Research News All

  • July 17, 2013

    The risk of catching some nasty germ in the Hudson River just started looking nastier.  Disease-causing microbes have long been found swimming there, but now researchers have documented antibiotic-resistant strains in specific spots, from the Tappan Zee Bridge to lower Manhattan. The microbes identified are resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, drugs commonly used to treat ear infections, pneumonia, salmonella and other ailments. The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Water and Health.

     

  • July 11, 2013

    Large earthquakes from distant parts of the globe are setting off tremors around waste-fluid injection wells in the central United States, says a new study. Furthermore, such triggering of minor quakes by distant events could be precursors to larger events at sites where pressure from waste injection has pushed faults close to failure, say researchers.

  • July 10, 2013

    The desert sultanate of Oman is home to some of the weirdest—and possibly most useful—rocks on earth. The stark Hajar mountains, near the border with Saudi Arabia, contain a chunk of earth’s mantle—a zone that makes up most of earth’s mass, but normally lies inaccessible to humans, far below the surface. Here, though, a sliver of mantle has made its way up to where we can see and touch it. The outcrop has drawn scientists looking for clues to the dynamics of the deep earth; the origins of life; and, most recently, ways to fight climate change.

  • July 09, 2013

    A new study in the journal Nature provides fresh insight into deep-earth processes driving apart huge sections of the earth’s crust. The process, called rifting, mostly takes place on seabeds, but can be seen in a few places on land—nowhere more visibly than in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. (See the slideshow below.) Here, earthquakes and volcanoes have rent the surface over some 30 million years, forming part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. What causes this, and does it resemble the processes on the seafloor, as many geologists think?

     

     

  • July 01, 2013

    Nearly 25 years after an international ban was placed on ivory, African elephants are being slaughtered at a rate that could bring about their extinction this century. By allowing the trade of ivory acquired before 1989 to continue, the ban put the burden on law enforcement to distinguish between legal ivory and poached. Now, a new method for dating elephant tusks, described in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could make it easier to enforce the ivory ban and save the African elephant from extermination say researchers. The method might also be applied to endangered rhinoceroses and other wildlife.

  • June 11, 2013

    Smaller than a speck of dust, Emiliania huxleyi plays an outsized role in the world’s seas. Ranging from the polar oceans to the tropics, these free-floating photosynthetic algae remove carbon dioxide from the air, help supply the oxygen that we breathe, and form the base of marine food chains. When they proliferate, their massive turquoise blooms are visible from space.

    Now scientists have discovered one of the keys to E. huxleyi’s success. A seven-year effort by 75 researchers from 12 countries to map its genome has revealed a set of core genes that mix and match with a set of variable genes that likely allows E. huxleyi, orEhux, to adapt to different environments. Their results are described in the latest issue of Nature.

     

     

  • June 06, 2013

    Twice humans have witnessed the wasting of snow and ice from Peru’s tallest volcano, Nevado Coropuna—In the waning of the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago, and today, as industrial carbon dioxide in the air raises temperatures again. As in the past, Coropuna’s retreating glaciers figure prominently in the lives of people below.

     

  • May 29, 2013

    During the last ice age, when thick ice covered the Arctic, many scientists assumed that the deep currents below that feed the North Atlantic Ocean and help drive global ocean currents slowed or even stopped.  But in a new study in Nature, researchers show that the deep Arctic Ocean has been churning briskly for the last 35,000 years, through the chill of the last ice age and warmth of modern times, suggesting that at least one arm of the system of global ocean currents that move heat around the planet has behaved similarly under vastly different climates.

  • May 13, 2013

    Eight hundred years ago, relatively small armies of mounted warriors suddenly exploded outward from the cold, arid high-elevation grasslands of Mongolia, and conquered the largest contiguous empire in history. Led by Genghis Khan and his sons and grandsons, the Mongols briefly ruled most of modern-day Russia, China, Korea, southeast Asia, Persia, India, the Middle East and eastern Europe. They reshaped world geography, culture and history in ways that still resound today. How did they do it? Among the forces at work: the Mongols’ fast horses and brilliant cavalry tactics; their openness to new technologies; and the political genius of Genghis himself. Now, a research group is looking into a possible other factor: climate change. The idea may have implications not only for our understanding of history, but for modern Mongolia and the wider world.

  • May 07, 2013

    After John Diebold, an enormously popular and influential marine scientist, died suddenly in summer 2010, friends and family resolved to erect a memorial to him.

