Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Gilmore Featured in Venus Documentary

Martha-Gilmore

Marty Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is featured in a suite of films exploring the past and possible future of the planet Venus, often called Earth’s “sister” or “twin” planet.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is prominently featured in a recently released suite of five documentary films about the history, science, exploration, and possible settlement of the planet Venus.

In the films, Gilmore, who is co-coordinator of planetary science at Wesleyan, along with other experts in a range of fields, help to illuminate and elucidate the fascinating history and possible future of the second planet from the sun, commonly known as Earth’s “sister planet.” The suite of films was produced by filmmaker and space exploration advocate Dave Brody P ’24. The main feature, “Venus: Death of a Planet,” the special feature, “Cloud Cities of Venus,” and the three short films of the “Exploring Venus Series,” can be viewed online through early September, and on the MagellanTV (broadly available through various streaming platforms).

In February, two spacecraft mission concepts co-developed by Gilmore to study Venus received second-round backing from NASA’s Discovery Program. Both concepts, which were awarded $3 million each, would assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by examining its landscape, rocks, and atmosphere.

Geology Class Maps Local State Park for Geological Survey

geology class

Members of the Geologic Field Mapping course explore a gneiss and schist outcrop at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Conn.

geology class on zoom

The class met with members of the Connecticut Geological Survey staff through Zoom. Pictured, top row, from left: Caroline Murphy ’20, Professor Phil Resor, and Oliver Benson ’22. Middle row, from left: Emmy Hughes ’20, Alexa Trujillo ’22, and graduate student Donald Koepp. Bottom row, from left: state geologist Margaret Thomas, geoscience resource assistant and graduate student Zach Kläng, and geoscience resource assistant Taryn Isenburg.

This spring, a group of five students enrolled in Wesleyan’s Geologic Field Mapping service-learning class undertook a project to map the geology of Gillette Castle State Park and develop educational materials for the general public based on this map.

The 184-acre park, which was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1943, sits atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. Here American actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette, known for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage, built and lived on this estate from 1919–1937. His 14,000-square-foot, fieldstone-faced mansion resembles a medieval castle, hence the park’s namesake, Gillette Castle.

The ‘castle’ is surrounded by woodlands, trails, ponds, cliffs, and massive rock outcrops.

“In order to make educational materials that are approachable and useful, we needed to make it of interest to anyone—whether they were a Connecticut geologist or a family looking for a place to picnic,” said Alexa Trujillo ’22. “We found joy in toeing the line between too scientific and not scientific enough. All of us coming from different experiences with geology, writing for an audience, and education made us the perfect team to create something like this.”

geology class

The class’s report was made using the ArcGIS StoryMaps software.

On May 15, Trujillo, Caroline Murphy ’20, Oliver Benson ’22, Emmy Hughes ’20, and graduate student Donald Koepp presented their work to their “clients” at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) State Geological Survey. The project was supervised by course instructor Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences and education studies.

“Even after we moved to distance learning, the students rose to the occasion and did a great job synthesizing their fieldwork along with other material to create GIS and interactive maps,” Resor said.

The class first met in person at the Connecticut DEEP headquarters in early February, where staff introduced students to the park and provided examples of geologic maps and story maps from other parks. After learning basic GIS skills, students created base maps and spent three afternoons on site, conducting fieldwork in February and early March.

While in the park, the students looked for outcrops of rock.

“These were crucial in the geologic story because they are pieces of what was once under the ground, but came up through the surface. They can tell us the story of what went on underneath where we were standing,” said Trujillo, a sociology and education studies double major. “We looked for folds, banding, mineral types, strike, dip, and much more. Basically, we wanted to know everything. We cataloged everything we found because any piece could be the missing connection to the geologic story.”

The class ultimately produced an interactive map through the software ArcGIS that shows the park’s trails, unique locations, benches, parking, and “all of the outcrops we found, some cool locations to check out, bathrooms, and anything else you would normally find on a map,” Trujillo said.

They also created a “StoryMap” that includes sections on Gillette himself and his castle, the geology, and hidden gems located within the state park. The maps will be published online by DEEP at a future date.

