Lamont Weekly Report, May 16, 2014


    The end of the academic year feels closer this week. Final examinations were held, and preparations for next week’s commencement activities neared completion. An item of particularly good news for Lamont is that Wally Broecker will receive the Dean’s Distinguished Achievement Award this coming Sunday at the Convocation Ceremony of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (

    The end of the academic year will bring other transitions. Arnold Gordon will step down as Associate Director for Lamont’s Ocean and Climate Physics Division at the end of next month, after 13 years in the position and 16 years in his earlier position as Head of Physical Oceanography. I am pleased to announce that Mingfang Ting has agreed to serve as AD for OCP as of 1 July. So although Arnold’s long memory and quick wit will be missed on Lamont’s Associate Director Council and Executive Committee, OCP leadership will be in capable hands after the transition.

    The campus received the sad news this week that Bruce Malfait died last Friday. A long-term program officer in the Ocean Sciences Division at the National Science Foundation, Bruce played leading roles in the management of the Marine Geology and Geophysics Program and particularly the Ocean Drilling Programs, and he leaves many friends at Lamont. A tribute (, published in Oceanography and written by NSF colleague Paul Dauphin on the occasion of Bruce’s retirement from the Foundation in 2006, provides a good description of Bruce’s impact on the field.

    The Geochemistry Division welcomed two visitors this week. Adjunct Senior Research Scientist Bob Finkel, from the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is visiting Joerg Schaefer’s group for several weeks. Paola Stephanie Araya Salgado, an undergraduate at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, will be visiting Mike Kaplan’s group through July to work on the long-term history of glaciers and climate in southern South America.

    Last Friday, at the 10th annual ceremony to celebrate outstanding mentors on the Lamont Campus, we recognized 11 individuals who had been nominated this year for mentoring awards. The Excellence in Mentoring Award went to IRI’s Dan Osgood; certificates of honorable mention went to Natalie Boelman, Sid Heming, Peter Kelemen, and Gisela Winckler; and a certificate of special mention went to CIESIN’s Mark Becker. The importance of thoughtful mentoring was never better illustrated than by the comments from the nominators of these individuals.

    On Sunday, Lamont Advisory Board member Wendy David and her husband George hosted a dinner for the Observatory’s Climate and Life initiative that featured an informal discussion focused on future water resources. Peter deMenocal, Art Lerner-Lam, Richard Seager, Board member Julian Sproule, and I were the participants from Lamont.

    On Wednesday and Thursday, Alex Evans, Peter James, and I were in Boulder, Colorado, for a meeting of the Science Team of the GRAIL spacecraft mission. Although that twin-spacecraft mission ended in December 2012, the inter-spacecraft positions were measured with such precision that the representations of the lunar gravity field derived from those data are rich in detail (to spherical harmonic degree and order in excess of 1000), and the project was granted a no-cost extension to complete the analysis of the measurements.

    The May issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter ( was e-mailed to friends of the Observatory on Thursday. The newsletter includes articles on Paul Olsen’s drilling project in Petrified Forest National Park, Bess Koffman’s field trip to collect samples of glacial dust in New Zealand, and the newly redesigned Lamont Log, as well as pieces on Peter Kelemen’s election last month to the National Academy of Sciences and alumnus Peter Molnar, who visited Lamont last month and received the 2014 Crafoord Prize in Geosciences last week in Stockholm.

    Posted on the Lamont web site this week is a Kevin Krajick story on an art exhibit focused on changes to Arctic Ocean microorganisms in response to climate change ( The exhibit, “Voyage of Discovery,” is on display this month at the American Association for the Advancement of Science headquarters in Washington. O. Roger Anderson spoke at a symposium on “Art and Science of Climate Change” that kicked off the exhibit at the beginning of the month. Roger’s presentation, on “Radiolaria: Opal artisans of the sea and climate change,” was apropos of the art on display.

    The news this week includes a story in Monday’s Journal News on a study by Tim Kenna and Frank Nitsche aimed at an understanding of the fate of sediment transported across the drainage area of the Hudson River during tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011 ( A story Wednesday on Climate News Network quoted Neil Pedersen on the history of droughts in North America and their impact on forests (

    Today, I am in Los Angeles for the International Space Development Conference, the annual meeting of the National Space Society. This evening, the society will give their Space Pioneer Award to the MESSENGER Team, and two project colleagues will be joining me at the presentation. For space aficionados, we will be sharing the podium with Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, who will be receiving the society’s Robert Heinlein Award. Musk has a sufficiently high profile that quotations of his can be found on the web. Here’s one I like: “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice.”