Lamont Weekly Report, September 1, 2017

     For the third week in a row, the Lamont family was saddened by loss. Charles Bentley, a graduate student at Lamont early in the Observatory’s history, from 1950 to 1956, passed away on August 19 ( A polar geophysicist credited with making the first seismic determinations of the thickness of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and with elucidating the mechanics of ice streams, Charlie spent most of his professional career on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His formative years at Lamont as a student of Maurice Ewing and the conversation with Frank Press that led to his Ph.D. thesis on “Seismic studies on the Greenland ice cap” and his first Antarctic expedition immediately after his defense are described in the 2008 transcript of an oral history that he provided to the American Institute of Physics (

     Hurricane Harvey has dominated the news this week, and Lamont scientists have been in the thick of diagnostic discussions on the web and in the media, even before landfall ( Adam Sobel penned a thoughtful opinion piece that CNN posted Monday ( on some of the reasons why Harvey has been so destructive, and the story was carried in Spanish the next day ( Adam joined Suzana Camargo for a story Tuesday in Fortune magazine on the influence of climate change on the severity of the storm ( On Mic on Wednesday, Suzana was quoted on the impact of proposed budget cuts to NOAA on the quality of U.S. weather forecasting models relative to those in Europe ( Also on Wednesday, Radley Horton was interviewed by Miles O’Brien for a Leading Edge segment on PBS NewsHour on the effect of climate change on the most extreme storms (

     The Biology and Paleo Environment Division this week welcomed Visiting Associate Research Scientist Hongzhen Tian, a lecturer in the School of Management at Tianjin Polytechnic University. An expert in remote sensing with a Ph.D. in geography, Hongzhen will be visiting Lamont for one year to work with Joaquim Goes and his research group on the impact of ice mass loss from mountain glaciers in the Himalayas on biological oceanographic processes in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

     On Monday, Nature Climate Change posted online a paper by Ethan Coffel, Radley Horton, Corey Lesk from the Center for Climate Systems Research (and an incoming graduate student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences), Anthony D’Amato from the University of Vermont, and Kevin Dodds from the USDA Forest Service on the impact of climate change on the range of the southern pine beetle, a cold-limited insect responsible for the destruction of pine forests in its native habitat of Central America and southern North America. The southern pine beetle has recently been found in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, and the authors applied a statistical bioclimate range modeling approach, atmospheric general circulation models, and greenhouse gas emission scenarios to predict the range of the insect through the middle of the next century. The models indicate that the climate will soon be suitable for expansion of the southern pine beetle range into the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, an outcome that will have substantial ecological and economic impacts on these regions. A Kevin Krajick release on the paper’s findings is on our web site (, and the story was picked up by The New York Times  ( and other media.

     This morning, asteroid 3122 Florence passed within 7 million miles of Earth, about a factor of 18 greater than the distance to the Moon. The asteroid, named for Florence Nightingale, is about 4 km in diameter ( For reference, the Chicxulub impact crater at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary was created by the impact of an asteroid about 10 km in diameter.

     Next week will mark be beginning of the fall academic calendar, with the first classes of the semester held on Tuesday.

     On Friday next week, Columbia University’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate will co-sponsor, along with Swiss Re Institute, a Workshop on Atlantic Climate Variability – Dynamics, Prediction and Hurricane Risk, to be held on the Morningside Campus  ( Rendered particularly timely by Hurricane Harvey, “this one-day workshop will address the causes and predictability of Atlantic climate variations and associated hurricane risk.” The workshop organizing committee includes Katinka Bellomo, Suzana Camargo, and Adam Sobel, as well as Marla Schwartz and Peter Zimmerli from Swiss Re. Mark Cane and Mingfang Ting are among the list of invited speakers from leading government and university research groups.

     In the meantime, may you enjoy the three-day weekend and the tail end of the summer season, even as the thoughts and well wishes of all of us go out to our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens in the many Texas and Louisiana coastal communities now struggling to recover from Harvey.