Prehistoric Marine Lizard Exhibited Permanently in Olin Library

Mosasaur

On June 22, crews installed a Mosasaur exhibit in Olin Library. Pictured, from left, are Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Yu Kai Tan ’20; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences and Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian; and Jessie Steele, library assistant. Pictured in front kneeling is Andy Tan ’21.

As part of the University’s efforts to “activate campus,” a third prehistoric creature has taken up residence at Wesleyan.

The new Mosasaur exhibit is on permanent display inside Olin Library and is a collaboration of faculty, student, and staff efforts.

Mosasaurus hoffmannii Mantell (Mosasaur), a marine lizard, lived in the oceans during the Late Cretaceous period (66 to 68 million years ago) when the last dinosaurs walked the Earth. Mosasaurs had long, snake-like bodies with paddle-like limbs and flattened tails. Some specimens grew to be more than 50 feet long.

In 1871, chemist Orange Judd of the Wesleyan Class of 1847 donated the Mosasaur cast to the University, where it was prominently displayed for years at the University’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences. In 1957, the museum closed and thousands of artifacts, including the Mosasaur, were haphazardly stuffed into crates and boxes and stored in random locations throughout campus. For 60 years, the cast remained in its crate, first in the tunnels below Foss Hill, then tucked in the Exley Science Center penthouse, from where it was exhumed by Wesleyan staff and students in 2017.

5 Faculty Conferred Tenure, 4 Promoted

monogramWesleyan’s Board of Trustees recently announced the promotions of nine faculty members, effective July 1, 2020.

Five faculty were conferred tenure with promotion. They join six other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

  • Joslyn Barnhart Trager, associate professor of government
  • Anthony Keats, associate professor of economics
  • Andrew Quintman, associate professor of religion
  • Michael Slowik ’03, associate professor of film studies
  • Takeshi Watanabe, associate professor of East Asian studies

In addition, four faculty members are being promoted. They join one other faculty member who was promoted earlier this spring.

  • Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government
  • Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology
  • Hari Krishnan, professor of dance
  • Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below:

Joslyn Barnhart Trager is a political scientist whose research focuses on international security and the effects of psychology and biology on international conflict. Her work examines the ways collective emotions shape national identity, how gender and suffrage interact to affect war and peace, and how rhetorical justifications for territory relate to the use of force. In her recent book, The Consequences of Humiliation: Anger and Status in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2020), she argues that when international events trigger a sense of humiliation among people who identify with a country, those people become more likely to behave aggressively to restore the country’s image. She offers courses on Psychology and International Relations, Introduction to International Politics, and The Nuclear Age in World Politics, and she received Wesleyan’s Carol Baker Memorial Prize for excellence in teaching and research in 2019.

Erika Franklin Fowler’s research focuses on American politics, with a specialty in political communication—examining the ways political information is disseminated and the effects of such dissemination on political attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. Her Wesleyan Media Project, which provides information on spending and the content of political advertising, has received over $2.7 million in external grant funding. She has co-authored a book, Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016), along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and invited publications. She received the APSA Political Organization and Parties Section’s Jack Walker Award for the best article in 2017, and Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2019. She teaches courses on American Government and Politics, Media and Politics, and Empirical Methods.

Barbara Juhasz is a cognitive psychologist who studies reading and word recognition in adults. Through her Wesleyan Eye Movement and Reading Laboratory she investigates how words and their meanings are represented in memory and processed during reading as revealed by eye movements. Her work seeks to answer questions such as what variables can predict how, and how quickly, a word is processed. She has published extensively in many peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition; Memory and Cognition; and Behavior Research Methods, and her publications have received over 3,000 citations to date. She offers courses on Sensation and Perception, Psychology of Reading, Experimental Investigations into Reading, and Statistics: An Activity-Based Approach.

