Laura Haynes learned recently that she is to receive a 2017-2018 Schlanger Fellowship from the International Ocean Discovery Program. Named for the late marine geologist and ocean drilling pioneer Seymour (Sy) Schlanger, the fellowship is a “merit-based award for outstanding graduate students to conduct research related to the IODP” (http://usoceandiscovery.org/fellowships/). Laura’s winning proposal was to study what she calls “an enigmatic climate period in Earth's history,” the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (1.2–0.6 Ma). With samples from deep ocean sediment cores, she plans to investigate the role that the deep Pacific Ocean played in the drawdown and storage of carbon dioxide during glacial periods across this time period. Specifically, she plans to reconstruct deep-sea carbonate ion concentrations with the B/Ca proxy in benthic foraminifera from two deep Pacific sites. Enhanced storage of carbon in the deep ocean may have helped facilitate the colder temperatures and enhanced ice volumes that typified the more extreme glacial periods of the Late Pleistocene. Congratulations, Laura!
A new addition to the Lamont website last week was a David Funkhouser story on the paper published last month in Geophysical Research Letters by Brad Linsley, Arnold Gordon, Lamont alumnus Chris Charles, and colleagues from France, Germany, and the U.S. on evidence from corals in the Makassar Strait for variability in sea-surface salinity tied to strong teleconnections between the Indonesian Throughflow and Pacific Ocean boundary currents and convergence zones (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/indonesian-corals-shed-light-climate-system).
This week Arnold was at the Russian Geographic Society in St. Petersburg, Russia, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ice Station Weddell-1, a cooperative venture of the U.S. and Russia (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/93EO00260/abstract). Suzanne O’Hara, former Lamont systems analyst and programmer and wife of the late Jay Ardai, long-time member of Lamont’s technical staff and the U.S. technical coordinator for ISW-1 (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/jay-ardai-real-macgyver-ice-and-ocean-research), also attended. On Tuesday, Arnold sent a copy of a document signed in June 1992 on the ice floe at the end of its northward drift in the perennial ice pack of the western Weddell Sea. Signatories included Arnold as Chief Scientist for the ice station and V. V. Lukin, Chairman of what was then still called the Soviet Antarctic Expedition. According to Arnold, there was “a lot of talk [this week] about ISW-2”. Rumors that Arnold also communicated with Russian intelligence operatives about the next U.S. National Security Advisor should be regarded as fake news.
On Monday afternoon, I joined Robin Bell, Peter deMenocal, Farhana Mather, and Mike Purdy at a meeting of Columbia University’s Campaign Executive Committee. The focus of the committee’s meeting this week was the Climate Response theme of Columbia’s capital campaign, including possible fundraising targets under such a theme and the development of a pool of potential donors with interests in those areas.
Posted to our website on Tuesday was a David Funkhouser story on the work of Aaron Putnam, Joerg Schaefer, and their colleagues on their field and lab work aimed at defining the timing and rate of retreat of glaciers in the Baboon Lakes area of the Sierra Nevada in response to the atmospheric warming that began ~15,000 years ago (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/high-sierras-remnants-ice-age-tell-tale-future-climate). The posting includes a video, complete with the sounds of glacier-fed mountain streams and rock hammers pounding on granite. The group’s findings will inform estimates of the rate of retreat of modern mountain glaciers in California and around the globe, an issue critical to fresh water supplies, hydroelectric power, and related environmental issues.
Wednesday was a proposal deadline at the National Science Foundation that was common to a number of programs, and Lamont scientists responded in strength. I read the executive summaries and budgets for 30 proposals, at least one from every one of our six research divisions, all targeting the same deadline. Unfortunately, most proposals were submitted to our Contracts and Grants Office too late to be reviewed before submission. Only six of the 30 proposals were received in time for a full review, another seven received an expedited review consisting of spot checks but not a thorough reading, and 17 proposals were received at the last minute and had to be submitted without review. If you are an investigator on one of those 17 proposals, you have missed an opportunity for our professional staff to ensure that your proposal was internally consistent and compliant with all current NSF requirements at the time of submission, a needless risk that may have lowered your chance for a successful outcome. For your next proposal, please consider an earlier submission to enhance your odds for an award.
