Lamont Weekly Report, June 28, 2019

    I am pleased to report that, as a result of successfully completing their promotion reviews this spring, Michael Kaplan and Donna Shillington will be promoted to full Lamont Research Professor, effective next week. Please join me in congratulating Mike and Donna on their new rank!

    Late last week, NASA announced the selections from their Future Investigators in NASA Space Science and Technology (FINESST) Program of “graduate student-designed research projects that contribute to [the Science Mission Directorate’s] science, technology, and exploration goals,” and the awardees include three students from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Sarah Ludwig’s proposal on “Hierarchical scaling of carbon fluxes from terrestrial–aquatic interfaces in the Arctic,” Una Miller’s proposal on “Integration of satellite and in situ observations to investigate the evolution of high-salinity shelf water in the Terra Nova Bay polynya, Antarctica,” and Elise Myers’s proposal on “Modeling fecal indicator bacteria persistence in turbid rivers using satellite data” were all selected for funding. Kudos to Sarah, Una, and Elise!

    One measure of the proximity of the end to this academic year has been the uptick in the rate of Ph.D. defenses among DEES students. This week saw four.

   On Monday, Bor-Ting Jong defended her thesis on “Seasonality and regionality of ENSO teleconnections and impacts on North America.” Her committee included her advisor, Mingfang Ting, as well as Richard Seager, Jason Smerdon, Andy Robertson from IRI, and Arun Kumar from the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service. Bor-Ting will be moving to Boulder, Colorado, to take a postdoctoral position at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, where she plans to work on hydroclimate prediction at seasonal and subseasonal timescales.

    There was a double header on Tuesday. Colin Raymond led off with a defense of his thesis, supervised by Radley Horton, on “Regional geographies of extreme heat: New approaches and discoveries for the dry-bulb and wet-bulb flavors.” Others on Colin’s committee included Jason Smerdon, Mingfang Ting, Pierre Gentine from the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, and Jonathan Winter from the Department of Geography at Dartmouth College. In August, Colin will move to the Earth Science and Technology Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to take a postdoctoral position with Duane Waliser.

    Tuesday afternoon, Juan Carlos de Obeso defended his thesis on “Tracking alteration of ultramafic rocks in the Samail ophiolite.” His committee, in addition to his thesis supervisor, Peter Kelemen, included Steve Goldstein, Marc Spiegelman, John Higgins from the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University, and Craig Manning from the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA. Juan Carlos will continue at Lamont to work with Peter on the further analysis of rocks from the Oman Drilling Project.

    Keren Mezuman completed the foursome today with the defense of her thesis on “Fire and aerosol modeling for air quality and climate studies.” Keren’s committee included her advisor, Susanne Bauer from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, along with Arlene Fiore; Gavin Schmidt, also from GISS; Konstantinos Tsigaridis from the Center for Climate Systems Research; and Charles Ichoku from the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. Keren will remain at CCSR as a postdoctoral research scientist to work on food security issues with Michael Puma.

    To Drs. Jong, Raymond, de Obeso, and Mezuman, congratulations!

    The R/V Marcus Langseth completed a part of the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment early this week and put into port in Kodiak, Alaska, on Monday. Anne Bécel, who served as co-chief scientist along with Anne Sheehan from the University of Colorado, wrote that 3146 line-km of multichannel seismic profiles were shot with a 4-km-long streamer, and the air gun signals were also recorded by a network of 75 ocean-bottom seismometers and 30 land seismometers. The ship’s scientific party included eight students and one early-career scientist, each of whom worked on a portion of the data collected during the cruise and gave a short presentation on their findings while at sea. The science team maintained a blog of progress during the expedition, and the last entry was posted Monday (

    Gisela Winckler, Jenny Middleton, and Julia Gottschalk reported this week on their progress aboard the JOIDES Resolution as part of International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 383. Gisela, sailing as co-chief scientist, wrote yesterday, “We drilled three highly successful sites in the Central South Pacific, recovering continuous high-resolution Plio-Pleistocene sequences. At one of the sites, we drilled into the underlying basalt, with the sediments reaching back to the Miocene. The past few days were dominated by dealing with heavy weather and adjusting our plans accordingly. Facing two severe large-scale storm systems with 50+ ft waves, the captain decided to RAW (Running Away from Weather) by heading about 15 degrees of latitude to the northeast. Luckily, the storm systems have passed, and we are well on our way southeast to the Chilean margin, looking forward to drilling three more sites in the next three weeks.”

