Lamont Weekly Report, January 25, 2013

        The week began with the inauguration of our nation’s President for a second term. His inaugural address on Monday included a full paragraph worthy of sustained note by all of us, clearly focused as it was on those challenges addressed daily at Lamont and across the Earth Institute:

       “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
       Tuesday morning’s Science Times featured a lead article by Justin Gillis on one of Maureen Raymo’s fieldtrips conducted as part of the Pliomax project she is leading. The journalist, embedded among Maureen’s “scruffy crew of scientists,” described the team’s search for Pliocene shoreline levels near the modern coast of South Africa. The article ( provides a generally good description of the broad goals of the Pliomax project to document on nearly every continent the maximum sea level during the mid-Pliocene warm period of about 3 million years ago. 
       Also on Tuesday, Emily Klein — Professor of Geology and Bass Fellow at Duke University — arrived for a sabbatical visit. Emily should be well known to many at Lamont, with her B.S. degree from Barnard and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia. An expert in the geochemistry of oceanic basalts, Emily served for six years as Senior Associate Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke.  
       Later this week, Al Hofmann of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry arrived for his now-traditional spring visit to Lamont. Al joins Emily and Craig Manning in a shared office (Room 419) in the Comer Building. Given its modest dimensions, that office may now contain the greatest level of geochemical expertise per square meter that the Lamont campus has seen for many years. 
       On Wednesday, Damon Jaggars, Columbia’s Associate University Librarian for Collections and Services, gave me a tour of several campus libraries, including the Lehman Social Sciences Library in the School of International and Public Affairs and the Science & Engineering Library in the Northwest Corner Building. These and other libraries across the campus feature modest book collections and few paper journals (along with off-campus storage of the less heavily used portions of the collections), but substantially improved user access to rapidly growing collections of digital and online resources. Ideas for how these trends might be applied to Lamont’s library are welcomed. 
      On Thursday, the Office of Marine Operations at Lamont hosted a visit by Dale Sawyer (Rice University), the chair of the Marcus Langseth Scientific Oversight Committee. Dale was treated to a range of discussions with scientific and OMO staff on upcoming scientific projects and plans for upgrades to the Langseth’s equipment and operations. Dale will be leading one of the Langseth’s cruises later this year. 
       I’m finishing these notes only minutes before the start of the first Earth Science Colloquium of the calendar year. The series continues apace next week with a seminar by David Wald of USGS on modeling losses from major earthquakes.