Yesterday morning the R/V Langseth completed all planned work on the CEVICHE (Crustal Examination from Valdivia to Illapel to Characterize Huge Earthquakes) project (http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/ceviche/). The cruise collected just under 5000 km of two-dimensional multi-channel seismic reflection and refraction data with the 15.2-km-long streamer, a total of ~103,000 air gun shots. There was very little downtime during the cruise, just short intervals for weather and marine mammals, the result of heroic efforts by Jeff Rupert and his team to ensure that this first use of the long streamer proceeded seamlessly. That communication with a tail buoy 15.7 km behind the ship was maintained continuously represents a major achievement, one that demonstrates an important new capability for the ship as a marine seismic facility. Chief scientist Nathan Bangs, from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, reported to Sean Higgins yesterday that he was very pleased with the performance of the new Sercel equipment, the ship, and the crew, and he added that they have “a great data set (7-8 TB).” After retrieving gear, the science party attempted unsuccessfully to retrieve a Lamont ocean-bottom seismometer still on the bottom from a 2013 cruise, and the ship returned to Valparaiso this morning, one day ahead of schedule.
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a meeting in Mike Purdy’s office with the Earth Institute’s Steve Cohen; Shih-Fu Chang, Manu Lall, and Vijay Modi from the School of Engineering and Applied Science; David Sandalow from the Center on Global Energy Policy; Ruth DeFries from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology; and Ken Prewitt from the School of International and Public Affairs. The topic of the meeting was a nascent plan for a cross-university initiative on renewable energy, a candidate for a Columbia World Project in which there may be opportunities for participation by Lamont scientists.
Also yesterday afternoon, I joined Steve and Earth Institute Faculty Chair Michael Gerrard on another in the series of visits scheduled with deans and other academic administrators to discuss opportunities for strengthening ties with Lamont and other EI units. Steve, Mike, and I visited James Valentini, Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education. Discussion topics included the Sustainable Development major, expanding opportunities for research experiences at Lamont and EI for College undergraduates, and providing additional mechanisms for Lamont and EI researchers to contribute to undergraduate teaching.
This morning, Nature Communications published online a paper coauthored by Pierre Dutrieux and Stan Jacobs reporting on the analysis of observations of ocean temperature and salinity recorded by multiple moorings in the Amundsen Sea off the Pine Island Ice Sheet in West Antarctica. The team found that there has been considerable variability in ocean conditions close to the ice shelf, which has been melting rapidly at its outer edge, in contrast to conditions farther out on the continental shelf. They attributed the local variability to two processes: variations in ocean surface heat flux and sea ice formation close to ice sheet, and interannual reversals in ocean currents and associated heat transport within Pine Island Bay, driven by a combination of local and remote forcing. Two implications of their work are that rapidly melting ice shelves elsewhere in Antarctica are also likely to be strongly influenced by local atmospheric conditions, and that early indications of changes in ice melting rates will require atmospheric and ocean monitoring near the edges of ice shelves.
Lamont scientists in the news this past week include Maureen Raymo, quoted in an article last Friday in The Atlantic about changes in tactics by climate change deniers in the face of increasing evidence that the atmosphere is warming and continued greenhouse gas emissions are responsible (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/02/the-new-rhetoric-of-climate-denial/516198/). And Chris Scholz was quoted in a Scientific American article Wednesday on the application by others of machine learning algorithms to search for observations in advance of earthquakes that might form a basis for earthquake prediction (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-artificial-intelligence-predict-earthquakes/).
This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by seismologist Brandon Schmandt (http://www.unm.edu/~bschmandt/), an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico and a GeoPRISMS Distinguished Lecturer for 2016–2017. Brandon will be speaking on “Investigating Mount St. Helens’ seismicity and magma plumbing with a hybrid passive and active source array.” Did you know that Mount St. Helens was named by British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver in honor of the British Ambassador to Spain at the time (https://www2.usgs.gov/faq/categories/10140/2708)? A Cascade volcano by any other name would be as active. Come hear the details.