Lamont Weekly Report, July 14, 2017

    It doesn’t matter whether you measure your academic summer by the major league baseball schedule or the time between commencement and the start of fall classes. This week we passed the halfway mark.

    The Geological Society of America recently named the recipients of the society’s medals and awards, and Lamont alumnus Sterling Nesbitt will receive the 2017 Donath Medal (, also known as the Young Scientist Award. Now an Assistant Professor of Geosciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Sterling was a graduate student in Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and completed his Ph.D. in 2009 under the supervision of Mark Norell and Paul Olsen. Kudos to Sterling!

    I am pleased to announce two promotions to Lamont’s Senior Staff, effective this month. Pratigya Polissar and Heather Savage have each been promoted to Lamont Associate Research Professor, Senior Staff, in the Biology and Paleo Environment Division and the Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division, respectively. To Pratigya and Heather, congratulations on your new rank!

    The Marine Geology and Geophysics Division this week welcomed Postdoctoral Research Scientist Joshua (Bud) Davis. Bud recently completed a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Texas, Austin, co-supervised by Lamont alumnus Luc Lavier. At Austin his research focused on numerical models of lithospheric deformation, rifted margins, magma systems, basin development, and crustal and mantle rheology. At Lamont, Bud will work with Anne Bécel on the development of numerical models for the magmatic and tectonic evolution of the passive margin of the eastern U.S. and the interpretation of seismic data from the East North American Margin (ENAM) experiment.

    The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Visiting Scientist Charlotte Skonieczny from the Université Paris Sud. Charlotte will be at Lamont for a month to conduct geochemical measurements on samples from a sediment core taken off northwestern Africa in the laboratories of Gisela Winckler and Pratigya Polissar.

    The Biology and Paleo Environment Division recently welcomed Visiting Scientist Amália Detoni a postdoctoral researcher from the Institute of Oceanography at the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil. Amália is visiting the Observatory for one year to work on a range on research topics in marine biology and nitrogen fixation in the oceans. Her Lamont host is Ajit Subramaniam.

    The Ocean and Climate Physics Division, in turn, bid farewell recently to Associate Research Scientist Karen Smith and Postdoctoral Research Scientist Jack Scheff. While at Lamont, Karen applied a hierarchy of dynamical and climate models and observations to study mechanisms of climate variability and change in the mid-latitudes and polar regions. She is now an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. While he was at Lamont, Jack synthesized pollen records and other hydrological and ecological information from the Last Glacial Maximum to show that modeled shifts to wetter continents during the LGM are consistent with more sparse vegetation if the vegetation response was primarily in response to carbon dioxide drawdown rather than hydroclimate change. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

    For the past few weeks our campus has been joined by a large number of high school students who are participating in summer research experiences through the Secondary School Field Research Program and the Center for Climate and Life's summer high school program. A total of 70 high school juniors and seniors from more than 20 schools in New York and New Jersey are here to work on a variety of research projects under the supervision of Lamont research faculty. Please join me in welcoming them to the campus and the Lamont community.

    Columbia University hosted a weeklong international conference this week on “Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts” (, sponsored jointly by the World Climate Research Program and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. On Wednesday evening, there was a panel discussion open to the public on the topic of “Sea level rise: Causes, impacts and options for solutions.” Panelists included Robin Bell, Jim Davis, and Peter Schlosser, as well as Jainey Bavishi, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency; George Deodadits from the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; Kate Orff from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; Gavin Schmidt from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Maria Schwartz from Swiss Re; and keynote speaker Scott Stringer, New York City’s Comptroller.

    On Monday, New York Magazine published an interview with Wally Broecker on a variety of climate change topics, from carbon capture and storage, to geoengineering, to Steve Bannon and Biosphere 2 ( The interview accompanied a cover story on worst-case global warming scenarios in which Wally was quoted (, but the magazine article has drawn criticism from some members of the scientific community for overstating the likelihood of such worst-case outcomes (                                                     

    On Wednesday, the large iceberg long anticipated to calve off the leading edge of the Larsen C ice shelf along the Antarctic Peninsula finally did so, taking a volume of ice twice the volume of Lake Erie into the open ocean ( A Kyu Lee story on the event ( has been posted on our web site. Widespread media coverage included an article in Mashable that quoted Robin Bell ( and a television interview with Jonny Kingslake on Fox 5 News (

    On Thursday, Climatic Change published a paper by Ethan Coffel, Radley Horton, and collaborator Terrence Thompson from the Logistics Management Institute that reported on the effect of climate change on aircraft takeoff characteristics at about 20 airports in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, China, and South Asia. The results vary regionally and depend on runway length and altitude, among other factors, but restrictions on weight or departure schedules may be increasingly common as mean annual global temperatures rise. A Kevin Krajick release appears on our web site (, and both USA Today ( and Forbes carried the story (

    Whether you prefer to contemplate a new iceberg nearly the size of Delaware or the future of airline traffic at the Phoenix and Las Vegas airports, may you enjoy the mid-July weekend.