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 2006 National Hispanic Scientist of the Year award from the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida, and one year later she received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Math and Science from the White House. Carol Mountain found this autobiographic note that Inés wrote about a decade ago for the pages of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science: Inés is survived by her husband, Lamont alumnus Frank Aikman, and her children Julia and Ben. A memorial service is planned for mid-February in Washington, D.C.
   On Monday, Pete Sobel and I visited the School of Engineering and Applied Science to meet with Dean of Engineering Mary Boyce and Associate Dean for Advancement Peggy Maher, along with Adam Sobel, Mark Cane, and Columbia Water Center Director Manu Lall. The topic of discussion was the initiative in weather and climate extremes led by Adam and identified as one of the five initiatives in Lamont’s Strategic Plan. Because the goals of the initiative extend from an improved physical understanding of extreme climate and weather events to the development of solutions for resilient responses, a partnership between Lamont and SEAS would strengthen efforts in those areas at both units. Follow-on discussions to sharpen the definition of the initiative and lay out fundraising strategies are planned.
   Our Office of Development, Strategic Initiatives, and External Relations announced this week that the Observatory successfully met a fundraising challenge made earlier by the Lenfest Foundation to match up to $250,000 in contributions toward the creation of a conference room in the Comer Building to be named for Wally Broecker. Members of Lamont’s Advisory Board, staff members, and friends of the Observatory contributed substantially toward meeting this challenge. Moreover, Board member and alumnus Dennis Adler led a major solicitation campaign this fall aimed at our geochemistry alumni, and the response was heartening in the breadth of involvement.
   On Thursday, Steve Cohen and I met with Provost John Coatsworth, Executive Vice President for Finance Anne Sullivan, and Sonia Winner, Deputy Vice President for Development, Professional Schools and Programs. Discussion topics included the strategic and financial challenges facing the Earth Institute and Lamont, as well as programmatic aspirations and resource projections over the coming five-year period. The meeting was intended to be the first in a series as budget development proceeds over the winter and spring.
   Media stories of scientific findings reported by Lamont scientists at the AGU Fall Meeting continued this week. On Monday, The Take Away on National Public Radio aired an interview with David Ferguson on the largest possible eruptions of the Yellowstone “supervolcano” ( On Wednesday, a story on Live Science featured the proposal by Dallas Abbott, derived from the analysis of dust and fossils in a Greenland ice core, that a multi-year interval of global cooling in the Sixth Century may have been the result of enhanced levels of atmospheric dust following the low-latitude oceanic impact of a cometary fragment during a meteor shower associated with comet 1P/Halley (
   To any of you who, like me, find that these stories evoke a poem by Robert Frost, I hope that you will take heart that the year-end holidays begin next week. May all of you relish your time with family and friends.