Lamont Weekly Report, January 12, 2018

    One week ago, our Facilities staff had just finished shoveling out our campus following a major snowstorm, and we were facing a weekend with record low temperatures for the date. Today, temperatures well above the average high for the date and steady rain are changing the landscape and threatening local flooding ( This winter season promises to be an interesting one.

    Last week, Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences welcomed the arrival of Assistant Professor Jacqueline Austermann. An expert on mantle dynamics and numerical models for past and future sea level, Jacky received an M.S. degree in geophysics in 2011 under the supervision of Hans-Peter Bunge and Giampiero Iaffaldano at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a Ph.D. in geophysics in 2016 under the supervision of Jerry Mitrovica at Harvard ( Jacky spent the last year and a half as a Newton International Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

    Two new postdoctoral scientists joined the Marine Geology and Geophysics Division this week. Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Laura Stevens arrived from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where she recently completed a Ph.D. in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program with a thesis on the influence of meltwater on ice sheet dynamics, completed under the supervision of Sarah Das. She’s conducted work to date on the response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the sudden drainage of surface meltwater ponds, interannual variability in Greenland Ice Sheet flow, and glacially modified waters in Greenland’s fjords. At Lamont, Laura will work with Tim Creyts, Jonny Kingslake, Meredith Nettles, and others on ice dynamics in settings characterized by rates of motion varying from very slow (e.g., ice divides) to very fast (e.g., Greenland outlet glaciers).

    Postdoctoral Research Scientist Dikun Yang arrived from the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia, where he had been a Postdoctoral Research Fellow since 2014. Dikun completed his Ph.D. in geophysics in the same department that year with a thesis on efficient methods for three-dimensional (3D) inversion of electromagnetic imaging data. In the last three years, he’s expanded the scope of his electromagnetic imaging work with applications to groundwater mapping, mineral exploration, and carbon storage monitoring. With a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Dikun will work at Lamont in Kerry Key's group on the 3D modeling and inversion of marine electromagnetic data.

    Please join me in welcoming Jacky, Laura, and Dikun!

    Last Friday, the R/V Marcus Langseth sailed from New Zealand to begin work on the Hikurangi 3D project, to acquire 3D seismic reflection data from an area along the Hikurangi Trench and forearc ( Nathan Bangs from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics leads a multi-national science team aboard. The ship is towing four 6-km-long streamers to image a 300-m-wide swath of the subsurface with each pass through the survey area. Two seismic source arrays alternate between shots. The acquired data will be used to construct images of subsurface structural features such as faults, deformation patterns, and concentrations of fluids, and to characterize physical properties such as density and porosity to infer rock types and fluid migration patterns. An International Ocean Discovery Program drilling expedition to the survey area, with Hannah Rabinowitz and Heather Savage aboard, will set out in two months.

    The February 15 issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters includes a paper by Lucia Gualtieri, Suzana Camargo, Göran Ekström, and others on the relation between tropical cyclones and the seismic noise field in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. It has long been known that seismic noise is dominated by the coupling of ocean waves to the solid Earth, but Lucia and her colleagues showed from a 13-year record that seismic noise carries a persistent signature of tropical cyclones concentrated in specific frequency bands and sensitive to cyclone intensity. Moreover, they demonstrated with an adaptive statistical model that cyclone intensity can be extracted reliably from seismic noise measurements, potentially extending backward in time the baseline for retrieving quantitative information on tropical cyclone history. A Sarah Fecht article on the paper’s findings ( was posted to our web site on Monday, and the story was picked by up Tech Explorist ( one day later.

    On Monday, Science Advances published a paper coauthored by Anders Levermann on the flood protection efforts required to keep high-end fluvial flood risk at current levels over the next three decades in the face of changes to climate and rainfall. The analysis, led by Sven Willner of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, predicts that strong adaptation activities will be needed across much of the United States, India, Indonesia, central Europe, and northeastern and western Africa. In particular, flood protection measures along rivers will need to be at least doubled for more than half of the U.S. over the next two decades. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper’s findings is on our web site (

    Also on Monday, Lamont distributed the January issue of the Observatory’s electronic newsletter ( The issue includes links to seven stories about Lamont science and Lamont scientists from the previous month, and nine recent media stories on scientific findings or commentary from Lamont scientists.

    Our federal government is one week away from the expiration of the current continuing resolution that funds all government agencies. Columbia University’s lobbyists, Federal Science Partners, report that Congressional negotiators have been meeting to seek agreement on increases to spending caps on defense and non-defense programs, but it is likely that another continuing resolution will be needed to give appropriators time to craft an omnibus appropriations bill for the full fiscal year. Program managers at federal science agencies will not know their final budgets until some time after such a bill is finally passed.

    Among news stories this week with mention of Lamont scientists, the work of Bill Ryan on the sediment structure of the Hudson River bed was referenced in a Bloomberg Businessweek story Wednesday on the vulnerability of the New York area train and subway system ( Also on Wednesday, Deepti Singh was interviewed by Susan Hellauer of Nyack News & Views for an Earth Matters column on the North American winter temperature dipole ( And Bob Anderson was quoted in a News Deeply story yesterday ( on how summer melting of Arctic sea ice has led to an increase in the delivery of nutrients from the continental shelves to the central Arctic Ocean.

    This afternoon, at 3:30 pm in Monell Auditorium, Lynn Sykes will speak about and read from his memoir, Silencing the Bomb: One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing, recently published by Columbia University Press. During a reception that will follow, Lynn will sign copies of his book, which will be available for sale at a discounted price. The topic of his book is particularly timely, and I hope that you will be able to join me at both the reading and the reception.

    Classes resume at Columbia next week, but only after a three-day weekend. May you all return from that respite ready for the start of the full spring-semester schedule.