Climate

A cluster of towering cumulus clouds off the coast of El Salvador. The photograph was taken on May 31, 2002, from the International Space Station. Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center, at http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov [Photo ID ISS004-E-12656]

Spontaneous Clumping of Tropical Clouds

If you take a look at nearly any satellite image of clouds in the tropics, you’ll notice that the clouds tend to be organized into clusters. One specific type of cloud organization called “self-aggregation.” Self-aggregation is the tendency of tropical clouds to spontaneously clump together, solely due to interactions between the clouds and the surrounding environment.

by |July 23, 2015
Courtesy NASA

Goddard Institute to Aid Search for Life on Distant Worlds

Despite its name, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies has in recent years concentrated on planet Earth–mainly, its widely used computer models used by scientists around the world to measure and predict the impact of greenhouse gases on climate. This week NASA announced that the Earth Institute-affiliated center will also play a leading role in a new initiative to search for life on other planets.

by |April 22, 2015
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Photo Essay: Iceland at the Cutting Edge of Climate Change

Iceland has a complicated relationship with climate change. As in much of the far north, global warming is already exerting many effects here–arguably both good and bad. Yet the country contributes relatively little to the warming, since most of its energy comes from geothermal and hydro plants, which produce little carbon dioxide. Now, it is on the scientific cutting edge of the issue.

by |April 13, 2015
Some examples of the sea ice that we have encountered so far. Top left: bands of grease ice, Top right: small pancake ice merged together; bottom left: larger pancake ice; bottom right: The Nathaniel B. Palmer steaming through dense sea ice cover.

In the Ice

Several days ago we reached our main work areas along the margin of East Antarctica. Our expedition is relatively late in the season and the seas around Antarctica are starting to freeze.

by |April 10, 2015
During our transit south to Antarctica we deployed seven ARGO floats (yellow device in picture) for the University of Washington. They drift with the currents in the oceans, measure profiles of salinity and temperature and send those via satellite to researchers on land. They are part of an international effort to better monitor the conditions of the oceans.

Closing in on Antarctica

We are less than a day away from our first study area on the continental shelf in front of the Dibble Glacier. As we approach Antarctica we are starting our science program with a 4500 meter deep CTD and multibeam acquisition.

by |April 6, 2015
Map showing the planned track of our expedition with the modifications made due to the storm systems. Our main study areas are on the continental shelf in front of some major East Antarctic glaciers.

On Our Way: Avoiding the Storm

We are now aboard the R/V Palmer and on our way to East Antarctica. Due to two storms in our direct way we are heading west first to go around the storms and we’ll then head south on their backside.

by |March 30, 2015
When sea level drops, pressure at mid-ocean ridges decreases, which may influence the production of ocean crust. A new study suggests that the pattern of hills on the sea floor reflects the timing of sea-level change during ice age cycles. ILLUSTRATION: ADAPTED BY P. HUEY/SCIENCE

Abyssal Rhythm

Since the dawn of mankind, I imagine we’ve gazed
In wonder and awe at the sky’s starry crown;
More recently, we have been deeply amazed
By the long-obscured, staggering view looking down
To the depths of the sea, through crust, and below…

by |March 13, 2015
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Upcoming Scientific Fieldwork, 2015 and Beyond

On every continent and ocean, Earth Institute field researchers study the dynamics of climate, geology, ecology, human history and more. Here is a list of expeditions going on this year, and beyond.

by |March 10, 2015
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Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate Kick-Off

This week marks the launch of the new Columbia Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, a cross-disciplinary collaboration between a variety of centers, research groups and individuals from across Columbia University. The Initiative, led by Adam Sobel, kicked off on Monday evening with a World Leaders Forum panel event in Low Library. Panelists discussed a wide range of science and policy topics related to extreme weather, showing the interdisciplinary nature of the new Initiative.

by |February 25, 2015
About 10 thousand years ago, North Africa's Sahara Desert was a wide, green landscape. (photo credit: apdesign)

Birth of a Desert

North Africa once was quite green,
From ancient lakes, clues we can glean:

by |January 30, 2015