Lamont - Doherty Earth Observatory Columbia University
Recent publications
Seafloor methane emissions can affect Earth’s climate and ocean chemistry. Vast quantities of methane formed by microbial decomposition of organic matter are locked within gas hydrate and free gas on continental slopes, particularly in large areas with high sediment accumulations such as deep-sea fans. The release of methane in slope environments has frequently been associated with dissociation of gas hydrates near the edge of the gas hydrate stability zone on the upper slope, with discharges in greater water depths less understood. Here we show, using data from the Rio Grande Cone (western South Atlantic), that the intrinsic, gravity-induced downslope collapse of thick slope sediment accumulations creates structures that serve as pathways for gas migration, unlocking methane and causing seafloor emissions via giant gas flares in the water column. The observed emissions in the study region (up to 310 Mg year⁻¹) are three times greater than estimates for the entire US North Atlantic margin and reveal the importance of collapsing sediment accumulations for ocean carbon cycling. Similar outgassing systems on the Amazon and Niger fans suggest that gravity tectonics on passive margins is a common yet overlooked mechanism driving massive seafloor methane emissions in sediment-laden continental slopes.
With over 700 million km² Siberia is the largest expanse of the northern boreal forest—deciduous‐needleleaf larch. Temperatures are increasing across this region, but the consequences to carbon balances are not well understood for larch forests. We present flux measurements from a larch forest near the southern edge of Central‐Siberia where permafrost degradation and ecosystem shifts are already observed. Results indicate net carbon exchanges are influenced by the seasonality of permafrost active layers, temperature and humidity, and soil water availability. During periods when surface soils are fully thawed, larch forest is a significant carbon sink. During the spring‐thaw and fall‐freeze transition, there is a weak signal of carbon uptake at mid‐day. Net carbon exchanges are near‐zero when the soil is fully frozen from the surface down to the permafrost. We fit an empirical ecosystem functional model to quantify the dependence of larch‐forest carbon balance on climatic drivers. The model provides a basis for ecosystem carbon budgets over time and space. Larch differs from boreal evergreens by having higher maximum productivity and lower respiration, leading to an increased carbon sink. Comparison to previous measurements from another northern larch site suggests climate change will result in an increased forest carbon sink if the southern larch subtype replaces the northern subtype. Observations of carbon fluxes in Siberian larch are still too sparse to adequately determine age dependence, inter‐annual variability, and spatial heterogeneity though they suggest that boreal larch accounts for a larger fraction of global carbon uptake than has been previously recognized.
Oceanic transient tracers, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and sulfur‐hexafluoride (SF6), trace the propagation of intermediate‐to‐abyssal water masses in the ocean interior. Their temporal and spatial sparsity, however, has limited their utility in quantifying the global ocean circulation and its decadal variability. The Time‐Correction Method (TCM) presented here is a new approach to leverage the available CFCs and SF6 observations to solve for the Green's functions (GFs) describing the steady‐state transport from the surface to the ocean interior. From the GFs, we reconstruct global tracer concentrations (and associated uncertainties) in the ocean interior at annual resolution (1940–2021). The spatial resolution includes 50 neutral density levels that span the water column along World Ocean Circulation Experiment/Global Ocean Ship‐Based Hydrographic Investigations Program lines. The reconstructed tracer concentrations return a global view of CFCs and SF6 spreading into new regions of the interior ocean, such as the deep north‐western Pacific. For example, they capture the southward spreading and equatorial recirculation of distinct North Atlantic Deep Water components, and the spreading of CFC‐rich Antarctic Bottom Water out of the Southern Ocean and into the North Pacific, East Indian, and West Atlantic. The reconstructed tracer concentrations fit the data in most locations (∼75%), indicating that a steady‐state circulation holds for the most part. Discrepancies between the reconstructed and observed concentrations offer insight into ventilation rate changes on decadal timescales. As an example, we infer decadal changes in Subantartic Mode Water (SAMW) and find an increase in SAMW ventilation from 1992 to 2014, highlighting the skill of the TCM in leveraging the sparse tracer observations.
