Tag Archives: history

Japan’s Natural Hazards

Lamont-Doherty experts

discuss science behind

Japan’s earthquakes

First published on the Earth Institute and Lamont-Doherty web sites on March 30, 2011.

The Great Japan Earthquake: Where Did Scientists Go Wrong? from Earth Institute on Vimeo.

In the two and a half weeks since a massive earthquake struck Japan, scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have been immersed in both studying the quake, and reaching out to the media and other organizations to explain what happened. Other Earth Institute experts have added their voices to the public conversation about natural hazards, preparedness and nuclear power.

Can we ever be prepared enough for such events? The Japanese were as experienced as any people on the planet when it comes to dealing with earthquakes. Yet they were caught off-guard by a once-in-a-thousand-year event. In a matter of hours, that same event washed ashore on the U.S. West Coast, a relatively minor reminder that we, too, may not always be ready when the power of natural forces takes charge.
The jolt in Japan stunned even scientists who’ve studied earthquakes all their lives. Chris Scholz, a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory professor with decades of experience looking at how earthquakes work, said he had thought a 9.0 magnitude quake like the one that struck near Sendai, Japan, was “impossible” in that area (see video). But it turns out the last comparable earthquake shook the same region in the year 869 and pushed a tsunami miles into the interior. Scientists were humbled by the realization that they simply had not looked back far enough to gauge the probability of such a huge event.

Leave a comment

Filed under Science, Stories

As the Dead Sea Dries, Drilling Shows It’s Not the First Time

First published Dec. 22, 2010, on the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory web site: www.ldeo.columbia.edu.

Sediment cores taken from the Dead Sea indicate the area has dried up almost completely, probably in conjunction with the recession of glaciers. In the middle of a relatively dry period, the lake is under additional stress now from human consumption. (Photo: Adi Torfstein)

In the first project of its kind, scientists are drilling deep into the bed of the fast-shrinking Dead Sea, searching for clues to past climate changes and other events that may have affected human history back through Biblical times and before. In one early discovery, they have found that the sea has come and gone in the past—a revelation with powerful implications for the current Mideast.

Spanning Israel and Jordan, the inland Dead Sea is earth’s lowest-lying spot on land, with shores some 1,400 feet below ocean level, and hyper-salty waters going down another 1,200 feet or more. Beneath  lie deep deposits of salts and sediments fed by the Jordan River drainage. The drilling, some 10 years in the making, is being conducted by investigators from Israel, the United States, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Norway.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate, Environment, Science, Stories

COMPLICITY

 

17_cover

How Connecticut Chained Itself to Slavery 

Published Sept. 29, 2002, this special issue of Northeast magazine unlocked a side of slavery, and of Connecticut history, that had never been clearly told. The 80-page edition has been used as a teaching tool in schools throughout the state and turned into a book, and it won the Sigma Delta Chi Public Service Award for magazine journalism in 2002. Editing and writing for this issue was one of the highlights of my career, and changed my way of thinking.

Here’s one example: Tiffany’s, the New York icon of wealth and status, was founded as a dry goods store by two young men from Connecticut. Their fathers staked them to the venture with profits earned in their mills, which took cotton picked by slaves in the South and turned it into coarse “negro cloth,” sold back to slaveowners to clothe their “property.” 

Leave a comment

Filed under Projects