Tourists flock to Italy to see Michelangelo’s David and other iconic hunks of Renaissance stone, but in a trip over spring break, a group of Columbia students got to visit rocks that have shaped the world in even more profound ways.

Along ancient exposed shorelines like this one in South Africa, Raymo is measuring how high the seas stood 3 million years ago. (Alessio Rovere)

A climate scientist who has suggested how mountain building can lower Earth’s thermostat and why ice ages sometimes wax and wane at different speeds has been awarded one of geology’s oldest and most coveted prizes: the British Wollaston Medal.

In suburban Clifton, New Jersey, a massive basalt flow (black rock, left) from the time of the End Triassic Extinction lies exposed in a former rock quarry, now behind a retirement home. A thin layer of sedimentary rock mostly covered in debris, at far right, records the sudden disappearance of many creatures. CLICK TO SEE VIDEO OF DRILLING IN NEW JERSEY. (Paul Olsen/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)

Scientists examining evidence across the world from New Jersey to North Africa say they have linked the abrupt disappearance of half of earth’s species 200 million years ago to a precisely dated set of gigantic volcanic eruptions.

Sean C. Solomon

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Provost John H. Coatsworth have named Sean C. Solomon to be director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Death Valley’s half-mile-wide Ubehebe Crater turns out to have been created 800 years ago—far more recently than generally thought.
(Brent Goehring/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)

A Volcanic Explosion Crater May Have Future Potential

The retreat of Antarctica’s fast-flowing Thwaites Glacier is expected to speed up within 20 year

If we think of the atmosphere as a sponge, we can imagine that the sponge is very dry in the western US, and almost full over humid regions in the eastern US. The addition of moisture to the atmosphere from the land surface in these humid regions makes the sponge leak (makes rain fall). In the west, the dry sponge soaks up any moisture the land surface can contribute without initiating rainfall: rainfall in the west is only initiated by other mechanisms. Credit: Kirsten Findell, NOAA/GFDL
A team of researchers from Columbia Engineering, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Rutgers University has now demonstrated that evaporation from the land surface is able to modify summertime rainfall east of the Mississippi and in the monsoonal region in the southern U.S.