    During a long career at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Diebold had spent seven or so of his 66 years at sea on all the world’s oceans, and many more preparing for cruises and writing up results. Those who cared about him settled on a handmade bench, made of red oak carved to look like driftwood, joined with salvaged nautical-looking pieces of iron, all weighing about a ton.

  • May 01, 2013

    Mark Cane, an expert on the El Niño climate pattern, and Terry Plank, an authority on explosive volcanoes—both scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory--have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the National Academy, given for excellence in original scientific work, is one of the highest honors awarded to engineers and scientists in the United States.

  • April 22, 2013
    Fueled by industrial greenhouse gas emissions, Earth’s climate warmed more between 1971 and 2000 than during any other three-decade interval in the last 1,400 years, according new regional temperature reconstructions covering all seven continents.  This period of manmade global warming, which continues today, reversed a natural cooling trend that lasted several hundred years, according to results published in the journal Nature Geoscience by more than 80 scientists from 24 nations analyzing climate data from tree rings, pollen, cave formations, ice cores, lake and ocean sediments, and historical records from around the world.
  • March 26, 2013

    A new study in the journal Geology is the latest to tie a string of unusual earthquakes, in this case, in central Oklahoma, to the injection of wastewater deep underground. Researchers now say that the magnitude 5.7 earthquake near Prague, Okla., on Nov. 6, 2011, may also be the largest ever linked to wastewater injection. Felt as far away as Milwaukee, more than 800 miles away, the quake—the biggest ever recorded in Oklahoma--destroyed 14 homes, buckled a federal highway and left two people injured. Small earthquakes continue to be recorded in the area.

  • March 20, 2013

    Scientists examining evidence across the world from New Jersey to North Africa say they have linked the abrupt disappearance of half of earth’s species 200 million years ago to a precisely dated set of gigantic volcanic eruptions. The eruptions may have caused climate changes so sudden that many creatures were unable to adapt—possibly on a pace similar to that of human-influenced climate warming today. The extinction opened the way for dinosaurs to evolve and dominate the planet for the next 135 million years, before they, too, were wiped out in a later planetary cataclysm.

  • March 11, 2013

    A delay in the summer monsoon rains that fall over the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico is expected in the coming decades according to a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research.  The North American monsoon delivers as much as 70 percent of the region’s annual rainfall, watering crops and rangelands for an estimated 20 million people.

  • February 27, 2013

    Earth Institute research expeditions investigating the dynamics of the planet on all levels take place on every continent and every ocean. Below: selected projects in rough chronological order, and resources to learn more about them. Work in and around New York City is listed separately at bottom. Unless otherwise stated, projects originate with our main research center,  Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and are often run in collaboration with other institutions. For expedition blogs written from the field, see our Features archive.

  • February 12, 2013

    A nuclear test explosion set off last night by North Korea was far larger—perhaps by three or four times—than the country’s last known blast, say seismologists who have examined seismic waves coming from the site. The estimate suggests that the North Koreans are making steady progress toward building more forceful weapons.

  • January 31, 2013

    An oceanographer who has painstakingly collected measurements from each of the world’s oceans to understand how the oceans move heat and freshwater around the planet to influence climate is the winner of the 2013 Prince Albert 1 Medal for outstanding contributions to oceanography, given by the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean (IAPSO).

  • January 16, 2013

    Louise Rosen, a senior manager in Columbia University’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, has been named director of a new office at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory that will oversee fundraising, communications, education and strategic initiatives. She will start the new position on Feb. 11.

  • January 14, 2013
    An American atmospheric chemist who led efforts to identify the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole and a French geochemist who extracted the longest-yet climate record from polar ice cores have won the prestigious Vetlesen Prize. Susan Solomon and Jean Jouzel will share the $250,000 award, considered to be the earth sciences’ equivalent of a Nobel.
     
  • January 09, 2013

    As earth’s climate warms, scientists have tried to understand why the poles are heating up two to three times faster than the rest of the planet. Airborne dust, it turns out, may play a key role.

