Lamont Weekly Report, February 3, 2017

      A story in The Washington Post yesterday summarized a recent poll of opinions on human-induced climate change taken by researchers at the University of New Hampshire ( Sixty-five percent of respondents agreed that climate is changing and human activities are at least partly responsible, 28% stated that climate change is occurring but attributed the changes primarily to natural causes, 3% felt that climate is not changing, and 4% said they did not know. As earlier polls have shown, the responses divided sharply along political lines. Ninety percent of those who said they voted for Hillary Clinton for President agreed that climate change is occurring and at least partly attributable to human activities, but only 25% of those who said they voted for Donald Trump expressed that view. We have our work cut out for us.

     The Marine Geology and Geophysics Division recently welcomed Caitlin Dieck Locke as a Senior Research Staff Assistant in the polar geophysics group. Caitlin is a 2013 alumna of Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and until late last year she worked at the Gemological Institute of America. At Lamont she’s analyzing polar survey data from IcePod and other airborne geophysical instruments.

     A major milestone has been met for supplying a substantial fraction of the energy usage on the Lamont Campus from solar power. Late last week, Columbia University signed a final amendment to a 25-year agreement to purchase energy for the campus from Forefront Power, which has contracted with Siemens Industries to build two solar farms in Orange County. Planning and much of the permitting for the project are complete, and construction of the solar farms is expected to begin in May. Both sites are scheduled to be ready for interconnection to the utility distribution grid by the end of November. By some time next year, this campus will receive ~75% of its energy from the Sun, and our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by ~50%.

     The R/V Langseth remained along the southern margin of Chile this week on the CEVICHE (Crustal Examination from Valdivia to Illapel to Characterize Huge Earthquakes) expedition ( The project team reports that more than half of the planned 2500 km of two-dimensional multi-channel seismic reflection and refraction lines has been completed so far, and the 15-km-long streamer –deployed for the first time on this cruise – has operated well. Chief scientist Nathan Bangs, a Lamont alumnus now at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, writes, “In the north there is not a great deal of structure within the section due to the lack of sediment and the presence of the seaward extension of the continental crust…As we headed south we started to see a lot more structure related to the subduction/accretion of sediment and the slope cover sediments. Consequently the structures are quite spectacular. There are structures here that will be great for understanding sediment subduction processes broadly and seem to be better here than in a lot of other places. They are not just on a single line, but they show up in several here to the south. It has been fun to compare one line to the next. I think these observations alone are enough to meet our primary objectives.”

     On Monday afternoon, the Observatory hosted a campus Town Hall to discuss known and anticipated federal policy changes under the Trump administration, changes in leadership in Congress, and implications for federal science agency budgets, immigration and workplace equity issues, and related topics. The standing-room-only audience filled the Monell Auditorium to a degree not seen at any of our recent colloquia. During the first hour of the meeting, Mike Purdy spoke to the view of Columbia University administration regarding the recent executive order on immigration as well as planning for contingency funding of the university’s climate science enterprise; Joel Widder from Federal Science Partners, Columbia University’s Washington lobbyists, gave a status report and prognosis on federal science budgetary, workforce, and policy issues; Robin Bell and Adam Sobel discussed actions taken to date and plans by the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society, respectively, to represent the Earth science community; and Farhana Mather summarized recent changes to the private and foundation fundraising landscape, including Columbia University’s capital campaign, particularly in the area of climate change and response. The second hour of the Town Hall featured a spirited question and answer session. For those who were away from the campus on Monday, a video of the Town Hall meeting will be posted on the Lamont web site next week. Access to the video will be restricted to campus personnel, so please contact Kimberly Schermerhorn for further information if you’re interested.

