Lamont Weekly Report, June 10, 2016

     This week included World Oceans Day (, “a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.” The theme for the day, which fell on Wednesday, was “healthy oceans, healthy planet,” worthy goals for all of us.

     The week was also a full one for the Lamont Campus. Yesterday, we received the good news that Maya Tolstoy has been tapped to give the Francis Birch Lecture at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in December. The annual Birch Lecture was established by AGU’s Tectonophysics Section in 1992 to honor the work of Francis Birch (, who made many substantial contributions to our understanding of mineral physics and the structure and composition of Earth's interior. Maya was selected this year “for her seminal contributions to marine geophysics, especially to the tidal triggering of seafloor earthquakes, the transmission of hydroacoustic waves generated by natural phenomena, and the possible links between climate-driven sea-level change and ocean floor topography.” Kudos to Maya!

    On Monday, Farhana Mather assumed her position as Director of Development, External Relations, and Strategic Initiatives at Lamont. A development professional with more than 25 years of experience, Farhana spent a decade at positions at Canadian universities (York, Toronto, McGill) in areas from sponsored research to international relations, corporate and foundation relations, and development. As Senior Executive Director of Development at McGill (2004-2006), she managed a staff of 40 and led planning efforts for the university's capital campaign. For the last decade, Farhana served as a consultant to educational, healthcare, and large non-profit institutions worldwide to enhance their capacity for increased philanthropic support. This week, she was introduced to members of Lamont’s Advisory Board and to a large fraction of Lamont’s scientific staff, and next week I will introduce her to the leadership of Columbia’s Office of Alumni and Development. If you have not yet met Farhana, please drop by the Directorate and introduce yourself. 

     Lamont’s Colloquium Committee has been named for the 2016-2017 academic year ( The new Colloquium Coordinator is Ben Bostick. On the Colloquium Committee, continuing members are Kira Olsen, Frankie Pavia, and Dan Rasmussen, and new members include Ali Bausch, Bridgit Boulahanis, and Jing Jean Guo. Please direct your suggestions for colloquium speakers for the coming year to one of those seven individuals. Please join me as well in expressing appreciation for the work of outgoing Coordinator Ajit Subramaniam and outgoing committee members Olivia Clifton, Kassandra Costa, and Ruthie Oliver. To all of you, thank you for a great season of terrific colloquium speakers! 

     Official results are now available for the second annual Lamont Fun Run, held last Friday afternoon. Organizers Sjoerd Groeskamp and Michael Sandstrom report that 43 runners and walkers completed the run, including 21 men and 22 women. The top three women finishers in order were Genevieve Coffey, Natalie Boelman, and Madeleine Pascolini-Campbell; and the top male runners were Michael, Kevin Tschihart, and Mathieu Levesque. Sjoerd and Michael also devised a scoring system that normalized by age and gender, and by that algorithm the top finisher was Natalie. A Golden Running Shoe, awarded to the division with the best three finishing times corrected for age and gender, went to Biology and Paleo Environment, with Geochemistry and Ocean and Climate Physics in the next two slots. Congratulations to all who participated! 

     Also last week, a record 35 Lamont Summer Interns began work on their 10-week programs of research. This year’s interns hail from 24 different colleges and universities. The interns, their home institutions, and their Lamont mentors are as follows: 

