Lamont Weekly Report, January 22, 2021

     Hello Friends,  We come to the end of another roller coaster of a week.  Holding our breath on Inauguration Day morning.  Being inspired by an incredible youth poet.  Smiling at Bernie Sanders mittens.  Hoping for a more civil union as 2021 unfolds.  And for some of us, waiting patiently, marshalling our ideas, discussing with our DC advisory reps, and trying to read the tea leaves to see what opportunities a Biden stimulus package might present to Lamont and our emerging Climate School.  It can all feel emotionally exhausting at a time when our mental bandwidth is dominated by dealing with the ever-present and threatening pandemic.  But the light is at the end of tunnel—hang in there!

     A lovely article about Marie Tharp was published in a Science News feature on 100 years of Earth’s history that also quotes Lamont scientist Lynn Sykes among others.  The feature highlights the work of Marie Tharp, who is of course one of Lamont-Doherty’s superstars. Reading the article, I had one of those wow-I-never-thought-about-that moments—namely, why didn’t Marie Tharp make a contour map of the seafloor?  Were contours even “invented” then?  Of course they were, and Wikipedia tells me the first known contour map dates to 1584.  From the article about Marie, I learned that the U.S. Navy required all contoured bathymetry data classified due to the Cold War but the Lamont scientists, including Marie, were allowed to make a physiographic “airplane window” type map instead.  Knowing this now, I can imagine what some of the attitudes she might have encountered were—probably some pooh-pooh dismissiveness that she wasn’t making a “real” map or a rigorous scientific figure.  But, in retrospect, what an incredibly lucky turn of history.  Had she made a contour map instead of the map she did, I sincerely doubt the collective imagination and interests of millions of people around the world would have been engaged in the same way.  I remember, as a child, being shown the National Geographic version of her map by my dad and being awed by the world-circling mountain ranges rivalling the Rockies.  Somehow, it seems unlikely a contour map would have had the same global impact on society’s and scientists’ collective imaginations.

     It must be awards season because a number of honors for Lamont scientists were announced this week.  My very own postdoctoral advisee Dr. Oana Dumitru is the winner of the Quaternary 2020 Young Investigator Award.  Oana’s research interests focus on past sea-level and climate changes, as well as radiometric dating, and she received her second (!) PhD in 2019.  Her citation calls her “clearly a rising star in the field of Quaternary science”.  You can find a blog post about her latest published research below.  Now if we can just get out in the field and collect some samples! 

     Also this week, The Oceanography Society named Lamont scientist and DEES Associate Professor Ryan Abernathey as one of three recipients of their very first Early Career Award “for fundamental contributions on the role of turbulence in the ocean general circulation, and for providing our community with tools that accelerate the pace of scientific discovery.”  Marie DeNoia Aronsohn has a lovely interview with Ryan about his award online.  Here was my favorite part: “Q: What is most exciting to you about your work?  A: I love the data. I genuinely love looking at ocean data sets. Particularly, really large complex and beautiful ones that reveal these turbulent ocean processes. On a very aesthetic level, I just love to look at and work with ocean data. It’s sort of a unifying thread throughout all this work. The day-to-day motivation is about truth and beauty and these more abstract scientific ideals.”  Let us all raise a glass to Ryan and to truth and beauty in data!

     Following the success of last semester’s Seminar on Race, Climate and Environmental Justice, the class is being offered again. This semester, EESC G9810, will be run by an outstanding team of student organizers along with Gisela Winckler, Cynthia Thomson, and Adam Sobel as the faculty mentors and supervisors. As before, talks by external speakers will be held on Tuesdays from 11:40-12:55 and are open to the greater Lamont community. The schedule is posted here.  All are invited to attend but are requested to register using the RSVP link provided at the link above. 

