Lamont Weekly Report, May 13, 2016

      This week began with a transit of Mercury, an event that occurs only about 13 times per century ( The passage of Mercury between the Sun and Earth permits novel measurements of Mercury’s tenuous atmosphere and serves as an observational analog to extrasolar planets that transit their host stars.

       The 2016 Polar Prediction Workshop, hosted by Lamont, ended last Friday afternoon. Xiaojun Yuan, a member of the Organizing Committee, reports that the 82 international registrants at the three-day workshop heard 36 oral presentations and viewed 14 poster presentations on many aspects of polar sea ice. Xiaojun wrote, “I have to express my gratitude to the several divisions at Lamont that made this workshop a successful event. The Buildings and Grounds crew cleaned up Lamont Hall nicely for the workshop poster session and reception. Tony [De Loatch] at shipping delivered, set up, and took down tables for lunch and coffee breaks in Monell and Lamont Hall. Philip [Fitzpatrick] from the IT group provided excellent technical support during the sessions, including live streaming and recording. The Development Office supplied badge sleeves. The Lamont Café provided great lunches and coffee breaks. Our Ocean and Climate Physics Division colleagues helped by transporting people to the workshop dinner at Piermont, and OCP Administrative Assistant David Grames provided most of the logistical support. Most importantly, the Climate Center provided funding for the workshop. Without all of these helping hands, we would not have such a great event.”

     Also late last week, the Provost’s Office announced that Adam Sobel and Suzana Camargo received one of the fourth-round grants from the President’s Global Innovation Fund (, which gives awards to faculty members to leverage and engage one or more of the Columbia Global Centers. The successful proposal of Adam and Suzana was entitled “Storm surge risk to Mumbai: A challenge to sustainable urbanization in India’s largest city.”

     The Marine Geology and Geophysics and Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Divisions last week welcomed Patrick Chindandali, head of the Seismology Section of the Malawi Geological Survey, for a two-week visit. Patrick is working with Donna Shillington, Natalie Accardo, and Jim Gaherty to image fault and basin structure in Malawi, as part of the Study of Extension and maGmatism in Malawi aNd Tanzania (SEGMeNT) Project. Patrick was a major participant in the data collection efforts in 2014–2015, and he is leading work aimed at incorporating the results in ongoing seismic hazard assessments in Malawi.

     The American Geophysical Union has announced the slate of candidates for elective office for the next biennium (, and Lamont is well represented. Robin Bell is a candidate for Union President-elect, Kerstin Lehnert is a candidate for one of the open positions on the Board of Directors, and Bob Anderson is a candidate for President-elect of the Ocean Sciences Section. Voting does not open until late August, so the most you can do to support your colleagues until then is to ensure that your AGU membership is current so that you will be eligible to vote.

     On Tuesday, Art Lerner-Lam, Virginia Maher, Bob Chen from CIESIN, Erica Allis from IRI, and I had lunch with eight members of the Lamont staff who recently passed their 10-year anniversary at Columbia. The group included Phil Fitzpatrick, Andrew Goodwillie, Donna Lee, Alberto Malinverno, Pat O’Reilly, Jason Smerdon, Lulin Song, and Sandra Tiwari. Those celebrating a decade at Columbia also included Linda Pagliaroli and Elisabeth Sydor from CIESIN and Tufa Dinku from IRI. Two Observatory colleagues who recently marked the same anniversary, Tim Kenna and Robert Steinhaus, were unable to join us.

     This week featured the completion of annual performance reviews for members of the Observatory’s scientific staff. On Thursday and Friday, I met with Lamont’s Associate Directors, Art, Virginia, Kathy Callahan, and Kim Schermerhorn to discuss the reviews of all of our scientists. As in past years, the exercise provided an affirming overview of the progress that we have made toward our research and educational missions over the past year.

     This morning, Richard Seager spoke at an Earth Institute Sustainable Development Seminar on the topic of “The monster El Niño of 2015–2016: What was expected? And what was done?” Other speakers included Lisa Goddard and Madeleine Thomson from IRI and David Farnham from the Columbia Water Center.

     Next week will be Commencement Week at Columbia. Ceremonies are scheduled from Saturday through Thursday. To those who will be receiving a degree, congratulations! To everyone else, it might be a good week to avoid the Morningside Campus.

     The week after next will feature the Plate Tectonics 50th Anniversary Symposium. The program for the symposium ( features many current and past staff members from Lamont and should offer a two-day celebratory overview of the role of Lamont scientists in developing and confirming the plate tectonic theory and the modern challenges to understanding earthquakes, volcanoes, and the plate tectonic cycle.

     In the meantime, the last Earth Science Colloquium of the academic year will be held this afternoon. The speaker will be Visiting Senior Research Scientist Satish Singh (, Professor Class Exceptional at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris and Visiting Professor at the Earth Observatory of Singapore. The topic of his colloquium will be “Intraplate deformation, great earthquakes, and serpentinization in the Indian Ocean and their roles in the subduction process.” I hope to see you there.