Anthony Keats’s research in development economics uses a variety of approaches, including randomized control trials conducted in the field and quasi-experimental methods using household survey data, to answer causal questions related to education, early child health, financial access and savings, and occupational choices in developing countries. His highly-cited work has been published in the Journal of Development Economics and the Economic Journal. He has received over $3.3 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, Omidyar Network, and other funding organizations. He teaches courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics, Econometrics, and Development Economics.

Hari Krishnan is a dance artist and scholar, specializing in bharatanatyam, queer/contemporary dance, and the interface between dance history and film studies. Bridging theory and practice, he interrogates the boundaries between modern and traditional dance forms, engaging critically with questions of gender, sexuality, and race. His choreographies have been featured at esteemed venues including Jacob’s Pillow, La MaMa’s, Asia Society, Canada Dance Festival, HarbourFront Centre (Canada), Maison des Cultures du Monde (France), The Other Festival, and the Music Academy Dance Festival (India). He is a Bessie award nominee in the Outstanding Performance category, and his recent monograph, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, was published by Wesleyan University Press. His courses include Bharatanatyam; Contemporary Dance from Global Perspectives; Mobilizing Dance and Cinema; and Queering the Dancing Body.

Andrew Quintman is a scholar of premodern Buddhist traditions in Tibet and the Himalayas. He has special expertise in biographical and autobiographical literature, in particular the analysis of Buddhist hagiography and historiography, religious poetry, and representations of sainthood. His monograph, The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa (Columbia University Press, 2014), presents a systematic analysis of the entire Himalayan literary tradition about Milarepa, including all 128 biographies written about the 11th-century Tibetan saint. His book received numerous awards, including the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion and Yale University’s Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarship. He offers courses on Buddhist Traditions of Mind and Meditation, Tibetan Buddhism, and Who is the Dalai Lama?

Phillip Resor is a structural geologist who studies rock deformation with an emphasis on fault zones. His research, which combines field work and modeling, has important applications in planetary science, energy resources, and present-day hazard assessment related to earthquakes. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation Tectonics Program, NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program, and the Southern California Earthquake Center. He has published widely, and in 2019 he received Top Author recognition from NAGT Teach the Earth. In 2016 he received the Joe Webb Peoples Award in recognition of his contributions to promoting the understanding of Connecticut geology. He offers courses on Dynamic Earth, Structural Geology, Field Geology, Modeling the Earth and Environment, and Geologic Field Mapping.

Michael Slowik’s research focuses on the history of film and film aesthetics, with a special emphasis on the uses and evolution of sound and music in cinema. His book, After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934 (Columbia University Press, 2014), which provides a detailed analysis of the evolution of film music from the start of synchronized sound through 1934, was a top 10 finalist for the 2015 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Moving Image Book Award. His latest manuscript, Defining Cinema: The Films of Rouben Mamoulian, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He teaches courses on Film Genres: The Western; History of Film Sound; Sex and Violence: American Filmmaking Under Censorship; and Cinema Stylists: Sternberg, Ophuls, Sirk, Fellini. Slowick is a 2003 alumnus of Wesleyan.

Takeshi Watanabe is a scholar of premodern Japanese literature. In his recent book, Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan (Harvard Asia Center, 2020), he examines the historical tale A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (c. 1000), and demonstrates how the rise of writing in the vernacular allowed a new type of historical writing that captured court gossip and channeled its divisive energy into stories that brought healing. He has published broadly in both English and Japanese, and his scholarship covers art history, material culture, and the history of food. He teaches courses on Japanese literature and culture and East Asian culture, including From Tea to Connecticut Rolls: Japanese Culture through Food; Samurai: Imagining, Performing Japanese Identity; and In Search of a Good Life in Premodern Japan.

Varekamp Plots Pandemic, Measures Growth Curves in US, Italy

varekamp map

In this linear graph, Professor Joop Varekamp shows logged plots of coronavirus time versus death data in Italy (green) and the United States (blue). The straight-line segments represent exponential growth, and the curved arrays occur after social distancing rules and lockdowns were imposed. Extrapolation of the straight line for the United States (deep blue line) would have reached 1 million casualties (black circle) around April 21 if the U.S. had not imposed social distancing rules, according to Varekamp.