    In a new study in Nature Climate Change, researchers show that at the peak of the last ice age, some 21,000 years ago, the poles were 10 times dustier than today, while areas closer to the equator had twice as much dust. During this time of extreme cold, New York City was under two miles of ice and up to 12 degrees F colder than today while Greenland was about 45 degrees F colder. The study’s authors suggest that higher atmospheric dust concentrations at the poles during the last ice age helped to cool earth’s surface and prevent snow and sea ice from melting during summer.
  • December 21, 2012

    Some 40 million people depend on the Colorado River Basin for water but warmer weather from rising greenhouse gas levels and a growing population may signal water shortages ahead. In a new study in Nature Climate Change, climate modelers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory predict a 10 percent drop in the Colorado River’s flow in the next few decades, enough to disrupt longtime water-sharing agreements between farms and cities across the American Southwest.

  • December 11, 2012

    Scientists from Columbia University’s Earth Institute will present important new studies at the Dec. 3-7 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest gathering of earth and space scientists. Below: a chronological guide. Most researchers are at our Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO).More info: http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/ Reporters may contact scientists directly at any time, or call press officers:

  • December 11, 2012

    new study in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization shows how hot spots of lead contamination in soil can be pinpointed in order to safeguard children against drastic health effects. Researchers led by geochemist Alexander van Geen of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, studied soil around two Peruvian mining towns, and found high lead concentrations contained in discrete pockets in certain neighborhoods, while other spots were not so dangerous.

  • November 29, 2012

    Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, may hold at least 100 billion tons of ice in permanently shaded craters near its north pole, NASA scientists announced Thursday. Radar images had led scientists to suspect for decades that Mercury had water, but NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which began orbiting the planet in March 2011, is the first to confirm it.

  • November 27, 2012

    Scientists from Columbia University’s Earth Institute will present important new studies at the Dec. 3-7 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest gathering of earth and space scientists. Below: a chronological guide. Most researchers are at our Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO).More info: http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/ Reporters may contact scientists directly at any time, or call press officers:

  • November 19, 2012

    During Hurricane Sandy the seas rose a record 14-feet in lower Manhattan. Water flooded city streets, subways, tunnels and even sewage treatment plants. It is unclear how much sewage may have been released as plants lost power or were forced to divert untreated wastewater into the Hudson River.

  • November 07, 2012

    For years before Hurricane Sandy charged ashore on Monday, researchers from the Earth Institute knew what was coming. In a rapidly urbanizing world, where hundreds of millions of people now live in low-lying coastal areas, those scientists have been urging policymakers to appreciate the threats posed by such natural disasters and find ways to make our cities more resilient.

  • November 06, 2012

    For much of the last decade, Klaus Jacob warned of New York’s vulnerability to severe flooding in a major storm. Rising seas and more extreme weather from a warming climate could cripple the New York region, he told anyone willing to listen

  • November 02, 2012

    The evening view from across the East River tells a tale of two cities: downtown Manhattan mostly shut down, without power, subways and most services; uptown Manhattan brightly lit, subways running, businesses and neighborhoods climbing back to some kind of usual.

  • October 02, 2012

    This spring, a Swedish scientist sparked international concern with a journal article saying that radioactive particles detected in 2010 showed North Korea had set off at least two small nuclear blasts--possibly in experiments designed to boost the yields of much larger bombs. Shortly after, the pot was stirred with separate claims that some intelligence agencies suspected the detonations were done in cooperation with Iran. Now, a new paper says the tests likely never took place—or that if they did, they were too tiny to have any military significance. The new report, by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, will be published later this month in the journal Science & Global Security, where the earlier paper also appeared.

  • October 02, 2012

    A geochemist who studies the workings of the deep earth and their influence on some of the world’s most explosive volcanoes has been awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship. Terry Plank, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, joins novelist Junot Diaz, war correspondent David Finkel and filmmaker Natalia Almada in this year’s batch of MacArthur Fellows, who will receive $100,000 a year for five years, no strings attached. Maria Chudnovsky, a mathematician at Columbia’s Engineering School who studies the fundamentals of graph theory, also received a genius grant.

  • September 27, 2012

    Summers on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard are now warmer than at any other time in the last 1,800 years, including during medieval times when parts of the northern hemisphere were as hot as, or hotter, than today, according to a new study in the journal Geology.

  • September 10, 2012

    A city effort to clean up polluted Newtown Creek by aerating the water to boost oxygen levels is having an unintended effect: it is releasing sewage bacteria and other particles into the air above the site, researchers say in a new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The researchers found bacteria types in the air consistent with the sewage and oil pollution in the creek. The study is one of the first to establish a link between water pollution and air-quality, raising new questions about the health risks posed by dirty water.

