Please see group website (link above) for more information.
Like so many other oceanographers, I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the days before the Dodgers left and precipitated the decline of American civilization. I was lucky enough to work on the tropical oceans in the era when we came to understand and predict El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the now famous pattern of interannual climate variability with well-publicized global consequences. Together with then student Steve Zebiak, I devised the first numerical model able to simulate ENSO, and in 1985 we used this model to make the first physically based forecasts of El Niño. Over the years the Zebiak-Cane model has been the primary tool used by many investigators to enhance understanding of ENSO.
Making predictions led to asking what to do with them. So I began to work on the impact of El Niño and other climate variability on human activity, especially agriculture and health. My 1994 paper (with student Gidon Eshel) on the strong effect of El Niño on the maize crop in Zimbabwe has been influential in prompting decision makers to consider climate variability. This line of inquiry led to the creation of the International Research Institute for Seasonal to Interannual Climate Prediction, housed here at Lamont.
While I continue to work on numerical models, equatorial dynamics, El Niño, prediction of climate variations and climate impacts, and global climate issues, my main interests at present are explaining the variations in the paleoclimate record, especially the astoundingly strong abrupt changes and the succession of droughts over the past millennium.
Some of my projects include:
In 1894, Fridjof Nansen, a Norwegian scientist, was surprised to see on an expedition that Arctic sea ice wasn't always white and pristine, but was often discolored by dust and mud. He vowed to return one day to discover where the sediment was coming from. But Nansen never did return, and 100 years later I became intrigued by the same question when I saw the wide expanses of "dirty" ice in the Arctic. As a result, my main research interest is determining the role of sea ice - a transport mechanism unique to the Arctic - in the redistribution of sediments and pollutants in the Arctic. When I sample a floe for sediment or pollutant load, I want to know where it came from, what's happened to it since the ice first formed and where the ice is going to melt and release its incorporated materials.
I am developing and using a variety of methods to find answers to these questions. In a broader view, an unusual combination of environmental conditions in the Arctic exacerbates climate change, ozone depletion and deposition of pollutants. DDT and heavy metals from regions far to the south accumulate in the Arctic marine food chain. I am interested in finding out how warming in the Arctic could affect the pathways and fate of contaminants.
My early enthusiasm for earth sciences was fed by a steady diet of outdoor activities and PBS documentaries. While it rapidly became clear that I would not be the next Jacques Cousteau, I found that I could combine my tastes for backpacking and physics as a geology/geophysics major. As a Harvard undergraduate, I constructed physical models of mountain-building processes between stints as a U.S. Forest Service ranger, then moved to Cambridge, England, where I conducted my Ph.D. research on magma migration in the mantle.
At Lamont, I have been extending magma migration theory into a more general one that describes the interactions between solids and fluids in the earth. Magma migration provides an important link between large-scale mantle convection and petrology/geochemistry and my research seeks to close the gap between these two disciplines. This work also lends new insights into other fluid-flow problems, current research is attempting to extend this theory to investigate dynamic fluid flow in sedimentary basins and groundwater hydrology. My work is primarily computational and my students, colleagues and I are implementing new techniques and technologies to take advantage of parallel computing. With a quantitative basis for fluid-flow research, we hope to integrate this theory with Lamont's strong observational programs in petrology, basin dynamics and groundwater tracer studies.
The Geochemistry faculty study a wide range of processes from the mantle and crust of the Earth, to the soil, water, and air of our environment.
The Geophysics faculty are concerned with the broad range of physical processes affecting the solid Earth, from the core, mantle, and crust to the cryosphere, and carry out related studies of Mercury, Mars, and Earth's moon.