Lamont Weekly Report, April 27, 2018

    This week Alex Halliday moved to New York City, and he will begin his tenure as Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute on Monday. A Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Alex will also join Lamont’s Senior Staff on Monday. As a member of the Geochemistry Division, he now has an office in the Comer Building and will soon have a laboratory for isotope geochemistry and cosmochemistry. He will devote much of his first day on the job hosting a meeting of the Earth Institute faculty, also in Comer.

    Also next Monday, Meghan Fay will become Lamont’s Director of Development, External Relations, and Strategic Initiatives and the Senior Director for Advancement at the Earth Institute. For more than eight years, Meghan has been the Senior Director of Development at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute ( In that position she focused on securing interdisciplinary gifts that straddled multiple departments at both the Medical Center and the Morningside campus. Prior to coming to Columbia, Meghan worked as a Senior Leadership Gifts Officer at Boston University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and an MBA from Northeastern University. Meghan will overlap by one week with Farhana Mather, who will thereafter join the Global Initiatives team at Columbia’s Office of Alumni and Development as a University Development Officer for the Southeastern Region.

    Jim Gaherty, Emily Hopper, and Josh Russell spent the week aboard the R/V Kilo Moana, where they are three-fourths of the way through a 30-day cruise to deploy broadband ocean-bottom seismometers (OBSs), conduct multi-beam mapping, and collect gravity data over a 500-km-by-500 km patch of Pacific Ocean seafloor northeast of the Marquesas Islands. The project, proposed by Jim, Lamont alumnus Zach Eilon (now at the University of California, Santa Barbara), Göran Ekström, and Don Forsyth (Brown University), represents a U.S. contribution to PacificArray (, an international grassroots effort to obtain high-quality seismic data from segments of the planet not sampled by traditional land observations. This first (of two) year-long OBS deployments targets a region of postulated small-scale convection in the asthenosphere, a concept originally proposed by Lamont scientists Bill Haxby, Jeff Weissel, and Roger Buck more than 30 years ago. Jim and Zach recruited an international team of young scientists to staff the cruise, and the scientific party has chronicled progress on a blog (

    A paper published this week in Nature Communications coauthored by Francesco Muschitiello reported new high-resolution climate models for Europe during the Younger Dryas along with records of summer temperatures from plant climate-indicator species identified from fossils and pollen in lake sediments. The Younger Dryas, a cold interval about 12,000 years ago during the gradual warming that followed the Last Glacial Maximum, is generally attributed to an abrupt weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in response to the influx of meltwater from northern ice sheets. The paper’s authors, led by Frederik Schenk of Stockholm University and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, have shown from both models and proxies that European summer temperatures remained warm during the Younger Dryas, a result they attribute to atmospheric blocking of cold westerly winds over the Fennoscandian ice sheet. A Sarah Fecht story on the paper’s findings was posted on the Lamont web page on Tuesday (

    On Thursday, Lamont’s Alumni Board held a teleconferenced meeting. Christa Farmer has succeeded Greg Mountain as Board chair, but Greg remains a Board member. The Board heard updates on development and alumni and community relations from Stacey Vassallo, plans for Lamont Hall and the Piermont Field Station from Ashley Sheed, Lamont’s communications strategy from Marie Aronsohn, and recent personnel changes and scientific highlights of recent Lamont research from me. Board member Keren Mezuman led a discussion of opportunities for enhancing alumni mentoring of current graduate students. As part of the Alumni Board’s “Rock Star” program to bring distinguished alumni back to Lamont to meet with students and staff, Brenda Ekwurzel – senior climate scientist and director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists – is slated to visit the Observatory in late September.

    Among the new additions to Lamont’s web site this week is an interview of Wally Broecker made by Wally’s granddaughter, filmmaker Anna Keyes, on the topic of global climate change ( A video version of the interview ( is posted on Keyes’s web pages.

    In the news this week, Klaus Jacob was quoted in a story in GlacierHub about the growth of cities in areas susceptible to natural hazards, a problem particularly acute in developing nations ( On Wednesday, Vicki Ferrini was interviewed by Jessica Leber on News Deeply about the Seabed 2030 project to improve global bathymetric maps of the seafloor ( Also on Wednesday, Paul Richards was quoted in a Washington Post story on North Korea’s nuclear weapons test site, which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently offered to shut down but may no longer be usable because of collapse of the site following the most recent test (

    This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by illustrator and author Rachel Ignotofsky (, who has written Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World and I Love Science: A Journal for Self-Discovery and Big Ideas. Rachel’s lecture is entitled “Illustration as a tool for education: Inspiring girls to embrace STEM.” Whether you are looking for education or inspiration, I hope you will join me in her audience.