Lamont Weekly Report, May 12, 2017

     Notwithstanding the events since Tuesday in Washington, D.C. – variously compared in the media with the Saturday Night Massacre and a rerun of The Apprentice – this week was notable for the public launch of Columbia University’s new capital campaign. Announced yesterday in an e-mail broadcast by university President Lee Bollinger, the campaign is now called the Columbia Commitment, and “Climate Response,” “Data and Society,” and “Global Solutions” are among the university-wide initiatives that will anchor fundraising efforts and in which Lamont will have important roles to play.

    The Ocean and Climate Physics Division recently welcomed Tae Siek Rhee as a Visiting Senior Research Scientist. A Principal Research Scientist at the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI), Tae Siek is visiting Lamont while on a year-long sabbatical to collaborate with Chris Zappa on the study of air-sea-ice interaction processes in the polar seas. Tae Siek received his Ph.D. in chemical oceanography in 2000 from Texas A&M University, where his supervisors were Bob Duce and David Schink. Tae Siek’s research has been on the exchange of trace gases between the atmosphere and ocean, between the stratosphere and troposphere, and between the hemispheres. Since joining KOPRI he has focused on the polar oceans, particularly the impact of ice-sheet melting and shrinkage of sea-ice extent on the ocean’s capacity for degassing or uptake of important trace gases.

    Lamont’s Development team this week welcomed Susan Holgate as Regional Development Director. In this role, Susan will be working to advance Lamont’s strategic initiatives and climate science funding needs in the context of the Columbia capital campaign and to develop prospective donors of major gifts. Until this week, Susan was a long-time member of the Lamont Advisory Board and served as the Board’s Vice Chair for the past 5 years. In that capacity, she was instrumental in introducing Lamont and its scientists to new audiences. We look forward to taking advantage of Susan’s deep experience with building businesses in the financial world at E-Trade and Mission Markets to foster new partnerships and donors for Lamont.

    The R/V Langseth arrived in Honolulu on Saturday after a 24-day transit from Chile. The ship’s next scientific work will be a microbiology cruise later this month supported by the Simons Foundation and led by Virginia Armbrust of the University of Washington.

    On Monday, the Earth Institute Faculty held their final meeting of the academic year at Lamont. After a business session, the EI faculty were treated to presentations on recent research by five members of the Lamont research faculty. Natalie Boelman spoke on “Biotic responses to Arctic warming,” Park Williams spoke on “Recent work studying southeastern U.S. drought and upcoming work in South America,” Pratigya Polissar spoke on “Solving the Miocene climate puzzle: CO2 forcing of climate and vegetation change over the past 20 million years,” Joerg Schaefer spoke on “A new frontier for the sea-level problem: Direct information on polar ice sheet stability from sub-ice bedrock,” and Dave Goldberg spoke on “Carbon mineralization in basalt: Upscaling for permanent CO2 storage.”

    This week featured the completion of annual performance reviews for members of the Observatory’s scientific staff. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I met with Lamont’s Associate Directors, Art Lerner-Lam, Virginia Maher, and Kim Schermerhorn to discuss the reviews of all of our scientists. As in past years, the exercise provided an affirming overview of the progress that we have made toward our research and educational missions over the past year.

    On Thursday evening, as part of the public launch of the Columbia Commitment, the Office of Alumni and Development staged an event for donors and senior Columbia University personnel on Ellis Island. Termed “Crossing Borders,” the event was designed to serve “as both a literal and metaphorical guide to how Columbia can apply the insights of its collective study to practical and game-changing practices in the field.” There were Idea and Impact Stations, at one of which Robin Bell was paired with Jason Bordoff, Director of Columbia’s Center for Global Energy Policy, to address the question “Is it too late to prevent the worst of climate change?” Columbia Trustee Claire Shipman moderated a plenary discussion with several faculty members and then with Lee Bollinger, and campaign co-chairs Lisa Carnoy and Roy Vagelos respectively opened and closed the plenary. Peter deMenocal, Susan Holgate, Farhana Mather, and Lamont Advisory Board member Bob Kay joined Robin and me as Lamont representatives at the event.

    The Lamont web page gained two new articles this past week. The first is a story by freelance writer Renee Cho, posted late last Friday, on the shrinkage of mountain glaciers in response to global warming ( Joerg Schaefer and Marco Tedesco were interviewed on the questions of how recent rates of glacial retreat compare with rates in the geological record and what processes and feedbacks currently govern rates of ice melting,respectively.

    The second article, posted yesterday, is a more personal story. Sheean Haley wrote a moving piece on “Why I decided to stand up for climate science,” describing her participation in the Women’s March, her visit with Gwenn Hennon to Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s office in New City, and the presentation she was invited to make at the Congresswoman’s press briefing at Lamont last week (

    Next week will be Commencement Week at Columbia. To all of you who will be receiving degrees: congratulations! To all of you who will be participating in one of the ceremonies: enjoy yourselves. And to all of the rest of you: may you find yourself with no other reason to face navigating the Morningside Campus next week.

    In the meantime, this afternoon will mark the final Earth Science Colloquium of the spring season. The speaker will be atmospheric chemist Kristie Boering, the Lieselotte and David Templeton Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley ( Kristie’s colloquium will be on “A new look at old air in the stratosphere: Radiocarbon production and transport to the troposphere.” May you also be transported to the lower troposphere, in the vicinity of Monell Auditorium, to join me for her talk.

    I hope that you also join me in thanking our Colloquium Organizing Committee – led by Coordinator Ben Bostick and including Alexandra Bausch, Bridgit Boulahanis, Jean Guo, Kira Olsen, Frank Pavia, and Dan Rasmussen – for the broad range of excellent colloquia staged over the past academic year. It’s been a terrific season