  • August 22, 2012

    Water is on the minds of Rockland residents this summer, and not just because of the record U.S. drought. Rockland County’s main water provider, United Water NY, wants to build a treatment plant on the Hudson River that would deliver more freshwater to Rockland taps. Some people are in favor of boosting supply to this growing suburban region, a short drive from the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges. Others are opposed, citing the cost, in energy and dollars, plus the danger to fish and other wildlife. As the project awaits approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a new debate on water consumption has emerged. Should people be encouraged, or even required, to use less? And if so, how?

  • August 21, 2012

    For six centuries, the ancient Maya flourished, with more than a hundred city-states scattered across what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America. Then, in A.D. 695, the collapse of several cities in present day Guatemala marked the start of the Classic Maya’s slow decline. Prolonged drought is thought to have played a role, but a study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters adds a new twist: The Maya may have made the droughts worse by clearing away forests for cities and crops, making a naturally drying climate drier.

  • August 17, 2012

    Over the past 450 million years, life on earth has undergone at least five great extinctions, when biological activity nosedived and dominant groups of creatures disappeared. The final one (so far) was 65 million years ago, when it appears that a giant meteorite brought fires, shock waves and tsunamis, then drastically altered the climate. That killed off the dinosaurs, setting the stage for mammals–and eventually us–to evolve. 

  • August 03, 2012

    Human civilization arose during the relatively balmy climate of the last 10,000 years. Even so, evidence is accumulating that at least two cold spells gripped the northern hemisphere during this time, and that the cooling may have coincided with drought in the tropics. Emerging research on climate during this Holocene period suggests that temperature swings were more common than previously thought, and that climate changes happened on a broad, hemispheric scale.

  • July 24, 2012

    For the first time, scientists have identified tropical and subtropical species of marine protozoa living in the Arctic Ocean. Apparently, they traveled thousands of miles on Atlantic currents and ended up above Norway with an unusual—but naturally cyclic—pulse of warm water, not as a direct result of overall warming climate, say the researchers. On the other hand: arctic waters are warming rapidly, and such pulses are predicted to grow as global climate change causes shifts in long-distance currents. Thus, colleagues wonder if the exotic creatures offers a preview of climate-induced changes already overtaking the oceans and land, causing redistributions of species and shifts in ecology. The study, by a team from the United States, Norway and Russia, was just published in the British Journal of Micropalaeontology.

  • July 20, 2012

    During the last ice age, glaciers dominated New Zealand’s Southern Alps until warming temperatures some 20,000 years ago sent them into retreat. Scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, with their colleagues, are investigating the rocky remnants these glaciers left behind to learn precisely when the ice withdrew, and what glacier retreats globally can tell us about the climate system. A new video produced by the American Museum of Natural History describes the process of surface exposure dating used to extract this information from glacial moraines.

  • July 19, 2012

    Daehyun Kim, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has been recognized for early-career achievement in the atmospheric sciences by the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest earth-sciences organization. Kim, 32, came to Lamont as a postdoctoral researcher in 2010, where he has focused on investigating the Madden-Julian Oscillation, a little-understood weather pattern that typically forms in the Indian Ocean and brings heavy rains and hurricanes to many parts of the globe.

  • July 13, 2012

    With their vast resources and raw materials, the world’s oceans are one of the cornerstones of the quality of human life. According to World Bank figures, 350 million jobs are estimated to be linked to the oceans globally, and 1 billion people in developing countries depend on fish for their primary source of protein.

  • June 29, 2012
     A mile or so of glacial ice covering much of North America and plowing down from the north once terminated in the New York metropolitan area, at a front stretching roughly from exit 13 on the New Jersey Turnpike (Rahway), on across southern Staten Island, the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, and northeastward through Long Island. But exactly when that ice started to seriously melt has long been an enigma.
  • June 12, 2012

    Steep mountains produce some of the biggest landslides on earth but in such rugged terrain who’s around to notice? These monster backcountry slides are now gaining attention from far-away scientists, aided by a global network of seismic stations, earth-orbiting satellites and the crowd-sourcing power of the internet.

  • June 07, 2012
    An important piece of earthquake-science history popped up a few weeks ago on Jeopardy: “The Press-Ewing was an early seismograph, recording waves from these events.
     
    If you didn’t know a Press-Ewing from a French press, you were in luck. For $200, all you needed to know to formulate the question is what a seismograph measures.
     
