Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, when mankind first set foot on another planetary body. The milestone – arguably as important for understanding the Moon and its lessons for the early history of our solar system as was the contemporary plate tectonics revolution for understanding our own planet – has been much in the news this month. On Wednesday evening, Robin Bell and I participated in a panel discussion of the scientific and technological legacies of the Apollo missions, cosponsored by the American Geophysical Union and the National Archives, in Washington, D.C. (https://news.agu.org/press-release/leading-space-scientists-to-mark-apollo-11s-50th-anniversary-at-the-national-archives/). A Randy Showstack story in advance of the event appeared in Eos on Tuesday (https://eos.org/articles/forum-explores-apollo-11s-legacy-and-whats-next), and an interview of me by Nicole deRoberts tied to that same event was posted to our web site on Wednesday (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/how-landing-moon-changed-our-world).
A related story, chronicled by Sarah Fecht and posted yesterday, describes the work of Kerstin Lehnert and her Lamont geoinformatics colleagues on MoonDB, a database of analytical data on Apollo samples (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/rescuing-50-years-apollo-sample-data). That database is to be expanded into one for all of the extraterrestrial materials in NASA’s collections (http://www.astromat.org/), including meteorites, interplanetary dust particles, and samples returned from asteroids, a cometary coma, and the solar wind. A photo of Kerstin’s visit to the NASA Curatorial Facility at the Johnson Space Center, dressed in a “bunny suit” outside a glove box, is a highlight of the story. Both Sarah’s article and Nicole’s interview also appear in a Columbia University newsletter circulated yesterday (https://us7.campaign-archive.com/?e=&u=cc26d8788ee7d6f98dd0af14e&id=208c825e85).
The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Wenfang Zhang, a new Visiting Associate Research Scientist on leave from a research position at the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. An expert on the history of aeolian dust flux preserved in loess deposits and marine sediments, Wenfang has received an award from the China Scholarship Council to spend two years at Lamont to work with Steve Goldstein and others.
Yochanan Kushnir wrote this week to report on a workshop on “Bridging Science and Policy: Water Scarcity, Climate Change and Adaptation in the Middle East,” held on June 30 and July 1 at the Columbia Global Center in Amman, Jordan. The workshop was supported through an award from the Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund in response to a proposal from Yochanan, Yael Kiro, Steve Goldstein, Manu Lall from the Columbia Water Center, and Kate Orff from the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes in Columbia’s Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Yochanan wrote, “The workshop brought together scientists, architects, business leaders, NGO leaders, urban designers, public figures and policy makers from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and the U.S. for dialogue on the environmental challenges in the region. Over the two days, participants presented their work and engaged in multidisciplinary conversations on the action steps required to promote environmental sustainability and climate resiliency in cities across the Middle East. The workshop concluded with a call for continued collaboration between the different parties with the objective of assisting activists in the region to advance steps in adaptation to the impact of global warming and subtropical drying on the region.”
On Monday, Earth’s Future published online a paper by Park Williams, Dan Bishop, and colleagues on the impact of anthropogenic climate change on California wildfires. The paper is a comprehensive empirical assessment of the observed effects of climate variability and change on wildfires in California between 1972 and 2018, by season, region, and land cover. During that period, the extent of summer forest fires increased eight-fold, consistent on the basis of both observations and climate models with a centennial increase in warm-season temperatures, a consequent increase in atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD), and an exponential dependence of burn area on VPD for summer forest fires. The clear signature of anthropogenic climate change seen for summer forest fires was less evident for non-forested areas and for wildfires in the fall, but increased warming and fuel drying are likely to increase wildfire impacts in those situations as well. A Kevin Krajick press release summarized the paper’s findings (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/study-bolsters-case-climate-change-driving-many-california-wildfires), and the story was carried by The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/07/climate-change-500-percent-increase-california-wildfires/594016/) and a number of other media.
On Tuesday, Environmental Research Letters published a paper by Dan Westervelt, Arlene Fiore, Gustavo Correa and collaborators on models for air quality in China under different emission scenarios that include climate change. Dan and his colleagues looked specifically at levels of surface ozone, a major health risk, as well as emissions of the ozone precursors nitrogen oxides (NOx) and anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). From coupled models of climate and atmospheric chemistry, they found that steep (~60%) reductions in NOx and VOC emissions would result in substantial decreases in annual mean surface ozone and associated premature deaths, but these reductions would be partially offset by increases in surface ozone attributable to climate change and rising global emissions elsewhere. A Sarah Fecht press release posted Tuesday (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/cutting-ozone-pollution-now-china-could-save-330000-lives-2050) was picked up by Medical Daily (https://www.medicaldaily.com/china-cclimat-hero-asia-cutting-pollution-439104).
Columbia University Press recently published John Marra’s book on Hot Carbon: Carbon-14 and a Revolution in Science (https://cup.columbia.edu/book/hot-carbon/9780231186704). According to the publisher’s notes, Marra “weaves together the workings of the many disciplines that employ carbon-14 with gripping tales of the individuals who pioneered its possibilities… [His] engaging narrative encompasses nuclear testing, the peopling of the Americas, elephant poaching, and the flax plants used for the linen in the Shroud of Turin.” John writes, “Lamont scientists figure prominently in the stories: Wally Broecker, Arnold Gordon, Dorothy Peteet, Rick Fairbanks, Sam Gerard… I recount some of my own research from back in the 1980s involving ocean photosynthetic productivity.”
Jenny Middleton contributed Tuesday to the continuing blog from Lamont’s team on International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 383 aboard the JOIDES Resolution, which includes co-chief scientist Gisela Winckler and Julia Gottschalk as sedimentologist, as well as Jenny, who writes from the perspective of one of the science party’s two stratigraphic correlators (the other is Lamont alumna Christina Ravelo). Jenny’s posting describes the challenge of aligning the sedimentary records from adjacent holes given that some material is lost from the soft sediments of each hole (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/wiggle-wrangling-core-drilling-ship).
The news this week included a video interview Tuesday of Radley Horton for the Public Broadcasting System’s Peril and Promise series devoted to the themes of the Workshop on Correlated Extremes held at Columbia in late May and co-organized by Radley and Colin Raymond (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=442518093258217). A Sarah Fecht story Wednesday was devoted to another conference co-organized by Radley, on the topic of “At What Point Managed Retreat?: Resilience Building in the Coastal Zone,” held in mid-June (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/conference-raises-tough-questions-about-retreat-rising-seas). Susan Hellauer’s Earth Matters column in Nyack News & Views Wednesday (https://nyacknewsandviews.com/2019/07/em-south-nyack-climate-smart-task-force/) was devoted to the efforts of Andrew Goodwillie, appointed Sustainability Coordinator for the village of South Nyack last month, to organize and recruit a South Nyack Climate Smart Task Force charged to “plot a path toward more sustainable South Nyack, and New York State Climate Smart Certification;” Andy Juhl is another member of the task force.
As we look to this weekend, the heat wave gripping much of this nation will be at its peak in our region (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/19/nyregion/newyorktoday/heat-wave-nyc.html). May you find ways either to enjoy the warmth or stay cool.