Summer Intern

Intern Affiliation


Melody Aleman

Millersville University

Ajit Subramaniam

Hannah Bausch

University of Chicago

Elizabeth Ferriss, Terry Plank

Lindsay Buff

Hamilton College

Einat Lev, Terry Plank, Dan Rasmussen

Karina  Buhler

Barnard College

Jonathan Nichols, Dorothy Peteet

Claire Carlson

Wheaton College

Dallas Abbott, Karin Block

Vincent Clementi

Rutgers University

Laura Haynes, Bärbel Hönish

Patrick Cummings

Syracuse University

Allegra LeGrande, Kostas Tsigaridis

Moussa Dia

College of William and Mary

Elizabeth Ferriss, Terry Plank

Audrey Dunham

Pennsylvania State University

Celine Grail, Michael Steckler

Arnold Eatmon

Fort Valley State University

Natalie Accardo, Donna Shillington

Jamie Feldman

Columbia University

Richard Seager group

Ian Hay

University of Maine, Orono

Ajit Subramaniam

Aaron Jones

Vassar College

Sidney Hemming, Trevor Williams

Anuka King

Barnard College

Maria Duik-Wasser

Theodore Kuhn

Yale University

Roger Fu, Dennis Kent

Richard Li

Columbia University

Laia Andreu-Hayles, Mathieu Levesque

Nathan Lis

Pennsylvania State University

Richard Seager group

Danielle Lopes da Silva

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Bill Menke

Evelyn Mayo

Barnard College

Frank Nitsche

Celia (Lorraine) McChesney

Texas A&M University

Heather Ford, Jerry McManus

Nicholas Mehmel

Columbia University

Kassandra Costa, Jerry McManus

Anxhela Mile

Boston College

Joachim Goes, Helga Gomes

Joanna Millstein

Dartmouth College

Robin Bell, Winnie Chu, Indrani Das

Carolien Mossel

SUNY Geneseo

Einat Lev, Elise Rumpf

Kimberly Myers

Barnard College

Katia Fernandes, Victor Hugo Gutierrez-Velez

Oluwaseyi Olojo

Barnard College

Martin Stute

Evans Onyango

University of Houston

Natalie Accardo, Donna Shillington

Allison Pease

Augustana College

Jim Davis

Keegan Quigley

Brown University

Alberto Malinvero

Warren Smith

Brown University

Celine Grail, Michael Steckler

Fabian Stute

Columbia University

Dorothy Peteet

Julianne Sweeney

SUNY Geneseo

Steve Goldstein, Yael Kiro

Olivia WIlliamson

Barnard College

Sonya Dhyrman

Joel Wilner

Middlebury College

Robin Bell, Kirsty Tinto

Cynthia Zucker

Barnard College

Arlene Fiore

     Following the end of the three-day workshop on “Comparing data and model estimates of hydroclimate variability and change over the Common Era” last Friday, many attendees stayed on for an outreach and professional development workshop for educators. The workshop introduced participants to two sources of information, climate models and proxy records, which scientists use to study hydroclimate over the two millennia. The event began with short presentations from Jason Smerdon, Gavin Schmidt from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Kim Cobb from the Georgia Institute of Technology, followed by round-robin discussions with experts on specific modeling and proxy subjects. A total of 24 educators from New York and New Jersey attended the event, to learn about the recent scientific research on past and future climate as well as ways they could connect these findings to their curricula.

     On Monday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper by Kevin Uno, Pratigya Polissar, Peter deMenocal, and Kevin Jackson from Lafayette College on the appearance and expansion of C4 grasslands in eastern Africa and their effect on the diets of mammals and hominins. From carbon isotope ratios in terrestrial plant wax biomarkers in marine sediments from the Somali Basin and Red Sea, the group inferred that C4 vegetation appeared about 10 million years ago and increased in areal coverage thereafter. The appearance of C4 grasslands affected the diets of mammalian herbivores rapidly, as indicated by isotopic analyses of tooth enamel, and the proportion of C4-based foods increased progressively in hominin diets as grasslands expanded. Kevin and his colleagues suggest that the increase in open grassland ecosystems over the last 10 million years may have favored such traits and behaviors in Homo as bipedalism, flexible diets, and complex social structure. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper can be found on our web site (

     From Monday through Wednesday, Lamont hosted a workshop sponsored by Past Global Changes (PAGES) on “Volcanic impacts on climate and society (VICS)” ( Rosanne D’Arrigo and Allegra LeGrande from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies served as members of the workshop organizing committee. The goals of the workshop were to (1) summarize the state of knowledge concerning global radiative forcing from volcanic eruptions, including forcing reconstructions used in climate models, and identify where recent progress has occurred and where the largest uncertainties remain; (2) assess the state of consistency between climate responses to volcanic forcing derived from direct observations, inferred from proxy data and simulated by climate models; (3) gather and synthesize recommendations concerning opportunities and best practices for integrating historical documentary evidence of volcanic climate impacts with estimates from paleoclimate data and climate models, and review progress and challenges in understanding historical societal impacts of volcanic eruptions; and (4) identify and define future goals for the VICS working group, based on the needs of the scientific community and potential stakeholders. 

