Lamont Weekly Report, December 21, 2018

    The Lamont Campus was saddened this week by the passing this Saturday of Benno Blumenthal, Lead Systems Analyst at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Benno joined Mark Cane’s group at Lamont in 1987 after obtaining his Ph.D. in physical oceanography that same year from the MIT–Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, under the supervision of Charlie Eriksen. Benno held postdoctoral and Associate Research Scientist positions at Lamont until 1995, when he transferred to a Senior Staff Associate position. At that time, Mark Cane wrote, “Benno is the accessible guru for our whole group on a vast array of subjects, including all matters related to computers, ocean dynamics, data sets, inverse methods, and other statistical matters, not to mention country dancing and fiddling.” Benno moved to IRI in 1997 and is credited with creating and maintaining the IRI/LDEO Climate Data Library, “which made it possible more than a decade ago to access, transform, visualize, and download data using a standard web browser,” according to IRI’s Walter Baethgen. Richard Seager added, “Benno’s intellect was eclectic, wide, and unique. He was always generous with his immense knowledge, and many learnt much from him. He leaves behind a long and living legacy at Lamont and the IRI, and he will be sorely missed.”

    Even as we mourn the loss of a long-time colleague, notable milestones remind us of the progress of our science and our personnel.

    I am pleased to report that Donna Lee will be promoted to Research Scientist and membership on Lamont’s Senior Staff, effective 1 January. Please join me in congratulating Donna on her new rank.

    On Monday, Rajib Mozumder successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis on “Impacts of pumping on the distribution of arsenic in Bangladesh groundwater,” a study of the vulnerability of low-arsenic aquifers in Bangladesh to contamination by groundwater flow driven by large-scale pumping. In addition to his thesis supervisor, Lex van Geen, members of Rajib’s thesis committee included Ben Bostick, Jerry McManus, Peter Schlosser, and Peter Jaffe from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University. Rajib will take a position next month as an environmental engineer at Gradient, an environmental consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    One day later, Chloe Gao defended her Ph.D. thesis on “The impact of organic aerosol volatility on particle microphysics and global climate,” under the supervision of Susanne Bauer and Kostas Tsigaridis at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science. Chloe’s thesis committee, in addition to Susanne and Kostas, included Arlene Fiore, Ron Miller from GISS, and Daniel Knopf from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. Chloe will move next to MIT, where she has been offered a postdoctoral position with Colette Heald’s group in their Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

    To Drs. Mozumder and Gao, kudos on your latest degree!

    Samer Naif is on the R/V Roger Revelle this week east of New Zealand conducting an electromagnetic (EM) survey of the Hikurangi subduction zone. His team will collect passive magnetotelluric data and controlled-source EM data from a set of 42 EM receivers and an electric dipole transmitter system. The EM experiment, with 168 receiver deployments and recoveries and 400 line-km of transmitter deep-tow operations, will be the largest ever conducted along a subduction zone. Samer has kept up a blog on experiment progress (, and he reports that the expedition has received local media coverage (

    On Monday, Scientific American published an article by Kuheli Dutt on “How implicit bias and lack of diversity undermine science” ( In her article, Kuheli argues that recognizing bias and promoting diversity are important first steps toward the creation of an inclusive and fully supportive culture across STEM fields.

    The Earth Institute has launched a new web series called Tools of the Trade, to bring readers “inside the labs of Earth Institute scientists.” The first installment in the series is a Phebe Pierson article on the research of Dorothy Peteet (, posted on Wednesday. The article covers considerable ground, from taking core samples in wetlands to assaying organic material, extracting microfossils and pollen and seed samples, and synthesizing findings to assess past changes in local climate and environmental conditions.

    Yesterday, Einat Lev learned that one of the blog stories she wrote for CNN made their Best of CNN Opinion 2018 list ( Her May 10 story, “Why Hawaii’s volcano is in danger of going ballistic,” in fact, was their #1 opinion piece of the year.

    Also yesterday, a story by freelance writer Renee Cho described the new National Academies report on Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda ( The story describes alternative strategies for removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, with a particular focus on the work of Peter Kelemen on carbon mineralization and of David Goldberg on geological sequestration. Peter is one of the authors of the National Academies report.

    Today, portions of the federal government are facing a shutdown. The Senate passed a continuing resolution Wednesday night that, had it been passed by the House and signed by the President, would have funded NSF, NASA, NOAA, EPA, USGS, and the Departments of Interior, Transportation, and Homeland Security through February 8. The House was prepared to vote on the bill yesterday, until the White House announced that the President would veto a spending bill that does not include $5 billion for a wall along the nation’s southern border ( Last night, the House passed, without a single Democratic vote, a stopgap spending bill that included the $5 billion for the border wall, but that latest House bill is not expected to pass the Senate. A shutdown of most federal science agencies and several key cabinet departments now looms.

    Notwithstanding the news that Washington, D.C., is once again dysfunctional, may all of you find time over the holidays to relax and relish the company of your family and friends. And for those of you who will be traveling by air, may you sympathize with air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration staffers who will be working without pay until Congress and the White House can agree on spending for at least the next several weeks.