Lamont Weekly Report, March 23, 2018

    We welcomed spring this week with a vernal equinox early Tuesday afternoon (Eastern Daylight Time). The change in season seemed only a technicality by Wednesday, however, when an early spring storm closed the Lamont campus and left New York City with 5 to 14 inches of new snow ( That we were able to open at a normal time Thursday morning was the result of the all-day, all-night efforts of our Facilities crew. To Bruce Baez, Carmine Cavaliere, Bob Daly, Tony De Loatch, Charlie Jones, Kelley Jones, Maurice Mack, Larry Palumbo, Andy Reed, Ray Slavin, Eric Soto, Kevin Sullivan, and Ricky Trubiroha, and for the fourth time in three weeks, thanks, guys!

    Last week, Geophysical Research Letters posted an early online version of a paper by Louis Clément and Andreas Thurnherr reporting evidence for abyssal upwelling along mid-ocean ridge fracture zones in the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning with profiles of hydrography, velocity, and turbulence measured during two experiments in the vicinity of several fracture zones in the western South Atlantic, Louis and Andreas applied a ray-tracing model to show that downward-propagating internal waves interact with low-frequency currents along the fracture zones, leading to wave breaking and high levels of turbulence and mixing hundreds of meters above the seafloor. In contrast to bottom-intensified turbulence associated with the internal tide, the turbulence mechanism identified by Louis and Andreas is consistent with upwelling, rather than densification, of bottom water on the flanks of the ridge. This mechanism of upwelling, the authors suggest, fuels an important branch of the overturning circulation system in the global ocean. The paper was a featured article on AGU’s Journals page early this week (, but it has since been supplanted on that page by other papers.

    Last Friday, Scientific Reports published online a paper led by Tammo Reichgelt on the distribution of palm tree subfamilies and tribes by local climate conditions, as a basis for assessing paleoclimate information from fossil palms and predicting the future distribution of palm trees in a warming climate. Together with Christopher West at the University of Saskatchewan and David Greenwood at Brandon University, Tammo constructed a dataset of 20,000 georeferenced palm tree records, after manually filtering out cultivars. A threshold condition for palm tree survivability is minimum cold-month mean temperature (CMMT). Tammo and his coauthors showed that this threshold varies strongly among subfamilies and tribes, with some tribes capable of surviving CMMT values as low as 2°C, but CMMT > 5°C is a more typical threshold condition. A Marie Aronsohn release on the paper’s findings was posted on our web site on Monday (, and the story was picked up by The Weather Channel yesterday (

    On Saturday, I was in Houston to speak at a scientific symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The formation of what was originally known as the Lunar Science Institute was announced in March 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson in a speech at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (later renamed the Johnson Spacecraft Center) ( Johnson gave this as the institute’s mission: “We will strengthen the cooperation between NASA and our great educational institutions, the outstanding universities of this land. And we will set new patterns of scientific cooperation which will have, I think, profound effects on man's knowledge of his universe.” Originally operated by the National Academy of Sciences, the institute has been managed since late 1969 by the Universities Space Research Association.

    The R/V Marcus Langseth made a port stop Tuesday in Dunedin, New Zealand, after completing the South Island, New Zealand, Subduction Initiation Experiment (SISIE), an investigation of the geologically young subduction zone south of New Zealand ( The ship met all major objectives for the experiment, despite battling heavy seas during the cruise. While in port, the ship hosted a tour by about 45 students and professors from the University of Otago. A story yesterday in the Otago Daily Times ( quoted Robert Steinhaus on the weather and sea state the ship encountered: “At times we saw 8 m to 9 m seas with gear out, and then on the last night we had 65 knot winds and 11 m seas so we packed up the gear and headed out.” The Langseth left Dunedin today for a transit to Honolulu.

    On Tuesday, The Verge published an interview with Lynn Sykes on his memoir, Silencing the Bomb (

    Harassment Awareness Month continued this week at Lamont. A session on LGBTQ Awareness scheduled for Wednesday had to be postponed because of this week’s snowstorm and will be rescheduled for the first week of April. A Bystander Intervention Training session, featuring a presentation by a representative from the Columbia Sexual Violence Response Team, is scheduled for noon on Monday next week in the Comer Seminar Room.

    On Wednesday, Ben Bostick posted on the Lamont web site a story on his work with Brooklyn high school students on lead in New York City soils and its contribution to lead exposure for city residents (  The story includes summaries by two of the high school students of their experiences in the project and the larger lessons they have learned.

    Today the federal government may have averted by only a few hours a third shutdown for the year. An omnibus appropriations bill, the details of which became generally known only on Wednesday evening, was passed by the House yesterday and the Senate early this morning and sent to the President for signing ( Yesterday morning, Joel Widder and Meg Thompson from Federal Science Partners circulated a summary of science agency budgets under the omnibus bill, which will fund the government through the remaining six months and one week of the government fiscal year. Compared with fiscal year 2017 levels, the budgets for the National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would increase by 4%, that for NASA by 5%, that for the U.S. Geological Survey by 6%, and that for the National Institutes of Health by 9%. Congress will now recess for two weeks. Within a few weeks, program managers at federal science agencies should finally know the budgets for their programs for this fiscal year. Given the increases to agency budgets, and that most program managers have been slow to commit funds until their budget was set, this is a particularly opportune time to submit or have pending a compelling proposal for new research.

    In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Charles Stock, a Research Oceanographer at the NOAA Geophysical Dynamics Laboratory who works on marine ecosystem dynamics and interactions between physical and biological processes in the oceans ( Charlie will be speaking on “Reconciling fisheries yields and ocean productivity in a changing climate.” In a week of changing weather, increasing the audience yield for our colloquium would be a productive reconciliation of the understanding by each of us of an important topic. I hope to see you there.