Lamont Weekly Report, August 19, 2016

     This week has brought multiple environmental challenges, from the floods in Louisiana to the wildfires in California. In that context, New York’s heat and humidity don't seem quite so intolerable. 

     I am pleased to report that Indrani Das has been appointed a Lamont Assistant Research Professor, effective this week, in the Observatory’s Marine Geology and Geophysics Division. A cryospheric scientist, Indrani combines airborne and satellite remote sensing data with modeling techniques to study air-ice interactions and surface mass balance in glaciers and ice sheets. Her Ph.D. thesis, completed in 2007, was on the development of atmospheric radiative transfer models to characterize marine aerosols from satellite ocean color measurements. Immediately thereafter, she changed her research focus to the cryosphere with a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She’s been at Lamont for six and a half years, first as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist and since early 2013 as an Associate Research Scientist. 

     On Wednesday, Columbia University’s Trustees approved the appointment of Peter deMenocal as the Thomas A. Edison/Con Edison Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, effective next month. And Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences David Madigan announced today that Peter has been named Columbia University’s Dean of Science. Congratulations on both counts, Peter! 

     The office of the U.S. Science Support Program (USSSP) for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) in Lamont’s Marine and Large Programs Division last week welcomed new Outreach Coordinator Nicole Kurtz. Nicole holds a degree in medical illustration from the Cleveland Institute of Art and has developed interactive exhibits for both formal and informal education settings. In 2012-2013, she sailed on the JOIDES Resolution during IODP Expedition 345 to the Hess Deep, during which she designed easily accessible, scientifically accurate learning guides for a diverse audience. For the last several years, she’s worked as a forensic animator and illustrator for a trial service company. At USSSP, Nicole will work with Carl Brenner and Sharon Cooper on increasing awareness of IODP through the use of social media and other outreach tools, and she will play a major role in USSSP’s several collaborative programs with the American Museum of Natural History. 

     The R/V Langseth arrived this week at a shipyard in Tampa, Florida, and is currently in dry dock to complete a series of planned repairs. During the shipyard period, scheduled to include 25 days in dry dock and another week dockside, a number of regulatory inspections required by the American Bureau of Shipping and the U.S. Coast Guard will be completed as well. 

     The Office of Research Initiatives in the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research sent out an announcement recently of information sessions they will host this month and next on the 2017 Research Initiatives in Science and Engineering (RISE) ( and Keck Research Grants ( competitions, designed for interdisciplinary research projects of high risk and high potential impact in the basic sciences, engineering, and medicine. One information session will be held at the Medical Center on August 31, and one will be held over the lunch hour in the Trustees Room of Low Library on September 9; an RSVP is required to attend either session. The Lamont Campus has fared well in past RISE competitions. Ben Holtzman, Christine McCarthy, Colin Stark, and Felix Waldhauser are leaders of projects selected for support last spring and can provide advice to anyone contemplating a proposal this year. 

     The Washington Post turned to experts at Lamont several times this week. A Post story Saturday ( on the challenges faced by Hoboken and other coastal cities in the face of rising sea levels included a comment from Klaus Jacob. A Chris Mooney article Monday quoted Adam Sobel on the links between global warming, the increase in water vapor that the atmosphere can consequently carry, and the tendency for the most extreme precipitation events – such as the heavy rains brought flooding this week in Louisiana – to become more severe ( Two days later, the paper sought out Park Williams for commentary on the contribution of California’s multi-year drought to the severity of wildfires this summer ( 

     Adam scored a hat trick this week. In addition to the Post article, he appeared Wednesday on PBS News Hour (, and yesterday he penned a piece for Lamont’s web site ( Both items treat the same topic: the growing ability of the scientific community to pose and answer questions about the influence of global climate change on extreme weather and climate events. 

     Whether you’re in New York or catching the tail end of a summer break, may you be far from the paths of floods and fires and find a way to enjoy the next to last August weekend of the summer.