Last March, Johan (Joop) C. Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, intended to teach an ore deposit and formation class in Italy; however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to stay near campus.

Nevertheless, Varekamp kept a keen watch on Italy. With a fascination with the pandemic’s wildfire spread, Varekamp began plotting coronavirus data from both the United States and Italy to see how their growth curves compared.

“Infectious diseases follow initially exponential growth patterns until measures are taken to limit transmission or a vaccine becomes available,” Varekamp said. “I wanted to know how disease propagation compares to population growth, which I teach in some detail in my classes.”

On May 7, Varekamp shared his ongoing Coronavirus Plot Maps with the campus community through Wesleyan’s Community Forum. His study features some of the differences in the progression of the disease in the two countries that may provide some insights “and possibly some dark thoughts about our future.”

Varekamp suggested that if social distancing rules are weakened too early, the disease will pick up where it left off at the exponential end. “This will all be repeated until about 60–70% of the population has been infected with the disease,” he said. “Only then the virus burns itself out, to some degree as a result of lack of non-immune individuals, and transmission rates will decrease to values below one.”

He also stated that if no social distancing had been ordered in the U.S. in late March, the U.S. would have stuck to its exponential growth pattern, and close to 1 million people would have died by the end of April.

If he’s able to safely fly internationally next year, Varekamp hopes to have another attempt at teaching the EU-coordinated ore deposit class at the University of Bologna.

“It is hard to see how all of this evolves,” he said.

Earth and Environmental Science Seniors Conduct Research in Hawaii

Sixteen earth and environmental science majors from the Class of 2020 recently conducted field research in Hawaii as part of their Senior Field Research course.

The class, E&ES 498, is taught by Tim Ku, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences. The course is open to students who completed E&ES 497: Senior Seminar, and focuses on improving scientific research skills.

Past classes have conducted research in Death Valley, Calif., the main island of Puerto Rico, the Connecticut River Valley, and the Big Island of Hawaii. The field research took place on the Big Island of Hawaii on Jan. 5-12 and the course concluded with student group presentations on March 3 and 5 and written reports.

The trip was funded by the Lawrence H. Davis ’76 Fund.

The students and their project titles are below:

Emmy Hughes, Avery Kaplan, Haley Brumberger, and Shuo Wang worked on a project titled "Assessing Microplastic Accumulation and Distribution on Four Beaches in Hawaii.

Shuo Wang, Haley Brumberger, Emmy Hughes,and Avery Kaplan worked on a project titled “Assessing Microplastic Accumulation and Distribution on Four Beaches in Hawaii.”

Emily Litz, Jackie Duckett, Miles Brooks, Katie Toner, and Allegra Grant worked together on a project titled "Coffee Soils: Carbon Source or Sink?"

Emily Litz, Jackie Duckett, Katie Toner, Miles Brooks, and Allegra Grant worked together on a project titled “Coffee Soils: Carbon Source or Sink?”

$6M in NASA Funding Awarded to Projects with Contributions by Gilmore

NASA has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for new missions

NASA has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for new spacecraft missions. Wesleyan Professor Martha Gilmore is a science team member on two of these missions. Pictured is an artist concept of the solar system courtesy of NASA.

Marty Gilmore

Martha Gilmore

Not one, but two spacecraft mission concepts co-developed by Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, received second-round backing from NASA’s Discovery Program on Feb. 13. Both concepts—which were awarded $3 million each—would assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by examining its landscape, rocks, and atmosphere.

NASA’s Discovery Program, now in its ninth year, funds investigations to develop concept studies for new missions. Although they’re not official missions yet, the selections focus on compelling targets and science that are not covered by NASA’s active missions or recent selections. Gilmore’s projects were among four selected.

“Venus is the key to understanding how Earth-size planets evolve. Like Earth, we predict Venus had an ocean that may have lasted for billions of years. Like Earth, Venus may be volcanically and tectonically active today. These missions will target the modern and ancient history of Venus, as recorded in the rocks and the atmosphere. The oldest rocks on Venus are my speciality, and I would very much like to know what environment they record.” Gilmore said.

