scale processes at work that have more powerful effects.

  • July 02, 2016

    A 4,000-foot-high mountainside collapsed in Glacier Bay National Park in a massive landslide that spread debris for miles across the glacier below. It was a powerful reminder of the instability of the mountains in this part of Alaska and the risks that that instability creates. Scientists at Lamont discovered the landslide from its seismic signature and are studying it and another recent Alaska landslide and tsunami to improve understanding of landslide risks to this region and globally.

  • June 30, 2016
    There was a period during the last ice age when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere went on a rollercoaster ride, plummeting and then rising again every 1,500 years or so. Those abrupt climate changes wreaked havoc on ecosystems, but their cause has been something of a mystery. New evidence published this week in the leading journal Science shows for the first time that the ocean’s overturning circulation slowed during every one of those temperature plunges – at times almost stopping.
  • June 27, 2016

    Antarctic sea ice is constantly on the move as powerful winds blow it away from the coast and out toward the open ocean. A new study shows how that ice migration may be more important for the global ocean circulation than anyone realized.

  • June 16, 2016

    A new initiative aims to help homeowners in New Jersey cope with arsenic contamination in private wells—a problem that has only come to light in recent years, and about which many homeowners are still unaware. In a series of fact sheets and videos, the project provides important information about the problem to help homeowners understand what may be going on and how to clean up their water.

  • June 15, 2016

    Engaging educators through professional development workshops, public events, and lectures is an important part of the Observatory’s education and outreach mission. Earlier this month, two dozen middle- and high-school educators joined a group of Lamont scientists at a workshop to learn about paleoclimate techniques and how computer models can expand understanding of the causes of hydroclimate variability and changes over the last several millennia.

  • June 09, 2016

    Scientists and engineers working at a power plant in Iceland have shown for the first time that carbon dioxide emissions can be pumped into the earth and changed chemically to a solid within monthsradically faster than anyone had predicted. The finding may help address a fear that so far has plagued the idea of capturing and storing CO2 underground: that emissions could seep back into the air or even explode out. 

  • June 09, 2016

    The tropics are already hot, and they’re getting hotter as global temperatures rise. A new study offers a glimpse into just how severely a couple more degrees could disrupt the region’s ecological map. The authors, from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of California, Berkeley, looked at potential effects of a 2°C rise in the average global temperature this century and asked: what would happen if all species tried to migrate to keep their average environmental temperature unchanged?

  • June 09, 2016

    Following record-high temperatures and melting records in northwest Greenland in summer 2015, a new study provides the first evidence linking melting in Greenland to the anticipated effects of a phenomenon known as Artic amplification.

  • June 08, 2016

    Who were our earliest ancestors? How and when did they evolve into modern humans? And how do we define “human,” anyway? Was it when some long-ago ancestor stood and walked; grew a brain of a certain size; or figured out how to make stone tools, control fire, plant crops or brew beer? The possible answers to such questions are themselves evolving, as anthropologists and archaeologists including Lamont's Chris Lepre continually discover new fossils and artifacts that upset old theories and push the known dates of evolutionary milestones back ever further into the past.

  • June 06, 2016

    To understand how quickly ice from glaciers can raise sea level or how moons far across the solar system evolved to hold vast, ice-covered oceans, we need to be able to measure the forces at work. A new instrument designed and built at Lamont's Rock and Ice Mechanics Lab with seed funding from a special innovation fund and support from NASA does just that.

  • June 06, 2016

    Buried deep in seabed sediments off east Africa, scientists have uncovered a 24-million-year record of vegetation trends in the region where humans evolved. The authors say the record lends weight to the idea that we developed key traits—flexible diets, large brains, complex social structures and the ability to walk and run on two legs—while adapting to the spread of open grasslands. The study appears today in a special human-evolution issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • May 30, 2016

    Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico have found that contaminants from the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill lingered in the subsurface water for months after oil on the surface had been swept up or dispersed. In a new study led by Lamont's Beizhan Yan, they detail how remnants of the oil, black carbon from burning oil slicks and contaminants from drilling mud combined with microscopic algae and other marine debris to descend in a “dirty blizzard” to the seafloor.

