Lamont Weekly Report, January 22, 2016

       One of the main news stories this week was the announcement Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies ( that 2015 was the hottest on record. Jason Smerdon was quoted in a Mashable story that same day that the new record was not surprising given recent trends and global climate models (

     The Biology and Paleo Environment this week welcomed Gwenn Hennon as a new Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Gwenn completed her Ph.D. in biological oceanography last year at the University of Washington, under the supervision of Ginger Armbrust, on a study of carbon metabolism in phytoplankton. At Lamont Gwenn will work in Sonya Dyhrman’s lab on the application of novel genetic approaches to the question of how phytoplankton adapt to ocean acidification.

      Lamont’s Center for Climate and Life this week announced the first Climate and Life Fellows, selected on the basis of proposals submitted by Columbia scientists to devote three months per year over a period of up to three years to a project on a topic central to the mission of the center ( The first two Climate and Life Fellows will be Lamont Assistant Research Professor Park Williams and Associate Research Scientist Michael Puma from the Center for Climate Systems Research at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

     On Wednesday, the Lamont Campus was visited by representatives of Columbia Technology Ventures (CTV), including Richard Smith, Director of Physical Sciences; Bonnie Gurry, Technology Licensing Officer; Jim Aloise, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Director of the PowerBridgeNY Clean Energy Proof of Concept Center; and Julia Byrd, Operations Manager at PowerBridgeNY. After an introductory meeting with Art Lerner-Lam and me, the four gave presentations in a Town Hall format in Monell on the role of CTV in facilitating the translation of academic research into practical applications and such issues as invention reports, patenting, licensing, and available sources of funding to enable technology commercialization. Following the open session, Art led a tour of Lamont’s polar geophysics and ocean-bottom seismometer laboratories, and he hosted a lunch and roundtable discussion that included Nick Frearson, Ryan Harris, Bruce Huber, and Chris Zappa.

     Ed Cook is the coauthor of a paper in the latest issue of Water Resources Research on a 2000-year-long, annually resolved record of streamflow for the Kings, Kaweah, Tule, and Kern Rivers in California. Ed and colleagues from the Desert Research Institute combined moisture-sensitive tree-ring records with an annual Tulare Lake water balance model to reconstruct the streamflow, which is sensitive to variations in precipitation on annual and longer time scales. They showed that 2015 was the driest single year and the interval of the 2012-2015 drought was the driest four-year period in the two millennia spanned by the reconstruction. A story late last week in The Bakersfield Californian highlighted the paper’s findings (

     Frank Nitsche is the coauthor of a paper published on Tuesday in Eos, the now electronic newsletter of the American Geophysical Union ( The paper describes the growing importance of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in the study of sea ice, of particular importance because atmospheric warming and its consequences are proceeding at much higher rates in the polar regions than on average globally.

     On Wednesday, Hugh Ducklow appeared on an episode of NOVA entitled “Mystery beneath the ice” ( The show featured the work of American, British, and German groups on changes to the ecology of the ocean and land along the Antarctic Peninsula in the face of rapid regional climate change, particularly the role of changes in the annual cycle of sea ice to the long-term decline in the population of krill – an organism crucial to the regional food web.

     In a paper published today in Nature Communications, Allison Jacobel, Jerry McManus, Bob Anderson, and Gisela Winckler document large latitudinal excursions of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) during the end of the next-to-last ice age. Allison and her colleagues measured 232Th at sub-millennial time scales in sediments from the central equatorial Pacific as a proxy for the flux of wind-borne northern hemisphere dust at the boundaries of the band of vigorous atmospheric convection and rainfall that marks the ITCZ. They showed that the ITCZ moved abruptly southward by 4° of latitude to 6.5° south of its present latitude between about 136 and 135 thousand years ago, and they conjecture that the shift may have contributed to the onset of deglaciation. A Stacy Morford story about the paper’s findings was posted on the Lamont web page today (

     Frankie Pavia added an entry this week to his blog from the FS Sonne now traversing the nutrient-poor waters of the South Pacific Gyre. His latest entry contrasts the intense and continuing scientific conversations at sea among new colleagues with the more routine exchanges during life on land (, where play-by-play access to the progress of a particular professional football team during the playoffs can be taken for granted.

     As the weekend approaches, all of us look ahead to the arrival of the first large snowstorm of the winter, dubbed winter storm Jonas by The Weather Channel. A WXshift story on Wednesday quotes Adam Sobel on the factors that will contribute to the surge in ocean levels during the storm passage (

     In the meantime, the spring season of our Earth Science Colloquium kicks off this afternoon with a seminar by atmospheric dynamicist Paul O’Gorman, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT ( Paul will be speaking on “Changing relative humidity over land in simulations and observations.” I hope that you will help me to change the relative humidity of the Monell Auditorium to hear what he has to say.