    Two papers published Monday by Lamont scientists addressed discrepancies between climate models and observations. A paper in Nature Climate Change by Richard Seager, Mark Cane, Naomi Henderson, Donna Lee, Ryan Abernathey, and Honghai Zhang examined differences between models and observations in the strength of the west-to-east, warm-to-cool surface temperature gradient across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The most advanced current climate models predict that this gradient should lessen with rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, whereas observations show that the gradient has strengthened in recent decades, a difference in behavior that has been known for more than 20 years. Richard and his colleagues showed that the discrepancy is the result of biases in the models, including a cold tongue in the eastern equatorial Pacific that is too cold, extends too far west, and has water to the immediate south that is too warm. These biases affect relative humidity and wind speeds, and thus the strength of ocean upwelling. Their work points to improvements needed to climate models to better represent future changes to equatorial Pacific sea-surface temperatures and their strong influence on regional climate variability. Kevin Krajick issued a press release Monday (, and the story was carried by Newsweek and other media (

    A second paper in Nature Geoscience by Lorenzo Polvani and Rei Chemke from the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics explored changes in the northern hemisphere Hadley circulation in response to greenhouse gas emissions. Climate projections show that the northern hemisphere Hadley circulation will weaken over this century, but atmospheric reanalyses indicate a strengthening of that circulation over the last several decades, contrary to the model simulations. From a joint examination of observations and a large ensemble of simulations, Rei and Lorenzo showed that this discrepancy is not the result of climate variability or biases in climate models but stems instead from artefacts in the representation of latent heating in the reanalyses. Their results affirm the role of greenhouse gas emissions in the recent slowdown of atmospheric circulation and the projections from models that this slowdown will continue in the coming decades. A press release by Nicole deRoberts that summarizes the principal findings of the paper has been posted on our web site (

    Also on Monday, Lamont hosted its first Pride Celebration Social, held the Monell Lower Lobby in support of our LGBTQ+ staff and students and all who welcome a campus that embraces inclusion and promotes equality. The event, co-organized by Hannah Sweets and Julian Spergel, featured rainbow-colored pastries and decorations, drinks, and music. Kuheli Dutt estimated the attendance at about 70, and the organizers suggested that a larger venue may be needed for such Pride-month events in future years.

    On Tuesday, Lamont’s Center for Climate and Life posted a biennial report documenting its progress during fiscal years 2017 and 2018 in fundraising for science on climate change impacts ( The report includes an overview of the center and its programs, a summary of its finances over those two years, and a list of the center’s donors.

    On Wednesday, Lamont staged a blood drive, organized by Dominique Young and Rebecca Kenny in partnership with the New York Blood Center. The drive yielded 47 donor volunteers, including 36 donors and 11 individuals deferred for reasons ranging from medical conditions to recent travel locations. The goal for the drive, 25 life-saving pints, was well exceeded. Thanks to all who participated!

    Also on Wednesday, Lamont hosted a book-signing event for Lynn Sykes, whose second memoir, Plate Tectonics and Great Earthquakes: 50 Years of Earth-shaking Events, was recently published by Columbia University Press. In a seminar prior to signing books for his friends and colleagues, Lynn spoke of his early education, his arrival at Lamont in 1960 to begin graduate work in seismology with Jack Oliver, and the explosion of new insights that he, Jack, and others at Lamont brought to the plate tectonics revolution in the second half of the 1960s through the careful analysis of global seismological data on the locations and mechanisms of earthquakes and the propagation characteristics of seismic waves.

    Yesterday was Ginny Beck’s final day of work in Lamont’s Office of Marine Operations, after 42 years at the Observatory. Sean Higgins wrote, “Ginny, who started at OMO in 1977 and has attempted to retire a couple times over the last 5 years, will finally hang up her OMO hat. While many of you have never met her, she’s been an absolute cornerstone of this office for every crew person, tech, and OMO staff member of every ship Lamont’s ever operated. She’s an absolutely remarkable person in every way and will be sorely missed for her great work ethic, knowledge of every job in the office, institutional memory, personal attention, sense of humor, and, most of all, immense loyalty to OMO and all of you. She’s picked up the phone every time she’s called, even after she tried to retire the first two times and returned to help one more time again. I wish all of you had a chance to meet her. but I would ask you to all to reach out to thank and acknowledge her 40+ years of remarkable service to OMO, Lamont, and Columbia University.” From all of us, thanks, Ginny!

    Mitchell Gold was quoted in The New York Times today on a small earthquake this week in Queens ( And an article on WNET written by a college student who attended the Workshop on Correlated Extremes held at Columbia late last month and organized by Radley Horton and Colin Raymond quoted remarks made at the meeting by both Radley and Adam Sobel (

    May all of you enjoy what’s left of the last workday of Columbia’s academic and fiscal year as well as the weekend ahead.