Lamont Weekly Report, July 7, 2017

    A magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Montana yesterday and a record-setting heat wave in southern California brought to a close a holiday-punctuated week that also marked the beginning of a new academic year.

    This week Radley Horton joined Lamont’s Ocean and Climate Physics Division as a new Lamont Associate Professor, Senior Staff. Radley has spent the last 10 years at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research, initially as an Associate Research Scientist and more recently as a Research Scientist. A climate scientist who works effectively at the interface between improving our understanding of the climate system and assessing climate impacts in a manner most useful for decision makers, Radley brings a range of specific areas of research focus, including extreme climate events, sea-level rise, public health effects of climate change, risk assessment, adaptation, and decision support. Please join me in welcoming Radley to the Observatory!

    Also this week, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences added two new members of the senior faculty.

   Galen McKinley, a chemical oceanographer who studies the carbon cycle of the oceans and the Great Lakes, joins DEES and Lamont’s Geochemistry Division as a Professor. Galen’s particular interests are in the physical processes that drive variability in the carbon cycle, distinguishing that variability from anthropogenic changes, and understanding links between primary production and carbon cycling. She received a Ph.D. in climate physics and chemistry from MIT, and since 2004 she’s held faculty positions from Assistant Professor to Professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    Kerry Key is a new Associate Professor who is based in Lamont’s Marine Geology and Geophysics Division. Kerry is an expert in marine magnetotellurics and controlled-source electromagnetic imaging of the oceanic crust and mantle to elucidate the electrical conductivity structure of mid-ocean ridges, subduction zones, fresh water aquifers along continental margins, and hydrocarbon reservoirs. Until he accepted Columbia University’s offer, Kerry was an Associate Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, and he spent the past semester at Lamont as a Visiting Associate Professor in DEES.

    Galen will move to the Observatory in August, and Kerry will be returning from travel later this month. Please join me in welcoming both to the Lamont community!

    Marco Tedesco is a coauthor of a paper published online last month in Geophysical Research Letters reporting evidence that summer meltwater from the Greenland ice sheets fuels large phytoplankton blooms in the Labrador Sea as far as 300 km from the southwestern coast of Greenland. The paper’s authors, led by Kevin Arrigo from Stanford University, attribute the increase in net annual biomass production to the arrival of nutrients, probably including iron, in the meltwater. Their work suggests that such blooms may increase in importance as rates of summer ice sheet melting increase. A Kevin Krajick release on the paper’s findings ( was posted on Lamont’s web site on Wednesday.

    Also on Wednesday, Anders Levermann published a paper in Earth System Dynamics with Jacob Schewe from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reporting that some climate models under global warming scenarios predict substantial increases in rainfall in the Sahel in northernmost sub-Saharan Africa over the next century. In seven out of 30 models analyzed in detail, rainfall in the central Sahel was projected to increase by 40 to 300% over the 21st century, the result of a northward expansion of the West African monsoon domain and a non-linear response to surface temperature changes in the tropical Atlantic and Mediterranean source regions attributed by the authors to a self-amplifying dynamic-thermodynamic feedback mechanism. A Kevin Krajick release on the paper is on our web site (, and Reuters carried the story Wednesday (

    Yesterday, Lamont’s electronic newsletter for July was sent out to a broad audience ( The issue includes links to stories on Lamont’s research on Antarctic ice sheets and ice shelves, severe storms, megadroughts, and abrupt climate change, as well as commentary on the decision by the Trump Administration to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Links to media stories about Lamont science, reports from the field, and postings of public events of interest round out the issue.

    Also yesterday, the office of the Executive Vice President for Research announced that the fringe benefit rate on salaries charged to all government grants and contracts at Columbia University would rise for the new fiscal year from 28.9% to 30.3%. The increase in fringe benefit rate was attributed to “the significant increase in medical costs the University has experienced over the past several years,” according to the mailing. The announcement went on to advise that all Principal Investigators “may wish to take this opportunity to review the impact the change in the fringe benefits recovery rate may have on the allocation of personnel related costs for the remainder of the grant life cycle.”

    In other news stories this week, Radley Horton was quoted Monday in The Washington Post in an article on how global warming will increase the number of days per year when commercial airline flights from airports in hot or high-altitude areas, such as Phoenix, will be unable to fly because of limited lift for a given weight and ground speed ( Joerg Schaefer was interviewed for an article Wednesday in News Deeply on the future of the Greenland ice sheet and the evidence he and his colleagues have documented that Greenland was nearly ice free in the geologically recent past ( And Robin Bell was quoted in a Scientific American article, also on Wednesday, on the net loss of ice sheet mass in Antarctica (

    From Monday to Friday next week, Columbia University will host an international conference on “Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts,” sponsored jointly by the World Climate Research Program and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO ( A public event during the conference will be a panel discussion on Wednesday evening, from 6 to 8 pm in Lerner Hall, on “Sea level rise: Causes, impacts and options for solutions.” Robin Bell, Jim Davis, and Peter Schlosser are on the panel, along with Jainey Bavishi, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency; George Deodadits from the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; Kate Orff from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; Gavin Schmidt from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Maria Schwartz from Swiss Re; and keynote speaker Scott Stringer, New York City’s Comptroller. A reservation ( is required.

    If much of this week’s recounting prompts recall of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, at least there are drops to drink in the New York City area today and into the weekend.