Lamont Weekly Report, December 7, 2018

    This week began with the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit near Anchorage, Alaska, last Friday. The U.S. Geological Survey characterized this normal-faulting event as intraslab, i.e., within the subducting Pacific plate. At 44 km depth, the earthquake produced ground motion that was widely felt across the state and left widespread damage to buildings, roads, and other components of the built infrastructure ( The Anchorage earthquake was followed four and a half days later by a magnitude 7.5 normal-faulting event at 10 km depth along the outer rise of the New Hebrides Trench east of New Caledonia, but fortunately sufficiently far out to sea to cause minimal onshore damage (

    Late last week, Eos published the citation for Steve Goldstein’s Norman L. Bowen Award, to be given by the American Geophysical Union’s Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology Section at a ceremony at the AGU Fall Meeting next week ( The citation, by former Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences faculty member Charlie Langmuir, is accompanied by Steve’s response. Congratulations once again, Steve!

    On Monday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) spacecraft arrived at its target near-Earth asteroid, Bennu (, thought to be carbonaceous on the basis of its spectral reflectance. The spacecraft is scheduled to orbit, photograph, and characterize the asteroid over the next 18 months, after which it is slated to retrieve samples from the asteroid surface for return to Earth.

    Also on Monday, YaleNews ( reported that former Lamont Summer Intern and Yale senior Clara Ma has been named a Schwarzman Scholar, an award “created to prepare the next generation of global leaders” ( Clara spent the summer of 2017 at Lamont working on a research project on air quality and climate change supervised by Arlene Fiore and Dan Westervelt.

    On Wednesday, Conny Class arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, on the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer after a 47-day expedition to study the Rio Grande Rise in the South Atlantic Ocean.  Conny writes, “The Rio Grande Rise is a largely unstudied large igneous province thought to have formed from activity of the Tristan-Gough mantle plume system that also formed the Paraná-Etendeka flood basalt province and the Walvis Ridge. But other than a single drill site and very limited dredge samples close to the drill site, the Rio Grande Rise had not been sampled in detail before. [The cruise] pulled 32 dredges sampling the majority of the Rio Grande Rise and a seamount chain to the east and collected fresh basaltic rocks. Radioisotopic dating and geochemical data on these rocks will provide information how the Rio Grande Rise formed in the context of the opening of the South Atlantic and its relationship to its sister volcanic system on the African plate, the Walvis Ridge. Because the magmas that formed the Rio Grande Rise may come from deep in the mantle, our samples provide a rare geochemical window into the state of the core–mantle boundary. In addition, we will use the new data to refine plate motion models for the South American and African tectonic plates.” 

   Yesterday, both houses of Congress passed, and sent to the White House, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for another two weeks, until December 21 ( Once signed by the President, the continuing resolution will keep in operation those portions of the government not yet funded through previously approved appropriations bills, including NSF, NASA, NOAA, EPA, USGS, and the Departments of Interior, Transportation, and Homeland Security.

    In the news again this week is Park Williams, quoted in a story Sunday in the Arizona Daily Star on the most recent National Climate Assessment and particularly the role of climate change in the severity of wildfires in the U.S. southwest ( And Robin Bell was quoted in an story posted on Axios yesterday ( about a report in Nature this week that the rate of melting of the Greenland ice sheet has been greater over the last decade than over any comparable period during the last several centuries.

    This morning, our colleagues at the Lamont Café hosted a holiday breakfast for everyone on campus who stopped by between 8 and 11 am. To Rich, Laura, Angela, Seth, Beth, and Raphael, thanks from all of us!

    Also this morning, Ruth Oliver successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Spatiotemporal dynamics of songbird breeding in Arctic-boreal North America.” Ruthie’s committee included her thesis advisor, Natalie Boelman, as well as Kevin Griffin, Paul Olsen, Shahid Naeem from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, and Dan Ellis from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Google. Ruthie will begin a postdoctoral position in the lab of Walter Jetz at Yale University in January. Congratulations, Dr. Oliver!

    Many from Lamont will be headed this weekend to the AGU Fall Meeting, being held for the first time next week in Washington, D.C. ( To everyone who will be attending, please mark your calendars to show that our annual alumni reception, jointly sponsored by the Observatory and DEES, will be held at the Washington Plaza Hotel next Tuesday, December 11, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. All staff, students, alumni, and friends of Lamont are invited to join us.

    In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by meteoriticist and planetary geologist Tasha Dunn, the Claire Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Geology at Colby College ( Tasha’s lecture is entitled “It’s getting hot in here: Thermal metamorphism of the least equilibrated CK chondrite.” For all of you feeling far from equilibration or fearing that further work on your AGU presentation will metamorphose your carbonaceous compounds irreversibly, please join me in her audience.