Director's Weekly Reports

Lamont Weekly Report, November 8, 2013

On Monday, a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported the results of calculations, derived from observations made by the Kepler spacecraft, indicating that about 20 percent of the Sun-like stars in our galaxy host a planet about the size of Earth in the so-called “habitable zone,” that is, at a stellar distance at which liquid water would be stable at the planetary surface (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/cosmic-census-finds-billions-of-planets-that-could-be-like-earth.html). In an odd juxtaposition of news stories, our own planet seemed to become less habitable this week. A draft report of the Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change, leaked to the media, concludes that global food production will decline by as much as 2 percent per decade over the rest of this century as a result of Earth’s changing climate (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/02/science/earth/science-panel-warns-of-risks-to-food-supply-from-climate-change.html). Perhaps we will see the emergence of a new generation of moving companies that charge by the light year...

Lamont Weekly Report, November 1, 2013

This week marked the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. There were many media stories on what the storm has taught us to expect from similar events in the future as well as promising directions for mitigation, and Lamont scientists sought out for commentary included Klaus Jacob (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/july-dec13/sandy_10-29.html), Art Lerner-Lam (http://billmoyers.com/2013/10/29/lessons-learned-and-unlearned-one-year-after-sandy/), and Dorothy Peteet (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/science/natural-allies-for-the-next-sandy.html#p2; see Science Times podcast). Adam Sobel penned an opinion piece on....

Lamont Weekly Report, October 25, 2013

Our federal government has been open for more than a week, but as the fallout spreads from the shutdown the overall financial and scientific costs continue to mount. The National Science Foundation alone had to reschedule more than 100 peer review panels, and numerous target submission dates for proposals had to be reset. Field operations in Antarctica are resuming, but many programs face truncated seasons and some projects will be delayed by as much as a year.

On Monday and Tuesday, Art Lerner-Lam, Kathy Callahan, Rachel Roberts, and Emily Soergel visited the R/V Langseth....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, October 18, 2013

 The federal government reopened yesterday, but the damage to this nation’s scientific enterprise is still being assessed. Lamont scientists prepared at least 16 proposals to the National Science Foundation for a target submission date of 15 October, but the agency has yet to announce revised schedules for submission and evaluation (https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/fastlane.jsp;jsessionid=bd4c5fc6aefbf05809736d5aa160:Dqk3?t=0&idx=0). More serious is the impact of the shutdown on this year’s scientific programs in Antarctica, with a key interval of austral spring now lost to fieldwork. Robin Bell was quoted in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times on the possible consequences (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/us/an-american-shutdown-reaches-the-earths-end.html?_r=1&), and Hugh Ducklow was interviewed for a related story Thursday in Politico (http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/shutdowns-science-fallout-could-last-for-years-98427.html)....

Lamont Weekly Report, October 11, 2013

As the workweek draws to an end, the federal government remains closed. Even as our elected representatives release statements that offer hope for a short-term agreement, the impact of the protracted shutdown is being felt across the sciences.

On Tuesday, the National Science Foundation announced that the support contractor for its Antarctic operations had been directed to begin transitioning all of its research stations to caretaker status (http://www.usap.gov/). Depending on the duration of the shutdown, the action...

Lamont Weekly Report, October 4, 2013

At the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, the federal government closed its doors for the first time since 1995-1996. Program managers and other staffers at federal science agencies were barred from their offices, prohibited from travel, and in many cases ordered not to conduct any business by phone or electronic mail. National parks are closed. The ensuing confusion is being watched closely by the administrations of Columbia and Lamont, but the costs to this nation of the inability of Congress to agree even on a simple continuation of government funding will mount sharply....

Lamont Weekly Report, September 27, 2013

Our planet flexed its muscles in Asia this week. From Saturday to Monday, “super typhoon” Usagi wreaked widespread damage in the Philippines, Taiwan, and China. On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake leveled villages in Pakistan. These events reminded us of the societal impact of many of the phenomena we study at Lamont.

 In the category of better news, I am pleased to report that the American Meteorological Society announced this week that Yochanan Kushnir and Richard Seager have been named Fellows of the society. Please join me in congratulating our.....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, September 20, 2013

The autumnal equinox will occur this Sunday, and, more importantly, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year is only 10 days away. The prospects for a government stalemate over the wording in a continuing resolution or lack of agreement on a new debt ceiling renew the sense that following Congress ranks high among this nation’s premier spectator sports, albeit with a fan base substantially smaller than those of most college and professional sport....

Lamont Weekly Report, September 13, 2013

It is a rare week that features a New York City mayoral primary, an anniversary of September 11th, and a Friday the 13th.

