Lamont Weekly Report, February 10, 2017

      Long-time members of the Lamont community were saddened by the news that former Lamont engineer and Senior Staff Associate Chuck Hubbard passed away late last week ( Chuck logged nearly three decades of work on geophysical instrument development and field measurements before his retirement in 1983. Ted Koczynski writes, “[Chuck] came to Lamont before I started, but he was working on OBSs (ocean-bottom seismometers) in the mid 70s along with Bill McDonald. I do not remember when he left Lamont to work in industry, but some of his last projects were OBHs (ocean-bottom hydrophones) and OBGs (ocean-bottom gravity meters). Both were attempts to bring these instruments to 5 km ocean depth. Good engineer, funny man, and mad car driver.” Paul Richards adds, “We never worked together, but sometimes when [Chuck] had a good item to grumble about he’d seek me out and we’d share our views on some of the absurdities of modern life!” A celebration of Chuck’s life will be held tomorrow afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockland at 130 Conklin Road, Pomona, NY 10970. Chuck’s family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to that church or to United Hospice of Rockland at

     On Monday, Lamont’s Development team welcomed Kathryn Hennessey as Development Officer, a new position enabled by a recent restructuring of that department. Kathryn brings a wealth of business development and relationship management experience to the position from her former work in the private sector. At Lamont, she will focus on developing relationships with local and New York City individuals and companies in support of our efforts to generate funding for Open House, the restoration of Lamont Hall, and our strategic initiatives. Please drop by the Monell Building soon to meet her. 

      Midday on Monday, Art Lerner-Lam, Edie Miller, and I went out for a celebratory lunch with nine members of the Lamont staff who recently passed their 10-year anniversary at Columbia. The group included Andrew Barclay, Scott Brown, Maryann Hanneman, Annika Johansson, Mike Kaplan, Virginia Maher, Margaret Morrone, Jeff Rupert, and June Tallon. Kathy Callahan, who recently marked the same anniversary, was unable to join us. Please join me in thanking these colleagues for collectively devoting more than a century to the scientific mission and administrative management of the Observatory!

     Also on Monday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published online a paper by Yoni Goldsmith, Wally Broecker, Pratigya Polissar, Peter deMenocal, and colleagues from the Institute of Earth Environment in China reporting on the history of lake levels for a closed-basin lake in Inner Mongolia over the past 125,000 years. The lake levels, taken as a measure of rainfall amounts over the lake catchment and thus as a proxy for East Asian Monsoon precipitation, showed regular fluctuations on orbital and millennial timescales that correlate with isotope records from cave deposits in northern and southern China. Yoni and his coworkers interpreted both sets of observations as indicating co-variations in the intensity and northward extent of the East Asian Monsoon. The authors proposed further that termination of wet conditions 5500 years ago, when the lake level dropped ~35 m, was a major contributor to the large-scale collapse of Early Neolithic culture in north China. A David Funkhouser press release on the paper was posted on our web site Monday (

     On Tuesday, I joined Earth Institute’s Steve Cohen on another in the series of visits scheduled with deans and other academic administrators to discuss opportunities for strengthening ties with Lamont and other EI units. At the Mailman School of Public Health, Steve and I visited Dean Linda Fried; Andrea Baccarelli, Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences; and Jeff Shaman, Director of their Climate and Health Program. Discussion topics included mechanisms for improving communications and strengthening research and educational collaborations among Lamont, Earth Institute, and Mailman School faculty and researchers.

     Midweek, our local weather flipped from a record high temperature for the date on Wednesday ( – 62°F in Central Park, according to the National Weather Service – to a snowstorm yesterday that left 9 inches of snow at the same weather station ( and closed the Observatory. That we were able to open today at our normal time is because of the long hours of plowing and shoveling put in by our Buildings and Grounds staff and their colleagues yesterday, including Mike McHugh, Bruce Baez, Carmine Cavaliere, Bob Daly, Tony DeLoatch, Charles Jones, Larry Palumbo, Ray Slavin, Eric Soto, Kevin Sullivan, Rick Trubiroha, and Chano Williams. Thanks, guys, for your efforts on behalf of all of the rest of us!

     In other news this week, Yochanan Kushnir was quoted in a Popular Science article Monday over the dispute between the Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over the methodology used for assessing changes in global average temperature ( Stephanie Pfirman and Bob Newton were interviewed for a story in yesterday’s issue of Nature on the shrinking of sea ice cover in the Arctic in response to amplified rates of warming at high latitudes (

     Today’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by our own Kuheli Dutt, Lamont’s Assistant Director of Academic Affairs and Diversity. Kuheli will be speaking on “Unconscious bias and STEM diversity,” a topic addressed in her Nature Geoscience paper published last fall ( I hope to see your there.