A Growth Spurt at 1,500 Years Old

Signy Island, which lies 375 miles off Antarctica, has too harsh an environment to support a single tree. Its mountains are girdled instead by banks of moss. "It’s just like a big, green, spongy expanse," said Peter Convey, an ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey who has worked on Signy Island for 25 years…Blankets of permafrost have grown on the island for thousands of years, since the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age…In 2007, Paul G. Falkowski of Rutgers University and his colleagues reported reviving bacteria trapped in Antarctic ice for eight million years. The idea that bacteria can survive for so long has inspired a lot of debate. "It gets controversial pretty quickly," said Dr. Jay Lennon of Indiana University, who was not involved in Dr. Falkowski’s study.

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Peter Rona, 79, Explorer of Ocean Depths, Dies

Peter A. Rona, an oceanographer who dived into the depths of the world’s seas and surprised his peers by discovering vast mounds spewing hot smoke at the bottom of the icy Atlantic, exciting interests in deep-sea mining and the origins of life on earth, died on Feb. 20 in Plainsboro, N.J. He was 79. The cause was complications related to multiple myeloma, according to Rutgers University, where Dr. Rona was a professor of earth and planetary sciences. Fascinated by the mysteries of what he called "the last frontier on earth," Dr. Rona specialized in exploring the dark abyss for more than a half-century, starting around 1960…"I was one of those kids who collected rocks and minerals, climbed mountains, loved the outdoors and identified with geology," he told a Rutgers publication.

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The Flood Next Time

The little white shack at the water’s edge in Lower Manhattan is unobtrusive – so much so that the tourists strolling the promenade at Battery Park the other day did not give it a second glance. Up close, though, the roof of the shed behind a Coast Guard building bristled with antennas and other gear. Though not much bigger than a closet, this facility is helping scientists confront one of the great environmental mysteries of the age…Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, municipal planners want to know: How bad are things going to get, and how fast? One of the most ambitious attempts to take account of all known factors came just a few weeks ago from Kenneth G. Miller and Robert E. Kopp of Rutgers University, and a handful of their colleagues. Their calculations, centered on New Jersey, suggest this is not just some problem of the distant future.

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Polar Vortex: Temperatures Fall Far, Fast

Meteorologists called it "weather whiplash" – a drop of roughly 50 degrees in a matter of hours that took temperatures from 55 in Central Park on Monday morning to a record low of 5 overnight and an expected high on Tuesday of only 10. The last time temperatures in New York fell that much in such a short time, Warren G. Harding was in the White House…David A. Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist and a professor at Rutgers, said the huge one-day temperature swing was not particularly surprising given the other weather extremes of recent weeks. "We’ve had this amplified pattern for the past six weeks or so," he said. "With it, we’ve had record warmth. We’ve had record cold. The fact is it’s happened, and we don’t know exactly why."

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Ocean Drones Plumb New Depths

Five miles offshore from the Golden Nugget casino, Michael F. Crowley, a marine scientist at Rutgers University, heaves three lifeboat-yellow drones off the back of his research vessel. The gliders, as he calls them, are winged and propellerless, like miniature Tomahawk missiles. Two are on loan from the Navy, and one, Rutgers’ own, is pockmarked from a past shark attack. As they slink into the Atlantic to begin a monthlong mission, they join a fleet of 12 others across the Eastern Seaboard, from Nova Scotia to Georgia. These drones are the centerpiece of "Gliderpalooza," a collaborative ocean-survey experiment coordinated by 16 American and Canadian government agencies and research teams. By pooling their resources, including satellites, radar stations, research buoys and the gliders, the teams hope to capture the most complete picture yet of the Atlantic’s many mysterious underwater movements – from deepwater currents to migrating fish.

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