  • May 24, 2016

    The plate tectonics revolution was a data revolution. The young scientists who led the charge 50 years ago showed how asking the right questions and having access to a wide range of data could open doors to an entirely new understanding of the planet. This week, those scientists and the generations they inspired are meeting at Lamont to look back on their discoveries and to discuss the scientific developments over the decades since that continue to build our understanding of the behavior of Earth’s tectonic plates.

  • May 19, 2016

    The field of paleoceanography emerged in the middle of the last century as scientists began collecting large numbers of deep-sea sediment cores and figuring out how to date the layers that had recorded Earth’s climate history. John Imbrie was one of its pioneers.

  • May 17, 2016

    On a ledge just inside the lip of Chile’s Quizapu volcanic crater, Philipp Ruprecht was furiously digging a trench. Here at an elevation of 10,000 feet, a 1,000-foot plunge loomed just yards away, and wind was whipping dust off his shovel. But the volcanologist was excited. Ruprecht had just found this spot, topped with undisturbed wedding-cake layers of fine, black material that the crater had vomited from the deep earth some 84 years ago. Samples from the currently inactive site might shed light on its exceedingly violent behavior.

  • May 16, 2016

    Over the past half-million years, the equatorial Pacific Ocean has seen five spikes in the amount of iron-laden dust blown in from the continents. In theory, those bursts should have turbo-charged the growth of the ocean’s carbon-capturing algae­ – algae need iron to grow – but a new study led by Lamont Gisela Winckler shows that the excess iron had little to no effect. The results are important today, because as groups search for ways to combat climate change, some are exploring fertilizing the oceans with iron as a solution.

  • May 04, 2016

    One of Earth’s newest islands exploded into view from the bottom of the southwest Pacific Ocean in January 2015. Lamont scientist Vicki Ferrini, who uses geophysical mapping techniques to study the seafloor, was sailing through the area on an unrelated research cruise and created a detailed map of the new island's topography.

  • May 04, 2016

    Is it an album cover for a 1980s hair band, or a thin section micrograph of precious minerals? A model of ice streams in glacial lakes, or a 3D laser light show from a dance club? This past week at the third annual Research as Art exhibit at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, scientists traded in lab coats and goggles for artist smocks and easels as they demonstrated that when the line between science and art is allowed to get tenuous, the results are anything but.

  • May 03, 2016

    Maureen Raymo, a marine geologist and paleoceanographer whose name is connected with key theories about how ice ages wax and wane and how sea levels change, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors awarded to engineers and scientists in the United States. She is the 11th current scientist from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory invited to join the Academy for their excellence in original scientific work.

  • April 25, 2016

    In southern Greenland in summer, rivers have been streaming off the ice sheet, pouring cold fresh water into the fjords. Attention has focused on the West Coast, where the majority of the meltwater has been entering the ocean in recent years, but a new study from Lamont's Marco Tedesco suggests that a greater risk to global climate may actually be coming from the East.

  • April 20, 2016

    A new statistical method inspired by economics is helping scientists identify old volcanic eruptions through temperature changes in a consistent, automated way. In addition to helping separate volcanic impacts on climate from random climate variability, the new method has a wide range of policy applications.

  • April 19, 2016

    Fifty years ago, a graduate student named Walter Pitman made a discovery that would change the way we see our planet. It was late at night, and Pitman was reviewing charts of ship data that had just come off the computer. What Pitman saw in those lines confirmed the theories behind seafloor spreading and set the stage for our understanding of plate tectonics.

  • April 19, 2016

    Christopher Scholz is being awarded the Harry Fielding Reid Medal for his pioneering work in rock mechanics and his skill at communicating earthquake science. The Seismological Society of America cites Scholz’s wide range of contributions over a nearly 50-year career.

  • April 05, 2016

    Surfers have a saying: Never turn your back on the ocean. The World Surf League (WSL) is giving that phrase new meaning – it is teaming up with marine scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to launch WSL PURE, an innovative new philanthropy dedicated to supporting ocean research at a critical time.

