Lamont Weekly Report, October 16, 2009

A brief welcoming presentation to a group of representatives from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (hosted by Bob Chen), followed by an EI Climate Center Steering Committee meeting and a meeting of the Executive Committee of the EI Faculty pretty much consumed Monday. And first thing Tuesday I was off to DC for four days of Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and Ocean Leadership meetings. The report on these discussions will constitute the bulk of the report

this week, so if you are not interested in either, skip to the end! (Because the last paragraph is REALLY important).

The point to emphasize about OOI - is that it is happening! And it is happening on a scale that we in the ocean sciences business have never seen before. The cooperative agreement between NSF and Ocean Leadership for this program is over $750M (yes, three quarters of a billion dollars) over several years.  The first increment of over $100M is already at Ocean Leadership and is being paid out to the implementing organizations.  The plans for this initiative have changed substantially - the seafloor geophysical goals (that were the initial intellectual justification for this effort) have taken a back

seat to climate change objectives. Check out the plans at

I am on the newly-formed top level advisory committee for this effort, a committee that is only just getting started and beginning to play a role in the thinking and planning. One of the key priorities that is well recognized by our committee is the urgent need to improve communication with the research community - the substantial changes in network design - mandated over the past 12 months by NSF leadership - are not yet properly understood by community members.  The OOI meeting in Baltimore coming up on November 11th and 12th is exclusively directed at this "communication" imperative.

Almost all the discussions at the Trustees and Members meetings at Ocean Leadership were - in one way or another - concerned with the huge changes in DC that are being driven by the Obama administration. The White House has mandated the formulation of a new national policy on the oceans. And OSTP (staffers Jerry Miller and Kate Moran) is

"refreshing" the national ocean research priorities plan. The new DC "buzz" phrase that permeated ALL these discussions is one that frankly I still do not fully understand:  Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). This term (that I had not heard of previously) is at the center of all the White House thinking about the oceans.  It was also at the center of Jane Lubchenko"s presentation about the future of NOAA. MSP seems to be focused upon federally controlled waters and includes all aspects of the marine environment from ecosystems to shipping to subseafloor resources, not to mention fisheries.  But I think our understanding of this will have to develop in the coming months.

Jane Lubchenko was not bubbling with positivism re NOAA"s future budget. It is clear she has been told to solve the NPOESS problem before any budget enhancements can be expected. (NPOESS is a national embarrassment that has been going on for a decade or so - it is a ~$2B (originally) program to renew the nation"s weather satellite systems

that is running ~$12B over budget). Jane"s other message was "ecosystem-based management" repeated many many times. She made positive statements about the importance of NOAA"s cooperative institutes and their dedication to the construction of a national climate service, and interestingly, one of the examples of she quoted concerning what she wanted to be able to do was "Enable farmers to decide what to plant and when, based upon drought forecasts 3-5 years

out." She also announced her intent to appoint a NOAA Chief Scientist - a position that has been empty for 8 years.  And recognized the nation"s inability to adequately monitor greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Ralph Cicerone (head of the National Academy of Sciences) gave an eloquent overview of the global warming problem - which, as I say, was eloquent, but I was not sure why he did it, given his audience (i.e. the nation"s ocean institution directors). Although he did teach me neat definitions of mitigation (avoiding the unmanageable) and adaptation (managing the unavoidable).

Obama has established a number of new interagency task forces - most importantly one called "Climate and Energy" chaired by Carol Browner; and one called "Adaptation to Climate Change", co-chaired by John Holdren, Nancy Sutley (Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality - CEQ) and Jane Lubchenko.

I also met with the Oceanographer of the Navy - Admiral Titley - who emphasized Navy"s plans to increase research and surveying in the Arctic and also made many healthy statements about the need to balance modeling and observational activities. "Observations without models never get you the future. Models without observations never get you reality," he said. And lastly the new Chief of Naval Research, Admiral Carr, was an extremely impressive individual who quickly received an invitation from me to visit Lamont - and I hope he will follow through with this.

OK - enough of DC.  Next week we are running a wonderful event - starting at 130pm Friday October 23rd, Monell Auditorium, we will spend the afternoon celebrating the career research accomplishments of our own Bill Ryan - a marine geologist and geophysicist of unparalleled accomplishment. We have a number of guest speakers coming in from out of town and as always a reception in the Monell Lobby following.  Please come and help us honor Bill - one of the true

legends of Lamont.

I remain in a meeting room in DC as I write this - hopefully despite the grungy weather I will make it home on time tonight.

Have a great, if wet, weekend.