Christopher Small

Lamont Research Professor
Christopher Small
Lamont Research Professor
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
304B Oceanography
61 Route 9W - PO Box 1000




(845) 365-8156

Fields of interest: 

Geophysics; Land Surface Processes, Remote Sensing; Population and Environment.

Research Statement: 

Prior to 1992, the surfaces of Venus and Mars had been mapped in greater detail than the surface of Earth. Recent advances in remote sensing now provide us with detailed maps of seafloor structure and synoptic views of Earth's land surface. Remotely sensed observations also allow us to quantify the spatial and temporal dynamics of the Earth system. Quantifying these dynamics is the first step toward understanding them. Geophysics provides powerful tools and concepts that can be used to quantify and understand the dynamics of the Earth system. My research interests focus on the application of geophysics, remote sensing and spatio-temporal analysis to the study of the Earth system. Remotely sensed observations provide a necessary synoptic complement to field measurements. Similarly, field validation is necessary to calibrate remotely sensed measurements. Field validation also provides justification for travel.

Since coming to Columbia in 1993, My interest in the Earth system has expanded to include its biospheric components. Recognition that the tools and concepts of geophysics can be applied to a wider range of questions has resulted in a number of cross-disciplinary collaborations ranging from tropical deforestation monitoring to urban growth mapping. My current research interests center on the use of satellite remote sensing to quantify changes in Earth's surface and the causes and consequences of these changes. These interests have recently taken me to the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, the North Fiji Basin, the Ethiopian highlands,  the Galapagos Archipelago, the Gobi Desert, the Belize River Basin and the Peruvian Andes.

Some of my projects include:

  • Marine Geophysics: Effects of spreading center migration on ocean basin structure and evolution. ( details )
  • Remote Sensing: Quantifying spatial and temporal dynamics of land surface properties via application of geophysical inverse theory to optical imagery. ( details )
  • Spatial Analysis: Multidimensional coanalysis of continental physiography, land cover, climate, and global population distribution. ( details)
List of Degrees from highest to lowest
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego
University of Texas at Austin
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Secondary Discipline: 

Other Disciplines: 

Selected Publications:
Spatial Scaling of Stable Night Lights, Small, C.; Elvidge, C.; Balk, D.; Montgomery, M. Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume: 115, Issue: 2 p.: 269-280 (2011)
Constraints on asthenospheric flow from the depths of oceanic spreading centers: The East Pacific Rise and the Australian-Antarctic Discordance, Buck, W R; Small, C; Ryan W F B Geochem Geophys Geosyst, Volume: 10 p.: 101029/2009GC002373 (2009)
Spectroscopy of Sediments in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta: Spectral Effects of Moisture, Grain Size and Lithology, Small, C; Steckler, M; Seeber, N; Akhter, H; Goodbred, S; Mia, B; Imam, B Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume: 113 p.: 342-361 (2009)
Comparative analysis of urban reflectance and surface temperature, Small, C. Remote Sensing of Environment Sep 30, Volume: 104, Issue: 2 p.: 168-189 (2006) DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2005.10.029
A global analysis of urban reflectance, Small, C. International Journal of Remote Sensing Feb 20, Volume: 26, Issue: 4 p.: 661-681 (2005)
Continental physiography, climate, and the global distribution of human population, Small, C.; Cohen, J. E. Current Anthropology Apr, Volume: 45, Issue: 2 p.: 269-277 (2004)
The landsat ETM plus spectral mixing space, Small, C. Remote Sensing of Environment Oct 30, Volume: 93, Issue: 1-2 p.: 1-17 (2004) DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2004.06.007
A global analysis of human settlement in coastal zones, Small, C.; Nicholls, R. J. Journal of Coastal Research Sum, Volume: 19, Issue: 3 p.: 584-599 (2003)
Plate-kinematic explanation for mid-oceanic-ridge depth discontinuities, Small, C.; Danyushevsky, L. V. Geology May, Volume: 31, Issue: 5 p.: 399-402 (2003)
Estimation of urban vegetation abundance by spectral mixture analysis, Small, C. International Journal of Remote Sensing May 10, Volume: 22, Issue: 7 p.: 1305-1334 (2001)
Holocene volcanism and the global distribution of human population, Small, C.; Naumann, T. Environmental Hazards, Volume: 3 p.: 93-109 (2001)