Lamont Weekly Report, January 31, 2014


    For a second week in a row, we owe a shared debt of gratitude to key staff members for responding to a campus emergency. On Saturday afternoon, the campus lost power, a switch to an emergency generator failed, and the campus computer network lost connectivity. Lenny Sullivan and a Buildings and Grounds crew that included Mike McHugh, Bruce Baez, Ray Slavin, and Kevin Sullivan restored power in little more than an hour and returned on Sunday to work on the transfer switch with technicians from the manufacturer. Mahdad Parsi and David Lentrichia from the Information Technology group worked into the night on Saturday to address problems with specific computer servers. From all of us who arrived at our normal times on Monday morning to find a campus in working order, thanks, guys!
    Our Tree-Ring Laboratory passed on the good news this week that two of our scientists received major awards from the Tree-Ring Society at the 9th International Conference on Dendrochronology, held in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this month. Rosanne D’Arrigo received the Jose A. Boninsegna Frontiers in Dendrochronology Award for “advances in dendroclimatology both thematic and geographical,” and Ed Cook received The Harold C. Fritts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dendrochronology for “his significant influence on dendrochronology, emphasizing innovative research that has advanced the field, distinguishing it among our peer sciences.” Ed writes, “Rosanne’s plaque is mounted on a beautiful piece of ancient bristlecone pine wood of unknown provenance, while mine is mounted on a beautiful piece of Huon pine wood taken out of Lake Vera in Tasmania by Brendan Buckley and myself in the mid-1990s." Congratulations to Rosanne and Ed for this welcome recognition of their work.
    Lamont this week mourns the loss of Patty Catanzaro’s father, Stanley Harrison, who passed away last week at the age of 92. Stan worked as a machinist at Lamont from 1957 to 1986, participated in at least one cruise of the R/V Vema, and reportedly “loved the sea” ( A memorial service is planned for April.
    The Geochemistry Division this month welcomed the visit of Dr. Beidou Xi, head of the Division of Groundwater and Environmental Systems Engineering at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. Dr. Xi, whose visit is being hosted by Yan Zheng, will be at Lamont until the second week of February.
    On Tuesday, Lamont’s marine seismologists – Anne Bécel, Suzanne Carbotte, Hélène Carton, Tim Crone, Jim Gaherty, Donna Shillington, Maya Tolstoy, and Spahr Webb – met with Sean Higgins, Dave Goldberg, Art Lerner-Lam, Kathy Callahan, Edie Miller, and me to discuss the future of the R/V Langseth and its seismic data acquisition capabilities. Increasingly constrained ship-support budgets at the National Science Foundation prompt a broad examination of possible new business models for ship operations, including a greater emphasis on seeking opportunities for working with commercial and international partners and an expansion of educational programs that make greater use of the ship and its facilities.
    Several Lamont scientists have recently been in the news. Last Friday, Live Science carried an interview with Heather Savage about a paper that she published in the February issue of Geology along with Pratigya Polissar, Rachel Sheppard, and colleagues from McGill University and the University of California at Santa Cruz ( In a novel combination of earthquake seismology and organic chemistry, Heather and her colleagues are using the thermal maturation of organic molecules in sedimentary rocks within fault zones to determine the amount of frictional heating that the faults experienced during past earthquakes. The specific focus of their paper was an exposed fault zone in Alaska that was heated by as much as 1000°C above ambient temperatures during ancient large earthquakes, a finding that constrains the frictional heating and thus the slip during those events.
    The latest news story on our website, by Gisela Winckler, describes a paper she published in last Friday’s issue of Science along with colleagues from Germany, Chile, and Switzerland on the record of dust in ocean sediment cores from the polar south Pacific ( She and her coauthors documented that the rate of dust deposition is three times higher during glacial periods than interglacial periods during the last million years. Airborne dust affects the radiative balance of the atmosphere, and the fall of dust to the shallow ocean brings iron to nutrient-limited phytoplankton, stimulating population growth and the uptake of carbon dioxide, so both processes affect climate. That the temporal pattern of dust deposition Gisela and her coworkers found in the south Pacific is similar to that found in the polar south Atlantic and in Antarctica raises questions about the source regions of the dust and the implications for southern hemisphere wind patterns, questions that Gisela is poised to pursue with the use of geochemical tracers.
    On Tuesday, Jason Smerdon was interviewed by U.S. News and World Report, along with the Earth Institute’s Steve Cohen and Jason Bordoff, Director of Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy, on what clean energy and climate change initiatives might be mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union speech the next evening. Assigning scores to the predictions ( is left as an exercise for the reader (
    For a different type of news, you might enjoy watching a video perspective of the Lamont campus in winter filmed recently from a small drone operated by Alessio Rovere (
    This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Elizabeth Kujawinski from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry ( Liz will speak on “Probing the molecular basis for microbe-dissolved organic matter interactions in the marine environment.” I hope that you can attend.