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A Brief History of Ocean Research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Past and Present

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A Brief History of Ocean Research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Past and Present

world ocean day (June 8) Respects the salt water that covers 70 percent of the planet. The oceans host much of the world’s biodiversity, provide an important source of food and other resources, and play an important role in regulating the global climate.

Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is at the forefront of ocean research. Learn more about the work of our scientists in the video below.

The modern scientists in the video come from a rich heritage of ocean exploration – researchers at Lamont have been discovering the oceans’ secrets for decades. Here are some of his history-making contributions to marine science.

Maurice “Doc” Ewing on the research vessel goodWheel with the crew and scientists. Ewing pioneered the use of shock waves to map the ocean floor (later adapted for underwater monitoring of ships and marine life). credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

sea ​​level charting

At the time what was called the Lamont Geological Observatory, established in 1949, little was known about the composition of the ocean floor. The prevailing wisdom was that the ocean floor was flat and featureless, like the bottom of a bathtub. Lamont’s first director, Maurice “Doc” Ewing, sets out to investigate on the research vessel. good. team measured sea depthUsing sound waves on the ocean floor and measuring how long it took for the “echoes” to reflect back to the ship’s detectors.

Mary Tharp with one of her maps

Mary Tharp with one of her maps. Image: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the estate of Mary Tharpy

Mary Tharpo and his colleague Bruce Hazen made history by turning those depth measurements into detailed maps of the ocean floor. He published the first map of the Atlantic seafloor in 1957 and the first map of the entire world’s ocean floor in 1977.

Tharp and Hegen’s maps showed that the ocean floor was flat and featureless. Instead, they charted a globe-girdling series of underwater mountains, valleys and mid-ocean ridges that would later help prove that Earth’s continents move over time.

Tharp's 1957 map of the Atlantic seafloor

Tharp and Hazen’s 1957 map of the Atlantic seafloor. Reproduced with permission of Mary Tharp Maps LLC and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

paving the way for plate tectonics

R/V Conrad1964 .  Walter Pittman aboard

Walter Pittman aboard the research vessel Conrad, 1964

On a research cruise to the South Pacific in 1966, Lamont grad student Walter Pittman made a discovery that would shake the world. ship, alantine, was pulling a magnetometer behind it, capturing the magnetic alignment of the rocks on the ocean floor below. Over the course of millennia, Earth’s poles reverse, and igneous rocks record those magnetic reversals in the alignment of their minerals.

Back at Lamont, when the ship looked at the recording as it crossed the mid-ocean ridge, Pittman realized that the pattern of magnetic reversal was symmetrical, with the mid-ocean ridge as the focal point. He knew almost immediately that he was seeing evidence of ocean floor spreading – that the ocean floor formed from lava on mid-ocean ridges and spread outwards from there. This discovery was necessary to prove that the Earth’s crust is made up of plates that move with time.

Read more about the search here.

digging up Earth’s past climate

Just as the layers of rocks on land have helped reconstruct Earth’s history, sedimentary layers beneath the ocean floor record important information from past millennia. Recognizing this potential, Lamont’s founder, “Doc” Ewing, began extracting vertical samples from the ocean floor in early 1947, with the goal of “one core a dayThe cores are tubes of layers of sediment dug from the bottom of the ocean. The sediments and fossils in each layer can reveal important climatic events, such as volcanic eruptions and periods of warming or cooling, millions of years back.

Today, Lamont’s Core Repository is home to approximately 19,000 cores and is a resource used by scientists around the world. Among the many discoveries that have emerged from the reserves, researchers from Lamont and other universities have Climate signals analyzed To prove that changes in celestial cycles helped drive Earth’s glacial cycles in multiple cores.

People in Core Repository Lab

Source: Core Repository

mapping ocean circulation

Pal Founding, Geochemist in the 1960s Wallace Broker Helped to map global ocean circulation and its powerful effects on climate. They used carbon isotopes to reverse the idea that it takes thousands of years for water to circulate between the shallow and deep areas of the ocean, indicating that instead it took hundreds of years. This work opened up the possibility for oceans to influence climate and vice versa. One of his greatest contributions (besides coining the term “global warming”) was to synthesize a vision he called the “Great Ocean Conveyor” – a circulation pattern whereby warm shallow waters from the tropics transfer heat to the polar, then cool and do sync. and return to the tropics. This conveyor belt plays an important role in controlling the climate.

Using chemical tracers and other data, Bruker laid out a picture of global ocean circulation, and its implications for climate.

Linking oceans and climate

Taro Takahashi at Sea, displays a mock “prize,” circa 1981.

Broker was part of an entire generation of scientists at Lamont who helped refine our understanding of the relationship between the oceans and climate. Among them were geochemists taro takahashi, who helped discover the important role of the ocean in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in some places, while releasing it in others. When Takahashi began his research in the 1950s, scientists knew that the burning of fossil fuels released massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but only about half of the emissions into the atmosphere were expected to be there. . Takahashi and his colleagues analyzed millions of shipboard measurements to find that oceans absorb a quarter of emissions when cold water sinks, and that the carbon can be stored for hundreds of years before being sent back to the surface. is. This work was fundamental in understanding the global dynamics of carbon dioxide.

Unraveling the mysteries of El Nio

The natural climate cycle known as the El Nio–Southern Oscillation affects temperature and precipitation patterns around the world, causing sometimes catastrophic climate events. El Nio’s seasonal weather conditions are driven by sea surface temperatures and wind patterns over the Pacific Ocean, but the physics and timing of the event remained a mystery. 1986 paper by Lamont scientists Mark Kane, Stephen Zebiak and Sean Dolan. The team’s model, which brought together atmospheric and ocean dynamics, was first To explain how the phenomenon works, and to successfully predict the El Nio event. Stefan Zebiak later became Colombia’s second director. International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

The hidden depths of the oceans continue to drop

Today, researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and other parts of Columbia University are revolutionizing our understanding of the global ocean, from the bottom of the ocean floor to the atmosphere and its effects on land. They continue to map the ocean floor and refine our understanding of ocean circulation, carbon uptake, marine ecosystems, tropical cyclones, and how rising sea levels may affect human populations in the future. learn more Here And in the video at the top of the post.


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