Lamont Weekly Report, March 10, 2017

    Yael Kiro learned this week that she is to receive the Prof. Rafi Freund Award from the Israel Geological Society. The award, named for a former professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is given to recognize outstanding papers in the geological sciences published over the past three years. Yael was lauded for two papers published last year and this on the analysis of sediments cored from the floor of the Dead Sea in terms of changes to the hydrology of the area over the last three interglacial periods. Along with Steve Goldstein, Yochanan Kushnir, and other coauthors, Yael showed that during the last interglacial and the early Holocene the amount of fresh water entering the Dead Sea watershed was as low as ~20% that of today. The level of the Dead Sea is currently declining by more than a meter per year because the countries in the watershed consume virtually all the useable fresh water runoff. Climate models predict increasing aridity in the region, so the work of Yael and her colleagues points to greater stress on fresh water supplies in the future.

    Steve himself learned recently that he has been elected a 2017 Geochemical Fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry ( He will accept his latest honor at the Goldschmidt Conference in Paris this August. Kudos to both Yael and Steve!

    I was in London at the beginning of the week for meetings of Columbia University’s Board of Trustees on Friday and Global Leadership Council on Monday. At their Friday meeting, the Trustees unanimously endorsed President Lee Bollinger’s proposal to establish a series of Columbia World Projects, each addressing a problem of global importance on which substantive progress can be achieved by Columbia University personnel and partner organizations within a time frame of a few years. At their Monday meeting, the Global Leadership Council, an organization established by President Bollinger three years ago as a vehicle for select individuals from around the world to provide strategic direction and support for Columbia’s global engagement, also discussed the Columbia World Projects concept, including specific candidate projects in the areas of precision medicine and near-term climate forecasting.

    An FYI Bulletin (,4T1LI,E29F2E,I42JS,1) from the American Institute of Physics on Monday repeated a story from The Washington Post last week that a draft version of the President’s 2018 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration represented a cut of 17% from current funding levels, with particularly deep cuts to the agency’s research and satellite programs. At least a high-level version of the President’s budget is slated to be released later this month, and of course Congress will have a great deal to say about the final appropriations bill for the Commerce Department and NOAA, but it is not too soon to begin making the case to our representatives in Congress that our nation’s programs in ocean and atmospheric observations and research are critical to the safety and livelihood of our citizens.

    To underscore that message, “science journalist and climate researcher” Alejandra Borunda penned an article for Gizmodo last Friday on the history of engagement by scientists in this nation’s political discussions as a backdrop to the increasing mobilization of scientists as advocates since the last national election (

    NOAA’s draft budget arguably bears the fingerprints of President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon. For those of you who obtain your news updates from Fox News, you may have missed Wally Broecker’s comments in the New Republic on Bannon’s views on climate science when both Wally and Bannon were involved with Biosphere 2 (

    On Wednesday afternoon, the Lamont Advisory Board met at The Explorer’s Club in New York City. The Board’s Education and Marketing Committees met separately before the Board met in full. After hearing reports on scientific milestones and accomplishments and development progress over the past quarter, the Board was given a thoughtful overview of the Earth Institute, its mission and programs, and its recently completed strategic plan from EI Executive Director Steve Cohen. The Board discussed and endorsed a proposal to reduce the frequency of in-person Board meetings from four per year to two per year during Columbia University’s fundraising campaign while the use of electronic tools will be increased to maintain the communication of scientific highlights and fundraising progress to the Board, to conduct the business of Board committees, and to continue to seek advice from Board members. Another element of the proposal is to form a new Lamont Campaign Committee that will focus on fundraising and interaction with the many components of Columbia’s campaign activities.

    This week marked the online posting of the annual compendium, compiled by Kevin Krajick, of field projects now being or soon to be conducted by Lamont scientists ( The narrative description of individual projects is accompanied by an interactive global map ( The promise of Lamont’s mission statement that our scientists work “on every continent and in every ocean” is well illustrated by examples from this calendar year.

    Two Lamont scientists appeared on radio shows last week. Peter deMenocal was interviewed last Wednesday for “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC to give a “refresher course” on the topic of global climate change ( And Arlene Fiore was interviewed by National Public Radio’s Rae Ellen Bichell for “All Things Considered” last Friday on the sources of ground-level ozone in the U.S. (

    On Wednesday to Friday of next week, Lamont will host a workshop on reconstructions of the partial atmospheric pressure of carbon dioxide during the Cenozoic ( According to organizers Kelsey Dyez, Bärbel Hönisch, and Pratigya Polissar, “the goals of the workshop are to improve the interactions between scientists working on paleo-pCO2 reconstructions using different proxies and models, and thereby improve our knowledge of paleo-pCO2 and its climatological consequences.” The plenary workshop sessions will be held in the Monell Auditorium, and breakout sessions will be held in other rooms in Monell and Comer. Everyone is welcome to attend the talks, but if you’ve not done so already please let the organizers know if you plan to participate.

    Friday, April 28, will mark the kick off of Lamont’s third annual Research as Art Exhibition. Organizers Josh Russell, Anna Barth, Maayan Yehudai, Hannah Rabinowitz, and Kyle Frischkorn hope for a large group of creative submissions, which should be sent to by the deadline of April 7. Additional information about the event, past exhibits, and submission instructions can be found on the organizers’ website (

    In the meantime, the Earth Science Colloquium will be given today by glaciologist Mark Fahnestock from the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks ( Mark will be speaking on “Pervasive glacier change in Greenland since 2000.” May his audience in Monell also be pervasive.