Tipping points (TPs) in Earth’s climate system have been the subject of increasing interest and concern in recent years, given the risk that anthropogenic forcing could cause abrupt, potentially irreversible, climate transitions. Paleoclimate records are essential for identifying past TPs and for gaining a thorough understanding of the underlying nonlinearities and bifurcation mechanisms. However, the quality, resolution, and reliability of these records can vary, making it important to carefully select the ones that provide the most accurate representation of past climates. Moreover, as paleoclimate time series vary in their origin, time spans, and periodicities, an objective, automated methodology is crucial for identifying and comparing TPs. To address these challenges, we introduce the open-source PaleoJump database, which contains a collection of carefully selected, high-resolution records originating in ice cores, marine sediments, speleothems, terrestrial records, and lake sediments. These records describe climate variability on centennial, millennial and longer time scales and cover all the continents and ocean basins. We provide an overview of their spatial distribution and discuss the gaps in coverage. Our statistical methodology includes an augmented Kolmogorov–Smirnov test and Recurrence Quantification Analysis; it is applied here, for illustration purposes, to selected records in which abrupt transitions are automatically detected and the presence of potential tipping elements is investigated. These transitions are shown in the PaleoJump database along with other essential information about the records, including location, temporal scale and resolution, as well as temporal plots. This open-source database represents, therefore, a valuable resource for researchers investigating TPs in past climates.
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite is expected to observe the sea surface height (SSH) down to scales of ∼10-15 kilometers. While SWOT will reveal submesoscale SSH patterns that have never before been observed on global scales, how to extract the corresponding velocity fields and underlying dynamics from this data presents a new challenge. At these soon-to-be-observed scales, geostrophic balance is not sufficiently accurate, and the SSH will contain strong signals from inertial gravity waves — two problems that make estimating surface velocities non-trivial. Here we show that a data-driven approach can be used to estimate the surface flow, particularly the kinematic signatures of smaller scales flows, from SSH observations, and that it performs significantly better than directly using the geostrophic relationship. We use a Convolution Neural Network (CNN) trained on submesoscale-permitting high-resolution simulations to test the possibility of reconstructing surface vorticity, strain, and divergence from snapshots of SSH. By evaluating success using pointwise accuracy and vorticity-strain joint distributions, we show that the CNN works well when inertial gravity wave amplitudes are weak. When the wave amplitudes are strong, the model may produce distorted results; however, an appropriate choice of loss function can help filter waves from the divergence field, making divergence a surprisingly reliable field to reconstruct in this case. We also show that when applying the CNN model to realistic simulations, pretraining a CNN model with simpler simulation data improves the performance and convergence, indicating a possible path forward for estimating real flow statistics with limited observations.
This volume presents recent advances in our understanding of Mesozoic palaeontology, sedimentology and geochemistry of the Junggar Basin, China. This basin is of particular interest because it provides rare insights into life on the continents from a region that was at high latitudes during the Triassic and Jurassic.
We evaluate the decadal evolution of ventilation and anthropogenic carbon (Cant) in the Nordic Seas between 1982 and the 2010s. Ventilation changes on decadal timescale are identified by evaluating decadal changes in mean ages and apparent oxygen utilization in each of the four main basins of the Nordic Seas (the Greenland and Iceland Seas, and the Norwegian and Lofoten Basins). The ages are derived from the transient time distribution approach, based on the transient tracers chlorofluorocarbon‐12 (CFC‐12) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). The different decades show different phases in ventilation, with the 2000s being overall better ventilated than the 1990s in all basins. For the Greenland Sea, we also show that the 2010s are better ventilated than the 2000s, with a clear shift in hydrographic properties. The evolution of concentrations and inventory of Cant is linked to the ventilation state. The deep waters get progressively older over the analyzed period, which is connected to the increased fraction of deep water from the Arctic Ocean.
