Noon Balloon Lecture Series Spring 2011

The weekly NOON BALLOON lecture series provides undergraduates in the Earth and environmental sciences, and anyone else who is interested, a look at the breadth of research being conducted in these fields. Lecturers are research scientists/faculty and graduate students who will talk about their current research and how it ultimately contributes to the understanding of our planet.

Spring 2011 Schedule

Tuesdays 12:15-1:00pm in Room 417 Schermerhorn Hall

You are welcome to bring your lunch.

 Jan 25

Neil Pederson - Spidey Sense? Bah! Sensitive Trees and the Environmental Histories they Reveal

How unusual are the recent changes in the global environment? An answer to this question requires historical context for a better understanding of the natural variability of Earth processes. Scientists are increasingly turning to dendrochronology, or tree-ring analysis, to derive historical context for today's environmental change. During this talk I will reveal characteristics of old trees, the most important substrate for dendrochronology, and then discuss the varied studies by the Tree Ring Laboratory of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, from climate to ecology and geology, while highlight ongoing studies and findings.

 Feb 1

Christopher Small - Infrared Earth

Summary: What can satellites see? What can't satellites see? What does Earth look like in infrared light? What can decades of visible and infrared satellite imagery tell us about how Earth has changed over the last 30 years? A global overview of remote sensing, optics and change.

 Feb 8

Ajit Subramaniam - Great Rivers and Changing Oceans

Summary: The ten largest rivers in the world contribute 38% of all riverine input into the oceans. Their plumes extend 100’s to 1000’s of kilometers offshore and are important conduits for terrigenous nutrients to the oceans. Direct anthropogenic activity through land and water use change as well as indirect climate change effects are altering the chemistry of these rivers and consequently the marine ecosystem influenced by the plumes. We have to understand the biogeochemical cycles affected by these river plumes in order to predict changes to the marine ecosystem in the future. The implications of changes to the global carbon and nitrogen cycles associated with changes to these river plumes will be presented.

 Feb 15

Tony Del Genio - Will a Warmer World Be Stormier?

Summary: Earth is expected to continue to warm by a few degrees over the next century because of increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. A few degrees - what's the big deal? One reason a small warming may be important is its effect on storms of various kinds - nor'easters, hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes. Will there be more of them in a warmer climate? Will they be stronger? Will it matter? I will discuss why Earth has storms in the first place, what our climate models can and cannot yet tell us about how they will change in the future, and how we should think about individual extreme events that have occurred in recent years.

 Feb 22

Peter Schlosser - Life in the Greenhouse World: Lessons from a Rapidly Changing Arctic

Summary: There is broad consensus that anthropogenic forcing has led to significant climate change and that under reasonable scenarios further climate change will occur in the near- and long-term future. Global projections have suggested early on that in the Arctic such changes would be visible early on through amplified signals. Indeed observations conducted in many of the Arctic subsystems are now showing environmental change of unprecedented scope. In this talk the recent observations of change in the Arctic are reviewed and likely future scenarios are discussed. Expected changes in the climate system are placed into the context of interlinked changes in the other domains of the Arctic including the anthrosphere. Known and possible future impacts of the observed changes on the Arctic system itself and on lower latitudes are presented.

 Mar 1

Lex van Geen - Field Measurements for Reducing Toxic Environmental Exposures in Developing Countries

Summary: Using examples from two on-going field studies, I will show how more widespread use of relatively simple field kits could dramatically reduce human exposure to arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh and to lead from mine tailings in Peru.

 Mar 8


Adam Sobel - Tropical Intraseasonal Oscillations

Summary: In many parts of the tropics, the climate is monsoonal. This means that during part of the year, the weather becomes much rainier and the wind changes direction, blowing from the west instead of the east. This is true over large portions of the tropical oceans as well as some land regions, like India, that are more famous for monsoons. However, during the rainy season it does not rain continuously in these places, but rather rainy periods a couple of weeks long alternate with drier periods. The rainy and dry phases of these "intraseasonal oscillations" propagate from west to east, and sometimes from south to north, with a whole cycle taking 30-60 days. These oscillations were first discovered in the early 1970s; since then we have developed some skill (not that much, but some) in predicting them, but still do not understand their basic physics - why they exist in the first place and how they work. I will discuss this phenomenon from a number of perspectives, including describing a field program to study it which will occur in the Maldives in the fall of 2011.

 Mar 15

Spring Break - No Noon Balloon

Summary: .

 Mar 22

James Gaherty - Adventures in Seismology: World-wide Exploration of Continental Rifting

Summary: The notion of continental aggregation and breakup are central to our understanding of plate tectonics and the long-term evolution of the Earth. Through the Wilson cycle, continental plates collide, are stable for millions of years, and then rift apart on new plate boundaries. The process of rifting involves a fascinating interplay of plate reorganization, volcanism, and faulting, and modern-day rift zones are important centers of study for understanding volcanic and tectonic deformation and associated natural hazards. In the past year, Lamont seismologists have initiated major field investigations in two global hot-spots of rifting -- along Lake Malawi in eastern Africa, and on the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. We discuss the challenges and opportunities of field investigations in active rifts, including opportunities for outreach, capacity building, and initial scientific results.

 Mar 29

John Templeton - Backbone of the East: A journey through the geology of the Appalachian Trail

Summary: The Appalachian Trail stretches 2175 miles from Maine to Georgia, coming within sight of Manhattan at Bear Mountain State Park. Geology PhD student John Templeton will recount his 2004 southbound thru-hike of this footpath -- over five months, four hurricanes, and three gorgeous seasons of mountain scenery. The geologic history of the East coast shapes the mountain ranges -- from the deeply cut notches of Maine and New Hampshire, down the long ridges of the Alleghenian fold-and-thrust belt, to the highly metamorphosed rocks of the Blue Ridge. Beginning with a visual tour of the trail, set to authentic Appalachian banjo tunes, the talk will move on to both geologic history of the Appalachian Mountains, and the cultural history of the Trail itself.

 Apr 5

Greg Mountain - Drilling Holes in the Ocean Floor: What Does That Tell Us About Sea-Level Rise?

Summary: Unless someone finds a place to put glacial meltwater and thermally expanded seawater, people living near shorelines should start getting used to wet feet. But just how fast is sea level rising right now, and how do we know? Were rates and magnitudes of sea-level change different in the past? And why are some shorelines at more risk of drowning than others? Answers to these questions, and others like them, are coming from scientists drilling holes in the ocean floor, peeling back layers of sediment that contain evidence of ancient ups and downs of sea level. In this talk we'll look at the results of recent drilling expeditions and discuss what they can tell us about reading the geologic record and making forecasts about the future.

 Apr 12 Have a great summer!!


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