Columbia Climate News
Determining the role of climate in the spread of certain diseases can assist health officials in “forecasting” epidemics. New research on meningitis incidence in sub-Saharan Africa pinpoints wind and dust conditions as predictors of the disease. The results may help in developing vaccination strategies that aim to prevent meningitis outbreaks, such as the 1996-1997 epidemic that killed 25,000 people.
Increasing heat is expected to extend dry conditions to far more farmland and cities by the end of the century than changes in rainfall alone, says a new study. Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to increase, say the researchers.
The Columbia Water Center, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, announced today the release of a new white paper, “Assessment of Groundwater Level Trends across the United States,” that analyzes long-term groundwater trends across the United States. The study found that historic groundwater levels have declined across much of the country over the last 60 years, suggesting that current groundwater management is broadly unsustainable. The paper was released as part of the Water Center’s new “America’s Water Initiative.”
Bess Koffman, a postdoctoral researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is testing the idea that iron-rich sediments from New Zealand were a significant source of dust to the southern Pacific Ocean during the last ice age. Working with Lamont glacial geologist Michael Kaplan, geochemists Steven Goldstein and Gisela Winckler, and Cornell climate modeler Natalie Mahowald, Koffman is comparing dust samples from New Zealand and Antarctica with other potential dust-source continents.
by Michael Shirber, for Astrobiology Magazine Wind and dust conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa can help predict a meningitis epidemic. Determining the role of climate in the spread of certain diseases can assist health officials in “forecasting” epidemics. New research on meningitis incidence in sub-Saharan Africa pinpoints wind and dust conditions as predictors of the disease.
In something as tiny as a speck of dust lies the potential to change earth’s climate. When winds blow iron-rich dust off the continents, they give the plant-like algae floating on the surface of the oceans added nutrients to grow faster. Large algal blooms can draw down carbon from the atmosphere, and in extreme cases, cool earth’s climate.
Researchers studying the rings of ancient trees in mountainous central Mongolia think they may have gotten at the mystery of how small bands of nomadic Mongol horsemen united to conquer much of the world within a span of decades, 800 years ago. The rise of the great leader Genghis Khan and the start of the largest contiguous empire in human history was propelled by a temporary run of nice weather.The rings show that exactly when the empire rose, the normally cold, arid steppes of central Asia saw their mildest, wettest weather in more than 1,000 years.
A climate scientist who has suggested how mountain building can lower Earth’s thermostat and why ice ages sometimes wax and wane at different speeds has been awarded one of geology’s oldest and most coveted prizes: the British Wollaston Medal. The first woman to win a Wollaston, Maureen Raymo, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, joins the company of Victorian giants Charles Darwin and Louis Agassiz, and major 20th-century figures including climatologist Sir Nicholas Shackleton and James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis.
In the limestone outcrops of Italy’s Apennine Mountains, geologist Walter Alvarez collected some of the earliest evidence that a massive fireball falling from space some 66 million years ago was responsible for killing off the dinosaurs. For years, geologists have trekked there to study that event and others imprinted in these rocks. Led by Steven Goldstein and Sidney Hemming, scientists at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and visiting scientist David Barbeau, students recently touched evidence of undersea mudslides, the drying of the Mediterranean Sea, and several extinction crises, including the one that ended the Age of Dinosaurs.
In spring 2010, the research icebreaker Polarstern returned from the South Pacific with a scientific treasure—ocean sediments from a largely unexplored part of the vast, remote ocean that surrounds Antarctica—the Southern Ocean. What happens in the Southern Ocean can affect the carbon budget of the entire planet. The new sediment cores from the South Pacific allowed researchers from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory look at a million years of climate history from this key area of the planet.
In spring 2010, the research icebreaker Polarstern returned from the South Pacific with a scientific treasure—ocean sediments from a largely unexplored part of the vast, remote ocean that surrounds Antarctica—the Southern Ocean.
Sonya Dyhrman’s interest in marine biology began when she was a child, exploring tidal pools with her grandfather on the coast near her Tacoma.
Mono Lake sits above 6,000 feet, just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and not far from the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park. It is among the oldest lakes in the United States: at least 760,000 years old, possibly as old as 3 million years. But Mono Lake is a landscape caught on the edge: Growing Los Angeles, thirsty for more water, began tapping the streams that feed the lake in 1941, using only gravity to send the water through culverts, tunnels and pipes to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, 350 miles south to the city.
As a scientist, Sean Solomon has studied Mercury, Venus and Mars. Now he heads Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, whose researchers study planet Earth, from its deepest ocean to its highest peak.
Solomon arrives at Columbia from the Carnegie Institute, where he was its principal investigator for research with NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the origin of life on Earth and its potential for existing elsewhere.
The year since Hurricane Sandy blew ashore in the New York area has been one of rebuilding and searching for how best to prevent the level of destruction and death it brought with it.
When scientists talk about climate change, they usually mean significant changes in the measures of climate over several decades or longer. Climate variability generally refers to seasonal changes over a year or so.
As the average local temperature continues to rise, climate change is a major topic on campus this summer. It is the focus of the Hertog Global Strategy Initiative, an annual interdisciplinary program that uses historical analysis to examine problems in world politics.