(First published on Feb. 14, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
Aaron Putnam sits atop a boulder high in the Sierras of central California, banging away with hammer and chisel to chip out a sample of ice age history. Each hunk of rock is a piece of a vast puzzle: How did our climate system behave the last time it warmed up like it’s doing today?
Filed under Climate, Science
Horses near Lake Dali, in Inner Mongolia. Scientists studying the lake have concluded that the size of the lake has changed dramatically over the distant past, due to changes in the climate and resulting shifts in the annual monsoon. Photo: Yonaton Goldsmith
(First published on Feb. 6, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The annual summer monsoon that drops rain onto East Asia, an area with about a billion people, has shifted dramatically in the distant past, at times moving northward by as much as 400 kilometers and doubling rainfall in that northern reach. The monsoon’s changes over the past 10,000 years likely altered the course of early human cultures in China, say the authors of a new study.
(First published on Feb. 2, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
More than 85 percent of the ocean floor remains unmapped, leaving us in the dark about much of the earth’s topography. A global, non-profit effort will try to remedy that by 2030. The effort will affect everything from climate research and weather prediction to mineral resource exploration and fisheries.
(First published on June 16, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
A new initiative aims to help homeowners in New Jersey cope with arsenic contamination in private wells—a problem that has only come to light in recent years, and about which many homeowners are still unaware.
In a series of fact sheets and student-produced videos, the project provides important information about the problem to help homeowners understand what may be going on, and how to clean up their water. To watch the videos and read up on the problem, go to the New Jersey Arsenic Awareness Initiative website.
An animation created by Vicki Ferrini of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of the topography of a new island formed by an explosive volcano in the southwestern Pacific.
(First published on May 4, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
One of the earth’s newest islands exploded into view from the bottom of the southwest Pacific Ocean in January 2015, and scientists sailing around the volcano this spring have created a detailed map of its topography. You can see an animation of the volcano, mostly underwater, by clicking on the above image.
(First published on April 13, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
Vicki Ferrini has spent a lot of time working on mapping the ocean floor, and now she’s sailing in the South Pacific to get a closer look.
Ferrini, who works in the Marine Geology and Geophysics Division of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is sailing aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor. Scientists aboard the research vessel are exploring the life around hydrothermal vent systems 2,400 meters beneath the surface of the South Pacific Ocean. And, they’re blogging about it.
Ferrini posted the latest dispatch at the American Geophysical Union website. The ship is hovering over the Lau Back-arc Basin, between Tonga and Fiji and next to the Tonga Trench, where the Pacific plate drives under the Australian Plate.
The video above takes you there via some sophisticated mapping to one of the thermal vents that they are studying.
Filed under Science, Stories
Osman Ghani, 60, and his wife Rehana Begum, 50, both suffer from arsenic-related health conditions. They live in Balia village, in the Barisal District, south of Dhaka. A Human Rights Watch investigation found many villagers have little or no access to health care for such conditions. Photo: © 2016 Atish Saha for Human Rights Watch
(First published on April 7-8, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
Two decades after arsenic was found to be contaminating drinking water across Bangladesh, tens of millions of people are still exposed to the deadly chemical. Now a new report from the group Human Rights Watch charges that this is in part because the nation’s government “is failing to adequately respond” to the issue, and that political favoritism and neglect have corrupted the government’s efforts.
The report says Bangladesh’s health system largely ignores the health impacts of arsenic exposure. An estimated 43,000 people die each year from arsenic-related illness in Bangladesh, according to one earlier study. But the government identifies people with arsenic-related illnesses primarily via skin lesions, the report says, although the vast majority of those with arsenic-related illnesses don’t develop them. Those exposed are at significant risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and lung disease as a result, but many receive no health care at all.
“Bangladesh isn’t taking basic, obvious steps to get arsenic out of the drinking water of millions of its rural poor,” said Richard Pearshouse, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The government acts as though the problem has been mostly solved, but unless the government and Bangladesh’s international donors do more, millions of Bangladeshis will die from preventable arsenic-related diseases.”
A rendering of Climate City, the first research center solely dedicated to climate change, in Lorraine, France, at a former NATO airport. Architect: Agence d’Architecture A. Béchu
(First published on March 9, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
Sometime soon, a flock of “Climate Birds” could be ascending from a former NATO base in northeast France to take the measure of climate change around the world.
The Chambley-Planet Air Base, located in the Meurthe-et-Moselle département, about 10 miles west of the city of Metz, has more recently been the site of mass flights of hot air balloons that paint the sky with bright colors during a biennial festival. But the vision of Earth Institute scientist Yves Tourre and Laurent Husson, his partner and Climate City’s CEO, would turn part of the base into “Climate City”: a center for research on the local and regional impacts of climate change.
Undersea mountains near the Hawaiian Islands, from the Marine Geoscience Data System. Images of the mountains and nearby seafloor are derived from sonar readings taken along the paths sailed by research ships. (Click on this and the other images for higher resolution.)
(First published on Jan. 7, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
The bottom of the ocean just keeps getting better. Or at least more interesting to look at.
In an ongoing project, mappers at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have been gathering data from hundreds of research cruises and turning it all into accessible maps of the ocean floor with resolutions down to 25 meters.
You can see some of the results here, at a mapping site that allows scientists—and you—to zero in on a particular location, zoom in and download topographical maps of the ocean floor. The Lamont data has also contributed to the latest version of Google ocean map, which now offers its own more closely resolved view of the ocean floor globally. (You can take a quick tour of the updated Google map here.)
By Kevin Krajick and David Funkhouser
International health experts have called it the largest mass poisoning in history, and it is still underway. Some 100 million people in southeast Asia have been drinking from shallow wells originally drilled to provide germ-free water; but many turned out to be contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic.
Despite efforts to understand the natural processes at work, and provide safer water, many are still being poisoned, due to scant resources, poor information at local levels, and the sheer numbers of people and wells involved. The result: a slow-burning epidemic of heart disease, cancers, lung problems and compromised child development.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Mailman School of Public Health have been on the front lines of the issue since 2000. They are currently leading a wide range of initiatives, including long-term health programs, continued drilling of safer wells, education and continuing investigations into the geology of arsenic contamination.