Lamont Weekly Report, March 11, 2016

     The week we were reminded that Earth shares the solar system with other objects. The Moon passed between the Sun and Earth on Tuesday night (our time) and produced a solar eclipse visible in its totality from Indonesia. And one day earlier, asteroid 2013 TX68 – 20 to 50 m across – passed within about 4 million kilometers of Earth (, about 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

     On Monday, we held our annual Awards Recognition Ceremony to recognize the 43 Lamont staff members and students who received awards in research and education during calendar 2015. Our collective thanks are owed to Miriam Cinquegrana for the unusually appetizing hors d’oeuvres at the reception that followed the ceremony.

     On Wednesday, Lamont’s Advisory Board met at the Columbia University Club in Midtown. The Board’s Education, Marketing, Membership, and Risk Committees met first, followed by the full Board. One of the main items on the agenda for the latter meeting was a progress report on Lamont’s strategic initiative on Anticipating Earthquakes, led by Jim Gaherty, Heather Savage, Donna Shillington, and Felix Waldhauser.

     In last week’s issue of Science, Kerstin Lehnert coauthored a perspectives article on the importance of archiving data and samples, particularly for the “field sciences (e.g., geology, ecology, and archaeology).” The article drew particular attention to the International Geo Sample Number (IGSN), a unique identifier for samples and specimens collected from the environment (, and the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth Sciences (COPDESS), an organization formed to provide a framework for Earth and space science publishers and data facilities to implement and promote common policies and procedures for the publication and citation of data ( Kerstin and her Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA) colleagues at Lamont were central to the efforts that led to both the IGSN and COPDESS. A Rebecca Fowler story on the Science article appeared yesterday in Eos (

     On Monday, a paper posted online by Nature Geoscience on which I was a coauthor reported evidence for carbon abundances of several percent on the surface of the planet Mercury. Specifically, the combined measurements by the MESSENGER spacecraft of spectral reflectance, fluorescent X-rays, and thermal neutrons from the surfaces of several type areas of low-reflectance material (LRM) on Mercury point to graphite as the source of the low reflectance. LRM is seen on Mercury only in deposits that were excavated from depth by large impact craters. Because Mercury’s silicate fraction is chemically reduced and low in iron, thermochemical models predict that if the planet hosted an early surficial magma ocean, the only crystallizing mineral that would have floated during the cooling and solidification of that ocean would have been graphite. The MESSENGER results therefore suggest that remnants of Mercury’s primordial graphite crust may be seen today and are best exposed in LRM deposits. A Stacy Morford story on the paper ( is on our web site.

     Today, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report from a committee, of which Adam Sobel is a member, on the Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change. The report addresses the current state of the science of estimating the influence of anthropogenic climate change and natural variability on specific extreme weather and climate events, assesses the methods now in use for different classes of such events, provides guidance for interpreting analyses, and prioritizes research investments needed to make further advances. A Stacy Morford story on the report was posted today on our website ( Adam also published a Commentary on the report today in The Washington Post (

     In the news this week was an interview with Bob Newton on “Costing the Earth,” a BBC radio show (, on bringing oysters back to New York Harbor. Stories on Marco Tedesco’s paper on the darkening of the Greenland ice sheet appeared this week in Eos ( and National Geographic ( Sid Hemming’s blog entry this week from the R/V JOIDES Resolution ( describes the shipboard excitement after late-arriving approval was received to drill and recover core samples from the Mozambique Channel.

     Next week is Spring Recess at Columbia. There will be no classes and no Colloquium. Three events beyond next week are worthy of mention.

     On Saturday, March 19, nearly 20 Lamont staff members, postdoctoral scientists, and graduate students will participate in a Sun/Earth Day event at the American Museum of Natural History. During this family-friendly event, designed to explore the special relationship between Earth and the Sun, participants will be introduced to important concepts that underlie the delicate balance that makes our planet an ideal place to call home. Attendees will be able to speak with scientists and participate in hands-on activities. The event will take place from 11 am to 5 pm in the Cullman Hall of the Universe, is free with museum admission, and will be one of Lamont’s largest outreach events of the year.

     Friday, April 29, will mark the kick off of Lamont’s annual Research as Art Exhibit in the Lamont Café. Organizers Josh Russell, Hannah Rabinowitz, Kyle Frischkorn, and Maayan Yehudai hope for a large group of creative submissions, which should be sent to by the deadline of April 8. Additional information about the event, selected entries from the past two years, and submission instructions can be found on the event website (

     The following month, on May 23-24, Lamont will host a two-day symposium on “The Plate Tectonics Revolution at Lamont: 50 Years of Discovery.” The symposium will celebrate the role of Lamont scientists in developing and validating the plate tectonics theory and will feature presentations on how our understanding of global tectonics has advanced over the intervening half-century. A committee co-chaired by Roger Buck and Bill Ryan and including Suzanne Carbotte, Einat Lev, Donna Shillington, and Lynn Sykes has organized a program that includes a mix of current and past Lamont scientists and other important contributors to the field, including Tanya Atwater, Steve Cande, Dan Davis, Don Forsyth, Jeff Fox, Ellen Herron, Bryan Isacks, Xavier LePichon, Peter Molnar, Neil Opdyke, Manik Talwani, and Tony Watts. Please mark those dates on your calendars!

     In the meantime, our Earth Science Colloquium speaker this afternoon will be physical oceanographer Peter Brandt, a Professor at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel ( Peter will be speaking on “Oxygen variability in the eastern tropical North Atlantic oxygen minimum zone.” I hope to see you there.