Lamont Weekly Report, December 14, 2018

    This week, many from Lamont have been in Washington, D.C., for the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. It has been a week full of new scientific findings, meetings with professional friends and scientific colleagues, and hundreds of side meetings called to advance some aspect of one or more of the subfields of Earth and space science. With more than 28,000 attendees, the meeting set records for number of participants and number of papers presented. For those who like to plan ahead, AGU announced on Sunday the venues for future Fall Meetings through 2026 (

    One day earlier, China launched their Chang’e-4 spacecraft on a trajectory intended to take it to a landing on the farside of the Moon ( The landing site is within the South Pole-Aitken basin, the oldest recognized impact structure on the Moon and at about 2600 km in diameter one that likely excavated material from the lunar mantle during the basin-forming impact. The lander carries a diverse instrument payload as well as a rover.

    On Sunday, I attended a daylong meeting of the Marine Seismic Research Oversight Committee, a committee of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) charged to provide “scientific oversight, asset coordination, and strategic advice for NSF-supported marine seismic facilities” (, including the R/V Marcus Langseth. Sean Higgins gave a presentation on recent Langseth operations, and Donna Shillington summarized results from the first half of the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Seismic Experiment she co-led on the Langseth this fall to image and understand the deep structure of the Hawaiian Islands and the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. Others attending from Lamont included Anne Bécel and Suzanne Carbotte.

    On Monday, the December issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter was circulated broadly ( Under the theme “Fire and ice,” the issue included five stories on Lamont science, a story from our Education and Outreach Office, and links to 20 articles in the media on Lamont’s science or containing commentary from Lamont scientists.

    Also on Monday, I joined the directors of several oceanographic institutions at a meeting with Terry Quinn, NSF’s Ocean Sciences Division Director. Other institutional leads included Bruce Corliss, Dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island; Margaret Leinen, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Brian Taylor, Dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii. Our discussion ranged broadly over programs, facilities, and staffing at NSF. Terry particularly encouraged proposals from the community to NSF’s Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Program ( and their Coastlines and People initiative.

    On Tuesday, Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences jointly hosted our annual reception for staff, students, alumni, and their guests. The event was held at the Washington Plaza Hotel, and the noise level in the meeting room suggested that the number of attendees rivaled that in prior years. Please join me in thanking Stacey Vassallo for planning and staffing another noteworthy reception!

    At the AGU Honors Ceremony on Wednesday evening, Sid Hemming and Richard Seager were honored as 2018 AGU Fellows. Each was congratulated on a ballroom stage in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center by AGU President-elect Robin Bell. Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies was among the other 60 Earth and space scientists elected AGU Fellow this year.

    The journal Science of the Total Environment recently published a paper by Greg O’Mullan, Andy Juhl, and collaborators on the coupled measurements of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) in sediments and river water in the Hudson River estuary. On the basis of measurements of two commonly measured FIB, enterococci and E. coli, the team showed that both are widely distributed in sediment and water and positively correlated with each other. Mean FIB concentration in the sediment samples correlated with mean FIB concentration in water samples from the same locations and with sediment organic carbon, results taken to imply that water is the FIB source for the underlying sediments and that FIB persist longer in the sediments than the water. The work has important implications for monitoring programs in which measurements are restricted to water samples. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper’s findings was posted on the Lamont web site yesterday (

    The winter issue of Columbia Magazine features a story on the Lamont Core Repository illustrated like a comic book or graphic novel ( The story features renderings of Wally Broecker, Peter de Menocal, Maurice Ewing, Laurence Kulp, and Maureen Raymo.

    Several stories on Lamont’s science have been added to our web site this week. Monday saw the posting of a Rebecca Fowler interview of Yutian Wu on her work, funded in part by the Center for Climate and Life, investigating links between climate change in the Arctic and weather extremes over mid-latitude North America ( Two days later, freelance writer Aline Reynolds added a story about the work of Lex van Geen and his group documenting toxic levels of arsenic in water from many shallow wells in the Punjab areas of India and Pakistan, and at the same time showing that nearby wells with much lower arsenic levels are common and offer inexpensive and rapidly implementable alternatives to water treatment or piped water projects (

    Yesterday, a Sarah Fecht story summarized a paper presented by Park Williams at the AGU Fall Meeting reporting a comparison of tree-ring records with modern data indicating that the current drought in the western U.S. is among the most severe of the past 1200 years and has been made more severe by climate change ( A Marie Aronsohn story today described a presentation by Róisín Commane on the surprisingly high levels of atmospheric pollutants measured over the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans by NASA’s Atmospheric Tomography mission, particularly pollutants over the tropical Atlantic attributable to biomass burning, fossil fuel combustion, and other common activities in Africa (

    Other Lamont scientists in the news this week include Jennifer Middleton, whose work on the role of marine biological systems in mediating the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide was featured in a Medill Reports Chicago story on Wednesday; the story – tied to presentations at the Comer Climate Conference this fall – also mentioned the work of Kassandra Costa and included a comment by Aaron Putnam ( And Jason Smerdon was quoted in a Live Science story today about the severity of projected impacts of climate change (

    To all still at the AGU Fall Meeting, may you enjoy safe travels home. And to all at Lamont, may you enjoy the final weekend of fall.