Why We Celebrate Earth Day

by |April 22, 2020

Earth Day is important to us here at the Earth Institute, because it’s the one day of the year when everyone celebrates something that matters a lot to us: our beautiful planet.

Earth Institute scientists have been investigating the planet’s mysteries for more than 70 years. They have plumbed the depths of the oceans, scaled the tallest mountains, and traversed every continent in order to broaden and deepen our understanding of the world. Along the way, they’ve made incredible discoveries that shook the world of science.

Researchers at our Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory were the first to propose that ice ages are driven by natural cycles of freezing and thawing in the Arctic Ocean. Lamont’s Marie Tharp was the first to map the ocean floor on a global scale. Mark Cane and Stephen Zebiak, researchers at our International Research Institute for Climate and Society, helped to create the first model to explain and predict the powerful El Niño climate cycle, which affects affect crops, disease outbreaks and natural hazards all over the world. And the term “global warming” came from our own Wallace Broecker, who was among the first scientists to warn of the dangers of rising global temperatures.

The slideshow below provides more examples of how Earth Institute researchers have been at the forefront of earth and environmental science.

ewing 4x3 maurice ewing vema Moon columbia spectator 1970 Broecker_Clinton Science-study-1976 copy MarieTharp1 conveyor belt 1997_El_Nino_TOPEX Ed_Cook_19-nepal-ed-cook-brendan-buckeley-TRL-960x680 james-hansen (1) MG_0115 core repository mo-raymo-core-lab-102516 15215893163_9b57dace62_4k 6-1 greenland RobinBell Williams extracts a core from a massive red oak. Specimens up to 400 years old can be found in isolated spots, but it is the last 80-some years the scientists are mainly after
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2014: National Medal of Science

President Barack Obama bestows the National Medal of Science, the nation’s top scientific honor, to MESSENGER principal investigator and director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Sean Solomon. The award was presented on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Climate change, in all its aspects, remains a major focus of the Earth Institute today, and our scientists continue to make groundbreaking discoveries in earth and environmental science.

But the work we do goes far beyond unearthing new information and detailing the problems that humanity faces; we are also deeply invested in finding ways to fix those problems. Our centers and programs are:

On Earth Day and every day, the Earth Institute works to understand and protect our planet. Join us this Earth Day and be part of the solution.

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