Lamont Weekly Report, July 10, 2020

    Hello Friends,  Yesterday I toured the Lamont campus computer centers in Monell and Geoscience with Mahdad Parsi, Pat O’Reilly, and Jeff Turmelle of IRI.  Walking from Monell to Geoscience we crossed paths with a doe and her two frolicking fawns running happily in circles—classic Lamont.  I wish I could enthusiastically report good news about the computer centers but the supporting infrastructure is in bad shape—aging and failing air conditioning units in particular pose a significant infrastructure and budgetary challenge.  These facilities are critical to so many groups at Lamont, including our climate and ocean modelers, the seismological networks, CIESIN, the Geoinformatics Group, IRI, and more.  Not to mention they support all of our central information technology services and computer connectivity.  I have asked Mahdad to convene a small group of LDEO, IRI, and CIESIN computer specialists and superusers to conduct a visioning exercise for possible IT pathways to our future.  This is a critical challenge we face—our IT and server facilities are essential to so much of the work going on across campus and we cannot just keep plugging the holes in the dike so to speak.

    At the same time, I was also given a tour of the new projection system in Monell Auditorium and it is impressive!  It includes a new 4K projector, an HD camera for streaming live events, new sound mixers, switches and amplifier, a hearing loop system for the hearing impaired, and new wireless microphones among other upgrades.  I truly look forward to when we are all back together for our weekly colloquia.  Thank you to Phil Fitzpatrick and Mahdad for managing the install, and Bill Ryan, LDEO, and DEES for the resources to make this much needed upgrade happen.

    The invitations for the Lamont Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force have gone out and I am happy to report that, in addition to co-chairs Gisela Winckler, Kailani Acosta, and Benjamin Keisling, the following Lamonters have (so far) agreed to take on this important task.  They are: Robin Bell, Michela Biasutti, Billy D’Andrea, Yutian Wu, Galen McKinley, Jonny Kingslake, Jacky Austermann, Vicki Ferrini, Hannah Sweets, Linette Sandoval-Rzepka, Dominique Young, Jenny Middleton, Lauren Moseley, Susana Adamo, and Elva Bennett.  I have always thought of Lamont as an incredibly special place.  Before I became a graduate student here in 1983, I worked as a technician for 12 months—just to make sure LDEO was the right place for me.  And when I became an empty-nester, I jumped at the chance to return to Lamont.  I can only believe that the work of this task force will make our campus an even stronger, more scientifically-rich community, welcoming to and supportive of all.

    In other news, on Tuesday I participated in a Climate Conversation with President Lee Bollinger, Alex Halliday, and Mark Gallogly, Vice-Chair of the Trustees of Columbia University.  It was an event organized by CU Alumni and Development as part of the Columbia Inside series.  I won’t lie, I was a little nervous.  Thankfully, no Palisades power outages or Zoom-bombing befell (Max was carefully sequestered elsewhere) and I hope I represented Lamont well.  The event was a lead-in to today’s exciting announcement from President Bollinger of the formation of a new Columbia Climate School—this will start an exciting new chapter in Lamont’s 70 year history as LDEO, CIESIN, and IRI continue to wrestle with the profound problem of living sustainably on our planet.

    Lamont’s research ramp-up continues apace and while more people will be coming to campus, we are losing another colleague for a time.  Dr. Won-Young Kim of SGT will be taking a leave of absence for 17 months starting August 1 to visit Seoul National University in Korea.  He asked me to let you all know as he can’t be on campus to say goodbye.   

    In research highlights, postdoc Winslow Hansen published a paper with Park Williams about how transitions in forest composition across North America will become the new normal, shaping biophysical feedbacks to regional climate change for centuries to come.  And DEES Ph.D. student Rachel Marzen was the lead author of a paper published in Nature Communications that presents new constraints on the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP), formed by the most aerially-extensive magmatic event in Earth’s history and linked to the Triassic mass extinction. Rachel shows that the volume of magmatic intrusions at depth near the center of CAMP is relatively small and localized beneath Permian rift basins.  These results have important implications for the origin of CAMP and add to the growing body of evidence that it is different from many other large igneous provinces.

    More research news can be found at the links below, including Einat Lev confirming that indeed you would die if you fell into a pool of hot lava (please heed this advice) and a major shout-out in Science magazine highlighting a new multi-million dollar NSF-funded project, GreenDrill, led by Joerg Schaefer and colleagues.  The group plans to drill four sites across the Greenland Ice Cap to study the long-term history of the Greenland Ice Sheet.  I think we are going to need a Lamont flag.  Lastly, I found postdoc Mark Hoggard’s paper in Nature Geoscience particularly interesting.  His team shows that nearly all giant metal deposits are hosted near the edge of cratons. He says, “Once you find the right spot, you only have to dig one hole, and buried deposits are more likely to be extracted via shafts in comparison to most current base metal mines, which are often destructive open-pit operations”.  Hopefully this paper affects positive change in the mining industry!

