Director's Weekly Reports

Lamont Weekly Report, January 17, 2014

This week has been one of new milestones and transitions.

On Thursday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Columbia and Lamont alumnus Peter Molnar is to receive the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences for 2014. Peter, a Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was selected “for his ground-breaking contribution to the understanding of global tectonics, in particular the deformation of continents and the structure and evolution of mountain ranges, as well as the impact of tectonic processes on ocean-atmosphere circulation and climate.......

Lamont Weekly Report, January 10, 2014

The arrival of January means that you can gaze at an image of Peter deMenocal for a full month, at least if you have a copy of the Climate Models calendar as I do (http://www.weather.com/news/science/environment/climate-scientists-pose-pinup-calendar-20140102).

The lion that shares the calendar image with Peter may symbolize the weather we’ve experienced so far this month. The first major snowstorm of the year shut down Lamont (and an issue of this report) last Friday, and this week was ushered in by a substantial southward....

Lamont Weekly Report, December 27, 2013

The last full week of the year came gift-wrapped with two weekends, and many from the Lamont community took advantage of the holidays to spend time with families and friends.

Another late-year gift was the announcement by the American Geophysical Union at the end of last week that three of our graduate students received Outstanding Student Paper Awards for their presentations at the AGU Fall Meeting earlier this month. Sloan Coats, Celia Eddy, and Zach Eilon received awards in the categories of Global Environmental Change..... 
 

Lamont Weekly Report, December 20, 2013

It’s been a transitional week: catch-up after the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting for researchers, final exams for students, and a schedule in which late-calendar deadlines were blended with holiday celebrations for all.

The week began, however, with the sad news that Lamont alumna Inés Cifuentes passed away on Monday after a long battle with cancer. The first woman to earn a Ph.D. in seismology at Lamont (1988), Inés spent much of her career working in science education and on behalf of programs to attract women and minorities to the sciences. She won the 200....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, December 13, 2013

This week was spent off campus for the many from Lamont who joined more than 22,000 others at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The week was launched on Saturday and Sunday with a meeting of the Marcus Langseth Scientific Oversight Committee, chaired by Dale Sawyer of Rice University. The first afternoon featured an extended introduction to the Langseth and its capabilities for early-career scientists. The business portion of the meeting on Sunday morning included reports from.....
 

Lamont Weekly Report, December 6, 2013

The globalization of solar system exploration was again in evidence this week. On Sunday, China launched Chang’e-3, a soft lander that will deliver a rover to the surface of the Moon later this month (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/world/asia/china-prepares-to-launch-moon-rover-mission.html?_r=0). That same day, India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft, launched last month into a parking orbit about Earth, completed a propulsive maneuver that sent it onto a planetary transfer trajectory to Mars (http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/1202/India-s-Mars-mission-leaves-Earth-s-orbit-surpasses-Chinese-ambitions). Chang’e-3 was propulsively inserted into lunar orbit today. The sea of space is becoming increasingly crowded with ships... 

Lamont Weekly Report, November 27, 2013

This week provides us with a reason to appreciate all that is special about Lamont: the shared sense of scientific mission, the pervasive intellectual excitement, and the consistently collegial tenor of our interactions. 

The passing of a former colleague, even one whose Lamont affiliation was decades past, gives us another occasion for appreciation. We learned this week of the death of Lois Ongley.....

Lamont Weekly Report, November 22, 2013

Fifty years ago today, at lunchtime, I was walking to the student houses on my campus after a sophomore physics lecture when my TA from Geology 1, his face wreathed in pain, gave me the news of the day. He was searching for his students to tell them that our afternoon lab had been cancelled. That moment, and millions like it, marked the beginning of the decline in....

Lamont Weekly Report, November 15, 2013

This week began with horrific reports of the devastation in the Philippines wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/world/asia/philippines-storm-surge-leaves-scenes-of-devastation.html). In a special report posted on Sunday by CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sobel-philippines-typhoon/) and in an Op Ed piece in today’s Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-oreskes-typhoon-climate-change-20131115,0,5815422.story#axzz2kiuJRnZQ), Adam Sobel....

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:....