     On behalf of Lamont I would also like to welcome two new postdoctoral scientists to our campus.  Zhonghua Zheng received his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During his PhD, he applied novel data science approaches to bridging the enormous scale gap between process-level aerosol microphysical modeling developed from theory and coarsely-resolved global-scale chemical modeling.  This work will help identify which aerosol mixing states are expected to dominate in different regions of the globe. At LDEO, Zhonghua will work with Prof. Arlene Fiore and Dr. Dan Westervelt on a project developing data science methodology for attributing sources of particulate matter pollution using satellite products and model simulations. 

     Also in the OCP division, Boniface Fosu is a new postdoc working with Suzana Camargo, Chia-Ying Lee, Mike Tippett, and Adam Sobel on tropical cyclone risk. Boniface comes to us most recently from Georgia Tech, after getting his PhD from Utah State in 2018. His previous work covers many topics of interest to OCP people, including several types of extreme events, ENSO, and other dimensions of climate variability and change.  Welcome Boniface and Zhonghua!

     Finally, Cassie Xu brought this New York Times article to my attention this week, assuring me that sea shanties are a “thing” right now and suggesting that Lamonters should write our own, based on our long history of sea-faring exploration, for a future sing-a-long.  I did indeed watch a saccharine yet enjoyable movie before Xmas called Fisherman’s Friends about a group of singing fishermen in Cornwall becoming top-of-the-charts superstars, so maybe this “communitarian aesthetic” really is a thing in our socially-distanced world.  Thus, at the risk of igniting another infamous Lamont email meme, here is my attempt at a LDEO shanty:

        Hey hoe, away we go, launch a drum and drink some rum,

Will we see a sediment pile, or just sail another mile,

Maybe we core instead, one-ton weight on the head,

See how the ooze does change, yes indeed the world is strange.

     Cassie, with the power invested in me as Interim Director, I hereby appoint you Curator of the Lamont Shanties.  Let us know if you get a great one! 

Wishing you all a restful weekend.   Mo








A Single-Celled Organism Threatens the Vast Arabian Sea and the Millions that Depend on It


January 20, 2021

Article on research led by Lamont marine biologist Joaquim Goes.


How to Disinfect Certain Kinds of Masks (N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks)


January 20, 2021

Article cites research by Lamont's Roland Yan, Steven Chillrud, Debra Magadini, and Beizhan Yan.


Talk with Lex van Geen: Water Quality, Testing, Research and Health

Eco Ambassadors - Center for Sustainable Development

January 15, 2021

Interview with Lamont geochemist Lex van Geen.


Ancient Tree Rings Shed Light on Brahmaputra Flood Risk


January 14, 2021

Article on study led by Lamont Ph.D. Mukund P. Rao.


Marie Tharp’s Groundbreaking Maps Brought the Seafloor to the World

Science News

January 13, 2021

Article features pioneering Lamont geologist Marie Tharp.


Shaking up Earth

Science News

January 13, 2021

Article quotes Lamont seismologist Lynne Sykes.


Reflections on Weather and Climate Research

Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

January 13, 2021

Article co-authored by Lamont climate scientist Indrani Das.


The Climate Papers Most Featured in the Media in 2020

Carbon Brief

January 13, 2021

Article features study by Lamont Ph.D. Colin Raymond (now NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory postdoc), Lamont climate scientist Radley Horton, and colleague.


Air Quality Improvement During COVID-19 Lockdowns Less Drastic than Previously Thought: Study

ABC News

January 13, 2021

Article quotes Lamont climate scientist Jason Smerdon.


Wind Patterns in a Warming World

AMS Weather Band

January 13, 2021

Article on study by Lamont graduate student Jordan Abell, climate scientist Gisela Winckler, geochemist Robert Anderson, and colleague.




Reconstructing 6.5 Million Years of Western Mediterranean Sea Levels

January 21, 2021

Researchers have reconstructed past sea levels in the western Mediterranean in new detail by sampling coastal cave formations.


Ryan Abernathey: Helping to Open a Universe of Data to the World

January 19, 2021

The Lamont-Doherty physical oceanographer was recently awarded early career honors from the Oceanography Society.