News and Events

  • 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?

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