Lamont Weekly Report, May 17, 2013


    The week was ushered in by a Justin Gillis story on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times announcing that the average daily level of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured on Mauna Loa had reached 400 parts per million for the first time since the Pliocene ( A quote by Maureen Raymo included in the story underscored the importance of the milestone.
    The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced this week that its undergraduates have named Meredith Nettles as recipient of the Best Teacher Award for 2013, and Claire Bendersky has been given the Best Teaching Assistant Award for the year. Please join me in congratulating this year’s top DEES instructors.
    The R/V Langseth has finished its study of the seismic structure of the region of the Rainbow Hydrothermal Field on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and is heading toward a Sunday arrival in the Azores. During the cruise, the ship completed ~1000 line-km of multi-channel seismic reflection profiling and ~2400 line-km of airgun shooting to ocean-bottom seismometers. After its port stop, the Langseth will transit to Virgo, Spain, for its next cruise, to begin on 1 June.
    Andy Juhl and Craig Aumack are in Barrow, Alaska, to study algae in and below sea ice and how climate change is affecting these organisms. Rebecca Fowler is accompanying the field team and documenting the progress of their research on her website ( and through regular reports on the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog page (
    Also new to the State of the Planet site this week is a story by Kevin Krajick on the work of Neil Pederson and his collaborators on the climate history of central Mongolia ( From tree-ring records, Neil’s team discovered that the two decades from 1211 to 1230 were one of the area’s wettest periods in the last millennium. Because that period coincides with the beginning of the Mongol conquest led by Genghis Khan, Neil and his colleagues have suggested that the wetter weather may have fostered an expansion of grasslands that enabled the Mongols to maintain greater numbers of livestock, including war horses. Extensive follow-on work is underway to test this proposal, and Krajick’s participation in one of the field expeditions last year gives his story the feel of a front-row view.
    On Tuesday, Art Lerner-Lam, Peter de Menocal, Yochanan Kushnir, Carol Pooser, Maureen Raymo, Louise Rosen, Adam Sobel, Lex van Geen, IRI’s Lisa Goddard and Haresh Bhojwani, CIESIN’s Bob Chen, and I heard a presentation by representatives of Mission Markets ( on opportunities for online crowdfunding as a mechanism for raising support for Lamont’s research and technology development projects. Representing Mission Markets were Lamont Advisory Board member Susan Holgate, Mission Markets CEO Ken Marienau, and three of his colleagues. Further discussions are planned.
    On Thursday evening, Maya Tolstoy delivered the fourth and final lecture in Lamont’s Spring Public Lecture series. Her talk, on “Deep sea earthquakes: Science and technology,” was given at the AppNexus Auditorium in the Flatiron District, as part of Lamont’s efforts to expand our outreach efforts to the New York City community. 
    Also on Thursday evening, Peter deMenocal spoke as part of the lecture series Toward a Sustainable Earth, sponsored by the Earth Institute. His lecture, on the topic “Does climate change society?: Lessons from North Africa,” was given at Aquavit Restaurant in East Midtown.
    In a story posted by National Geographic on Thursday and motivated by a scene in Star Trek into Darkness, now in theaters, David Ferguson was interviewed on the topic of volcanic eruptions ( David is less optimistic than the Vulcan character Spock in the film about the prospects for stopping an eruption with an explosive device.
    Lamont’s final Earth Science Colloquium of the academic year will be given today by Tapio Schneider, the Frank J. Galloon Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at Caltech and Professor of Climate Dynamics at ETH. Tapio will be speaking on “How to constrain low-cloud feedbacks through hierarchical physical modeling.” It is a day with abundant low clouds, so I hope to see you there.