     Also on Monday, Nature magazine posted online a paper coauthored by Pierre Dutrieux, along with British and Swedish colleagues, reporting the analysis of hydrographic and ocean microstructure profiles seaward of the calving front of the Pine Island Ice Shelf in Antarctica and a mechanism for the general observation that meltwater from Antarctic ice sheets in the warming climate is concentrated at depth in the Southern Ocean. The group showed that the initial ascent of the buoyant meltwater outflow from the ice shelf cavity triggers a centrifugal overturning instability that grows by extracting kinetic energy from the lateral shear of the background oceanic flow, and the instability in turn promotes vigorous lateral export, rapid dilution by mixing, and ultimately settling of meltwater at depth. On the basis of an ocean circulation model, the team argued that this mechanism likely operates at other Antarctic ice shelves and should be incorporated into climate-scale ocean models. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper’s findings appears on the Lamont web page (

     On Tuesday, Beverly Wuerfel logged her last day as the Coordinator for Director Support Services in the Lamont Directorate. Bev has worked at the Observatory since 1995, under three Directors and two Interim Directors (one of whom served twice). A reception Tuesday afternoon brought many to celebrate her 22-years of loyal service. Bev will continue to work part time as Administrative Coordinator, on Tuesdays to Thursdays each week, while she explores other activities. Please take an opportunity some midweek to stop by the Directorate to thank her for many contributions to the Lamont community.

     Yesterday, on the JOIDES Resolution, the ashes of Gerry Iturrino – a long-time Lamont colleague who passed away in March 2014 (  – were scattered at sea at the wish of his family. Gerry had sailed on the Resolution many times, and former Lamont Research Scientist Trevor Williams, now at Texas A&M University, led the ceremony and reported that a number of Gerry’s friends from the ship were in attendance. Trevor’s reading included the passage, “[Gerry’s] first time on the JR was in 1987 to the Atlantis Bank of the SW Indian Ridge, and his last was sailing the transit from Subic to Hong Kong in 2014. He favored the difficult hard-rock expeditions. He was heavily involved in the refurbishment of the ship in 2006–2009, helping to make it the admirable vessel we see today. He happily poured a huge amount of passion and his life into the program and ship and the people involved. As much as it exasperated him at times, he loved everything about it. He loved his family and in particular he loved his daughter Sierra very much. He was a very good man and he left us too soon.” Following the reading, the ship rang eight bells, and a minute of silence was ended by the ship’s horn.

     Added to our web site yesterday was a David Funkhouser story about international seafloor mapping efforts being conducted as part of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans ( Vicki Ferrini, who is heavily involved in Lamont’s bathymetric mapping efforts and contributions to GEBCO, was interviewed for the story. The posting also includes a video, for which Vicki was the Executive Producer, from the Forum for Future Ocean Floor Mapping held in Monaco last year.

     Maribel Respo sent me by e-mail this morning a work log, changing daily, of more than 80 research proposals that her office is expecting to be readied for submission over the next few weeks. For all of you working on one or more of those proposals, it is extremely important that you submit the text and budget sufficiently far in advance of the submission deadline that Maribel and her colleagues have time to review everything for compliance with the increasingly long list of requirements set by the funding agencies. Please do not jeopardize your proposal’s chances for success by waiting until the last minute to complete your work.

     Klaus Jacob was quoted in a news story Monday in San Francisco Public Press on planning efforts underway in coastal cities to mitigate or adapt to rising sea levels ( Also on Monday, Frank Nitsche commented in Eos on a report that warm ocean water contributed to melting of the Cosgrove Ice Shelf off West Antarctica in the late Holocene (  A story in Fast Company Tuesday featured Peter deMenocal, the Center for Climate and Life, and the broader topic of private support for academic scientific research (

     Today’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, the Class of 1946 Environmental Fellow-in-Residence at Williams College ( Elizabeth has written for The New York Times and The New Yorker, and she received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in the General Nonfiction category for her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Her lecture, entitled “Swimming to Castello Aragonese: A conversation about science and storytelling,” will describe lessons for communicating science as compelling narratives. I hope that you will be able to join me in her audience.