Lamont Weekly Report, November 15, 2013

    This week began with horrific reports of the devastation in the Philippines wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan ( In a special report posted on Sunday by CNN ( and in an Op Ed piece in today’s Los Angeles Times (,0,5815422.story#axzz2kiuJRnZQ), Adam Sobel has argued that climate change, rising sea levels, and continued development of coastal communities are likely to increase the impact of severe storms in the future. But this week our sympathies go out to the many victims of this particularly powerful typhoon.
    I followed much of the news of the typhoon from out of town. On Saturday, I visited Bergen Community College to speak to the New Jersey section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. On Monday, I chaired a meeting of the Visiting Committee for the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.
    Also on Monday, Elisabeth Streit Falk successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Carbonation of peridotite in the Oman ophiolite.” Please join me in congratulating Lisa on her new doctorate.
    On Tuesday evening, as part of the Marfa Dialogues series, Lamont and IRI hosted a panel discussion on “Climate: Past Present and Future” at the Rauschenberg Project Space in Chelsea. Panelists, all from the pages of the Climate Models calendar, included Michela Biasutti, Dorothy Peteet, Richard Seager, Jason Smerdon, and Kátia Fernandes from IRI ( A humorous review of Climate Models was published the next day by OnEarth Magazine (
    On Thursday, Ben Bostick, Steve Chillrud, Beizhan Yan, and I met at the Earth Institute with Steve Cohen and with Daniel Walsh, Director of the City of New York’s Office of Environmental Remediation (as well as a Lamont Adjunct Senior Research Scientist). The discussion focused on the city’s plans to characterize and remediate brownfields (, land targeted for redevelopment but contaminated by low to modest levels of hazardous material from previous industrial or commercial use, as well as opportunities for Lamont to contribute to an improved general understanding of soil contamination in the city.
    Also on Thursday, Maya Tolstoy spoke as part of the Earth Institute lecture series Toward a Sustainable Earth. Maya’s well-delivered talk, given at the Lotos Club on the Upper East Side, was on “The next wave: Tsunami warnings from the deep sea floor.”
    Posted Monday on Lamont’s News and Events web page was a Kim Martineau story on the geological fieldtrip last spring of Columbia and Barnard students to the archetypical Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary layer in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. In words, slides, and video, the article vividly conveys the impressions of the students and field leaders – Steve Goldstein, Sid Hemming, and visiting scientist David Barbeau – as they viewed the rocks that spawned the hypothesis that the end of the age of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was the result of the impact of a large asteroid ( Also recently posted on our website is a link to an article in Discover Magazine on the detective work of Colin Stark and Göran Ekström to discover and characterize large landslides in remote areas of the world from the analysis of global records of the seismic waves generated by the slide events (
    Next week will be a busy one on the Lamont Campus. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, whose 17th New York District includes Rockland County as well as parts of Westchester County, will visit Lamont on Monday to receive the “Champion of Science” award from The Science Coalition (, a consortium of more than 50 universities, including Columbia. Congresswoman Lowey, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations, is an advocate for federal investment in science, particularly in the areas of environmental conservation and energy management ( Loftin Flowers and Nathan Robb from Columbia’s Office of Government and Community Affairs visited with Pete Sobel, Kim Lundberg, Kim Martineau, and me today to go over the schedule for the event.
    Lamont’s Advisory Board will meet Wednesday afternoon in the Kennedy Board Room of the Comer Building. The meeting, the first to be led by new Board chair Sarah Johnson, will begin to focus on the major scientific initiatives identified in the Observatory’s strategic plan and the resources needed to bring those initiatives to maturity.
    Following the Board meeting, at 3 pm, there will be a dedication of Lamont’s new Ultra Clean Laboratory in the Comer Building. Participating in the dedication ceremony will be Executive Vice President for Research Mike Purdy; James Whetstone, Special Assistant to the Director for Greenhouse Gas Measurements at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Board chair Sarah Johnson; and several representatives of the Lamont geochemistry community, including Conny Class, Bess Koffman, Terry Plank, and Yaakov Weiss. Although attendance at the formal ceremony will be limited by the size of the seminar room in Comer, the reception that will follow in the Comer Atrium at 4 pm is open to everyone from the Lamont Campus.
    On Thursday next week, Lamont will be visited by Joel Widder and Meg Thompson, attorneys and lobbyists who represent Columbia University’s interests in Washington, D.C. A Town Hall meeting that afternoon will provide an opportunity for all of us at Lamont to learn from Joel and Meg about budgetary prospects this year and next for the federal science agencies. Additional goals of the visit are to engage more of the scientists on the Lamont Campus in paying visits to and providing objective advice to decision makers in Washington, and thereby to raise the visibility of Columbia University as a source of such advice.
    In advance of next week’s flurry of activity, David Kohlstedt from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Science ( will give today’s Earth Science Colloquium. An expert in rock and mineral physics, Dave will be channeling the Coen brothers when he speaks on the topic of “O water, where (in nominally anhydrous minerals in a convecting mantle) art thou?” I hope that thou wilt join me in the Monell auditorium to hear the answer.