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 ( The carefully worded description of confidence continues to strengthen with each IPCC report.
    From Tuesday to Thursday, Lamont hosted a workshop on the Development of Isotopic Proxies for Paleoenvironmental Interpretation – Carbon (DIPPI-C) in the Comer Building. In a program organized by Jonathan Nichols, speakers included Wally Broecker, Ray Sambrotto, and colleagues from a number of other academic institutions.
    On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I was in Woods Hole (Quissett, technically) for a meeting of the Science Team for the GRAIL spacecraft mission. That dual-spacecraft mission, which ended last December, utilized inter-spacecraft tracking to measure the gravity field of the Moon. The precision of the measurements and the low altitude of the spacecraft orbits has yielded solutions to the global gravity field of higher resolution than has been achieved for any other planetary body, including Earth. Spherical harmonic expansions, for instance, have been completed to values of the harmonic degree and order in excess of 1000 (equivalent to a spatial resolution of about 5 km), and the resulting gravity field is revealing new information on the Moon’s volcanic, deformational, and impact cratering processes.
    While in the Woods Hole area I paid a visit to Susan Avery, Director and President of WHOI. We had a productive discussion on the future of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) and more generally on the roles of oceanographic institutions in addressing the issues facing the ocean sciences.
    On Thursday, Elsevier released a list of the five articles that had been most frequently downloaded by readers from their leading Earth science journal, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, during the first half of this calendar year. Two of the five, both from the journal’s Frontiers series, were published by Lamont scientists. Number two on their list was an article published in the 15 February issue by Terry Plank and others on possible reasons for the remarkably narrow range of water contents in magmas erupted at island arcs. Number three on their list was a nine-year-old article by Peter deMenocal on the relationship between Pliocene and Pleistocene climate change and African faunal evolution, including the evolution of the genus Homo.
    In the news this week were an article and video Sunday posted by Rockland’s Journal News on fieldwork by Bob Newton and the high school students in his Secondary School Field Research Program on the impact on the Piermont marsh of dredging for the new Tappan Zee Bridge ( An article on Tuesday in the Youngstown News ( cited a paper by Won-Young Kim in the July issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth arguing that more than 100 earthquakes in the Youngstown, Ohio, area in 2011 were the result of increases in pore pressure along a subsurface fault following fluid injection in a borehole near the locus of seismic activity. And an Andy Rivken article in The New York Times today ( quotes Klaus Jacob on how coastal cities should take cognizance of future rises in sea level in infrastructure planning.
    Next week we bid farewell to Samar Khatiwala, who is leaving Lamont to take a professorship at the University of Oxford. A Lamont and Columbia alumnus, Samar has been a member of Lamont’s research faculty for nearly a decade. His affiliation with the Observatory will continue as an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, so we will continue to benefit from his broad expertise in chemical and physical oceanography and climate dynamics. Please join me in wishing Samar well in his new position.
    On Monday next week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will give a public lecture at Columbia University’s Faculty House on the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan and the need to improve the resilience of the nation’s energy infrastructure. The event is hosted by Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and preregistration is required (
    The weekend ahead should provide ample opportunity to contemplate energy usage and global changes to the ocean and climate systems. I hope that you can enjoy the next two days nonetheless.