Lamont Weekly Report, November 16, 2012

      For me this has been a week spent off campus. I chaired a two-and-a-half-day meeting of the MESSENGER Science Team hosted by UCLA and held in Santa Monica, and UCLA persuaded me to stay in town for another half day to give a departmental seminar. The warm weather and views of the Pacific have been a welcome change, and I’ve been moved by the large number of our west coast colleagues who have offered sympathy and concern for those of us who weathered Hurricane Sandy. 

     The weekly report circulated last week stimulated an unusually large flurry of e-mails regarding the membership of the Lamont Strategic Planning Committee. Most e-mail writers pointed out that some specific area of research at Lamont has no evident representation on the committee. My responses to such messages have been as follows. First, of course, it is not possible for a committee of 12 to represent all fields and interests at the Observatory. Second, I have asked each member of the committee to take a very broad view of the most promising directions that we should pursue over the next several years. Finally, the committee has been asked to engage the entire Lamont community in the planning process through one or more retreats or all-hands meetings. Please be assured that every voice will be heard, every good idea will be factored into the planning process, and the final plan will be a community consensus.
     On Monday evening, Lamont, the Earth Institute, and the government of Quebec cosponsored a panel discussion on "Warming Arctic, Changing Planet," a symposium held in the rotunda of Low Library and organized by Natalie Boelman and her colleagues. The event was a public presentation of the science and impacts of climate change in the Arctic and included a reportedly stirring depiction of the impacts on native residents. There were about 200 in attendance.
     Minosca Alcántara and Margie Turrin reviewed proposals this week submitted by middle school students from Alpine, New Jersey, for microgravity experiments that might be installed and conducted on the International Space Station. Lamont Advisory Board member Kathleen Semergieff, the superintendent of the Alpine school district, organized the review.
     At a meeting on Tuesday of the faculty of the Earth Institute, Michael Gerrard – Director of the Center for Climate Change Law – presented his assessment of the environment following last week’s election for federal climate-change legislation, executive branch action, and public and private sector activities. In Gerrard’s view, the divided government will likely limit legislation, but there may be opportunities for action through federal regulations and actions by non-government organizations.
     Two years ago, several of John Diebold's friends and colleagues arranged for a memorial bench to be placed at the end of the Piermont Pier, a location that held special significance for John and where Lamont's ships once docked. The surge from Sandy, unfortunately, washed the bench ashore in Piermont, along with a great deal of debris. Dick Greco and Bruce Baez from Lamont’s Buildings and Grounds office, with the help of Pat Temple's son Tom of the Piermont Department of Public Works, retrieved the bench, which is now safely back at Lamont. We plan to restore the bench and, in consultation with the original group, we shall find a suitable and permanent home for it on the Lamont Campus.
     On Monday afternoon next week, the Earth Institute, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, and Columbia’s World Leaders Forum will sponsor a university forum on After Sandy: Climate and Our Coastal Future. Speakers at the forum, to be held in the rotunda of Low Library, will include Adam Sobel, IRI’s Ben Orlove, Cynthia Rosenzweig from GISS, and others. Pre-registration is required (
     The theme of that forum will receive an early introduction by today’s colloquium speaker, MIT’s Kerry Emanuel. Kerry is one of the world’s experts on the topic of his lecture, assessing the flood risk from tropical cyclones, and I hope that you will be able to hear his latest views.