The primary phase of the Earth’s lower mantle, (Al, Fe)‐bearing bridgmanite, transitions to the post‐perovskite (PPv) phase at Earth’s deep mantle conditions. Despite extensive experimental and ab initio investigations, there are still important aspects of this transformation that need clarification. Here, we address this transition in (Al³⁺, Fe³⁺)‐, (Al³⁺)‐, (Fe²⁺)‐, and (Fe³⁺)‐bearing bridgmanite using ab initio calculations and validate our results against experiments on similar compositions. Consistent with experiments, our results show that the onset transition pressure and the width of the two‐phase region depend distinctly on the chemical composition: (a) Fe³⁺‐, Al³⁺‐, or (Al³⁺, Fe³⁺)‐alloying increases the transition pressure, while Fe²⁺‐alloying has the opposite effect; (b) in the absence of coexisting phases, the pressure‐depth range of the Pv‐PPv transition is likely too broad to cause a sharp D” discontinuity (<30 km); (c) the average Clapeyron slope of the two‐phase regions are consistent with previous measurements, calculations in MgSiO3, and inferences from seismic data. In addition, (d) we observe a softening of the bulk modulus in the two‐phase region. The consistency between our results and experiments gives us the confidence to proceed and examine this transition in aggregates with different compositions computationally, which will be fundamental for resolving the most likely chemical composition of the D" region by analyses of tomographic images.
Plain Language Summary Adequate simulations of rainfall extremes are essential for climate models to be useful for assessing regional climate impacts. However, notable biases exist in climate model simulations of Asian monsoon rainfall extremes and their spatial distributions. In the current work, we find that models with finer horizontal resolutions (smaller grid spacing) correct substantially the dry biases that are common in coarse resolution model simulations. The improvement is mainly through better simulations of rainfall extremes along the windward side of the steep topography such as the foothills of Himalayas, and over heavy monsoon regions including central India, southern China, the East Asian shorelines, and western North Pacific. Further analysis indicates that the enhanced extreme rainfall in high‐resolution models is associated with intensified vertical ascents during the occurrence of rainfall events and is attributable to more frequent and stronger monsoon low‐pressure systems, which are among the most important heavy rain‐bearing meteorological systems in the Asian summer monsoon regions.
Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) stores heat and gases over decades to centuries after contact with the atmosphere during formation on the Antarctic shelf and subsequent flow into the global deep ocean. Dense water from the western Ross Sea, a primary source of AABW, shows changes in water properties and volume over the last few decades. Here we show, using multiple years of moored observations, that the density and speed of the outflow are consistent with a release from the Drygalski Trough controlled by the density in Terra Nova Bay (the “accelerator”) and the tidal mixing (the “brake”). We suggest tides create two peaks in density and flow each year at the equinoxes and could cause changes of ~ 30% in the flow and density over the 18.6-year lunar nodal tide. Based on our dynamic model, we find tides can explain much of the decadal variability in the outflow with longer-term changes likely driven by the density in Terra Nova Bay.
The authors describe a tropical cyclone risk model for the Philippines, using methods that are open-source and can be straightforwardly generalized to other countries. Wind fields derived from historical observations, as well as those from an environmentally-forced tropical cyclone hazard model are combined with data representing exposed value and vulnerability to determine asset losses. Exposed value is represented by the LitPop dataset, which assumes total asset value is distributed across a country following population density and nightlights data. Vulnerability is assumed to follow a functional form previously proposed by Emanuel (2011), with free parameters chosen by a sensitivity analysis in which simulated and historical reported damages are compared for different parameter values, and further constrained by information from household surveys about regional building characteristics. Use of different vulnerability parameters for the region around Manila yields much better agreement between simulated and actually reported losses than does a single set of parameters for the entire country. Despite the improvements from regionally refined vulnerability, the model predicts no losses for a substantial number of destructive historical storms, a difference the authors hypothesize is due to the use of wind speed as the sole metric of tropical cyclone hazard, omitting explicit representation of storm surge and/or rainfall. Bearing these limitations in mind, this model can be used to estimate return levels for tropical cyclone-caused wind hazards and asset losses for regions across the Philippines, relevant to some disaster risk reduction and management tasks; this model also provides a platform for further development of open-source tropical cyclone risk modeling.