Gilmore Works on Planetarium Show at American Museum of Natural History

worlds beyond earthResearch conducted by a Wesleyan professor is part of a new space show at the American Museum of Natural History.

Martha Gilmore

Martha GIlmore.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of Earth and environmental sciences, worked over the past year developing content for the new Hayden Planetarium Space Show Worlds Beyond Earth. The show opened on Jan. 21 as part of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration.

“It’s amazing,” Gilmore says. “The images that you see are all realistic. We even contacted some of the engineers for the Magellan spacecraft in order to understand exactly how the spacecraft imaged Venus in the early 1990s.”

Featuring brilliant visualizations of distant worlds, groundbreaking space missions, and scenes depicting the evolution of our solar system, Worlds Beyond Earth “takes viewers on an exhilarating journey that reveals the surprisingly dynamic nature of the worlds that orbit our Sun and the unique conditions that make life on our planet possible,” according to the American Museum of Natural History’s website.

Over the year, Gilmore worked with fellow Earth and planetary scientists, science visualization experts, writers, and artists to turn data into a visual masterpiece displayed on the world’s most advanced planetarium projection system. Gilmore’s specific task was to share the story of Venus having once been a habitable planet.

“The idea that Mars, Venus, and Earth were all habitable four billion years ago, but only Earth remains—that’s what I presented to them, and it’s really nice to see that story in the most famous planetarium show in the country!”

Gilmore

Wesleyan alumnus Mark Popinchalk ’13 and Martha Gilmore mingled at the Worlds Beyond Earth preview event.

On Jan. 15, Gilmore was invited to the museum for a sneak preview of the show. Other Wesleyan affiliates in attendance included James Greenwood, assistant professor of Earth and environmental sciences; Anne Canty ’84, senior vice president for communications at the museum; and Gilmore’s former student and museum science educator Mark Popinchalk ’13.

Gilmore also is one of three scientists featured in a short movie that will be played in the waiting area of the planetarium.

The show “is just gorgeous,” Gilmore said. “What I appreciate now is that the data you see in the show are correct—the spacecraft orbits, the positions of the planets and stars, the magnetic field data, etc. It’s an incredible amount of work to make that happen. If you see it and wait for the credits to roll on the dome, you’ll see my name and Wesleyan!”

Gilmore’s Paper on Venus’s Volcanoes Published in Science Advances

Martha Gilmore

Martha GIlmore

Martha “Marty” Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of a research article titled “Present-day volcanism on Venus as evidenced from weathering rates of olivine,” published in Science Advances Vol. 6 on Jan. 3, 2020.

According to the paper’s abstract:

At least some of Venus’ lava flows are thought to be <2.5 million years old based on visible to near-infrared (VNIR) emissivity measured by the Venus Express spacecraft. However, the exact ages of these flows are poorly constrained because the rate at which olivine alters at Venus surface conditions, and how that alteration affects VNIR spectra, remains unknown. We obtained VNIR reflectance spectra of natural olivine that was altered and oxidized in the laboratory. We show that olivine becomes coated, within days, with alteration products, primarily hematite (Fe2O3). With increasing alteration, the VNIR 1000-nm absorption, characteristic of olivine, also weakens within days. Our results indicate that lava flows lacking VNIR features due to hematite are no more than several years old. Therefore, Venus is volcanically active now.

The research was mentioned in Science Alert and Universe Today.

Thomas: Carbon Impact—Not Volcanism—Key in Driving the Cretaceous Mass Extinction

Thomas

Ellen Thomas

(By Kayleigh Schweiker ’22)

As scientific study regarding the mass extinction of marine life during the Cretaceous era has progressed, theories including extraterrestrial impact and intense volcanism have surfaced. However, a recent study co-authored by Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, suggests that carbon impact—not volcanism—was key in driving the Cretaceous mass extinction.