The week nonetheless included some good news. I am pleased to report that Keep Rockland Beautiful has named Margie Turrin as the recipient of their Education Award this year (http://www.keeprocklandbeautiful.org/). The organization....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, September 6, 2013

We owe the truncated number of workdays this week to the American labor movement and to President (and former New York Governor) Grover Cleveland. As if in retaliation for the three-day weekend, fall classes at Columbia began on Tuesday morning.

On Thursday, Academic Minute on WAMC Northeast Public Radio featured a discussion by Einat Lev of her research on measuring the physical properties of flowing lava (http://wamc.org/post/dr-einat-lev-columbia-university-understanding-lava). The program airs....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, August 30, 2013

The Columbia campus is awash with students, even as the hallways at Lamont are unusually quiet, as our scientists stretch out fieldwork or grab a few final days off before the beginning of the academic year next week.
 
I am pleased to report that we have three new Lamont Assistant Research Professors:....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, August 23, 2013

This week began with a front-page Justin Gillis article in The New York Times announcing that a pending report of the International Panel on Climate Change finds it “extremely likely” that human activity contributed more than half of the increase in surface temperature over the past 60 years (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/science/earth/extremely-likely-that-human-activity-is-driving-climate-change-panel-finds.html?hpw). The carefully worded description of confidence continues to strengthen with each IPCC report...

Lamont Weekly Report, August 16, 2013

August is usually a time of year for fieldwork and vacations, but this week included a target submission date for proposals to the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Sciences Division, so e-mail traffic prompting me to approve proposals by Lamont scientists peaked sharply. The bonus for me was an opportunity to read about some of the most promising....

Lamont Weekly Report, August 2, 2013

When the monthly page on my wall calendar flips to August, the imminence of the new academic year can be clearly felt, much like the air in a subway station presages the approach of a train.

This week I spent the first four workdays in Washington, D.C., chairing a review panel for NASA. The panel was asked to evaluate proposals from multi-institutional teams for membership in a new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. The institute aims to stimulate “an innovative, broadly based research program addressing basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to ....

Lamont Weekly Report, July 26, 2013

Today is the anniversary of the 1971 launch of the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon. Apollo 15 was the first of the so-called “J missions,” with a longer duration on the lunar surface than earlier landed missions, the first astronaut-driven rover, and an enhanced focus on science. The Apollo 15 mission included the first measurement of heat flow from the lunar interior. The PI for that experiment was Lamont’s Mark Langseth.

Lamont’s research vessel, named in Mark’s honor, continued this week to explore the three-dimensional seismic structure of the Galicia Rift west of Spain...
 

Lamont Weekly Report, July 19, 2013

Local heat index values above 100 F and half-empty parking lots are hallmarks of the middle of summer. Another sign of the season is this week's All-Star break for major league baseball. For baseball fans, today marks the anniversary of Cy Young's 500th win, Ty Cobb's 4000th hit, and Cal Ripken's 1500th consecutive game.

The R/V Langseth completed all needed engine repairs and sailed from Vigo, Spain, on Monday morning with a crew of 20 and a scientific party of 26. The ship has resumed her.... 

Lamont Weekly Report, July 12, 2013

This week has been punctuated with hot and humid mid-summer weather of the sort for which New York is famous, and the campus is full of college and high-school students immersed in summer research programs. The extra traffic on the Lamont shuttle has led Pat O’Reilly to move the 8:30 am outbound shuttle to 9:30 am and to add an additional bus heading back to the city at 5:30 pm, changes that will be put into effect on Monday.

The R/V Langseth remains in port in Vigo, Spain, and is today awaiting the arrival from----

Lamont Weekly Report, July 5, 2013

The beginning of this week marked the end of my first year at Lamont. The time has passed quickly, and there are still many in the Lamont community whom I would like to know better. In many ways Lamont is like a large oceanographic vessel. Course changes are made only slowly, and even while they are underway the important work of the ship is conducted not on the bridge but rather on the main deck and in the science laboratories. It is the steady pace of progress on that work that validates our mission. I hope that you will continue to keep me posted on the progress on your own work over the coming year...

Lamont Weekly Report, June 28, 2013

This week was notable for President Obama’s address at Georgetown University on Tuesday afternoon devoted in its entirety to the steps his administration will take to address global climate change. After laying out what the New York Times called “sweeping measures” to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, stimulate alternative energy usage, and partner with states and municipalities on climate adaptation strategie....

Lamont Weekly Report, June 21, 2013

The summer solstice was reached early today, and we begin the new season even as the daily duration of sunlight begins slowly to dwindle.

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced that Meredith Nettles has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, and Terry Plank has been named an Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues on their new positions......