Lamont Weekly Report, January 31, 2020

   The extended Lamont community was deeply saddened to learn that alumnus and former faculty member Frank Press passed away on Wednesday at the age of 95. One of Maurice Ewing’s first students, Frank obtained his Ph.D. in 1949. Along with Joe Worzel, Frank helped move Ewing’s research group to Lamont that year, and he remained at Columbia for another six years, as Instructor, Assistant Professor, and Associate Professor. A prolific seismologist who worked on theory, instrumentation, and observations, Frank developed the Press-Ewing seismograph and many of the methods for inferring Earth structure from surface-wave observations and later free oscillations of the Earth, he is credited with helping to determine the structure of the ocean basins and the Antarctic continent, and he served in key advisory roles to international efforts to monitor and ban the testing of nuclear weapons. In 1955 he moved to Caltech as Professor and, shortly thereafter, Director of their Seismological Laboratory. In 1965, Frank moved again, to chair the (then) Department of Geology and Geophysics at MIT. In 1977, he was named Director of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, and from 1982 to 1994 he served as President of the National Academy of Sciences. Frank received many honors over his career, including the Day Medal from the Geological Society of America, the Bowie Medal from the American Geophysical Union, the Ewing Medal from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Decorated Cross of Merit from Germany, the Legion of Honor from France, the Lomonosov Gold Medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Japan Prize, the Vannevar Bush Award from the National Science Board, and the U.S. National Medal of Science. My own path and Frank’s crossed many times: he lectured in several of my undergraduate classes at Caltech, I picked MIT for graduate work because of the powerful department he was beginning to recruit there, he offered me my first job after my Ph.D., and I was able to return the gesture, in small measure, by offering him a position and an office at the Carnegie Institution after he stepped down as NAS President. An exceptional scientist, a scientific statesman with a global reach, and an administrator of unparalleled effectiveness, Frank was the last of the early pillars of Lamont, and he shall be sorely missed.
    In much better news, The Oceanography Society announced last week that Taro Takahashi is to be the first recipient of their newly established Wallace S. Broecker Medal. The Broecker Medal “is awarded biennially to an individual ocean scientist for sustained (> 10 years since first publication), innovative, and impactful contributions to original research in the areas of marine geoscience, chemical oceanography, or paleoceanography, along with outstanding contributions to education and mentorship in the field.” Taro’s citation states, “Dr. Takahashi’s six-decade research career cemented the understanding of global ocean uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and the biogeochemistry that drives it. He is remembered as an excellent mentor to his colleagues and junior scientists, as well as for his strong conviction that community service is an important part of being a researcher.” The medal will be awarded posthumously at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego next month. A press release about the award of the medal was posted to our web site on Monday. Also this week, a save-the-date notice was broadcast to announce a daylong symposium to celebrate Taro’s life and scientific contributions. The symposium, postponed from an event originally scheduled for last November, will be held at Lamont on May 4.

    On Monday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper coauthored by Ben Cook on how the use of different cultivars of wine grapes can mitigate the effects of climate change on wine-growing regions. From French and other European data on the effect of climate variation on wine-grape phenology, the team – led by Ignacio Morales-Castilla from the University of Alcalá and Harvard University – compared scenarios under which growers switch to more climate-suitable cultivars against scenarios in which they do not, both in the face of a warming future climate. Under a scenario involving 2°C of mean warming relative to pre-industrial levels, switching to more climate-suitable cultivars reduced the areas lost to wine-grape growing from 56% to 24%. Under a scenario involving 4°C of warming, the loss of areas available for wine-grape growing was reduced by somewhat less, from 85% to 58%. A Sarah Fecht press release was posted Monday, and the story was picked up by USA Today and other media.
    On Tuesday, Lamont’s web site gained an article by freelance writer Renee Cho on the future of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a widely used tool in the production of fossil fuels. The article mentions the work of Steve Chillrud and Beizhan Yan on the effect of fracking on regional air and groundwater quality.
    Yesterday, Sean Higgins and I visited the National Science Foundation to speak with officials in the Ocean Sciences Division about the future ownership of the R/V Marcus Langseth. Attending our meeting from NSF were Rose Dufour, Jim Holik, Bob Houtman, Brian Midson, Terry Quinn, Debbie Smith, and Holly Smith.

    Julia Gottschalk drew our attention yesterday to the latest issue of the magazine of the Past Global Changes (PAGES) International Program. According to Julia, who served as the issue’s lead editor, “the issue highlights the paleoceanographic proxies and Earth-system modeling studies used to reconstruct and understand changes in these processes over a range of climate states, from the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago to the warm climates of the early Cenozoic more than 55 million years ago, and the recent progress and ongoing challenges in reconstructing these changes, with an aim to inspire further research. All articles are written to be accessible for students and scientists outside of paleo-sciences.” Contributors to the special issue included Bob Anderson, Steve Goldstein, Bärbel Hönisch, Joohee Kim, Jerry McManus, Maayan Yehudai, and Lamont alumni Jesse Farmer, Laura Haynes, Gideon Henderson, Allison Jacobel, Maria Jaume-Seguí, Jean Lynch-Stieglitz, Delia Oppo, Leo Pena, Don Penman, and Tina van de Flierdt.

    This morning, Columbia University Trustee David Greenwald made his first visit to the Lamont Campus. David, chairman of and partner in an international law firm, is an alumnus of the Columbia Law School and sits on that school’s Dean’s Council. On his arrival he met with Meghan Fay, Alex Halliday, Art Lerner-Lam, and me; we were joined by Robin Bell, who led a tour of the IcePod lab with David Porter; and David was then given tours of the Lamont Core Repository by Mo Raymo and Nichole Anest, of the Tree-Ring Lab by Rose Oelkers, and of the Visualization Lab by Ryan Abernathey.

    Also this morning, Sam Phelps successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis on “Noelaerhabdaceae coccolithophores as recorders of ancient atmospheric CO2.” Sam’s committee included his advisor, Pratigya Polissar, as well as Peter de Menocal, Bärbel Hönisch, Andy Juhl, and Ann Pearson from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. Sam will soon move to Harvard as a postdoctoral scientist in the Pearson lab. Congratulations, Dr. Phelps!
    Lamont scientists in the news this week included Yves Moussallam, whose fieldwork at Ambrym volcano in Vanuatu was the subject Monday of a National Geographic article. Klaus Jacob was quoted in a story yesterday in The Financial Times on the effectiveness of engineering barriers to protect cities from sea-level rise versus retreating from areas too difficult to protect. And Robin Bell was quoted in a Gizmodo story, also yesterday, on new findings from the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica.

    The Earth Science Colloquium this afternoon will be given by Earth Institute Director Alex Halliday, who will speak on “New views of the accretion of the Earth.” Inasmuch as all of us should feel some gratitude that our planet formed in a manner and location conducive to the genesis and evolution of such lifeforms as students and senior administrators, I hope that you can join me in his audience.