    What is an Earthquake?
  • May 16, 2012

    A 500-foot rock face came crashing down from the Palisades cliffs along the Hudson River in Alpine, N.J. on Saturday night, shaking the ground for more than half a minute and dumping a fresh layer of boulders over a 100-yard strip of parkland below State Line Lookout. The shaking was strong enough to be registered by a seismic station a mile and a half away, at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, but no one was injured.

  • May 07, 2012

    Dendrochronologist Brendan Buckley’s usual occupation is drilling straw-like cores from old trees and extracting information about past climates by studying their rings. To extend the record beyond the time of living trees, he sometimes takes samples from long-dead trees, or even from timbers in ancient buildings. In 2010, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientist was part of a team that traveled into the remote Cardamom Mountains of southern Cambodia to investigate human burials contained in coffins carved from entire logs.

  • May 01, 2012

    In an effort to understand how plants around the world will act in a warming climate, researchers have relied increasingly on experiments that measure how they respond to artificial warming. But a new study says that such experiments are underestimating potential advances in the timing of flowering and leafing four to eightfold, when compared with natural observations. As a result, species could change far more quickly than the experiments suggest, with major implications for water supplies, pollination of crops and ecosystems. The comparison, done by an interdisciplinary team from some 20 institutions in North America and Europe, appears this week in the leading journal Nature.

  • April 24, 2012

    City streets can be mean, but somewhere near Brooklyn, a tree grows far better than its country cousins, due to chronically elevated city heat levels, says a new study. The study, just published in the journal Tree Physiology, shows that common native red oak seedlings grow as much as eight times faster in New York’s Central Park than in more rural, cooler settings in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Red oaks and their close relatives dominate areas ranging from northern Virginia to southern New England, so the study may have wide implications for changing climate and forest composition over a wide region.

  • April 22, 2012

    As human ancestors rose on two feet in Africa and began their migrations across the world, the climate around them got warmer, and colder, wetter and drier. The plants and animals they competed with and relied upon for food changed. Did the shifting climate play a direct role in human evolution?

  • April 18, 2012

    Dennis Kent, a leading expert in the history of earth’s magnetic field, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Other members of the 2012 class include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, playwright Neil Simon, Hollywood director Clint Eastwood and Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos.

  • April 03, 2012

    Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Provost John Coatsworth have named Sean C. Solomon, a leading geophysicist whose research has combined studies of the deep earth with missions to the moon and the solar system’s inner planets, to be director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

  • March 29, 2012

    According to a new study, neighborhood differences in rates of childhood asthma may be explained by local levels of soot produced by trucks and residential oil burners. The study, by public-health and air-pollution scientists at Columbia University, appears

    online in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

  • March 14, 2012

    The seas are creeping higher as the planet warms, but scientists have not yet reached a consensus about how high they may go. Projections for the year 2100 range from inches to several feet, or more. The sub-tropical islands of Bermuda and the Bahamas contain important sites where researchers have gone looking for answers. By pinpointing where shorelines stood on cliffs and reefs there during an extremely warm period 400,000 years ago, they hope to narrow the range of global sea-level projections for the future.

  • March 01, 2012

    The world’s oceans may be turning acidic faster today from human carbon emissions than they did during four major extinctions in the last 300 million years, when natural pulses of carbon sent global temperatures soaring, says a new study in Science. The study is the first of its kind to survey the geologic record for evidence of ocean acidification over this vast time period.

  • February 29, 2012
    What does the earth look like beneath Mount St. Helens? Did a meteorite clear the ecological landscape for the dinosaurs? How did climate help Genghis Khan and his successors create the world’s largest empire? Just how high did the water rise the last time the ice sheets melted?
     
    In the field this year, scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and other centers of the Earth Institute will try to answer these and many other puzzles. They’ll ski-plane onto sea ice, climb mountains, hike through jungle, bore into rock and dive into the sea, exploring on every continent and in every ocean.

     

     

  • February 21, 2012

    Climate scientists at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week were elated to hear that the United States and five other countries had agreed to work toward cutting pollutants other than carbon dioxide thought to cause about a third of current human-influenced global warming. After all, many of them had done the work that led directly to the pact, by showing the effects of such substances, and how emissions might be reduced.

