Lamont Weekly Report, February 24, 2017

     The 2016 GeoPRISMS Student Prizes for presentations at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting have been announced, and two our students have been honored. Dan Rasmussen received the Best Poster Presentation Prize for his paper on “Run-up to the 1999 sub-plinian eruption of Shishaldin Volcano unveiled using petrologic and seismic approaches,” on which Terry Plank and others were coauthors. Helen Janiszewski received Honorable Mention for her presentation on “Shoreline-crossing shear-wave velocity structure of the Juan de Fuca plate and Cascadia subduction zone from surface waves and receiver functions,” a paper on which Jim Gaherty and Geoff Abers were coauthors. The GeoPRISMS web site includes photos of Dan and Helen with suitable outdoor backdrops ( To both Dan and Helen, congratulations!

     The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Visiting Senior Research Scientist Al Hofmann for his annual spring visit to Lamont. A geochemist who has made broad contributions to our understanding of Earth’s mantle and crust, Al is an Emeritus Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society, the Urey Award from the European Association of Geochemistry, and the Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union. While at Lamont, Al will once again teach Advanced Geochemistry and co-lead the “Hot Topics” Seminar in Geochemistry, the latter focused this year on “Mantle plumes – from the core to the surface.”

     Mark Cane coauthored a recent paper in National Science Review arguing that Earth system models should be coupled with human system models to ensure that critical feedbacks between the two systems are fully captured. Implementation of such coupling between models, according to Mark and his colleagues, will require collaboration among natural scientists, social scientists, and engineers but could substantially improve the effectiveness of science-based policies, as he noted in a Science Daily story on the paper late last week (

     Federal science agency budgets remained uncertain this week, both for the current government fiscal year and for the 2018 fiscal year that will begin in October. Columbia University lobbyists Joel Widder and Meg Thompson from Federal Science Partners report that Congressional leadership has asked the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to resume negotiations on the fiscal year 2017 budget, efforts that came to a halt after the election and the passage of a continuing resolution that funded the government until late April. An omnibus spending bill – rather than individual appropriations bills – is expected, and some cuts to discretionary non-defense spending can be anticipated if Congress includes funds to meet such campaign promises of President Trump as increased defense spending and the initial phases of construction of a wall along the Mexican border. Some information on the President’s budget for fiscal year 18 is expected as early as mid-March. The next several weeks will be a good opportunity to make the case with your Congressional representatives for strong federal support of the sciences.

     On Wednesday evening, I attended an Earth Institute Distinguished Lecture given by Madeleine Thomson of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. The format of the lecture was an interview, with Matt James – member of the board of the CDC Foundation and past president of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health – serving as moderator. Also attending were Lamont Advisory Board member Jeffrey Gould, EI’s Steve Cohen, and Farhana Mather and other members of the Earth Institute’s development staff.

     Park Williams was quoted in two news stories this week. The first was an article in The Boston Globe this Sunday on a scientific study by others demonstrating that trees in traditionally fire-prone savannas have thicker bark, by a factor of three, than those in forests ( And several ABC stations quoted Park on the role of global warming in California’s recent multi-year drought in a story Wednesday on the region’s recent torrential, drought-ending rains (

     In other news, Joerg Schaefer was quoted in a story in Glacier Hub on Tuesday ( on a paper by others on the centennial-scale retreat of three dozen globally distributed glaciers and its attribution at high confidence to climate change. And the work of Marco Tedesco received mentioned in the feature news story in Science today on possible causes for accelerated rates of melting and mass loss of the ice sheets in Greenland (

     In more exotic news, a paper in Nature yesterday reported that the nearby dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 (8% of the mass of the Sun, located about 40 light years away) hosts at least seven planets with diameters and masses similar to those of Earth, all with equilibrium surface temperatures sufficiently low that they could host liquid water on their surfaces ( Even yesterday’s Google doodle celebrated the discovery.

     For the second of three weeks in a row, the Earth Science Colloquium will be given by a seismologist. Today’s speaker is former Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Karen Fischer, now a Professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University ( Karen’s lecture will be on “The variable nature of the lithosphere–asthenosphere transition.” Whatever your nature, I hope that you can make the transition to hear her talk.