  • March 21, 2016

    Researchers have predicted that as the planet is warmed by human-produced CO2, plants may add to the emissions and amplify the warming. Now, the most comprehensive global study of its kind yet suggests that this effect has limits, and that increases in plant respiration may not be as big as previously estimated. It shows that rates of increase slow in an easily predictable way as temperatures mount, in every region of earth, from tropics to tundra.

  • March 21, 2016

    In much of France and Switzerland, the best wine years are traditionally those with abundant spring rains followed by an exceptionally hot summer and late-season drought. This drives vines to put forth robust, fast-maturing fruit, and brings an early harvest. Now, a new study shows that warming climate has largely removed the drought factor from the centuries-old early-harvest equation. It is only the latest symptom that global warming is affecting biological systems and agriculture.

  • March 18, 2016

    Jay Ardai was the guy you wanted in your sea ice camp after the ship left, or in the Alaska wild when your plane had mechanical trouble. He earned his reputation in remote locations like these as a super-technician who could fix anything using whatever he could find.

  • March 15, 2016

    When Arnold Finck joined Lamont Geological Observatory as its first business administrator, he had a big job ahead and no template to follow. The Observatory had just opened its doors, and its scientists needed laboratories, equipment and ships, as well as administrative procedures. Finck spent more than 25 years helping build the Lamont campus and designing the procedures that made it run. Former colleagues described Finck, who passed away March 13 at the age of 96, as a problem solver who calmly steered the observatory’s financial course.

  • March 15, 2016
    One foggy spring morning just after a hard rain, Park Williams was tromping through the woods deep in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains. Toiling down a steep slope, he supposedly was keeping a simultaneous eye out for rattlesnakes, copperheads, poison ivy and big old trees. Williams seemed mostly focused on the trees, though; attention to the other stuff was just slowing him down. Williams studies how forests react to changes in climate, and the Ozarks’ deeply dissected hills and hollers are a kind of ground zero for this.
  • March 11, 2016

    If you asked scientists a few years ago if a specific hurricane has been caused by climate change, most would have told you that, while it raises the risks, no single weather event could yet be attributed to climate change. That’s starting to change. In a new report, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, including Lamont Professor Adam Sobel, assesses the young field of attribution studies for several types of extreme events. It recommends future research and guidance to help the field advance and contribute to understanding of the risks ahead.

  • March 07, 2016

    Mercury’s dark surface is revealing intriguing new clues about the formation of the solar system, including evidence described in a new study that the planet closest to the Sun may have formed in part from carbon, a key component of life.

  • March 04, 2016

    A group of surfer-scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has teamed up with the World Surf League and GoFlow to launch Bleach Patrol, a citizen science project and app designed to track coral bleaching and help scientists learn more about its causes and how corals recover.Bleach Patrol turns surfers, divers and other ocean enthusiasts into the eyes of the scientists on the reef.

  • March 03, 2016

    In their quest to unravel the physical and chemical processes controlling volcanic eruptions, Einat Lev and colleagues headed to South America and the volcanoes of Chile. She writes about the trip and what they hope to learn from their work, and shares video from their drone flights over the lava flows.

  • March 03, 2016

    Greenland's snowy surface has been getting darker over the past two decades, absorbing more heat from the sun and increasing snow melt, a new study of satellite data shows. That trend is likely to continue, with the surface's reflectivity, or albedo, decreasing by as much as 10 percent by the end of the century, the study says.

  • March 01, 2016

    In the years before the Syrian conflict erupted, the region’s worst drought on record set in across the Levant, destroying crops and restricting water supplies in the already water-stressed region. A new study shows that that drought, from 1998-2012, wasn’t just the most severe in a century of record-keeping—it was the Levant’s most severe drought in at least 500 years and likely more than 900 years.

  • February 23, 2016

    When you examine the behavior of the global oceans closely – really closely, at scales smaller than 100 kilometers – eddies and jets and fronts start to appear. For Ryan Abernathey, who was just awarded a 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship, this is where ocean physics gets interesting.

  • February 22, 2016

    Scientists have developed a new model to help coastal planners assess the risks of sea level rise. Put to use on a global scale, it estimates that the oceans will rise at least 28 centimeters on average by the end of this century – and as much as 131 cm if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow unchecked.