     

  • February 10, 2012

    Russian scientists this week finished penetrating more than two miles through the Antarctic ice sheet to Lake Vostok, a huge freshwater lake that has been buried under the ice for millions of years. The feat has taken two decades to accomplish, but the scientists won’t know what they’ve found until next year — the team quickly exited the research station, located in the middle of the continent 800 miles from the South Pole, to avoid increasingly harsh polar conditions.

  • January 23, 2012

    In California’s Death Valley, death is looking just a bit closer. Geologists have determined that the half-mile-wide Ubehebe Crater, formed by a prehistoric volcanic explosion, was created far more recently than previously thought—and that conditions for a sequel may exist today.

     

  • January 19, 2012

    Meteorologists can see a busy hurricane season brewing months ahead, but until now there has been no such crystal ball for tornadoes, which are much smaller and more volatile. This information gap took on new urgency after tornadoes in 2011 killed more than 550 people, more than in the previous 10 years combined, including a devastating outbreak in April that racked up $5 billion in insured losses..

  • January 06, 2012

    Earthquakes that have shaken an area just outside Youngstown, Ohio in the last nine months—including a substantial one on New Year’s Eve—are likely linked to a disposal well for injecting wastewater used in the hydraulic fracturing process, say seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who were called in to study the quakes.

  • December 21, 2011

    In many ways, the tiny, landlocked eastern Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan sits apart from the modern world; its rugged landscapes cradle swift-flowing rivers, expansive old-growth forests and hundreds of glaciers. Combining selective modernization with ancient traditions, it is the only country that uses Gross National Happiness as a metric for success. But the world is intruding. Rapid climate change is melting glaciers across the Himalayas, creating deadly flash-flood hazards and threatening a water system that feeds agriculture and hydropower here and for more than a billion people in the plains below.

  • December 02, 2011

    Scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute will present important new studies at the Dec. 5-9 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, the world’s largest gathering of earth and space scientists. Below: a chronological guide (Pacific Standard Time).

  • November 16, 2011

    In the first statewide climate change outlook for New York, scientists say that the state may suffer disproportionate effects in coming decades compared with other regions, due to its geography and geology. The report paints a harsh picture, including possible extreme temperature and sea-level rises, downpours, droughts and floods. The changes are projected to affect nearly every region and facet of the economy by the 2080s, from ski resorts and dairy farms to New York City’s subways, streets and businesses.

  • November 16, 2011

    Buried below more than a mile of ice, Antarctica’s Gamburtsev Mountains have baffled scientists since their discovery in 1958. How did the mountains get there, and what role did they play in the spread of glaciers over the continent 30 million years ago? In the latest study on the mountains, scientists this week in the journal Nature say they have pieced together the puzzle of the origins and evolution of this mysterious mountain chain.

  • November 11, 2011

    “I was deeply saddened by the loss of one of our most beautiful trees on campus during the last storm. It had perfect symmetry and such a beautiful color display late in the fall,” wrote geochemist Martin Stute, after a highly unusual heavy October snow felled a 22-year-old Bradford pear at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where he works. The tree had stood since 1989 in front of the Seismology/Marine Biology building–for many, a shady regular lunch spot, and stately natural contrast to the squat, corrugated-metal architecture of the human structure behind it. Stute emailed Lamont colleagues his brief eulogy, with an attached picture of the tree in happier days. Dozens replied.

  • November 10, 2011
    Evergreen trees at the edge of Alaska’s tundra are growing faster, suggesting that at least some forests may be adapting to a rapidly warming climate, says a new study.
     
  • October 26, 2011

    The retreat of Antarctica’s fast-flowing Thwaites Glacier is expected to speed up within 20 years, once the glacier detaches from an underwater ridge that is currently holding it back, says a new study in Geophysical Research Letters.

    Thwaites Glacier, which drains into west Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea, is being closely watched for its potential to raise global sea levels as the planet warms. Neighboring glaciers in the Amundsen region are also thinning rapidly, including Pine Island Glacier and the much larger Getz Ice Shelf. The study is the latest to confirm the importance of seafloor topography in predicting how these glaciers will behave in the near future.

     

  • October 24, 2011
    Modern society is awash in data. By one estimate, as much information today is created in 48 hours as was produced in the last 30,000 years. The challenge now is making all those megabytes public.
     
     
  • October 18, 2011

    A major new international prize for public communication on climate-change issues has been awarded to Gavin Schmidt of the Earth Institute-affiliated NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

  • October 10, 2011

    Study has shown that deep sediments can grab the arsenic and take it out of circulation—a finding that may help to keep wells safe elsewhere, including in the United States. The study, led by researchers at Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, appears in the current online edition of the journal.

