Lamont Weekly Report, April 22, 2016

   The week began Saturday with large, damaging, and deadly earthquakes on opposite sides of the Pacific. The first was a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in central Kyushu, Japan, a shallow strike-slip rupture that had been preceded by a magnitude 6.2 foreshock two days earlier ( Later that day, a magnitude 7.8 thrust-faulting earthquake struck offshore of Ecuador along the interface between the Nazca and South American plates ( The pair of quakes underscored the importance of our need for better understanding of earthquake characteristics in seismically active areas.

In much better news, Angelica Patterson learned late last week that she is the recipient of the inaugural Campbell Award for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Established by the University Trustees and the Board of the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) “as a celebration of all who build Columbia University’s spirit,” the award is presented to a graduating student at each school who shows exceptional leadership and Columbia spirit as exemplified by Bill Campbell, ’62 Columbia College, ’64 Teachers College, Chair Emeritus of the University Trustees, and CAA co-founder, who sadly passed away on Monday this week. In a personal note of congratulations to Angie, GSAS Dean Carlos Alonso wrote, “I hope you know that GSAS values greatly the work that you have done with WiSC (Women in Science at Columbia) to advance the participation of women in the science disciplines at Columbia (from undergraduates to alumni), as well as your broader efforts on diversity in your department and in the university.” The award will be given at the GSAS Recent Alumni Reception in May. Congratulations, Angie!

In more good news, Terry Plank was elected this week to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( Founded in 1780, the American Academy is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. Terry was one of only two U.S. Earth scientists elected to membership this year. The other was Lamont and Columbia alumna Lisa Tauxe, now at the University of California, San Diego. Kudos to both Terry and Lisa!

Larry Palumbo began work this week as Lamont’s new Assistant Manager of Buildings and Grounds. For the past two years, Larry managed facility operations at the Bear Mountain Inn, and for much of his career before then he was owner and manager of Clarkstown Heating and Air Conditioning in Pearl River. A graduate of Dominican College, Larry has been active in a number of local civic organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. Please join me in welcoming Larry to Lamont!

A paper in the 1 June issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters by Christine McCarthy and Reid Cooper of Brown University reports measurements of mechanical dissipation in ice subjected to the combined effects of creep along fractures and low-frequency periodic loading. The pair found that dissipation is non-linear, independent of ice grain size, and larger by an order of magnitude than predicted by the Maxwell solid model typically used to estimate tidal dissipation in icy satellites, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa. Their work implies that substantial dissipation occurs within ice grains under those conditions and that tidal dissipation within the outer ice shell of Europa and those of other icy satellites of the giant planets is larger than previously estimated. A story in Cosmos Magazine on Tuesday ( discussed the paper’s findings.

Jason Smerdon was coauthor of a paper published this week in a journal not commonly found on the publication lists of Lamont scientists, the Journal of Economic Surveys. Jason teamed with University of Oxford economists Felix Pretis and Sir David Hendry and climate scientist Lea Schneider of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz to apply an econometric tool for detecting breaks in a time series to the record of mean northern hemisphere temperature over the past 1200 years derived from a climate model. The group showed that volcanic eruptions that injected large quantities of aerosols into the atmosphere could be detected from the temperature record without prior knowledge of the events. A Stacy Morford release on the article ( appears on our web site. 

On Wednesday, at the Annual Meeting of the Seismological Society of America, held in Reno, Nevada, Chris Scholz received the 2015 Harry Fielding Reid Medal, the society’s top award ( A Stacy Morford story posted on Lamont’s web page Tuesday summarizes Chris’s work and the broad impact it has had on our understanding of faulting and earthquakes (

Also on Wednesday, Peter deMenocal, Adam Sobel, IRI’s Lisa Goddard, and I attended a meeting of Columbia University’s Campaign Executive Committee. The committee, co-chaired by biochemist and former Merck CEO Roy Vagelos and Columbia Trustees Lisa Conroy and Jonathan Lavine, is in the early stages of planning for the university’s comprehensive campaign, and the four of us had been invited to speak about research on the Lamont Campus and across Columbia University more generally on climate change and its impacts.

