Lamont Weekly Report, November 4, 2016

     This was the last full week before the end of an extraordinarily vitriolic and polarizing Presidential campaign season. Fortunately, the news about our planet’s future has given greater grounds for hope. Late last week, 24 nations and the European Union agreed to create the largest marine reserve in the world in and near the Ross Sea, off the coast of Antarctica ( The reserve, 1.55 million square kilometers in area or about twice the size of Texas, will begin its protected status in December next year. And today, the 2015 Paris climate agreement by 96 nations to limit greenhouse gas emissions becomes international law ( 

     For nearly four weeks, the Air-Sea Interaction Laboratory group led by Chris Zappa has been aboard the R/V Falkor to study the sea-surface microlayer, the uppermost 1 mm of the ocean that controls much of the exchange of heat, mass, momentum, and gases between the ocean and the atmosphere ( The group sailed from Darwin, Australia, on October 10 and spent nine days sampling at coastal stations on the northwest Australian continental shelf in the Timor Sea. They then passed through the Banda Sea, and they’re currently in international waters at their next sampling stations to perform flights with a fixed-wing (FW), vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the ship. Their work is providing the first demonstration of this FW-VTOL UAV technology from a research ship. The cruise will end in Guam next week.   

     The Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division recently welcomed Emily Hopper as a new Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Emily received her Ph.D. earlier this year from Brown University, where she completed a thesis under the supervision of Karen Fischer on the seismic structure of the crust and lithospheric mantle across the U.S. from common-conversion-point stacks of receiver functions recorded by the EarthScope array. At Lamont, Emily will work with Jim Gaherty on the nature of the oceanic lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary in the central Pacific basin.

     New to Lamont’s web pages this week is a Stacy Morford story on the work of Mo Raymo, Michael Sandstrom, and their colleagues on documenting the geological record of sea level during past warm periods in Earth’s history ( A version of the story appeared last month in Lamont’s 2016 Annual Report. 

     Figures are now available for funds raised on Columbia University’s Giving Day last week. Lamont saw an increase in the number of donors over previous Giving Days; a total of 116 donors gave $37,240 to the Observatory, compared with a total of 80 donors in 2015. This increase helped Lamont secure an additional $10,000 as part of the Giving Day challenge funds offered by the Columbia Trustees. Once again, to our development staff and to everyone who participated from the Lamont community, thank you! 

     From Wednesday through today, the Ocean and Climate Physics Division has been well represented at a Model Hierarchies Workshop held at Princeton University and sponsored by the World Climate Research Programme ( The goal of the workshop is to improve "hierarchies of models with a range of complexity: simpler ones that embody a particular mechanism that underlies some aspect of the full Earth system, to comprehensive general circulation models with an interactive carbon cycle.” Lorenzo Polvani, Aditi Sheshadri, and Adam Sobel are members of the workshop organizing committee. Michela Biasutti and Mark Cane gave invited talks, and Ji Nie, Allison Wing, IRI’s Chia-Ying Lee, and Gabriel Chiodo and Shuguang Wang from the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics gave contributed presentations or chaired a session. 

     On Thursday morning, I visited Rick Murray, Director of the Ocean Sciences Division at the National Science Foundation. At a meeting joined by Tom Janecek and Debbie Smith from NSF, we discussed the future of U.S. marine seismology and options for a new business model and operating plan for the R/V Langseth. I had a similar conversation with senior staff members for the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science this morning. 

     Later on Thursday, I moderated a lunchtime briefing on Capitol Hill for Congressional staffers on “Science in Antarctica: The challenges, the opportunities, and the national interest.” The briefing had been arranged by Columbia University’s lobbyists, Joel Widder and Meg Thompson at Federal Science Partners, and was held in a hearing room of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Panelists included Robin Bell, Hugh Ducklow, Radley Horton from the Center for Climate Systems Research, and Lamont alumna Terry Wilson from the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University. 

     Also on Thursday, Francesco Fiondella wrote that artist Michelle Rogers is visiting IRI for the next month and hopes to engage scientists from the Lamont Campus as she completes a painting described as an “ecological interpretation” of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus that will include depictions of 100 endangered marine species. The painting, now hanging in the alcove between the two doorways to the Monell Auditorium, will be exhibited next year in Venice, Italy. Please contact Dannie Dinh at IRI if you would be interested in meeting with Michelle ( during her stay. 

     CBS News interviewed Mike Steckler for a story Monday on the series of earthquakes that has struck central Italy over recent months ( As part of their Where Science Lives series, the New York Academy of Sciences highlighted the work of Carlos Becerril and Lamont’s Ocean-Bottom Seismometer Laboratory in a story posted on Wednesday (

       On Monday afternoon next week, Lamont will host a celebration for 11 individuals who have retired from their Observatory positions over the past year, including Steve Ackerson, Mark Cane, Jim Cochran, Carlos Gutierrez, Jim O’Loughlin, Nano Seeber, Bill Smethie, Ginny Tavarone, Pat Temple, Dave Walker, and Steve Weinstein. Miriam Cinquegrana has calculated that these individuals collectively contributed more than three centuries of service to Lamont. Please join us in the Monell lobby at 3:30 pm Monday for the celebration! 

     In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by planetary scientist Britney Schmidt, an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech ( Britney will be speaking on “Europa in our backyard: Robots, radar and the search for life beyond Earth.” I hope you are able to attend.