Lamont Weekly Report, April 12, 2019

    The Lamont community was saddened this week to learn of the death Sunday of geologist Neil Opdyke ( Neil obtained his undergraduate degree in geology in 1955 at Columbia, where he was captain of the university’s football team. After obtaining his Ph.D. from Durham University in 1958 and postdoctoral positions at Rice University, the Australian National University, and University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Neil returned to Lamont as a Research Associate in 1964. Promoted to Senior Research Associate in 1966, he remained at the Observatory, even serving eight months as Interim Director, until 1981, when he moved to the University of Florida as Professor and Chair of their Department of Geology. Neil remained on the faculty at Florida until his retirement in 2009.

    Dennis Kent wrote, “Opdyke played a highly influential role at Lamont when he arrived in 1964 as a lone but persuasive voice fostering a mobilist view of the Earth. The paper by Opdyke and others in the 21 October 1966 issue of Science, which reported the first convincing magnetostratigraphies of deep-sea sediment cores, ranks with the Pitman and Heirtzler (1966) and Vine (1966) papers in clinching the interpretation of the magnetic stripes [in marine magnetic anomalies] as due to geomagnetic polarity reversals and sea-floor spreading, thereby ushering in the development of plate tectonics. Opdyke’s subsequent work contributed hugely to the development of magnetostratigraphy as a dating and correlation tool in marine cores, for example, establishing the chronology of Pleistocene climate changes, as well as in continental sediments with their mammalian fossil fauna, for example, in Anza Borrego, California, and the Siwaliks of Pakistan.”

    Neil was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the Geological Society of America. He received AGU’s Fleming Medal in 1996 and the Petrus Peregrinus Medal from the European Geosciences Union in 2008. Neil attended, as an invited speaker, the Lamont symposium on “The Plate Tectonics Revolution: 50 Years of Discovery,” held in May 2016 (

    A graveside service for Neil is being held this afternoon at the Frenchtown Cemetery in Frenchtown, New Jersey, the community where Neil grew up. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested that memorial contributions in Neil’s name can be made to a charity of your choice.

    Even as we mourn the loss of yet another giant from one of the golden eras of Lamont’s contributions to Earth science, scientific progress at the Observatory continued at its usual springtime pace.

    The National Science Foundation this week announced recipients of Graduate Research Fellowships for 2019, as well as those who received Honorable Mention among this year’s applicants (  Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences students Sarah Giles and Aaron Stubblefield will be receiving fellowships, and Lloyd Anderson, Dan Babin, and Nicholas O’Mara received Honorable Mention. Congratulations to all!

    Last Friday afternoon, the April issue of Lamont’s monthly newsletter was widely distributed ( The issue includes six stories on Lamont scientific activities during March, a profile of donor and Lamont Advisory Board member Todd Sandoz, an education story on engaging high school students in Peru to measure and learn about lead contamination in local soils, and 29 media stories about Lamont science or scientists published over the past month.

    Also last week, Einat Lev was a guest on Person Place Thing, an interview show hosted by Randy Cohen and held at the KGB Bar in the East Village ( The show, on which Einat spoke about her work in volcanology, was recorded for later broadcast on Northeast Public Radio and will be available as a podcast on the show’s website.

    Jennifer Lamp’s blogs from her fieldwork to study erosion and rock weathering in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica over the past austral summer continued to be posted this week, albeit three to three and a half months after they were written because of the lack of internet connection in the field. Last Friday, her posting featured a description of how she and her expedition colleagues weathered an intense storm, with snow and wind gusts up to 80 mph ( Jen’s post on Tuesday covered her return to McMurdo Station for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the flights home of her primary field colleagues, and her remaining field excursions to check instruments, download data, and retrieve samples.

    On Monday, Nature Geoscience published an article by Jesse Farmer, Bärbel Hönisch, Laura Haynes, Heather Ford, Mo Raymo, Maria Jaume-Seguí, Maayan Yehudai, Joohee Kim, and their collaborators demonstrating a link between the mid-Pleistocene transition in the periodicity of major glacial cycles and the inventory of carbon in the deep Atlantic. From trace element and Nd isotope measurements of foraminifera recovered from deep-sea sediment cores, the team showed that between 950 and 900 thousand years ago the magnitude of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) in the Atlantic lessened at the same time that the deep Atlantic carbon inventory increased. The group suggested that their observations and related evidence on ice volumes during that interval are consistent with the idea that weakening of the MOC and biogeochemical feedbacks in the Southern Ocean facilitated greater deep ocean carbon storage, lowering the atmospheric partial pressure of carbon dioxide and expanding the terrestrial ice volume at the mid-Pleistocene transition. A Kevin Krajick press release was posted on Monday (, and the story was picked up by the Great Lakes Ledger and other media (  

    Yesterday, Geophysical Research Letters posted online a paper by Tri Datta, Marco Tedesco, and their colleagues on the effect of foehn winds – warm, downslope winds on the lee sides of mountain ranges – on surface melting on the glaciers and ice shelves along the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula. From regional climate models and satellite passive microwave data, the group showed that there has been a substantial increase in foehn-induced surface melting late in each melting season since 2015. The enhanced surface melting has led to an increase in the density of near-surface ice and, over time, may affect the stability of the Larson C ice shelf. A press release on the paper’s findings ( was posted to our web site yesterday.

    On Tuesday, Scientific American published a lengthy article on the Geological Orrery of Paul Olsen, Sean Kinney, and Dennis Kent (, the history of planetary motions determined from orbital-driven climate cycles preserved in the sedimentary record recovered from drill-core samples acquired from the Newark Basin and Colorado Plateau. Also on Tuesday, a Science News story was devoted to the International Ocean Discovery Program expedition now recovering deep-ocean sediment cores from Iceberg Alley in the Scotia Sea and includes quotes from Mo Raymo, co-chief scientist on the cruise, on what the science party hopes to learn about the history of the Antarctic ice sheet (

    The annual First-Year Student Colloquium is now underway in Monell Auditorium. Sixteen DEES first-year graduate students are giving AGU-style presentations on their research areas, and the order of presentations is grouped by research division (except for two positions that may have been swapped). I hope that you will be able to attend to hear at least some of the talks.