Planetary change was much in the news this week, with stories on topics ranging from the effects of the rapid rates of warming in the Arctic on the indigenous population (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/29/science/alaska-global-warming.html) to a record bleaching and die-off of coral produced by ocean warming along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/world/australia/great-barrier-reef-coral-bleaching.html). The importance of many of the research topics that draw our daily attention continued to be underscored.
The American Meteorological Society announced the results of their recent elections this week, and I am happy to report that Adam Sobel was elected to the AMS Council as a representative of the Academic Sector (https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/about-ams/ams-election-information/). According to the society’s web site, “the elected leaders are charged with advancing AMS’s goals in the areas of weather, water and climate.” Kudos to Adam!
On Friday last week, Kirsty Tinto filed a third weekly report on the progress of Lamont’s IcePod group now in Antarctica as part of the Rosetta project to survey the Ross Ice Shelf. Kirsty reported, “This week started with bad weather that kept us away from the airfield for a couple of days, but ended with three flights being flown and four lines of new data collected. We managed to launch a shakedown flight and two survey flights, giving us a reoccupation of survey line 650 for the shakedown and four new survey lines filling major gaps in the survey grid during the other two flights. We are very pleased to have begun data collection for the season, but still fighting weather to try to take advantage of these flight opportunities. Next week will be our last week of surveying. We will have one flight scheduled as a first priority each day, and have the possibility of a second flight as a backup mission if weather cancels the primary mission to Pole or WAIS (the West Antarctic Ice Sheet). This weekend is a long weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday so we have Saturday and Sunday off. We are thankful to the flight crew who put in a long day on Friday to get us a full flight despite a weather delay in the morning, and also to our own night crew who worked through Friday night to make sure the data were archived and QCed before the holiday.”
This week, the Rosetta team began their deployment of long-lived ALAMO (Air Launched Autonomous Micro Observer) floats, launched from their C-130 aircraft, to measure temperature and salinity versus depth in the ocean at the edge of the shelf. A goal of the ALAMO deployments is to find locations where warm ocean water is gaining access to the underside of the ice shelf. One of the six floats was contributed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a collaborating institution, and the others were purchased with support from the Old York Foundation and a crowdfunding project that Robin Bell led this fall. A Stacy Morford story on the ALAMO deployments was posted yesterday on the Lamont web site (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/antarctica-has-new-explorer-testing-water-along-critical-ice-shelf).
On Tuesday, representatives of many of the Earth Institute’s member units and Lamont’s strategic scientific initiatives attended a meeting to discuss fundraising activities across the institute, the roles of unit directors and members in development efforts, and the relation between EI’s activities and Columbia University’s broader capital campaign. I was joined by Ryan Abernathey, Suzana Camargo, Art Lerner-Lam, Farhana Mather, and Peter Schlosser from Lamont. Farhana summarized fundraising efforts at the Observatory following briefings by Casey Supple, EI’s Director of Funding Initiatives, and Ryan Carmichael, Deputy Vice President for Development at Columbia’s Office of Alumni and Development.
Also on Tuesday, Nature Communications posted online a paper coauthored by Francesco Muschitiello along with colleagues from Sweden, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Russia, and the U.S. reporting evidence that thermal reactivation of permafrost may have been a major source of increases to atmospheric carbon dioxide during the last deglaciation. A piston core taken on the shelf of the Laptev Sea in the Arctic Ocean indicates that the Younger Dryas–Preboreal transition about 11,650 years ago was marked by high rates of sedimentation and organic carbon deposition, and that on the basis of carbon isotopes and fossil biomarkers the sources of the organic carbon were dominantly terrestrial vegetation from the Lena River drainage system. The group argued that large-scale thawing of the regional permafrost and transport of carbon through the Lena watershed would have been accompanied by extensive carbon dioxide outgassing, providing a major contribution to the documented increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide at that time. A Stacy Morford story about the paper’s findings was posted on our web site today (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/when-permafrost-melts-what-happens-all-stored-carbon).
On Wednesday, Catherine Pomposi successfully defended her Ph.D., on the topic of “Diagnosing mechanisms of oceanic influence on Sahel precipitation variability.” Yochanan Kushnir, her thesis supervisor, writes, “Catherine is the recipient of a postdoctoral position in the 2016 PACE (Postdocs Applying Climate Expertise) program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. She will work on food security and climate adaptation in Eastern Africa under the mentorship of Chris Funk, the director of the Climate Hazard Group in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara.” Congratulations, Dr. Pomposi!
More than 2300 scientists on Wednesday sent an open letter to President-elect Trump and the next Congress arguing that “the federal government must support and rely on science as a key input for crafting public policy.” On a copy of the letter posted by The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/30/22-nobel-prize-winners-urge-trump-to-respect-scientific-integrity-and-independence/?utm_term=.7f12d99530d1&wpisrc=nl_green&wpmm=1), a “sampling of prominent signatories” included Mark Cane, Ruth DeFries, Jim Hansen, Geoffrey Heal, and Anders Levermann from Columbia.
On Thursday, Science magazine posted online a paper that Chiara Lepore coauthored with Michael Tippett of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and the Earth Institute’s Joel Cohen on the frequency of tornado outbreaks, sequences of tornadoes that occur in close succession. The group found that in the U.S. the frequency of such outbreaks is increasing, and the increase is faster for more extreme outbreaks, but the trends do not resemble those of parameters attributable to global warming. A news release, written by Holly Evarts of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, can be found on our web site (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/increasing-tornado-outbreaks-climate-change-responsible), and the story was quickly picked up by multiple media (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/tornado-outbreaks-becoming-more-extreme-20926).
Also yesterday, the United States Senate passed the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2016 (HR 1561). Columbia University lobbyist Joel Widder of Federal Science Partners writes, “The bill passed in the Senate represents agreements reached between the House and the Senate (in a bipartisan fashion) to enact the first weather forecast improvement bill in a decade. The weather briefing Lamont sponsored nearly two years ago [and given by Richard Seager, Adam Sobel, and IRI’s Lisa Goddard] laid groundwork that helped move this bill forward. It also contributed to a bill whose content is significantly more substantive and balanced than the bill as originally introduced in the House (the original House bill would have cut climate research at NOAA to strengthen funding for weather research). Having passed in the Senate, the bill now goes over to the House, where we expect it will soon be passed and then sent to the White House for signature into law.”
Bridgit Boulahanis continued her blog this week from the R/V Atlantis in the eastern Pacific (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/research/blogs/cruising-oasis). Her posting Saturday was written shortly after her first dive to the seafloor on the research submersible Alvin to explore and sample Avery Seamount, on the 8°20¢N seamount chain, along with Lamont Alumni Board member Michael Perfit.
For everyone at Lamont looking ahead to the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting a little more than a week away, you may know that the Fall Meeting Program Chair is Adjunct Senior Research Scientist Denis-Didier Rousseau. This week Denis reported that AGU’s Council Leadership Team appointed him to a second three-year term, so he will be leading the organization of the AGU Fall Meetings in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Denis wrote, “I want to share this good news with my LDEO family as I did [with the news of EGU’s Oeschger Medal]. Once more, nothing could have happened without all the support I get year after year from LDEO, which is a great institution, my second home. Thank you very, very much for your support, help and also kindness. I am glad to be working with Robin and the other LDEO members recently appointed.”
This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by seismologist Andrew Nyblade, a Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University (http://www.geosc.psu.edu/academic-faculty/nyblade-andrew). Andy will be speaking on “Cenozoic extension, volcanism and plateau uplift in eastern Africa and the African superplume.” May you uplift yourself from your office chair or lab bench and come hear what he has to say.