Lamont Weekly Report, February 21, 2014


    On winter workdays I often take the 8 am shuttle to Lamont, and if I arrive at 120th Street sufficiently early I buy a cup of coffee from the street vendor and head up to Joe Coffee in the Northwest Corner Building. (I have not learned why the coffeehouse does not begin serving its own coffee until 8 am.) Larry Rosen is usually there ahead of me and, if so, can be found reading his morning copy of The New York Times. On seeing me arrive on Monday, Larry put down his paper and announced, “This is a two-Seager Monday.” Richard was quoted at two different spots in a Times story by Justin Gillis on the relative contributions of global warming and natural climate variability to the current drought in California ( 

    The floodgates have opened for media stories on U.S. droughts, and the work of Lamont scientists is often highlighted. Richard’s rainfall models were mentioned in a piece in the Albuquerque Journal on the ongoing drought in New Mexico and the next most recent drought of comparable severity in the 1880s ( And Ed Cook was cited in Texas Climate News last week, as was his work on the history of megadroughts in the American southwest and links between the current droughts in Texas and California (
    Droughts were not the only topics of news stories in which Lamont scientists were featured. Even while we were closed by a snowstorm last week, National Geographic asked Lamont whether one of our scientists could answer questions about the geologic origin of road salt, and Kim Martineau quickly recruited Bob Newton; Bob’s interview was posted on Wednesday ( Also on Wednesday, Nicholas van der Elst argued in The Nation that the recent sharp increase in the rate of earthquake occurrence in Oklahoma is likely to have been the result of injection of wastewater from oil and gas production ( On Monday, Adam Sobel was quoted in a New York Times article on the improving accuracy of storm predictions, given increasingly sophisticated weather models, as long as there are experts who can make “an actual prediction that can be communicated to people” ( A new story on Lamont’s “volcano maven” Terry Plank and her work on island arcs and volcanic eruptions was also posted this week on our website (
    Two of our graduate students learned of honors this week. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced on Monday that Jing Sun will be the recipient of the Jim Simpson Research Award for her proposal “Using coupled geochemical and transport modeling to investigate and predict the outcome of a magnetite-based arsenic remediation strategy.” Also on Monday, Jiyao Li learned that his talk on the Alaska subduction zone at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December received an Honorable Mention from the judges of the GeoPRISMS AGU Student Prize.
    Another important milestone was set by Lamont’s Asset Manager, Denyse Brown, who on Wednesday brought a new asset, Maisy Mae Heine, into the world. Congratulations and welcome, respectively, to mother and daughter!
    Hugh Ducklow and his collaborators recently completed their 22nd annual austral summer expedition as part of the Palmer, Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project. The cruise was along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula aboard the Antarctic Research and Supply Vessel Laurence M. Gould. Darren McKee, a student of Doug Martinson, also participated on the cruise. Hugh writes, “This year we experienced the most extensive and latest-retreating sea ice since 1986. Darren deployed four physical oceanographic moorings for Doug during the cruise.”
    The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed part-time Visiting Senior Research Scientist Klaus Wallmann. A marine biogeochemist, Klaus is a Professor at the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel and head of the Marine Geosystems Research Division at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. His host at Lamont is Gisela Winckler.
    On Saturday, I spoke to Columbia’s Science Honors Program, a Saturday science enrichment program for high-school sophomores, juniors, and seniors from the tri-state area ( The program, more than half a century old and boasting a distinguished list of alumni that includes several Nobel laureates, is looking for course offerings in Earth science. If you are interested in gaining science teaching experience, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the program leadership.
    On Tuesday evening, I was in Washington, D.C., to participate in the “Behind the Science with Joe Palca Lecture Series” at the Smithsonian Institution ( The event was less a lecture than a long onstage interview – imagine Jimmy Fallon interviewing Will Smith, but with the comedy writing far less polished – about planetary science in general and the MESSENGER mission in particular. National Public Radio science correspondent Joe Palca ( asked the opening questions, and the audience was then invited to ask questions of their own. I’d been an interview subject of Joe before, but on this trip – in another shrinking planet story – I learned that Joe has known Ben Holtzman since Ben was a child.
    This afternoon, Lamont’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Berkeley seismologist Richard Allen (, who will speak about his work on real-time earthquake alerts. The title of his lecture is “Earthquake alert: Harnessing BIG data to satisfy societal needs (and facilitate new science).” Following the colloquium, there will be a champagne reception in the Monell lobby to celebrate Mo Raymo’s receipt of the 2014 Wollaston Medal from the Geological Society of London. I hope to see you at both events.