Lamont Weekly Report, July 12, 2013
This week has been punctuated with hot and humid mid-summer weather of the sort for which New York is famous, and the campus is full of college and high-school students immersed in summer research programs. The extra traffic on the Lamont shuttle has led Pat O’Reilly to move the 8:30 am outbound shuttle to 9:30 am and to add an additional bus heading back to the city at 5:30 pm, changes that will be put into effect on Monday.
The R/V Langseth remains in port in Vigo, Spain, and is today awaiting the arrival from Rolls Royce of one last part to complete repair of her portside engine. Full testing of the repaired engine will follow the installation of the needed part, and the date of sailing to complete the three-dimensional seismic structural investigation of the Galicia Rift is still several days away.
On Tuesday, I spent two hours at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies with Nancy Kiang, Gavin Schmidt, and other scientists from GISS and Columbia to discuss plans to respond to a request for proposals for membership in the NASA Astrobiology Institute (https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/articles/2013/07/03/nai-can7-draft-released/). The broad theme of the proposed effort is the development of three-dimensional climate models for rocky planets in our solar system, including ancient as well as modern climate systems, as well as those for rocky planets around other stars. A title initially suggested for the team effort, Solar System Habitability Through Time, did not lend itself well to an acronym, so vigorous renaming efforts are now underway. If anyone on the Lamont Campus has an interest in joining forces on the proposal, please let me know.
A paper in today’s issue of Science by Nicholas van der Elst, Heather Savage, and Geoff Abers, along with Katie Keranen of Cornell University, reports evidence that some sites of deep wastewater injection in the central United States have been susceptible to the triggering of small earthquakes by the passage of seismic waves from distant major events, such as the great Tohoku earthquake of March 2011. Moreover, such triggered seismicity can presage the occurrence of larger earthquakes at sites where fluid pressures have weakened area faults nearly to the point of failure. A press release on the article by Kim Martineau (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/distant-quakes-trigger-tremors-us-waste-injection-sites-says-study) stimulated considerable media interest. Nicholas and Heather were quoted in stories circulated by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/11/us-science-fracking-earthquakes-idUSBRE96A0TZ20130711) and posted by National Geographic (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/07/130711-fracking-wastewater-injection-earthquakes/), among others. An interview with Nicholas aired yesterday on “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio (http://www.npr.org/2013/07/11/200515289/wastewater-wells-geothermal-power-triggering-earthquakes).
Other media and web coverage of science at Lamont was unusually broad this week. Andy Juhl was interviewed for “Academic Minute” on WAMC Monday on the meaning of metrics for water quality and bacterial levels in the Hudson River (http://www.wamc.org/post/dr-andrew-juhl-columbia-university-what-does-average-mean). On Tuesday, Kevin Krajick posted a story and slide show on the work of David Ferguson and colleagues on the high-temperature mantle melting that produced lavas in the rift systems of the Afar (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/ethiopian-desert-window-rifting-africa). On Wednesday, Kevin posted a second article with an accompanying video and photos on Peter Kelemen’s field studies of the Samail ophiolite in Oman and the potential of that rock complex to capture and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/ancient-rocks-modern-purpose). A video featuring the field studies by Michael Steckler, Nano Seeber, and Chris Small of the tectonics and hydrogeology of Bangladesh was posted on Science360 on Thursday (http://science360.gov/obj/video/dd289521-5f16-47a9-b58a-d7d275847b29/bangladesh-pire). Also on Thursday, an article on Richard Seager’s work linking drought conditions in western U.S. to patterns of sea-surface temperature in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans was posted on LiveScience (http://www.livescience.com/38099-southwest-drought-linked-ocean-temperature.html).
Whether you are returning home this evening on the Lamont shuttle or by some other means, may you take comfort in the fact that knowledge of the workings of our planet is being advanced across a broad front this summer by our many campus colleagues.