    On Wednesday, in the Town Hall, I touched on the toxic effects of stress and anxiety. Today, I would like to wield my newfound powers as interim director to suggest that Lamont adopt two new COVID/Zoom work habits.  The first I will call the “5-minute rule”—all hour-long Zoom meetings should make every effort to end at five minutes before the hour.  The second habit I would advocate for was suggested by Interim Provost Ira Katznelson in yesterday’s Dean’s Council meeting—I’ll call it the “Friday directive”.  It is to avoid, if possible, the scheduling of Zoom meetings on Friday.  We should aspire to use Friday as a day for study, to check in with our people, for email, and to quote Ira, “to quietly catch-up, take care of yourself”.  To see a leader at that level of our university be so attuned to the negative impacts of stress and anxiety was quite inspirational to me and made me proud to be a Columbian.

    I’ll wrap up with a recommendation and an announcement.  If you can find some time to read this weekend please consider The Story of More - How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here by Hope Jahren, winner of both the AGU Macelwane and GSA Donath medals and the original “Lab Girl”.  It is a lovely read.  The corresponding announcement is that Hope has agreed to give a Zoom talk to Lamonters next month!  This talk will be one of a three-part summer lecture series, sponsored by the Directorate.  The two other speakers will be explorer, conservationist, and photographer Cristina Mittermeier, and climate scientist and communicator extraordinaire Katharine Hayhoe.  I will send out a hold-the-date announcement next week. 

    Please have a safe and peaceful weekend.  Best, Mo







Hundreds of Years of Tree Rings Reveal a Grim Anomaly that Began in the 20th Century 

Science Alert, Thursday, July 9, 2020

Article on research by Lamont tree ring scientist Edward Cook, climate scientist Jason Smerdon, and bioclimatologist Park Williams.


In Parched Southwest, Warm Spring Renews Threat of ‘Megadrought’

The New York Times, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Article cites research led by Lamont bioclimatologist Park Williams.


Warming Brings Muggier Weather to Jacksonville, Threatening Most Vulnerable

WJCT, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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


Humid Heat Extremes on the Rise

Climate Central, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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


New Way to Locate Metals Deposits in Earth's Crust

SciDev.Net, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Article on research led by Lamont postdoc Mark Hoggard.


Tree Rings Reveal Extreme Weather Is on the Rise in South America

ZME Science, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Article on research by Lamont tree ring scientist Edward Cook, climate scientist Jason Smerdon, and bioclimatologist Park Williams.


Subducting Plate Angle Dictates Tsunami Threat during Large Earthquakes

Temblor, Monday, July 6, 2020

Article on research by Lamont Ph.D. student Bar Oryan and geophysicist Roger Buck.


Deep-Earth Structures May Reveal Locations of Untapped Base Metal Deposits

Mining, Monday, July 6, 2020

Article on research led by Lamont postdoc Mark Hoggard.


Future Hurricanes Likely to Be Fast-Moving Storms Like Ike, Rice Researcher Says 

Houston Chronicle, Monday, July 6, 2020

Article on research by Lamont climate scientists Chia-Ying Lee and Suzana Camargo.


Scientists Debunk 'Floor Is Lava,' Netflix's Very Hot New Show

Mel Magazine, Sunday, July 5, 2020

Article quotes Lamont volcanologist Einat Lev.


Greenland Drilling Campaign Aims for Bedrock to Trace Ice Sheet’s Last Disappearance 

Science, Thursday, July 2, 2020

Article on research co-led by Lamont geochemist Joerg Schaefer.


Papers that Matter

Nature Geoscience, Thursday, July 2, 2020

Editorial referencing Kuheli Dutt’s work on racism in the geoscience community



Lead Fallout from Notre Dame Fire Was Likely Overlooked

July 09, 2020, New study estimates that a ton of lead dust may have been deposited in parks, homes, and schools near the cathedral.


Scientists Warn of Wide Impacts on Midwaters Around Deep-Sea Mining Sites

July 08, 2020, Interest in deep-sea mining for metals has grown substantially in the last decade. A new study argues that it poses significant risks not only to the immediate surroundings, but also to the water hundreds to thousands of feet above the seafloor.


Tree Rings Show Unprecedented Rise in Extreme Weather in South America

July 07, 2020, Scientists have filled a gaping hole in the world’s climate records by reconstructing 600 years of soil-moisture swings across southern and central South America.


Using Sound to Study Underwater Volcanoes

July 07, 2020, To find out how volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean influence earthquakes and tsunamis, a team of scientists listens for ‘echoes’ from under the sea.


 Future Hurricanes: Fast Like Ike or Slow Like Harvey?

July 06, 2020 , Climate change will intensify winds that steer hurricanes north over Texas in the late 21st century, increasing the odds for fast-moving storms like 2008’s Ike, compared with slow-movers like 2017’s Harvey, says new research.


Reopening Mostly Erases Effects of Pandemic Reductions in CO2 Emissions

July 03, 2020, Although emissions temporarily dipped due to coronavirus, the numbers are bouncing back quickly as economies reopen.