State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Highlights from the 2019 Lamont Open House

On Saturday, October 5, Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory opened its doors to the public once again. Open House is a tradition that dates all the way back to 1949, allowing scientists at Lamont to share their research with the rest of the world via interactive, hands-on demonstrations and engaging talks. This year’s Open House attracted more than 3,000 visitors and, just like research at Lamont, covered a vast range of subjects and regions, from under the sea to the surface of the moon. Below you can see a few examples of all the fun we had. 

interactive activity about storm surge
At this activity focused on the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, kids learn how wetlands and other natural obstacles can help prevent flooding and storm surges in coastal areas. Photo: Kyu Lee
moon meteorite
One exhibit let visitors touch rocks from outer space. Shown here is a slice of a meteorite that sprayed off of the moon during a collision and later landed on Earth. Photo: Sarah Fecht
meteorite slice
Closeup of a slice of pallasite meteorite. Made of olivine and metal, this meteorite is believed to have come from the boundary between the core and mantle of a small planet. Photo: Phebe Pierson

The demonstration in the gif above shows the land deformations that can build up along subduction zones, where two tectonic plates collide and one sinks under the other. Lamont’s Mike Steckler, Leonardo Seeber, and Bar Oryan are part of a team that’s studying these processes in Bangladesh, to better understand the chances of a large earthquake striking in this densely populated region. Image: Bar Oryan

core map
Lamont-Doherty’s Core Repository is one of the most extensive collections of deep sea sediment cores in the world. Here, a Barnard College undergraduate shows off a map of hundreds of sites where Lamont scientists have drilled into the seabed to collect the cores, which provide a window into past climate conditions. Photo: Sarah Fecht
sediment cores
These deep sea cores contain sediments that were deposited 230 million years ago. The layers within the core samples contain a record of plate tectonics, volcanic eruptions, global climate change, and more. Photo: Phebe Pierson
microfossils under microscope
The tiny fossils under this microscope came from a deep sea sediment core. Their shells provide clues about the temperature, acidity, and CO2 conditions in the ocean millions of years ago. Photo: Sarah Fecht

child in inflatable raft
A scientist volunteer in the Biology and Paleo Environment exhibit shows visitors a raft similar to the ones they use when heading out to take core samples from the bottoms of lakes. Photo: Phebe Pierson
magnetometer demo
A visitor waves a wrench to disrupt the readings from a magnetometer, which researchers in Lamont’s Electromagnetic Geophysics Lab use to measure the electrical conductivity through the earth. This information, combined with magnetic field measurements, has helped the team to study water flow under the Antarctic ice sheet and to discover a freshwater aquifer under the sea. Photo: Sarah Fecht

tree cores
Visitors to the Tree-Ring Lab learned about how dendrochronology—the study of tree-rings—works. Scientists drill a small core from a tree’s trunk and use markers within the tree-rings to learn about the history and climate of the tree’s native area. Photo: Phebe Pierson
tree ring lab
A young boy views tree rings up close under a microscope in the Tree-Ring Lab. Photo: Phebe Pierson

robin bell
Geophysicist Robin Bell shows off a jacket she designed depicting a lunar landing and a gravimeter used to measure the moon’s gravity. Photo: Kyu Lee
heat flow experiment
In July of 1971, Lamont’s lunar heat flow experiment landed on the moon with Apollo 15. Set up by astronauts on the moon’s surface, the experiment allowed scientists to measure how heat flows within the moon, in order to learn more about its geological history. The equipment remains on the moon to this day. Photo: Sarah Fecht

students and poster
Daniel Dusevic (right) and Andrew Terraciano, juniors at Pelham Memorial High School, stand in front of a poster that details their yearlong project testing dozens of households in Pelham, Bronx for lead contamination in soil, paint and water. Photo: Kyu Lee
volunteer showing seeds
A volunteer in the Biology and Paleo Environment tent shows a future scientist samples of seeds and leaves from different kinds of plants found in bog environments. Photo: Phebe Pierson

soil samples
As part of a study on lead contamination in soils, researchers encouraged participants to bring samples from their backyard in ziplock bags to be tested on site. Levels could be determined in a few minutes. Photo: Kyu Lee
glacier erratic
During the last ice age, about 18,000 years ago, New York was buried under a mile or so of ice. Lamont glacial geologist Mike Kaplan led a tour explaining how we can spot the traces left behind by the ice sheet as it retreated. One way is by looking for glacial erratics — rocks that don’t quite belong. Since the area around the campus is mostly made up of dark volcanic rocks, the white rock in this photo was likely carried into the area by the advancing ice sheet, and left behind as it retreated. Photo: Sarah Fecht
glacial erratic
One of these rocks is not like the others. Can you spot the glacial erratic? Photo: Sarah Fecht
coke mentos eruption
Henry Towbin, who studies magma at Lamont, shows visitors how a Plinian volcanic eruption happens, using Mentos candy and Coca-Cola. Photo: Phebe Pierson

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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