Features Archive - Page 2 of 6 - State of the Planet

The 2015 Paris Climate Summit

The nations of the world meet in Paris starting Nov. 30 to discuss how to confront climate change. The goal: Keep global temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. Many scientists feel that is already impossible. But the United States, China and many other nations have committed to trying. The Earth Institute… read more

TRACES of Change in the Arctic

The U.S. GEOTRACES program in the Arctic Ocean is part of a multi-nation effort to study marine trace elements. Studying these elements can help us understand the biogeochemical responses to rapid climate change. Lamont-Doherty geochemist Tim Kenna is aboard the research vessel Healy.

Wide Ocean, Tiny Creatures

Scientists from a number of research institutions are participating in an expedition aboard the R/V L’Atalante to study how microorganisms in the South Pacific Ocean influence the carbon cycle. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory graduate student Kyle Frischkorn is among them; his goal is to assess how the microorganism Trichodesmium and other microbes interact, and the resulting physiological and biogeochemical impacts these processes have on marine ecosystems.

Greenland Thaw

Measuring Change

Greenland’s ice sheets are shrinking faster than ever, responsible for about a quarter of sea-level rise globally. Alison Glacier on Greenland’s northwestern coast is one place where ice flow to the sea has sped up. From a tiny hunting and fishing village in the Upernavik Islands, scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will take ocean measurements to understand why Alison is surging to the sea faster than nearby glaciers. They will also work with villagers to continue data collection when they’re gone.

Sculpting Tropical Peaks

Many tropical mountains have the same shape—steep, rugged slopes capped by wide, flat summits. Were these landscapes shaped by tectonic forces from below? Or by intense glacial erosion from above? Graduate student Maxwell Cunningham and scientist Mike Kaplan are collecting glacial debris from Costa Rica’s 12,000-foot Cerro Chirripó to test their idea that mountain glaciers carved Chirripó’s peak into the shape we see today, similar to beveled summits in Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.

Opening the South China Sea

The South China Sea is one of the most geopolitically contested marine realms on earth. But it is also of keen interest to geologists who want to understand how this ocean basin, bordered by China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, opened up. On an International Ocean Discovery Program cruise aboard the JOIDES Resolution, scientists drill through seafloor sediments to understand how the basin reached its present form.

Geopoetry

Kat Allen, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, started writing poems about science as a graduate student, in part to make studying for qualifying exams less painfully serious. At Lamont, she sent out a poem with each week’s reminder about the geochemistry department’s coffee social hour. Her “Geopoetry” blog grew from there because, she says, “It was just too much fun to stop.”

Arctic Sea Ice Ecology

Polar ice is home to large communities of algae that thrive in the frigid Arctic environment. These tiny organisms have a big impact on the marine ecosystem and the entire planet — including us. Andy Juhl and Craig Aumack, scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, went to Barrow, Alaska to study algae in and below sea ice, and to learn more about how our warming climate may impact these important organisms.

Peering Through Polar Ice

Scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have designed a set of ice imaging instruments — called “IcePod” — small enough to hitch a ride on planes flying over both poles on routine missions. IcePod will help scientists to understand how quickly the ice sheets are changing as climate warms and what this will mean for global sea levels.

Hurricane Sandy

What was behind perhaps the worst natural disaster to hit the Northeast seaboard in recent history? How likely is it that we’ll see more superstorms in the future? How could we have been better prepared? The science and the lessons of Hurricane Sandy, through the eyes of researchers at the Earth Institute.