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Peter Schlosser

Maurice Ewing and J. Lamar Worzel Professor of Geophysics and Professor of Earth and Environmental Science; Chair, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; Associate Director, Earth Institute
Engineering, School of the Arts
Earth and Environmental Engineering Department, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department
139 Comer, 61 Route 9W - PO Box 1000, Palisades NY 10964-8000 US
  • Director, Columbia Climate Center

My research focuses on the application of noble gases and other isotopes to natural systems with emphasis on the oceans and groundwater. My research is directed to understanding the natural state of these water bodies, the human perturbation of the natural state, and the possibility to design engineering solutions to the problems caused by human impact. The problems we are working on range from basic studies of circulation patterns of water in the ocean and groundwater flow systems to the variability of the oceanic circulation under natural and anthropogenically forced conditions or the transport and transformation of contaminants. Other projects include paleoclimate and paleocirculation studies.

For most of our studies, we use trace substances of natural or anthropogenic origin (isotopes or chemical compounds). In some cases we follow the penetration of such substances into the water bodies of interests in a fashion that is similar to dye experiments, but on a much larger scale. In other cases, we use combinations of isotopes as radioactive clocks (e.g., tritium, the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and its decay product, the noble gas isotope 3He). In some cases, we deliberately inject small amounts of inert trace gases into specific water bodies (e.g., the Hudson River) and study their spreading and mixing. Such experiments provide the closest analogues to the spreading of contaminants in the environment.

In many cases, we combine our experimental work with modeling studies to understand the underlying physics of the circulation or to explore predictability. Modeling studies also provide insight into management options for certain water bodies.

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