  • October 07, 2011

    The Hudson River that explorer Henry Hudson sailed some 400 years ago had no power plants on its shores. No trains, bridges, factories or houses. Those innovations changed the river, leaving a legacy of PCBs, sewage and other pollutants. But pollution is just one way that humans have transformed the river. A small way, it turns out.

  • October 03, 2011

    After less than a month in operation, a new NASA satellite has produced the first map showing how saltiness varies across the surface of the world’s oceans. Until now, salt measurements came only from ships, moorings and buoys floating at sea; NASA says its Aquarius satellite will capture in three years as much data as those earlier methods did in 125 years.

  • September 27, 2011

    As it moves across the Indian Ocean, the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) can bring torrential rains to California and add power to hurricanes forming in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet after 30 years of studying this cyclical weather pattern scientists are no closer to understanding how it works.

  • September 15, 2011

    The seas are rising, as they have during past periods of warming in earth’s history. Estimates of how high they will go in the next few thousand years range from five meters, putting greater Miami underwater, to 40 meters, wiping most of Florida off the map. “The range of estimates is huge to the point of meaninglessness,” says

    Maureen “Mo” Raymo

    , a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

  • September 14, 2011

    Readers can follow a New York Times blog from the arctic as the U.S. flagship vessel for charting geology under the seabed sails the Chukchi Sea, north of Alaska and Siberia. By sending sound pulses to the seabed and reading the echoes, scientists conducting the Chukchi Edges project aboard the Marcus G. Langseth hope to understand the structure and history of the continental shelves running underwater off Asia and North America, and the Chukchi Borderland, an adjoing region of dramatic deep-sea plateaus and ridges some 800 miles from the North Pole.

  • September 13, 2011

    The frigid seabottom off Antarctica holds a surprising riot of life: colorful carpets of sponges, starfish, sea cucumbers and many other soft, bottom-dwelling animals,shown on images from robotic submarines. Now, it appears that many such communities could fast disappear, due to warming climate.

  • September 12, 2011

    Under the shopping malls and highways of suburbia, there might one day be a partial fix for global warming. Since August, engineers have been drilling just west of the Tappan Zee Bridge to collect samples of rock from the Newark Basin, an ancient rock formation stretching beneath New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

  • August 31, 2011

    A new study suggests that Homo erectus, a precursor to modern humans, was using advanced tool-making methods in East Africa 1.8 million years ago, at least 300,000 years earlier than previously thought. The study, published this week in Nature, raises new questions about where these tall and slender early humans originated and how they developed sophisticated tool-making technology.

  • August 29, 2011

    Lamont-Doherty scientist Timothy Crone is at sea off the Northwest U.S. coast, dropping sensors into the deep ocean as part of a major initiative to better understand oceans, climate and plate tectonics. You can watch a live video feed from the robotic vehicle ROPOS and see it deploy instruments and take samples from 4500 feet down on the seafloor.

  • August 25, 2011

    In the first study of its kind, researchers have linked a natural global climate cycle to periodic increases in warfare. The arrival of El Niño, which every three to seven years boosts temperatures and cuts rainfall, doubles the risk of civil wars across 90 affected tropical countries, and may help account for a fifth of worldwide conflicts during the past half-century, say the authors. The paper, written by an interdisciplinary team at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, appears in the current issue of the leading scientific journal Nature.

  • August 24, 2011

    The magnitude 5.8 earthquake that shook central Virginia on Tuesday afternoon is one of the biggest earthquakes to hit the East Coast since 1897, and was comparable in strength to a quake on the New York-Canadian border in 1944, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was centered near Mineral, Va., about 38 miles northwest of Richmond, and in an area known for frequent though lesser quakes. 

  • August 12, 2011

    Two scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have been recognized for early-career achievement in the atmospheric sciences by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the world’s largest earth-sciences organization.

  • August 11, 2011

    People are swimming in the Hudson again, and while clumps of sewage rarely float by anymore, the water is not reliably clean, says a report released this week from the environmental group Riverkeeper.

  • August 09, 2011

    Researchers returning from a cruise some 250 miles off the coast of Oregon have reported seeing a volcanic eruption on the seafloor that they accurately forecast five years ago—the first successful prediction of an undersea eruption. The event took place at Axial Seamount, one of the most active and intensely studied undersea peaks in the world.

