Lamont Weekly Report, April 4, 2014

   

    The Earth has been much in the news this week. From the front page Justin Gillis article in Monday’s New York Times on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on likely climate change impacts over the coming decades, to ongoing stories of casualties from last week’s devastating landslide in the state of Washington, to reports of widespread damage yet comparatively few fatalities from the magnitude 8.2 earthquake in Chile on Tuesday, our planet continues to demonstrate the wisdom of sustaining the quest to improve our knowledge of Earth’s dynamical processes.
 
    Fortunately, the next generation of Earth scientists will be up to that task. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced this week that departmental undergraduate and graduate students did extraordinarily well in the competition for National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships. Honorable Mention citations were given to Olivia Clifton, Laura Haynes, and Kira Olsen. And seven DEES students will be receiving fellowships: Natalie Accardo, Logan Brenner, Kassandra Costa, Sam Phelps, Hannah Rabinowitz, Mike Sandstrom, and Sebastian Vivancos. Congratulations to all!
 
    The Geochemistry Division recently welcomed the arrival of visiting environmental chemist Shehong Li, a professor in the State Key Lab of Environmental Geochemistry at the Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. During his 6-month visit to Lamont, Dr. Li will work on the geochemistry of arsenic in rivers originating from the Tibetan Plateau, study the distribution of arsenic among geological materials from the Indus-Yarlung-Tsangpo suture zone, and explore implications for arsenic occurrence in downstream groundwater. His collaborators at Lamont are Sid Hemming, Qiang Yang, and Yan Zheng.
 
    New to the Lamont web pages this week is the Lamont Log (http://lamontlog.tumblr.com/), a site for images, stories, and videos that are not tied closely to media releases or upcoming events. Attractive, lively, and regularly refreshed, the log is the work of Rebecca Fowler and Ariana Falerni. You can reach it easily with the Blog button at the top of our home page.
 
    Two feature stories on Lamont science were also added to our web pages this week. A paper published online last month in the journal Climate Dynamics by Ben Cook, Jason Smerdon, Richard Seager, and Sloan Coats is the topic of an article and press release by Kim Martineau (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/warming-climate-may-spread-drying-third-earth-says-study). The paper, a comprehensive look at future droughts by means of climate models that include rates of evaporation as well as of rainfall, predicts that the land area subject to at least moderate drying will increase by as much as 30% by the end of this century. The Weather Channel (http://www.weather.com/news/science/environment/global-warming-may-spread-drought-third-earth-20140401), CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/less-rainfall-not-the-only-risk-factor-in-widespread-drought-study-shows/), and The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/drier-conditions-warming-temperatures_n_5083506.html) carried reports on the paper’s findings on successive days.
 
    A Kevin Krajick article features the work of Conny Class and Adjunct Associate Research Scientist Esteban Gazel on the history of the Galápagos plume and its role in the formation of the Isthmus of Panamá (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/the-isthmus-of-panama). This most recent land bridge between the Americas enabled the migration of animal species between the North and South American continents, altered the circulation of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and led to major changes in global climate patterns.
 
    In other news stories, John Armbruster was interviewed by WPIX-TV on Wednesday, following the Chile earthquake, regarding the potential for an earthquake in the New York City area (http://pix11.com/2014/04/02/big-apple-shake-potential-for-earthquake-in-new-york-city-exists/#axzz2xvrUOwoh). And Hugh Ducklow’s work at the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research station on the Antarctic Peninsula is the topic of a story today on The Antarctic Sun (http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/science/contenthandler.cfm?id=3005).
 
    Lamont’s Alumni Board has initiated a program to invite one distinguished alumnus or alumna to visit Lamont for several days during each academic year. The goals of the lecture series are to illustrate to our current students the intellectual heritage of the Lamont alumni community and to renew scientific connections between the invited lecturer and the campus. The inaugural lecturer in the series is Peter Molnar, Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the 2014 recipient of the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences (http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2014/01/16/cu-boulder-faculty-member-awarded-science-prize-royal-swedish-academy).
 
    Peter will give two lectures during his visit to Lamont this week and next. On Monday, Peter will give the Geodynamics Seminar on the topic of “Mantle dynamics, isostasy, and surface topography: What’s in a name? That which we call ‘dynamic topography’ by any other name (like isostasy) would stand as tall.” This afternoon, Peter will give the Earth Science Colloquium. The title of his lecture today is “The growth of the Maritime Continent, with no help from the Isthmus of Panamá, as the trigger for recurring ice ages.” I hope to see you at both.
 
       Sean