Lamont Weekly Report, February 9, 2018

    It has been an unusual week. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake off the Taiwan coast took lives and toppled buildings Tuesday (, and one day later a magnitude 2.2 earthquake north of Lamont was felt locally ( Also on Tuesday, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon Heavy, the largest rocket ever sent skyward by a private company (, albeit with a mannequin-driven Tesla roadster as payload.

    And, of course, the federal government shut down last night for the second time in less than three weeks. The shutdown lasted only hours, however, once both houses of Congress passed and the President signed a continuing resolution – the fifth since the start of the government fiscal year – through March 23 ( The spending bill also increased statutory caps on defense and non-defense spending for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, suspended the federal debt ceiling for one year, and added emergency funding for recovery from hurricanes and wildfires.

    The Geochemistry Division welcomed two new postdoctoral scientists this week. Julia Gottschalk is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow supported by a two-year fellowship from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Julia completed a 2015 Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge on the role of the Southern Ocean in millennial-scale changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. She remained at Cambridge as a Research Associate for several months before taking a similar position in early 2016 at the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern. At Lamont, Julia will work with Bob Anderson, Baerbel Hoenisch, Jerry McManus, and Gisela Winckler on the application of multiple geochemical proxies for biological productivity and ocean carbon storage to an assessment of past interglacial carbon dioxide sinks in the Southern Ocean.

    Sophia Hines is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow visiting Lamont from Caltech for two months. Sophie completed a Ph.D. in geochemistry at Caltech last fall under the supervision of Jess Adkins. She applies deep-sea coral clumped isotope measurements, radiocarbon records, and dynamical models to study past ocean circulation, and she is visiting the Observatory to work with Steve Goldstein and Sid Hemming on sediment records from International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 361 to constrain circulation of the Southern Ocean over the last 150,000 years.

    The R/V Langseth completed all work for the Hikurangi 3D project on Tuesday evening and, after pulling all gear in from the water, headed to port in Napier, on the eastern coast of North Island, New Zealand. Sean Higgins wrote on Wednesday, “The project went quite well overall. They’ve had to dodge two storms during the last week to finish infill of the 3D box but were able to manage through that.” The arrival of the Langseth at Napier generated local publicity ( Early next week the ship will head to Dunedin, on South Island, to stage for the next cruise later this month.

    As an action item from discussions at Lamont’s monthly gender and diversity coffee hours, Kuheli Dutt has designed and printed flyers with information on Title IX contacts and offices for the Lamont and greater Columbia University communities. The flyers have been posted in major campus buildings, and copies are available at the front desk of the Lamont Directorate. I encourage everyone to become familiar with the resources listed on the flyer, if you have not already done so.

    On Tuesday evening, I attended a presentation by Gisela Winckler and Joerg Schaefer on Climate Data and Society: The Greenland Ice Sheet Instability, as part of the Earth Institute Distinguished Lecture series. The event was in the format of a panel discussion, moderated by EI Executive Director Steve Cohen, and held at the Lotos Club in Midtown for an invitation-only audience. Others attending from Lamont and EI included Emilie Dufour, John Halpin, Susan Holgate, and Ashley Sheed.

    Yesterday, copies of the February issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter were broadly distributed ( The issue includes links to five web articles on Lamont science on the general topic of climate change and extreme weather, along with links to eight media stories on scientific findings of Observatory research or commentary by Lamont scientists.

    Also yesterday, Mike Steckler posted a new entry to his blog series from Bangladesh ( Mike is leading an international geophysical field experiment to study the landward extension of the Sumatra subduction zone buried beneath the sediments of the Ganges–Brahmaputra Delta. Portable seismometers and geodetic instruments will be deployed in Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar to measure the deformation and assess the seismic hazard across the region.

    In the news this week, Helga Gomes was quoted in a Times of India story Wednesday on the growth of low-oxygen zones in the Indian Ocean and blooms of Noctiluca scintillans, the invasive dinoflagellate that thrives in low-oxygen conditions, particularly in the Arabian Sea ( Robin Bell was quoted in an Alexandra Witze story in Nature Thursday ( on a new directive from the National Science Foundation that an institution receiving foundation support must inform the agency if anyone funded by an NSF award has been found to have committed sexual harassment.

    The federal budget will remain in the news next week, with the anticipated release of the President’s fiscal year 2019 budget next Monday. Joel Widder and Meg Thompson, at Federal Science Partners, wrote this morning, “Most observers expect that, despite the increase in the new spending caps for FY 2019, the White House budget request for FY 2019 non-defense programs (such as research, education, climate programs, National Parks, health centers) will be at least as disappointing, if not more so, than it was for the FY 2018 request. Congress will have the new higher spending limits for FY 2019 to use when reviewing and ultimately acting on the President’s Budget request for FY 2019.”

    Next Friday, Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences will co-host the Arthur D. Storke Lecture ( This year’s Storke Lecturer will be Sally Benson, Professor of Energy Resources Engineering in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, co-director of the university’s Precourt Institute for Energy, and director of their Global Climate and Energy Project ( Sally will be speaking about “Recent advances in CO2 sequestration science.”

    In the meantime, the Earth Science Colloquium this afternoon will be given by one of our own, Meredith Nettles. Meredith’s lecture will be on “Glacial earthquakes and glacier dynamics in Greenland.” If you’d like to hear about how seismologists “hear” about mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet, please join me for her talk.