A continental rift is a nascent plate boundary where the lithosphere is thinned by tectonic activity. Some continental rifts undergo extension to the point that they generate a new ocean basin, whereas others can cease activity altogether. However, the mechanisms that determine rift success or failure remain debated. In this Review, we discuss fundamental rift processes, geodynamic forces and their tectonic interactions and identify the mechanisms that lead to the large variety of rifts on Earth. Rifting initiates through multiscale exploitation of inherited weaknesses, generating dynamic spatiotemporal competition, cessation or localization of rift structures. Progressive thinning of the lithosphere prompts continuous changes in the rift system force balance and prevents a steady-state configuration. Successful continent-scale rifts feature an abrupt and roughly tenfold increase in divergence velocity once the lithosphere is sufficiently weakened. Melt generation during mantle plume impingement can weaken the lithosphere by an order of magnitude, aiding the development of successful rifts. However, at failed rifts, the evolving force balance is dominated by lithospheric strengthening, so that tectonic activity ceases before continental rupture is complete. Outstanding future challenges include unravelling where magmatism is a cause or a consequence of rifting, isolating the tipping points that separate successful from failed rifting and deciphering the interaction of rift tectonics with fluid flow during georesource formation and volatile release.
Purpose of Review The ubiquity of soil contamination by lead (Pb) and arsenic (As) has prompted the development of numerous techniques for its remediation. For human health exposure assessment, oral bioavailability-based methods are the most suitable to assess the efficacy of these treatment strategies, including in vivo relative bioavailability (systemic absorption relative to a toxicity reference) and in vitro bioaccessibility (dissolution in simulated gastrointestinal solutions). This paper provides a critical review of opportunities and challenges associated with the immobilization of Pb and As in contaminated soil. Recent Findings This review identified that the major inorganic and organic amendments used to reduce Pb and As exposure include phosphate, industrial by-products, metal oxides, organic matter, biochar, and treatment with iron sulphate to promote the formation of plumbojarosite in soil. In addition to RBA and IVBA assessment, investigating changes in Pb/As speciation in untreated vs treated soil can provide additional confirmation of treatment efficacy. The results of this review showed that immobilization efficacy may vary depending on amendment type, Pb, and As speciation in soil and the approach used for its assessment. Summary Reducing childhood exposure to Pb and As is a significant challenge, given the variety of contamination sources and treatment strategies. A lines-of-evidence approach using standardized methodologies is recommended for the assessment of immobilization efficacy to ensure exposure and risk reduction Graphical Abstract Bioavailability-based remediation strategies. Popular soil amendments to reduce Pb exposure include phosphate, industrial by-products, metal oxides, organic matter, and biochar; however, these may increase As exposure. The plumbojarosite formation technique has been recently developed to mitigate Pb and As exposure simultaneously. Multiple lines-of-evidence approach is recommended to assess treatment efficacy
Gas exchange between the atmosphere and ocean interior profoundly impacts global climate and biogeochemistry. However, our understanding of the relevant physical processes remains limited by a scarcity of direct observations. Dissolved noble gases in the deep ocean are powerful tracers of physical air-sea interaction due to their chemical and biological inertness, yet their isotope ratios have remained underexplored. Here, we present high-precision noble gas isotope and elemental ratios from the deep North Atlantic (~32°N, 64°W) to evaluate gas exchange parameterizations using an ocean circulation model. The unprecedented precision of these data reveal deep-ocean undersaturation of heavy noble gases and isotopes resulting from cooling-driven air-to-sea gas transport associated with deep convection in the northern high latitudes. Our data also imply an underappreciated and large role for bubble-mediated gas exchange in the global air-sea transfer of sparingly soluble gases, including O2, N2, and SF6. Using noble gases to validate the physical representation of air-sea gas exchange in a model also provides a unique opportunity to distinguish physical from biogeochemical signals. As a case study, we compare dissolved N2/Ar measurements in the deep North Atlantic to physics-only model predictions, revealing excess N2 from benthic denitrification in older deep waters (below 2.9 km). These data indicate that the rate of fixed N removal in the deep Northeastern Atlantic is at least three times higher than the global deep-ocean mean, suggesting tight coupling with organic carbon export and raising potential future implications for the marine N cycle.
