This week began with a snowstorm that set accumulation records at several locations across the northeastern U.S. The brunt of the storm arrived Saturday, and by mid-morning Sunday the skies were clear. That schedule permitted our crew from Buildings and Grounds to clear all the pathways, roads, and parking lots by the start of work on Monday morning, an amazing transformation of the campus that required long weekend hours on the part of many. We owe a shout out of appreciation to a crew led by Mike McHugh that included Tom Burke, Carmine Cavaliere, Bob Daly, Tony DeLoatch, Charlie Jones, Stevenson Louis, Ray Slavin, Eric Soto, Kevin Sullivan, and Rick Trubiroha. Moreover, our security guard, Steve Shifaw, worked 24 hours on Saturday because his replacement could not make it through the storm. Thanks, guys!
The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Visiting Senior Research Scientist Al Hofmann for his annual spring visit to Lamont. A geochemist who has made broad contributions to our understanding of Earth’s mantle and crust, Al is an Emeritus Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society, the Urey Award from the European Association of Geochemistry, and the Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union. While at Lamont, Al will again be teaching Advanced Geochemistry and leading the “Hot Topics” Seminar in Geochemistry.
The Ocean and Climate Physics Division this week welcomed Visiting Associate Research Scientist Xingwen Jiang from the Institute of Plateau Meteorology of the China Meteorological Administration. Xingwen is visiting Lamont for one year and will be working with Mingfang Ting on the seasonal to interannual variation of the Asian jet stream and its impacts on Asian climate, with a particular focus on the role of Tibetan Plateau.
The R/V Langseth completed all planned ocean-bottom seismometer surveys of oceanic crustal structure at several South Atlantic sites of different seafloor age and on Wednesday launched a 12.8-km-long hydrophone streamer. The streamer is part of the ship’s new multi-channel seismic system installed earlier this year and is the longest deployed by the Langseth to date. The ship will collect data along a continuous line from west to east across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge until mid-February, after which the ship will head to port in the Cape Verde Islands.
On Monday, Art Lerner-Lam, Pat O’Reilly, Mort O’Sullivan, Michaela Biasutti, and I met with Jessica Prata and Allie Schwartz, respectively the Assistant Vice President and Manager of Planning and Outreach in Columbia University’s Office of Environmental Stewardship. We discussed Columbia’s initiatives aimed at improving the university’s posture in the areas of energy usage and carbon emission, waste and recycling, and transportation and how the Lamont Campus can contribute to those initiatives by example and through expert advice.
Representatives from Schlumberger visited the campus early this week to conduct a series of wireline tests in the Lamont test well (TW-3) near the southern end of the Instrument Lab. The work was part of an ongoing collaborative project involving David Goldberg and Natalia Zakharova and colleagues from Sandia Technologies in Houston and Schlumberger, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Designed to evaluate and improve our ability to assess risks associated with reservoir integrity and induced seismicity at potential CO2 sequestration sites, the project involves a detailed investigation of geomechanical and petrophysical properties deduced from laboratory analyses of cores collected from the basin, direct measurement of in situ stresses, and modeling of effective stresses and fracture stability. Preliminary analysis of stresses in the basin suggests a transpressive regime with substantial heterogeneity in both stresses and mechanical properties, characteristics potentially common to many basins.
In a paper posted online Monday in Nature Geoscience, Nigel D’souza, Ajit Subramaniam, Andy Juhl, Mark Hafez, Alex Chekalyuk, Susan Phan, Beizhan Yan, and colleagues from Georgia Tech and Florida State University report evidence that natural hydrocarbon seeps on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico are associated with areas of enhanced phytoplankton populations in the overlying water column. Specifically, the group documented elevated chlorophyll concentrations with in situ and shipboard fluorescence measurements and satellite ocean color observations in shallow waters over known hydrocarbon seeps. They argue that the enhanced phytoplankton productivity does not result from the released hydrocarbons directly but rather from the nutrients brought to shallow depths by upwelling from the seeps. Because approximately half of the oil released into the oceans comes from natural seeps, such sites may influence widely the chemistry and productivity of the oceans. A Stacy Morford story on the paper was posted Monday on our web site (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/gulf-mexico-microbes-thrive-above-natural-oil-seeps), and the findings have been the subject of several media reports (http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2016/0126/Natural-oil-seeps-in-the-Gulf-of-Mexico-and-the-microbes-who-love-them).
