Lamont Weekly Report, June 3, 2016

     Although shortened by a Monday holiday, the week was one in which scientific progress continued at the usual pace.

     On Monday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences posted online an early version of a paper led by Beizhan Yan that reported measurements indicative of extended deposition of contaminants from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Data from a deep sediment trap located 7 km from the wellhead demonstrated that sinking of spill-associated substances, including barium from drilling mud, continued at least 5 months following capping of the well. Beizhan and his colleagues showed further that temporal variations in the sinking rate of spill-associated compounds were mediated by marine particles, particularly phytoplankton, elucidating for the first time the mechanisms of delivery of contaminants from the spill to benthic ecosystems in the Gulf. A David Funkhouser story on the findings from the paper has been posted on our web site (

     Christine McCarthy, Heather Savage, Ted Koczynski, and former Columbia University undergraduate Michael Nielson published a paper in the May issue of Review of Scientific Instruments on their new apparatus to measure frictional, anelastic, and viscous behavior in ice under conditions appropriate to terrestrial glaciers and ice sheets and the interiors of icy satellites in the outer solar system. The device was developed in part with support from the Lamont Advisory Board Innovation Fund. The American Institute of Physics posted a news release ( on the paper on Tuesday. The Science Explorer hosted a story on the paper yesterday (

     The nomination process has opened for the next Vetlesen Prize, to be given in April next year. The prize is awarded for scientific achievement that has resulted in a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history, or its relation to the universe. Nominations will be accepted until 1 August (

     The MacArthur Foundation announced yesterday that it would hold a competition to award $100 million to an organization with the best proposal to solve a global problem ( Columbia University leadership plans to submit one or more proposals in response, and I encourage all of you to think of topics on which the Observatory can play a central role.

     From Wednesday through today, Lamont has hosted a workshop on “Comparing data and model estimates of hydroclimate variability and change over the Common Era.” Sponsored jointly by the Past Global Changes (PAGES) 2k network and the PAST2K working group of the Paleoclimate Intercomparison Modeling Project (PIMP), the workshop has been organized by Jason Smerdon and international co-chairs Juerg Luterbacher and Steven Phipps ( The goals of the workshop have been to (1) promote discussion and collaboration across the PAGES2k and PMIP3 communities, (2) review Common-Era proxy archives appropriate for hydroclimate assessment, (3) review the current ensemble of coupled model simulations of the Common Era, (4) review and refine best practices for model-data comparisons of hydroclimate over the Common Era, (5) advance understanding of model assessments and constraints on future projections using model-data comparisons of hydroclimate over the Common Era, and (6) define future goals, products, and timelines for collaborations between the PAGES2k and PMIP3 communities, specifically in the area of hydroclimate. The local organizing committee that assisted with meeting planning included Laia Andreu Hayles, Brendan Buckley, Rosanne D'Arrigo, Yochanan Kushnir, Justin Mankin, Richard Seager, and Deepti Singh, and additional administrative coordination was provided by Mercedes Paulino.

     From Monday through Wednesday next week, Lamont will host a second workshop with a climate theme, one on “Volcanic impacts on climate and society (VICS)” ( This workshop, also sponsored by PAGES, is the first in a series of similar meetings. The goals of the workshop are to (1) summarize the state of knowledge concerning global radiative forcing from volcanic eruptions, including forcing reconstructions used in climate models, and identify where recent progress has occurred and where the largest uncertainties remain; (2) assess the state of consistency between climate responses to volcanic forcing derived from direct observations, inferred from proxy data and simulated by climate models; (3) gather and synthesize recommendations concerning opportunities and best practices for integrating historical documentary evidence of volcanic climate impacts with estimates from paleoclimate data and climate models, and review progress and challenges in understanding historical societal impacts of volcanic eruptions; and (4) identify and define future goals for the VICS working group, based on the needs of the scientific community and potential stakeholders. Rosanne D’Arrigo and Allegra Le Grande from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies are members of the workshop organizing committee.

     Also next Wednesday, the Lamont Advisory Board will meet on campus. The Board will receive a briefing from Einat Lev on our new fluids laboratory, the latest project to receive support from the Board Innovation Fund, and a detailed update from Adam Sobel on the Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative.

     In the meantime, the annual Lamont Fun Run and barbeque will be held this afternoon, weather permitting. According to lead organizer Sjoerd Groeskamp, the Fun Run will begin at 3 pm outside of Lamont Hall, and the course can be completed by running or walking. Prizes will be awarded to the fastest male, female, and team, and the fastest individual and team after non-linear normalization for age and gender. The barbeque, intended for spectators as well as runners and walkers, will be held at the Tree-Ring Laboratory following the race and is being organized by Natalie Accardo, Weston Anderson, and Dan Sousa. Potluck contributions are welcomed. I hope to see you there.