Lamont Weekly Report, June 21, 2019

    The Lamont community was saddened to learn this week that mineral physicist and former Lamont scientist Orson Anderson passed away Wednesday in Salt Lake City at the age of 94. Orson’s leadership of the mineral physics group at Lamont was recently chronicled by Lamont alumnus Bob Liebermann ( In that history, Bob quoted a narrative by Orson, who stated that he was recruited from Bell Laboratories by Maurice Ewing in the early 1960s to establish a physical acoustics lab at Lamont that could provide data with which to compare results from marine seismic profiles, and that the first two members of his group were former Taro Takahashi student Edward Schreiber and Naohiro Soga, hired in 1963 and 1964, respectively. In 1967 Anderson was appointed a Professor of Geology at Columbia, and he and his group remained active at Lamont until Orson left to accept a faculty position at UCLA in 1971. One of Schreiber and Anderson’s best known papers, published in Science in 1970, compared the compressional seismic velocities measured in Apollo 11 rock samples with velocities measured in a variety of “green” cheeses. Bob wrote yesterday that he is serving as Guest Editor of a special issue of Minerals that will contain papers contributed “in memory of Orson.”

    This morning marked the summer solstice. And an early harbinger of summer last week was the exceptional warming and large area of surface melting in Greenland, both unprecedented for such an early calendar date and the topic of a Jason Samenow article in The Washington Post last Friday ( and a Henry Fountain story in The New York Times on Monday ( Both stories quoted Marco Tedesco.

    The R/V Marcus Langseth is in the north Pacific this week conducting a study of the Alaskan subduction zone led by Anne Bécel. Anne wrote yesterday, “The cruise is going very well. The weather has been good, though there’ve not been many clear days. We collected 1751 km of multichannel seismic (MCS) data across the Alaska subduction zone using a 4-km-long streamer, and so far we’ve triggered 6267 shots using the 6600 in3 airgun array of the Langseth. Hopefully, these 6267 shots have been recorded by the 75 ocean-bottom seismometers and 30 onshore stations that are deployed as part of the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment, to be recovered at the end of the summer. We’ve have had onboard lectures every day, and the eight A2S (Apply to Sail) participants are learning how to process the MCS data we acquired during the first part of the cruise. Our plan is to return to Kodiak on the afternoon of June 24, trying to catch a 'slack tide' to enter the bay at 2 pm. More information is at and #langseth.”

    On Monday, I met with representatives of the Graduate Student Committee (GSC) of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences – Lloyd Anderson, Colleen Baublitz, Elizabeth Case, Chloe Gustafson, Lucy Tweed, and Maayan Yehudai – along with Kuheli Dutt, Sid Hemming, Art Lerner-Lam, Kaleigh Matthews, Jerry McManus, and Sally Odland. The principal agenda item for the meeting was a discussion of the results of a recent GSC poll of our graduate students on their “Lamont experience,” including the distribution of views on positive and negative aspects of their time at the Observatory and steps we might take to improve student experiences more generally. A number of action items were identified and assigned to meeting participants, and follow-on meetings are planned to monitor progress.

    On Tuesday, Scientific Reports published a paper by Chloe Gustafson, Kerry Key, and Rob Evans from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reporting large, continuous, low-salinity aquifers extending offshore of New Jersey and Massachusetts. The team combined a controlled-source electromagnetic system, towed by the R/V Langseth, with seafloor sensors and passive-source magnetotelluric methods to image the aquifers. Chloe and her colleagues suggest that their observations can be used to improve models of glacial, eustatic, tectonic, and geomorphic processes on continental shelves and point to the possibility that such regions may provide sources of fresh water in arid areas where water is scarce. A Kevin Krajick press release highlights the paper’s conclusions (

    One day later, Science Advances published a paper by Joshua Maurer, Joerg Schaefer, Alison Corley, and Summer Rupper from the University of Utah on a recent acceleration in ice loss from Himalayan glaciers. Josh and his colleagues compared the average ice mass loss rate over 1975–2000 with that over 2000–2016 from digital elevation models constructed from satellite images. Although the group observed consistent ice loss along a 2000-transect for both intervals, the rate for the more recent period was twice that for the period at the end of the last century. They attributed the greater recent ice loss rate to a warmer atmosphere and associated changes in energy fluxes. A Kevin Krajick press release on the paper’s principal findings was posted Wednesday (, and the story was picked up by NBC News and other media (

    From Wednesday night until today, the Earth Institute hosted a conference on managed retreat from coastlines in the face of rising sea level and increasingly severe weather. Organized by a committee that was co-chaired by Radley Horton and CIESIN’s Alex de Sherbinin and also included Richard Seager, the conference has been entitled “At What Point Managed Retreat? Resilience Building in the Coastal Zone” ( Radley moderated an opening panel discussion and gave a presentation on extreme wet-bulb temperature, and both Richard and Radley chaired sessions on exposure modeling. Other Lamont presenters included John Mutter (on relocation challenges after extreme events), Marco Tedesco (on the impacts of storm flooding on housing markets), and Maria Tzortziou (on remote sensing of changes in coastal ecosystems).

    Yesterday, our web site gained an article by freelance writer Renee Cho on the many ways that climate change impacts the world’s economy ( The article, which quotes Radley Horton on some of the impacts of sea level rise, describes anticipated changes for agriculture, infrastructure, military bases, communication systems, human health and productivity, tourism, and the commercial sector and financial markets more generally.

    Wednesday of next week will feature two special events. Lamont’s Summer Blood Drive will be held from 10 am to 4 pm in the Comer Seminar Room. There’s a sign-up list on the web (, and walk-ins are welcome. Dominique Young, one of the drive’s organizers, sent everyone an e-mail message that promises two tickets to a Mets game at Citi Field if you donate and bring a copy of her message.

    The second event next Wednesday will be a book signing for the latest memoir by Lynn Sykes, to begin at 3:30 pm in Monell Auditorium. In Plate Tectonics and Great Earthquakes: 50 Years of Earth-Shaking Events, according to Columbia University Press, “Sykes combines lucid explanation of how plate tectonics revolutionized geology with unparalleled personal reflections.” At the book signing, Lynn will read from his memoir and recall a few of those personal reflections. A wine and cheese reception will follow.

    In the meantime, may you enjoy the first weekend of summer, and a total duration of daylight each day that is nearly as long as the more than 15 hours today.