In yesterday’s issue of Nature, Kassandra Costa, Jerry McManus, Bob Anderson, Gisela Winckler, Marty Fleisher, and colleagues from four other universities reported a test of the idea that in the equatorial Pacific, a low-chlorophyll region of the global ocean, an increase in the flux of iron carried by windborne dust would lead to an increase in phytoplankton productivity. Such an increase in iron-bearing dust occurred during the last ice age, as Kassandra and her colleagues documented with measurements of the dust proxy 232Th in six sediment cores from the central equatorial Pacific. They also measured other isotopic, chemical, and mineralogical proxies to show that nitrogen consumption was comparable to levels in the more recent Holocene, and phytoplankton productivity was similar to or lower than recent levels, indicating that increased dust flux did not lead to iron fertilization. They inferred that productivity during the last ice age was instead limited by lowered levels of other nutrients supplied to the equatorial Pacific by the Subantarctic Zone of the Southern Ocean. A news release on the paper written by Kevin Krajick was posted Wednesday on the Lamont web site (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/climate-fertilizing-oceans-could-be-zero-sum-game).
In a paper in the 15 February issue of Quaternary Science Reviews, Rob Wilson, Kevin Anchukaitis, Ed Cook, Rosanne D’Arrigo, Nicole Davi, and colleagues present the first report of a new consortium – called the Northern Hemisphere Tree-Ring Network Development or N-TREND – organized to sharpen large-scale reconstructions of northern hemisphere summer temperatures over the past millennium from high-altitude tree-ring observations. The paper summarizes how the greater size and homogeneity of the data set used by the group have yielded improvements over past reconstructions by a variety of metrics and point to a longer and warmer Medieval Warm Period than previously inferred. A Stacy Morford story on the team’s goals and progress was posted on the Lamont web site yesterday (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/new-global-team-tracks-temperature-change-through-time).
Minnesota Public Radio interviewed Robin Bell yesterday about the geophysical remote sensing work she is leading to understand the Ross Ice Shelf and the underlying sea floor (http://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/01/28/ross-ice-shelf-antarctica-research-robin-bell). The radio show touched on the types of measurements made and the importance of the observations for understanding the dynamics and fate of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The Santa Barbara Independent has a feature story today on Lamont’s Park Williams (http://www.independent.com/news/2016/jan/29/ucsbs-young-forest-ecologist/), an alumnus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The story is based on an interview with Park at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting last month.
Sid Hemming has begun a new blog from the R/V JOIDES Resolution drill ship (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/research/blogs/when-oceans-leak) as she and Allison Franzese set out on a two-month expedition to obtain paleoclimate records from ocean sediment cores at six sites around southern Africa. Sid is Co-Chief Scientist of Expedition 361 of the International Ocean Discovery Program. The region marks the confluence of important current systems in the southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans and provides a window, through variations in sediment characteristics and isotopic tracers of the different major currents, into relations between climate change and changes in global ocean circulation over timescales of millions of years.
This afternoon in the Monell Auditorium, in the Earth Science Colloquium time slot, Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences are cosponsoring the Arthur D. Storke Memorial Lecture (http://eesc.columbia.edu/events/storke-lecture), given annually on some topic in the area of Earth resources. Today’s speaker is Steven Koonin, Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University and a former Provost and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, Chief Scientist at British Petroleum, and Undersecretary for Science in the Department of Energy under the first Obama administration. Steve’s lecture poses the question, “Can we ever get to a zero-emission world?” A reception will follow the lecture, and I hope you can get to both.