Lamont Weekly Report, March 18, 2016

     The week began with a double dose of sad news: the loss from the Lamont family of Jay Ardai and Arnold Finck, both of whom passed away on Sunday.

     A member of Lamont’s technical staff for three decades, Jay Ardai led logistical and technical support for dozens of ice camps and research cruises. He designed, built, and operated scientific equipment, including remote-sensing instruments, large oceanographic winches, and hot-water drills for melting holes through floating ice. He also supervised the repair and retrofitting of Lamont’s research vessels, particularly the design, planning, and installation of scientific systems on ships. As Stan Jacobs offered, Jay “was absolutely indispensable if you were going to sea, in particular if you were out on the ice.” A Stacy Morford story ( on Jay’s many contributions to Lamont was posted today. When he retired from Lamont about 15 years, ago, Jay purchased a woolen mill and farm in Genoa, New York, along with his long-time partner, Lamont systems analyst and programmer Suzanne O’Hara, and worked to restore the old equipment and get the mill running again. A memorial service for Jay is planned for late April or May near the couple’s Genoa farm.

     Arnold Finck was Lamont’s first business administrator, hired by Joe Worzel and Maurice Ewing one year after the Observatory was founded. Arnold invented many of the administrative procedures by which Lamont operated and interacted with Columbia University, and in myriad ways he enabled Lamont’s early scientists to devote their time to innovative science. A Stacy Morford article about Arnold’s impact pulls stories from audio interviews and recollections of colleagues ( Arnold retired from Lamont as Associate Director for Administration in 1976 but stayed on for several years as a consultant. He served on the Lamont Alumni Board until 2010 and regularly attended lectures on campus. Jim Hays spoke for many when he remembered Arnold as “a very kind, warmhearted man.” Arnold is survived by his three children, Don, Carolyn, and Robert. His wife, Liz, passed away in 2005. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow, March 19, at Palisades Presbyterian Church.

     As we took time this week to remember the many important contributions of two former colleagues and friends, the pace of current activities at the Observatory continued.

     On Tuesday, the Earth Institute’s Kevin Krajick posted a detailed story on recent fieldwork of Park Williams in the Ozark Mountains, a heavily forested area where temperatures have not yet changed substantially in response to global climate change ( The story is liberally illustrated with photos and a video interview of Park. The overall goals of Park’s work are to produce a baseline characterization of major tree species across the region and their history over the past century from tree-ring samples, understand the sensitivity of each species to temperature and rainfall, and be in a position to extrapolate changes in the distribution of tree species as the region’s climate continues to warm.

     Sid Hemming continued her blog from the R/V JOIDES Resolution this week ( In Wednesday’s posting Sid reported the recovery of 200 m of core from offshore of the mouth of the Zambezi River in Mozambique. The sedimentation rate at the site is 10 times higher than had been inferred from prior information, so the team did not recover 2 million years of southern African climate variability as they had hoped, but instead the core will provide unusually high resolution of variability over a shorter, more recent interval.

     I spent Wednesday at a Dulles Airport hotel participating in a Principal Investigator Forum for NASA’s Discovery Program. Five solar system spacecraft missions are currently under consideration for selection by that program, including two missions to Venus, one to several Jupiter Trojan asteroids, one to the metallic asteroid Psyche, and one to improve the inventory of near-Earth asteroids. NASA invited PIs and Project Managers from successful missions to give advice to the leadership teams of the missions under consideration to give them a better appreciation of the tasks they face, if selected for flight, to bring their missions to completion on schedule and on cost.

     The March issue of Lamont’s monthly electronic newsletter was distributed yesterday ( In lieu of focusing on a shade of green appropriate to the day, the feature story was on coral bleaching and the Bleach Patrol, the partnership among Lamont’s Center for Climate and Life, the World Surf League, and GoFlow to recruit surfers and snorkelers as citizen scientists to track the effects of warming and acidification of the oceans on the world’s coral reefs. Other feature stories were on Marco Tedesco’s research on the surface darkening of the Greenland ice sheets, the studies by Park Williams of the forests of the Ozarks, the work of Ben Cook and his colleagues on the implications of the Old World Drought Atlas for the anomalous character of the most recent drought in the Levant, the report of the National Academies committee on which Adam Sobel served that addresses the emerging scientific capability to attribute individual extreme weather events to anthropogenic climate change or natural climate variability, evidence from MESSENGER’s geochemical remote sensing instruments for high levels of graphite in the crust of Mercury, and Lamont’s recently issued Annual Report. The newsletter also includes links to media stories over the past month about Lamont scientists and their work, recent Lamont blogs and podcasts, and upcoming events.

     The Secondary School Field Research Program – Lamont’s six-week summer program ( that brings local high-school students, teachers, and college students to Piermont Marsh and the Observatory every year for field and laboratory research – recently received a $117,000 grant from the Charles Hayden Foundation to include students from a group of schools that Hayden supports. Together with similar funding from The Pinkerton Foundation and The Young Women's Leadership Network, this grant places the summer work with local schools on solid financial footing. Program Director Bob Newton and Education Coordinator Cassie Xu invite anyone from the Lamont community interested in the program to contact one of them to learn more. 

     In the news, George Harlow and Peter Kelemen were quoted in a story Monday in Fusion on subsurface carbon capture and storage ( Kevin Griffin was cited in a Science story Wednesday on how trees adjust their nighttime carbon dioxide release in response to sustained warming ( Park Williams was interviewed for a CNN story yesterday on the role of global warming in the recent California drought, an example of the attributability of extreme weather and climate events (htp://

     May you enjoy today’s spring-like weather, even as we look forward to another weekend snowstorm.