On every continent and ocean, Earth Institute field researchers are studying the dynamics of climate, geology, natural hazards, ecology and other subjects with direct applications to the challenges facing humanity.
Up to now, it has been a mystery why much of the fresh water resulting from the melting of Antarctic ice shelves ends up in the depths instead of floating above saltier, denser ocean waters. Scientists working along one major ice shelf believe they have found the answer.
Researchers studying the West Antarctic Peninsula marine ecosystem will recognize President Obama’s efforts to combat global warming by collecting climate data at an oceanographic station they named for the 44th president.
The Earth Institute digs into the past, tracks the present and models the future of climate. We explore the broader issues surrounding climate change, seek ways to apply our knowledge to real solutions, and nurture collaboration among faculty and researchers in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, law, public health, engineering, architecture and urban planning.
The ‘bird’ has flown! Voices are raised in celebratory cheers from the southernmost continent to across the U.S. Our first ALAMO float is deployed! Now we can begin to answer some of the big questions on this mysterious ice/ocean interface.
The first of six ALAMO floats parachuted into the Ross Sea off Antarctica to begin profiling the water in a check for areas where warmer than normal water could put the Ross Ice Shelf at risk.
The Antarctica Peninsula has been referred to as Antarctica’s third ice sheet. Following behind the East and West Antarctic ice sheet in size, one might be inclined to minimize its importance in the effects of melting Antarctic ice, on changes in sea level and other impacts, but that would be an imprudent mistake. The peninsula is Antarctica’s most northern spit of land; like a crooked finger it stretches out beckoning towards the southern tip of South America and her warmer climate.
Ice shelves can behave like dominos. When they are lined up and the first one collapses it can cause a rippling effect like dominos. We have seen this with the Larsen Ice Shelves. Named in series, the Larsen A, B and C shelves extended along the northeastern edge of the West Antarctic Peninsula, and covered a large swath of coastline as recently as twenty years ago.
Changes in Antarctic ice have been dominated by the interaction of the ice and the ocean, and because ice shelves extend out into the water they are vulnerable to melt from the warmer ocean water. Melt can affect them in two ways, through thinning along their length and through causing a retreat of the “grounding line.”
A special section in the October issue of BioScience featuring research by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientists examines the effects of intense melting on two Antarctic ecosystems, tracking impacts all the way from microbial food webs to shifting penguin populations.