Lamont Weekly Report, December 23, 2016

      This is one of those ‘tween weeks, sandwiched as it is between the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting and the year-end holidays. For any of you who missed a lecture or key session at that meeting, a close-out message by Denis-Didier Rousseau ( points you to AGU’s On Demand site. Also, Stacy Morford posted a number of photos of Lamont scientists giving AGU presentations on the Lamont Facebook page (

     AGU’s newsletter, Eos, last week published a story ( on Polar Explorer: Sea Level, a new educational app ( focused on sea-level rise in a warming climate and produced by a Lamont group led by Margie Turrin, who was quoted in the story. The app, designed for iPads and iPhones, features data from tide stations, regional trends in sea level, projections of coastlines under specific sea-level rise scenarios, and a variety of other graphical displays, audio recordings, and background text.

     On Friday last week, Kuheli Dutt was interviewed by Ira Flatow on National Public Radio’s Science Friday on “How sexual harassment and bias undermine women’s access to scientific careers” ( The episode filled the second half of the show, starting at the 17:40 mark. Kuheli appeared along with Meg Urry, Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University, and Cassidy Sugimoto, Associate Professor of Informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington.

    Also on Friday, Gizmodo ran a story on a paper published two months ago in Geophysical Research Letters by Bill Menke and colleagues from Rutgers, Boise State, and the Université du Québec à Montréal on the Northern Appalachian Anomaly, a seismic low-velocity anomaly beneath southern New England ( With a maximum contrast in shear velocity of 10%, the anomaly has been interpreted by Bill and his coauthors as upwelling above an eddy in the asthenospheric flow field at the continental margin. In a comment to Gizmodo, Bill stated that he “would not be surprised if, in a few million years, we had volcanoes again on the East Coast of the United States.”

     There have been a number of news items during the week related to federal science agencies and prospects for changes in science-based policies under the new administration. This past weekend came the news that Mick Mulvaney, a Republican Congressman from South Carolina and member of the House Freedom Caucus, would be nominated to be President Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget ( On Tuesday, STAT ran a story on the role of billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel in filling science agency jobs in the Trump administration ( Also on Tuesday, the White House announced the withdrawal of 115 million acres in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas and 31 canyons along the Atlantic coast totaling 3.8 million acres from future oil and gas leasing ( On Wednesday, National Science Foundation Director France Córdova announced that between the departure of Assistant Director for Geosciences Roger Wakimoto on or before February 24 and the arrival on June 1 of his replacement, Bill Easterling, the position will be filled in an acting capacity by Scott Borg, currently the Section Head for Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics. In yesterday’s issue of Nature, a news story by Jeff Tollefson and Alexandra Witze focused on the uncertain future for Earth science support under a Trump Presidency (

     On Tuesday, Abagael West successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Multidisciplinary approaches to understanding the origins and evolution of Notoungulata (Mammalia: Placentalia).” (I had to look this item up, but Notoungulata is an extinct order of hoofed mammals from South America.) Her committee consisted of her advisor, John Flynn, as well as Nick Christie-Blick and Darin Croft, Jin Meng, and Mark Norell from the American Museum of Natural History. Abagael’s next position will be as a Rea Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh ( Congratulations, Dr. West!

     Also on Tuesday, Lamont’s Facilities Department hosted the dedication of a new outdoor bench and sitting area that they designed and constructed in memory of Lenny Sullivan, Lamont’s former Facilities Manager who died on Thanksgiving Day last year. The bench is outside the Buildings and Grounds office, where Lenny spent most of his time while on campus. If you have yet to see the bench, please stop by. 

     Tuesday also saw the online publication by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America of a paper by Won-Young Kim, Paul Richards, David Schaff, and Karl Koch from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources in Hanover, Germany, on seismological evidence bearing on a claim that North Korea conducted a small nuclear test on May 12, 2010. The group determined that the event occurred 4 to 10 km from the site of a nuclear test in 2009 and that the amplitude ratio of P waves to S waves matched those of regional earthquakes but not those of known nuclear tests, and they concluded that the May 2010 event was likely a small earthquake. The Christian Science Monitor picked up the story (

     On Tuesday evening, many from Lamont attended the Earth Institute Holiday Party. I left the party early, unfortunately, after an unplanned opportunity for a close-up inspection of the floorboards of the Faculty House’s Presidential Ballroom. I want to thank all of you who shared well wishes and concern, and I’m happy to report that a round of tests showed nothing amiss, beyond perhaps some post-AGU exhaustion.

     Yesterday morning, Chef Rich and the staff of the Lamont Café hosted a holiday breakfast. Thanks to our Lamont Café colleagues for their holiday generosity!

     May all of you take time away from Lamont over the holiday break to spend with relatives and friends and to restore your energy for continuing the Observatory’s mission, ever more important, to understand the workings of our planet.