Plain Language Summary The structure of Earth’s solid inner core is a fundamental question in understanding the Earth’s interior. Fe is the major element in the Earth’s solid inner core, while its stable phase under inner core conditions is still under debate. The inaccuracy of present ab initio free energy calculations was too large to estimate the small free energy difference between different Fe phases, making this debate unsolved. In this paper, we developed a method to determine Fe’s melting temperatures from ab initio calculations. This was achieved by utilizing a potential fitted to high‐temperature ab initio data and performing a thermodynamic integration from classical systems described by this potential to ab initio systems. This method significantly reduces the uncertainty caused by the finite size effect in the ab initio calculations. Using this method, we calculated the free energy difference and melting temperatures of hcp and bcc Fe under inner‐core boundary and center conditions. We show that the hcp phase is the stable phase of pure Fe throughout the inner core condition. However, the bcc and hcp phases show a very small free energy difference that may be altered by other elements in the inner core.
A long-term (2013-2019) PM2.5 speciation dataset measured in Tianjin, the largest industrial city in northern China, was analyzed with dispersion normalized positive matrix factorization (DN-PMF). The trends of source apportioned PM2.5 were used to assess the effectiveness of source-specific control policies and measures in support of the two China's Clean Air Actions implemented nationwide in 2013-2017 and 2018-2020, respectively. Eight sources were resolved from the DN-PMF analysis: coal combustion (CC), biomass burning, vehicular emissions, dust, steelmaking and galvanizing emissions, a mixed sulfate-rich factor and secondary nitrate. After adjustment for meteorological fluctuations, a substantial improvement in PM2.5 air quality was observed in Tianjin with decreases in PM2.5 at an annual rate of 6.6%/y. PM2.5 from CC decreased by 4.1%/y. The reductions in SO2 concentration, PM2.5 contributed by CC, and sulfate demonstrated the improved control of CC-related emissions and fuel quality. Policies aimed at eliminating winter-heating pollution have had substantial success as shown by reduced heating-related SO2, CC, and sulfate from 2013 to 2019. The two industrial source types showed sharp drops after the 2013 mandated controls went into effect to phaseout outdated iron/steel production and enforce tighter emission standards for these industries. Biomass burning reduced significantly by 2016 and remained low due to the no open field burning policy. Vehicular emissions and road/soil dust declined over the Action's first phase followed by positive upward trends, showing that further emission controls are needed. Nitrate concentrations remained constant although NOX emissions dropped significantly. The lack of a decrease in nitrate may result from increased ammonia emissions from enhanced vehicular NOX controls. The port and shipping emissions were evident implying their impacts on coastal air quality. These results affirm the effectiveness of the Clean Air Actions in reducing primary anthropogenic emissions. However, further emission reductions are needed to meet global health-based air quality standards.
Plain Language Summary Ozone‐depleting substances (ODSs) are chemicals developed in the 1920s and 1930s for use in spray cans, refrigerators and plastic foams. Their commercial use increased rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s, but their phase out is underway since the signing of the Montreal Protocol in the 1987, following the identification of their devastating impact on the stratospheric ozone layer. It is well known that ODSs are powerful greenhouse gases, with the second largest warming effect between 1955 and 2005. However, their relative contribution to past global warming has not been quantified previously using comprehensive climate models. Here we show that ODSs were responsible for roughly a third of late 20th Century global warming, Arctic warming and Arctic sea ice decline. In addition, we find that the impact of ODSs on global temperatures is about 20% larger than expected based on the impacts they have on the radiative balance. The impacts of ODSs peak in the Arctic, while their radiative forcing peaks in the tropics, and thus opposes Arctic warming amplification. These findings enhance our understanding of drivers of past climate change, and highlight the importance of the Montreal Protocol for future climate change mitigation.
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109 members
O. Roger Anderson
  • Biology and Paleoecology
Alton Park Williams
  • Biology and Paleo Environment
Michael S. Steckler
  • Marine Geology and Geophysics
Gerardo J. Iturrino
  • Marine Geology & Geophysics
Richard Seager
  • Ocean and Climate Physics
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