North America

In 1980s and 1990s, prospecting teams worked their way northward through remote terrains, including the Canadian Rockies, where this crew member was landed by helicopter.  (Courtesy Paul Derkson)

Photo Essay: The Mystery of North American Diamonds

People have been finding loose diamonds across the United States and Canada since the early 1800s, but for the most part, no one knows where they came from. It was not until the 1990s that geologists tracked down the first commercial deposits, on the remote tundra of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Yaakov Weiss, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is investigating the origins of these rich diamond mines.

by |August 24, 2015
drinking water

How Much Arsenic is Too Little?

Five hundred utilities in the U.S. provide drinking water with unsafe levels of arsenic, the Environmental Protection Agency says. But how many people are getting too much arsenic in their water is much less clear, according to a study conducted in part by the Columbia Water Center.

by |August 29, 2014

US Groundwater Declines More Widespread Than Commonly Thought

Groundwater levels are dropping across a much wider swath of the United States than is generally discussed, according to a new report, suggesting that the nation’s long-term pattern of groundwater use is broadly unsustainable.

by |March 17, 2014
fieldguide feature pic crop3

Upcoming Scientific Fieldwork: 2014 and Beyond

Earth Institute field researchers study the planet on every continent and ocean. Projects are aimed at understanding the fundamental dynamics of climate, geology, ecology, human history and more. Here is a partial list of upcoming expeditions.

by |February 25, 2014
NOAA-NASA top 10 warm years

2013 Ranks in Top 10 Warmest Years

Last year was one of the warmest on record, according to analyses of global temperature data by NASA and NOAA. Both federal agencies placed 2013 among the top 10 warmest years since records began in 1880, continuing a longer-term trend of global warming.

by |January 22, 2014
A chart posted by Climate Central shows a declining trend for cold nights in New York City since 1970.

Why Do We Run Hot and Cold on Climate Change?

People’s views on climate seem easily swayed, or in some cases manipulated, by daily weather. In a new study, researchers drilled into what goes on in people’s minds when they respond to these smaller-scale stimuli.

by |January 12, 2014
Mono Lake, Guleed Ali, geology

Climate Change and the Future of Mono Lake

Understanding the climate history of Mono Lake will help scientists understand the future impact of climate change. This is no esoteric question for Los Angeles, which depends in part on Mono Lake’s watershed for drinking water, green lawns, agriculture and industry.

by |December 6, 2013

The End of Cheap Water?

Americans are paying more for water than they did a decade ago, even as water utilities fall into debt and water infrastructure deteriorates, according to a Columbia Water Center report.

by |October 15, 2013
Lake Powell, NASA Earth Observatory

Q&A: Climate Change, Drought and the Future

“One of the ways that climate change is going to manifest is through warmer temperatures. … What we are seeing, in line with our projections, is that even if you assume constant precipitation, the temperature effects are so large that it is going to dry things out. This is going to have really big impacts on soil moisture, reservoirs and stream flow for irrigation and drinking water. The availability of water is going to decline into the future, and the challenge is adjusting for that, and what that means for agriculture and development.”

by |August 23, 2013
The largest photovoltaic power plant in the United States at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The plant occupies 170 acres and has a 15 megawatt capacity.

Charting the Course to a Renewable Energy Future

As environmentalists have pushed for greater investment in wind and solar energy, critics have insisted that renewable sources of power could never provide more than a fraction of world energy demand. Evidence is mounting, however, that the critics are wrong.

by |July 30, 2013