  • February 22, 2016

    Deep beneath Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, down where the pressure and temperatures have become so high that rock starts to flow, new continental crust is being born. Scientists have long believed that continental crust forms in volcanic arcs – they know the magma brought up in the arcs’ volcanoes is geochemically very similar to continental crust. The lingering question has been how exactly that happens. While the magma that reaches the surface is similar to continental crust, the lower crust beneath volcanic arcs is quite different from the lower half of continental crust.

  • February 08, 2016

    Humans have been burning fossil fuels for only about 150 years, yet that has started a cascade of profound changes that at their current pace will still be felt 10,000 years from now, a new study shows. Coastal areas, in particular, will experience the long-term effects as rising seas slowly redraw the world map as we know it and continue to rise long after emissions are brought down. Even in a scenario in which global temperatures warm to only about 2° Celsius above pre-industrial times, the analysis shows that several of the world’s coastal megacities will eventually be submerged.

  • February 04, 2016

    Last Thursday, thousands of people from southern New Jersey to Long Island and coastal Connecticut felt the earth tremble. Between 1:20 pm and 2:40 pm, dishes, desks and buildings shook for up to 20 seconds—in some locations, several times. With everyone thinking earthquake, Twitter and Facebook lit up; news reporters scrambled; calls poured into police, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which maintains the region’s network of 50-some seismographic stations.

  • February 03, 2016

    Twenty thousand years ago, when humans were still nomadic hunters and gatherers, low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere allowed the earth to fall into the grip of an ice age. But despite decades of research, the reasons why levels of the greenhouse gas were so low then have been difficult to piece together.

  • February 02, 2016

    On every continent and ocean, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory field researchers are studying the dynamics of climate, geology, natural hazards and ecology, and their practical applications to modern problems. Below are some of their expeditions in rough chronological order. Work in and around New York City and the U.S. Northeast is listed separately toward bottom. Use the interactive world map above to explore these projects.

  • February 01, 2016

    If the Montreal Protocol had been rejected and the risks of ozone depleting substances had been ignored by the world, we would be facing even more intense tropical cyclones in the near future, according to a new study.

  • January 28, 2016

    In an effort led by current and former Lamont Tree Ring Lab scientists, the N-TREND consortium (Northern Tree-Ring Network Development) was created to develop a global database of tree-ring research that improves on efforts for developing large-scale temperature reconstructions across the Northern Hemisphere.

  • January 27, 2016

    Scientists plumbing the depths of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean have found ancient sediments suggesting that one proposed way to mitigate climate warming—fertilizing the oceans with iron to produce more carbon-eating algae—may not necessarily work as envisioned.

  • January 25, 2016

    In the water above natural oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, where oil and gas bubbles rise almost a mile to break at the surface, scientists have discovered something unusual: phytoplankton, tiny microbes at the base of the marine food chain, are thriving. The oil itself does not appear to help the phytoplankton, but the low concentration of oil found above natural seeps isn’t killing them, and turbulence from the rising oil and gas bubbles is bringing up deep-water nutrients that phytoplankton need to grow, according to a new study appearing in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

  • January 22, 2016

    The Columbia Center for Climate & Life at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has announced its 2016 Fellows. Michael Puma is focusing on food security and climate shocks, and Park Williams is exploring the influence of climate change on droughts and wildfires.

  • January 22, 2016

    As the second most recent ice age was ending and its glaciers began to retreat, the Earth experienced a large, abrupt climate change that shifted the thermal equator southward by about 4 degrees, according to a new study that for the first time tracks that shift in millennial detail, showing how the Northern Hemisphere cooled and the Southern Hemisphere warmed over the span of a few hundred years. The change would have affected the monsoons, today relied on to feed more than half the world’s population, and could have helped tip the climate system over the threshold for deglaciation, said lead author Allison Jacobel.

  • January 07, 2016

    The bottom of the ocean just keeps getting better. Or at least more interesting to look at. In an ongoing project, mappers at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have been gathering data from hundreds of research cruises and turning it all into accessible maps of the ocean floor with resolutions down to 25 meters.

 

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