Even with the spring semester now over, this week was a busy one at the Observatory.
Director's Weekly Reports
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.
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.
This week heralded the end of the spring semester, with the last day of classes on Monday and the first day of the final exam period today.
This week ended unexpectedly, with a campus closure today as a result of a break in our pressurized main sewer. The break was discovered by our Facilities staff yesterday afternoon, and its source was confirmed by a dye test. Our staff shut off the sewer pumps and the water to the campus and notified the county health department. This morning the gas and other utility lines in the area of the break were marked out, and our team began digging to carry out the repair work.
It has been a week bookended by named lectures.
Politico circulated a story last week that workers at the Department of Energy’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy were told to avoid the phrase “climate change” in written communications and briefings (http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/energy-department-climate-change-phrases-banned-236655). Earth’s climate, of course, will continue to evolve no matter what language is used by officials in Washington.
The week began with the vernal equinox on Monday. New York City weather did not seem to take notice.
As if to mock Columbia University’s Spring Recess, this week was punctuated by a major snowstorm Tuesday that left more than 7 inches of snow in Central Park, dropped greater totals of frozen precipitation in surrounding areas, and closed the Observatory for a full day.
Yael Kiro learned this week that she is to receive the Prof. Rafi Freund Award from the Israel Geological Society. The award, named for a former professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is given to recognize outstanding papers in the geological sciences published over the past three years. Yael was lauded for two papers published last year and this on the analysis of sediments cored from the floor of the Dead Sea in terms of changes to the hydrology of the area over the last three interglacial periods.
The week began with our annual Awards Recognition Ceremony, a celebration of the awards in research and education received by our colleagues during calendar 2016. The ceremony was held as part of a reception in the Monell Lower Lobby. The honorees included the following:
Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), NSF, 2016
The 2016 GeoPRISMS Student Prizes for presentations at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting have been announced, and two our students have been honored. Dan Rasmussen received the Best Poster Presentation Prize for his paper on “Run-up to the 1999 sub-plinian eruption of Shishaldin Volcano unveiled using petrologic and seismic approaches,” on which Terry Plank and others were coauthors.
Laura Haynes learned recently that she is to receive a 2017-2018 Schlanger Fellowship from the International Ocean Discovery Program. Named for the late marine geologist and ocean drilling pioneer Seymour (Sy) Schlanger, the fellowship is a “merit-based award for outstanding graduate students to conduct research related to the IODP” (http://usoceandiscovery.org/fellowships/). Laura’s winning proposal was to study what she calls “an enigmatic climate period in Earth's history,” the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (1.2–0.6 Ma).
Long-time members of the Lamont community were saddened by the news that former Lamont engineer and Senior Staff Associate Chuck Hubbard passed away late last week (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lohud/obituary.aspx?n=arthur-charles-hubbard-chuck&pid=184017050&fhid=27195). Chuck logged nearly three decades of work on geophysical instrument development and field measurements before his retirement in 1983.
A story in The Washington Post yesterday summarized a recent poll of opinions on human-induced climate change taken by researchers at the University of New Hampshire (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/02/survey-only-a-quarter-of-trump-voters-believe-in-human-caused-climate-change/?utm_term=.00c10fc76c16).
On Tuesday morning, with a half-page spread in The New York Times, Columbia University and the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation announced that Mark Cane and Princeton University’s George Philander are to share the 2017 Vetlesen Prize for their work on the tropical atmosphere-ocean system that led to an understanding of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and its global impacts.
The National Atmospheric Administration and NASA released official reports this week that 2016 saw the highest global average surface temperature on record, making each of the last three years ones that surpassed an earlier record.
The first full workweek of the calendar year saw an unusually wide range of daily high temperatures in Central Park, from 23°F on Monday to 65°F yesterday, the latter breaking a record set in 1890 (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/01/new-york-city-broke-a-more-...).
Lamont welcomed several new arrivals this month.