Features Archive - Page 2
Earth Institute researchers spoke this past week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a major global gathering of researchers from many disciplines. They covered topics from climate and human evolution to food security and tropical deforestation. Science editor Kevin Krajick covered the meeting from Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in San Francisco, is the world’s largest gathering of earth and space scientists. Scores of researchers from the Earth Institute will give presentations. Read about it here.
Tiny plants beneath northern sea ice feed all marine life. But warming temperatures and shrinking ice cover are changing the timing of spring phytoplankton blooms and causing some species to thrive while others decline. Aboard the R/V Oscar Dyson, scientists will study this spring’s sea-ice retreat and phytoplankton bloom in the Bering Sea off Alaska. Follow Lamont plankton ecologist Beth Stauffer as she blogs from the field.
The El Niño weather pattern in the tropical Pacific influences weather across the planet. As the planet warms, it is unclear if El Niño will grow stronger, bringing more extreme floods and droughts to some regions, or if El Niño will slacken, creating more uniform weather. Scientists aboard the Lamont-Doherty ship, R/V Langseth, will sample ancient sediments from the central Pacific Ocean to see how El Niño and climate varied in the past, and how they may change again in the future.
Trees have stories to tell, their annual growth rings cataloging changes in the environment, including climate. Many tree-ring scientists focus on conifers, but Neil Pederson, a scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, believes that the less-studied broadleaf trees in temperate forests, such as magnolia, tulip-poplar, maple and birch, have much to teach us.
From a ship in remote Pacific waters, a team of researchers is plumbing the mysteries of what drives and defines the giant tectonic plates that make up the ocean floors and continents. Join Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory seismologist James Gaherty aboard the R/V Marcus G. Langseth, as he and colleagues peer up to 400 kilometers beneath one of earth’s oldest, deepest sections of seafloor.
A major tectonic boundary on the seafloor off Alaska has produced fatal earthquakes and tsunamis similar to the recent one in Japan. In 1964, the second largest quake ever recorded happened here, and other parts of the fault may be building energy for another event. Scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are aboard the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth to better understand what causes these quakes, which will help assess the hazard for Alaska and beyond. Follow Lamont seismologist Donna Shillington from the field.
From the Himalayas to the Alps and Rockies, mountain glaciers are rapidly melting. A sign of a warming climate, their retreat may also threaten hydropower and water supplies for cities below. To put current trends in context, scientists at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are studying rocks that record the ebb and flow of ice since the last ice age, over the past 20,000 years. They will travel the high peaks of the Peruvian Andes, including Nevado Coropuna, a 22,000 foot volcano. Other scientists will study pre-Columbian remains on the mountains. Geologist Gordon Bromley reports from Peru, while geochemist Gisela Winckler writes from the Lamont campus.
Arctic ice is declining rapidly—a trend with enormous implications for global weather and climate. Freshwater pours into the Arctic Ocean from the ice sheets and glaciers, and sea ice over the ocean itself is declining. Ocean Channels and currents there act as a kind of switchyard, sending fresh water into the North Atlantic, and small changes here may have larger impacts on climate downstream. To understand these processes, scientists are landing in small aircraft on the floating sea ice, and drilling down to study the water and currents below. Lamont-Doherty researchers Bill Smethie, Ronny Friedrich, Dale Chayes and Richard Perry report on their work here.
Earthquakes, floods, sea-level rise and sudden shifts in river courses threaten many of the 150 million Bangladeshis living in the low-lying Brahmaputra River delta. Scientists from Lamont-Doherty, Dhaka University and other institutions have begun a five-year project to understand the hazards and the possible hidden links among them. Lamont geophysicist Michael Steckler keeps us up to date on the work.