In a paper titled “Rapid ocean acidification and protracted Earth system recovery followed the end-Cretaceous Chicxulub impact,” which was published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Thomas and her colleagues discuss how increases in ocean acidity played a driving force in the mass extinction of marine organisms. This mass extinction, labeled the “Crustaceous-Palogene die-off,” or the K-Pg event, led approximately 75% of plant and animal life on Earth to extinction. Though scientists have suggested that the presence of sulphuric acid proceeding the crash may have caused ocean pH levels to drop, Thomas and her team’s research on this topic reveals a different possibility.

NASA Funds Study of Gilmore’s Venus Mission Concept

Martha Gilmore

Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, believes we have a lot to learn from studying Venus—yet the United States has not sent a mission to the Earth-sized planet since the early 1990s. That’s why Gilmore has proposed a major flagship mission concept study to assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by looking at its rocks and atmosphere.

In October, NASA agreed to fund the planetary mission concept on Venus submitted by Gilmore, a planetary geologist, and colleagues at several other institutions, who come from varied disciplines. Gilmore, who is the principal investigator, said NASA received 54 proposals and selected 10 to feed into the next Planetary Decadal Survey. Theirs was the only proposal on Venus to receive funding.

In 2020, the National Academy of Science will convene a panel of scientists and engineers to determine the scientific priorities for Planetary Science over the period 2023–2032. This Planetary Decadal Survey is conducted every 10 years and is tasked with recommending a portfolio of missions to NASA. The mission concepts that were funded will be developed for consideration by the Decadal Survey. In the coming months, Gilmore will be meeting and communicating regularly with her science team and conducting mission design runs at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Final reports are due to the Decadal Survey in June 2020, and will describe mission architecture, cost, and how the mission will address the scientific priorities of the Decadal Survey and NASA.

Gilmore’s expertise is on the surface morphology and composition of Venus, Mars, and Earth, and her PhD focused on Venus during the United States’ Magellan mission. She explained that all three planets are rocky, and there is evidence that they all had oceans early in solar system history. Scientists believe that Mars’s ocean dried up first—within about one billion years—and that Venus’s ocean may have lasted for two or three billion years.

“Thus, for most of solar system history, there were two Earth-sized planets with oceans,” said Gilmore. “Was Venus habitable like the Earth and if so, what changed?”

“Bomb Cyclone” Strikes Campus on Oct. 17, Causing Extremely Low Pressure, High Winds

weather station

The Wesleyan University Weather Station measures wind speed, barometric pressure, air temperature, relative humidity, and solar irradiance.

On Oct. 17, the Wesleyan Weather Station recorded a dramatic drop in atmospheric (barometric) pressure—a drop so severe it compared to one from Hurricane Sandy in November 2012.

Between 2 a.m. on Oct. 16 and 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, the pressure dropped from 1020 to 980 millibars, resulting in what meteorologists refer to as bombogenesis or a “bomb cyclone.” Bomb cyclones are defined by a drop of more than 24 millibars of pressure over less than 24 hours, and here, the pressure dropped 40 millibars.

During Hurricane Sandy the pressure also dropped to 980 millibars.

“We’ve looked through the last three years of data collected by the Wesleyan Weather Station, and no other event over that time period is more dramatic than this one,” said Dana Royer, professor of earth and environmental sciences. “This clearly shows that the bomb cyclone this month was indeed unusual.”

In Hartford, Conn., the pressure minimum (~980 millibars, similar to the pressure the Wesleyan Weather Station recorded) tied the all-time record for the month of October.

The bomb cyclone also affected wind speed. Between 1 and 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, wind rapidly increased from 0 to 34 mph and fluctuated between 5 and 25 mph over the next 24 hours.

The Wesleyan Weather Station was established with a Teaching Innovation Grant from President Michael Roth and Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science. The station and weather “dashboard” is maintained by Joel LaBella, facilities manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

bomb cyclone

The Wesleyan Weather Station recorded the dramatic drop in atmospheric pressure on Oct. 17. This graph shows the average air pressure from the last 30 days.

bomb cyclone

During the bomb cyclone, the Wesleyan Weather Station recorded the drastic fall in atmospheric pressure and the rapid rise in wind speed.