  • July 21, 2011

    For all of its violent destruction, the earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, hardly scratched the surface of the island. But scientists now say they have found some of the best clues to understanding the quake under water.

  • July 13, 2011

    After the recent great quakes that have swept away entire coastlines and cities in Japan, Haiti and Sumatra, scientists are now looking hard at the nation that may suffer the gravest threat of all: Bangladesh. A new documentary from the Earth Institute follows seismologists as they trace signs of deeply buried active faults, past movements of the earth, and sudden, catastrophic river-course changes.

  • July 12, 2011

    A team led by Kevin Anchukaitis of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Tree Ring Lab is currently in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, studying the effects of changing climate on trees. Ferried in by a bush pilot who landed on the tundra to drop them off, they are practically at treeline–the place where it is too far north for trees to grow. But there are still some spindly white spruces here, and they are taking cores from these, which can be used to measure weather of the past.

  • July 01, 2011

    This spring, Columbia University Professor and Lamont-Doherty researcher Nicholas Christie-Blick, along with graduate teaching assistant Elizabeth Pierce, led 19 first- and second-year undergraduates on an eight-day expedition to investigate the dynamic processes that formed Death Valley’s exquisite natural beauty.

  • June 24, 2011

    Stronger ocean currents beneath West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf are eroding the ice from below, speeding the melting of the glacier as a whole, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience. A growing cavity beneath the ice shelf has allowed more warm water to melt the ice, the researchers say—a process that feeds back into the ongoing rise in global sea levels. The glacier is currently sliding into the sea at a clip of four kilometers (2.5 miles) a year, while its ice shelf is melting at about 80 cubic kilometers a year - 50 percent faster than it was in the early 1990s - the paper estimates.

  • June 08, 2011

    Starting today, armchair explorers will be able to view parts of the deep ocean floors in far greater detail than ever before, thanks to a new synthesis of seafloor topography released through Google Earth. Developed by oceanographers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory from scientific data collected on research cruises, the new feature tightens resolution in covered areas from the former 1-kilometer grids to just 100 meters.

  • June 03, 2011
    rhonethumb.jpg

    During the last ice age, the Rhone Glacier was the dominant glacier in the Alps, covering a significant part of Switzerland. Over the next 11,500 years or so, the glacier, which forms the headwaters of the Rhone River, has been shrinking and growing again in response to shifts in climate.

  • May 26, 2011

    El Niño and La Niña, the periodic shifts in Pacific Ocean temperatures, affect weather around the globe, and many scientists have speculated that a warming planet will make those fluctuations more volatile, bringing more intense drought or extreme rainfall to various regions.

  • May 20, 2011

    A flock of young researchers from New York City, Singapore and the Netherlands are testing their skills in the field near Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory this weekend -- canoeing on Sparkill Creek to take water samples, counting forest species in Tallman Mountain State Park and analyzing soil chemistry.

  • May 06, 2011

    Vintners in the Burgundy region of France have been tracking their harvests since the 14th century, and they know as well as anyone the importance of picking their grapes at just the right moment to produce the best possible glass of Pinot noir.

  • April 28, 2011

    The recent earthquake in Japan shifted the earth’s axis by half a foot. You may be wondering if that’s enough to change earth’s weather. No, not really, says Jerry McManus, a climate scientist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

  • April 25, 2011

    The hole in the Earth’s ozone layer over the South Pole has affected atmospheric circulation in the Southern Hemisphere all the way to the equator, and a new study says this has led to increased rainfall in the subtropics. The study, which appears in the April 21 issue of the leading journal Science, is the first time that ozone depletion has been linked to climate change over such a wide area.

  • April 21, 2011

    Two scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are among 60 nationwide named this year as fellows of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest earth-sciences society. Edward Cook, director of the observatory’s Tree Ring Lab, and Robin Bell, a leader in polar studies, received the honors, announced in the April 19 edition of the AGU newspaper EOS. The union has chosen a select group to honor each year since 1962, limiting the number to no more than 0.1 percent of the group’s membership.

  • April 06, 2011

    The eruption of the Laki volcano in Iceland in 1783-84 set off a cascade of catastrophe, spewing sulfuric clouds into Europe and eventually around the world.

  • March 30, 2011
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    The largest recorded earthquake in Japan's history has triggered a series of events that have killed thousands, crushed and submerged cities, and left a financial toll from which it will take years for an already struggling economy to recover.

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