Lamont Weekly Report, May 19, 2017

     It was Commencement Week at Columbia, and a week that saw a record high temperature for the date yesterday in Central Park and many other locations in the region.

     Kerstin Lehnert received the good news late last week that she is to receive the Outstanding Contributions in Geoinformatics Award for 2017 from Geological Society of America. According to Kerstin’s notification letter from GSA President Claudia Mora, “the award is presented annually in recognition of distinguished contributions to the geosciences through the application and promotion of geoinformatics.” The award will be given at a joint reception of the GSA’s Geoinformatics Division and the Geoscience Information Society, to be held at the GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle in October.  Congratulations, Kerstin!

     Coincident with last week’s public launch of Columbia University’s capital campaign, The Columbia Commitment, was the unveiling of a new section of the university’s web pages that describe the campaign and its themes ( The Observatory features prominently in the themes of Climate Response, Data and Society, and Global Solutions, with illustrated examples on climate stress, sea-level rise, carbon capture and storage, exploiting drones to improve the ability to observe key processes, and developing seafloor sensors to enhance warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis. These web pages are likely to change often as the campaign progresses, and our development and communications staff will be working to ensure that Lamont continues a high level of visibility and involvement.

     The R/V Langseth remained in Honolulu this week for maintenance and preparation for her next cruise, to conduct microbiological studies across environmental gradients on an expedition supported by the Simons Foundation and led by Virginia Armbrust of the University of Washington. Labs and equipment for the cruise will be loaded next week, and sailing is scheduled for May 27.

     On Monday, the Geochemistry Division welcomed Bob Finkel back to the campus for his annual visit. An expert on cosmogenic nuclides from the University of California, Berkeley, Bob will be on campus for five weeks. His Lamont host, Joerg Schaefer, writes, “Bob is a pioneer in cosmogenic nuclide science. In particular, he developed 10Be measurements from ice cores in the 1970s as a proxy for solar variability and its impact on Earth's climate. His stay this year is closing a loop, as he is working with me and Gisela on 10Be analyses from the new South Pole Ice Core to revisit solar variation during key intervals of Earth's climate, such as the Last Millennium and Termination 1.”

     Also on Monday, Winnie Chu successfully defended her thesis on “Variability of subglacial drainage across the Greenland ice sheet: A joint model/radar study.” Winnie’s committee included Robin Bell, Roger Buck, Tim Creyts, Meredith Nettles, and Joe MacGregor from the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Winnie has accepted a postdoctoral position that starts in July with Dusty Schroeder’s group at Stanford University. Congratulations, Dr. Chu!

     Monday, too, saw the online publication in Geophysical Research Letters of a paper by Jim Davis and Nadya Vinogradova of the Cambridge Climate Institute on the causes of accelerating sea-level rise along the eastern coast of North America. Jim and his coauthor confirmed that the acceleration began late in the 20th century and varies spatially, and they showed that the geographic pattern can be modeled by combining the effects of ice-sheet mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica, glacial isostatic adjustment, changes in surface pressure, and changes in ocean temperature, salinity, and dynamics. The acceleration from ice loss alone was estimated to be equivalent to a rise in sea level over one century from 0.2 m in the northern part of the study region to 0.75 m in the southern part. A story on the paper’s findings by freelance author Kristen French was posted yesterday on Lamont’s web page (

     On Wednesday, Suzanne Carbotte and Jerry McManus hosted a one-day symposium on Volcanoes, Glaciation, and the Carbon Cycle. Speakers at the symposium included Lamont scientists and out-of-town participants in the multi-institutional Volcanoes, Ocean, Ice, and Carbon Experiments (VOICE) project sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Frontiers in Earth-System Dynamics Program. Talks were given by Jerry, Bridgit Boulahanis, Jean-Arthur Olive, Terry Plank, Bill Ryan, Maya Tolstoy, and recent Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Dave Ferguson (now at Leeds University), as well as Richard Alley from Penn State, Sujoy Mukhopadhyay from the University of California, Davis, and Peter Huybers, Charlie Langmuir, Jenny Middleton, and Cristian Proistosescu from Harvard.

     Yesterday, Mike Kaplan and Park Williams were panelists in a discussion on “The impact of climate change in Chile’s forests and glaciers,” held in Santiago, Chile. The event was organized by Karen Poniachik and her colleagues at the Columbia Global Center in Santiago. Francisco Meza, a Professor at the School of Agronomy and Forestry, Universidad Católica, was a third panelist. Mike was interviewed for a local story on the subjects discussed by the panel that appeared today (

     Also yesterday, The New York Times published a three-part set of “Antarctic Dispatches,” written by Justin Gillis and copiously illustrated with photographs, detailed graphics, animations, and immersive videos produced by a team embedded with Lamont’s IcePod group during their most recent Antarctic field season to survey the Ross Ice Shelf and its surroundings ( Robin Bell, Nick Frearson, and Kirsty Tinto are quoted in the stories, and there are links to four virtual-reality experiences filmed “on, above, and below the Antarctic ice.”

     Earlier in the week, a Susan Hellauer story in Nyack News and Views reported on Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s press conference at Lamont two and a half weeks ago and the cuts that the Trump administration has proposed for federal science agency budgets, accompanied by photos and lengthy quotes by Sheean Haley and Art Lerner-Lam (

     The President’s budget for government fiscal year 2018 is scheduled to be released in full next week, and early reports confirm expectations that major cuts will be proposed to federal science agency budgets. “Leaked” information circulating in Washington, D. C., today indicate that the administration will propose cuts of 11% to the National Science Foundation and 26% to the National Institutes of Health, among other changes from the appropriations levels enacted and signed into law for fiscal year 2017. Of course, final budget figures for next year will be worked out by Congress through an appropriations process that will extend over the next several months, and many on the Hill are strong supporters of science. On Monday, for instance, 29 Senators – including Kerstin Gillibrand (D, NY), Cory Booker (D, NJ), and Robert Menendez (D, NJ) – sent a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to express support for a healthy 2018 budget for the National Science Foundation (

     It’s never a bad time to contact your Senator or Representative, as a citizen and voter, to express your views about the importance of continued federal investment in scientific research. It also looks to be a weekend to enjoy more seasonable temperatures and pleasant spring weather in New York.