Wednesday, too, saw the posting by Smithsonian Magazine of an article on the world’s peat bogs that leads off with a narrative of Jonathan Nichols conducting fieldwork in the peatlands of Alaska. Peat bogs store substantial volumes of terrestrial carbon, so changes in their global distribution in response to land use change and Earth’s warming climate are important to understand (

Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the presentation of a paper by Walter Pitman and James Heirtzler at the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., reporting convincing evidence for seafloor spreading from the extraordinarily symmetric magnetic anomalies recorded on the Eltanin 19 profile across the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge. A Stacy Morford story on Walter’s paper, published later in 1966 in Science magazine, and other Lamont contributions to the development of the theory of plate tectonics ( was posted Wednesday on our web site, along with video and audio interviews with Walter, Bill Ryan, and Lynn Sykes. Lamont’s contributions to our current understanding of plate tectonics, from half a century ago to the present, will be discussed further at a symposium that the Observatory will host next month (May 23-24). Organized by a committee chaired by Bill and Roger Buck, the program for the symposium will feature talks by Lynn, Bill, Enrico Bonatti, Jim Cochran, Peter Kelemen, Dennis Kent, Paul Olsen, Terry Plank, Maureen Raymo, Donna Shillington, and me, as well as Lamont alumni and friends Tanya Atwater, Steve Cande, Dan Davis, Don Forsyth, Jeff Fox, Bryan Isacks, Xavier Le Pichon, Peter Molnar, Neil Opdyke, Manik Talwani, and Tony Watts.

The April issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter ( was distributed Wednesday to a broad audience. In addition to links to the stories above, the newsletter highlights earlier stories on Lamont’s new partnership with the World Surf League, the study by Ben Cook and others on the impact of climate change on the wine-growing season in France and Switzerland, and Kevin Griffin’s work on the temperature dependence of respiration in plants and its implications for the diurnal carbon dioxide cycle. Links to news stories on Lamont science, blogs by Lamont scientists, and upcoming events round out the issue. 

The Lamont–World Surf League partnership was also the focus of a story posted on Climate Central yesterday ( With quotes from Peter deMenocal and WSL CEO Paul Speaker, the story explores the advantages and potential pitfalls of corporate support of scientific research. (One of Peter’s more colorful quotes refers to “pinhead scientists.”)

This week included Earth Day today (, and the Campus Life Committee organized several activities to mark the occasion. The entire week was highlighted as a time for office spring cleaning and recycling. A Charity Yoga Class was held on Tuesday, and all proceeds were given to the New York City Fresh Air Fund ( This morning, Bike to Work events were held from Manhattan and from Nyack–Piermont, and participants were treated to a free breakfast afterwards in the Lamont Café.

Lamont has partnered with Cresskill Academies in Cresskill, New Jersey, to offer a high school internship opportunity to a cohort of juniors from the school for the next academic year. The cohort will visit the campus once per week for 14-16 weeks during the fall and spring semesters, and students will work on a research project, read peer-reviewed literature, participate in discussions of scientific papers, and attend lectures on campus. Each intern will be required to generate a scientific poster and a presentation at the end of their time at the Observatory, and each will receive credit from their school for participation. A story on the program appeared in the Northern Valley Suburbanite last week ( If you’re interested in learning more about the program or serving as a mentor for one of the students, please contact our Education and Outreach Coordinator, Cassie Xu.

In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium speaker is, as the saying goes, a woman who needs no introduction. Atmospheric and climate dynamicist Tiffany Shaw, until last year an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, now holds the same position in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago ( Tiffany’s seminar will be on the question “What does the seasonal cycle tell us about the atmospheric circulation response to global warming?” I hope that you can come to Monell to hear her answer.