     Also on Wednesday, the Lamont Advisory Board met in the Kennedy Board Room in the Comer Building. Einat Lev briefed the Board on our new fluids laboratory, the latest project to receive support from the Board Innovation Fund. Adam Sobel gave an update on our Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative ( During its business session, the Board agreed to restructure future meetings to give more time to discussions of fundraising. Following the meeting, Board members attended a reception in honor of Farhana Mather. 

     On Thursday, Lamont was visited by representatives from the Center on Global Energy Policy, including Associate Director Jesse McCormick and Director of Research Publications Matthew Robinson. Joining me from Lamont were Suzana Camargo, Peter deMenocal, Dave Goldberg, Peter Kelemen, Art Lerner-Lam, Alberto Malinverno, Farhana Mather, Stacy Morford, and Joerg Schaefer. The discussion ranged widely over energy issues now being addressed at the Center and the Observatory and how better to connect the two units for future events, projects, and outreach. 

     A paper Thursday in Nature Communications by Marco Tedesco and collaborators reported that record high surface temperatures and melt runoff in northwestern Greenland last summer were associated with unusual atmospheric conditions. The formation of a persistent high-pressure ridge over the Arctic Ocean brought clear skies and warmed the region. With less summer snow and increased melting, the reflectance of the ice sheet in the area decreased, favoring further melting. These atmospheric conditions are consistent with those expected for Arctic amplification, the more rapid warming of the north polar region than lower latitudes. A Stacy Morford release on the paper was posted yesterday (, and the story was carried in Science and other media ( 

     Also on Thursday, a paper in Scientific Reports by Adam Sobel and Columbia alumnus Solomon Hsiang, now at Berkeley, explored the consequences of global warming on plant, animal, and human populations in the tropics. Because atmospheric dynamics maintain tropical temperatures at near-constant conditions, populations in the tropics must change location northward or southward by greater distances to achieve the same lowering in mean temperature as populations at higher latitudes. For a rise in global mean temperature of 2°C over a century, tropical populations seeking to maintain a stable mean temperature would have to move by as much as 1000 km in latitude over the same time period. Such migrations, not possible for all species, would increase several fold the population densities along tropical margins and in the subtropics and might result in competition for scarce resources or major ecological changes. A Stacy Morford story on the paper was posted yesterday ( 

     In today’s issue of Science, Juerg Matter, Martin Stute, Wally Broecker, former Columbia students Diana Fernández de la Reguera Taya and Jennifer Hall, and a group of international colleagues reported on the rapid and permanent storage of carbon dioxide as carbonate minerals in subsurface basalt in Iceland. At the CarbFix drill site at a power plant near Reykjavik, 95% of the carbon dioxide mixed with water and injected underground was mineralized to carbonates in less than two years, a timescale much shorter than most previous estimates. A Kevin Krajick release on the paper was posted yesterday on Lamont’s web site ( The story has garnered widespread media attention ( 

     In the Q&A section of Tuesday’s Science Times, Joerg Schaefer was interviewed to answer the question of whether there was an ice age in the southern hemisphere (there was) ( On Wednesday, Kevin Krajick posted a photo and video essay on the fieldwork of Chris Lepre and others on the record of human evolution in the Lake Turkana area of East Africa ( 

     On Wednesday of next week, Lamont will host the third Annual Blood Drive in memory of our friend and former colleague Gerry Iturrino. Angela Martin has been leading the organizational efforts for the drive. Donations will be accepted in the Comer Seminar Room between 10 am and 4 pm. You can reserve a time for your donation, but walk-ins will also be accepted.

      In the meantime, I hope that all of you enjoy a late spring weekend in New York.