Lamont Weekly Report, March 25, 2016

     Margie Turrin learned last week that she is to receive this year’s Distinguished Service Award from the Rockland County Municipal Planning Federation. Margie was recognized for her leadership of the Rockland Planning Land Use for Students (RPLUS) program ( A milestone event for the program was a symposium last Friday, held at SUNY Rockland Community College, at which the RPLUS students presented their community project to mentors from the county. Congratulations, Margie!

     Also last week, Lamont graduate students hosted the 4th annual Seismology Student Workshop. The program consisted of oral and poster presentations on Thursday and Friday on a wide range of findings from and methodologies for seismology. The goal of the workshop was to allow seismology students to share their science, discuss methodologies, and make connections with peers at other institutions. A total of 49 students from universities across North America came to the campus for the event. The local organizers – who included Lamont seismology students Genevieve Coffey, Celia Eddy, Zach Eilon, Helen Janiszewski, and Kira Olsen – asked me to express their particular appreciation for the time and resources provided by the Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division, and for support from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Chevron Student Initiative Fund.

     From Sunday evening to Wednesday morning, I was in Palm Springs for a workshop hosted by Amazon on Machine learning, home Automation, Robotics, and Space exploration (MARS). The goal of the meeting was to “bring together leading scientists, professors, entrepreneurs, hobbyist, and imagineers in these fields…[to] join Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder & CEO, for two days of talks, demos experimentation and fun.” Suffice it to say that the event was not the usual scientific gathering. On Wednesday I flew to Houston for a more conventional scientific meeting, the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, a weeklong conference already underway.

     Yesterday evening, Art Lerner-Lam participated in an event hosted by Cooper Union entitled “Our common home: Celebrating Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and social justice” (  Representing Lamont, Art joined musicians, artists, poets, writers, and other scientists “to share perspectives on a multifaceted, holistic path forward in protecting our common home.”

     The R/V Langseth completed its cruise to deploy a network of ocean-bottom seismometers to image oceanic upper mantle structure in the equatorial South Atlantic and returned to port in the Cape Verde Islands this morning. Three members of our OBS Lab were aboard to deploy 15 Lamont instruments on this cruise, including Carlos Becerril, John Clapp, and Ted Koczynski. After this port stop, the Langseth will sail on Monday to Jacksonville, Florida, for maintenance.

     Many of you will have noticed that Lamont’s web pages are beginning to gain a new look. Changes were made this week to our home page, the Research page, and the News and Events page, all ably implemented by our Webmaster, Ariana Falerni. These changes are only the first round in a series of modifications coordinated with Information Technologies staff at Columbia University. Our communications and IT staff will be working with the research divisions over the spring and summer to update content. Those of you with your own professional and programmatic web sites are encouraged to update your own web materials as well.

     In a paper published online Monday in Nature Climate Change, Ben Cook and coauthor Elizabeth Wolkovich from Harvard University and the Arnold Arboretum addressed the relation between climate and wine grape harvest dates in France and Switzerland over the last four centuries. Prior to the 1980s, warmer temperatures and drought conditions led to earlier harvests, whereas wetter conditions led to later harvests. As a result of changing climate since 1980, in contrast, warmer temperatures have led to earlier harvests even in the absence of drought conditions. A Kevin Krajick press release posted on Lamont’s web site on Monday ( generated broad media attention (e.g.,

     Also published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a paper coauthored by Kevin Griffin on the temperature dependence of leaf respiration rates. In contrast to the common assumption that carbon dioxide respiration increases exponentially with rising temperature, a team lad by Mary Heskel of the Australian National University and the Marine Biological Laboratory showed on the basis of a study of 231 plant species in seven biomes that temperature sensitivity of respiration declines as leaves warm across all biomes and plant functional types. The group suggests that a single function can predict the temperature dependence of leaf respiration for global vegetation and that use of this function in coupled Earth system models lowers previous estimates of carbon fluxes, particularly in cold climates. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper and its findings was posted on our web site on Monday (, and Geographical magazine carried the story on Wednesday (

     In the News this week, Bärbel Hönisch was quoted in a story in The Christian Science Monitor Monday reporting that the rate of release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere today is ten times that during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 56 million years ago, a period considered the closest recent analog to the modern era of global warming ( Also on Monday, a story issued by the Pubic News Service features the work of Park Williams on the impact of climate change on tree species in North America ( Planetary volcanologist Elise Rumpf has begun a blog from the R/V Atlantis, now on its “Popping Rocks” cruise to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, comparing space exploration of the planets with exploration of the seafloor ( And Jim Gaherty was interviewed by Fox 5 News yesterday on the potential for earthquakes in the New York City area (

     One week from Monday, on April 4, Lamont will host an information session on Columbia University’s sustainability principles. As Cassie Xu writes, “This [session] is a chance for you to learn about what the Office of Environmental Stewardship and the Earth Institute are doing to support and advance sustainability on all of Columbia’s campuses, contribute to the process, meet campus experts doing this work, and get involved in campus sustainability efforts that are underway.” The event will be held in Monell Auditorium from 2 to 4 pm. Those wishing to attend should so indicate on an RSVP site for the event (

     In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium is an offering a bit different from the usual. Entitled “Turning the tables – science journalism in the spotlight: An interview with Chris Mooney on the art of science journalism,” the colloquium will be an interview by Maya Tolstoy and Gavin Schmidt, from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, of Chris Mooney, a science reporter for The Washington Post. The Colloquium Committee has written that the session will focus “on the inside secrets of science journalism, how to get coverage of your science that may not have apparent or immediate societal relevance, what pitfalls to avoid, and why telling the stories of science is so critically important in today’s information world. [The interviewers and reporter] will also explore the intersection of politics and science, a topic that Mooney wrote about in his New York Times best-selling book The Republican War on Science, with particular emphasis on coverage of climate change and evolution.”  I hope that you will be able to attend this special event.