Lamont Weekly Report, May 24, 2019

    This week featured Commencement at Columbia. To all who received degrees, congratulations on your latest professional milestone! Even as blue robes filled the Morningside Campus, several different types of milestones were met on the Lamont Campus.

    Late last week, Julia Tejada Lara learned that she has been awarded a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project entitled “Structure and ecology of the fossil mammalian community in Western Amazonia before the Pleistocene extinction.” Julia writes that the goals of her project include “(1) the first multidisciplinary expedition to two localities in Peruvian western Amazonia where Pleistocene mammals have been reported, (2) analyses of niche partitioning and spatial occupation among Pleistocene mammals by means of stable isotope geochemistry, and (3) a workshop to generate consciousness of the importance of preserving modern and past biodiversity and the need to understand wildlife and ecosystems for better conservation practices.”

    The R/V Marcus Langseth remained in the northwestern Pacific this week completing the final phases of a field program to explore the deep structure of the Emperor Seamounts. The ship’s science team includes Donna Shillington, Tony Watts, Brian Boston, Will Fortin, and others. The ship is currently recovering ocean-bottom seismometers (OBSs) that had been deployed along the seamount chain. Donna writes, “Because very little data have been collected in this remote region, preliminary onboard analysis of the newly collected data is revealing many interesting new observations of the seamounts themselves and the oceanic lithosphere on which they are built.” The science party has been updating a blog site ( on the expedition’s progress. After the OBSs are recovered, the Langseth will begin a long transit to Kodiak, Alaska, from which Anne Bécel will lead the next expedition.

    On Monday and Tuesday, Lamont hosted a workshop on “Water in the Mantle.” Lamont presenters included Anna Barth, Samer Naif, workshop co-organizer Terry Plank, Josh Russell, Henry Towbin, and Lucy Tweed. Keynote presentations were given by Marc Hirschmann of the University of Minnesota, Uli Faul of MIT, Glenn Gaetani of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Anne Peslier of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Mike Walter of the Carnegie Institution, and Shun Karato of Yale University.

    Also on Monday, Lamont was visited by 22 Central American schoolchildren and three of their teachers from the Cayuga Centers ( Organized by Diego Pons from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the visit included talks (in Spanish) on climate, a short film, lab tours, and a soccer game. Lamont participants included Paulina Pinedo and Milagros Rodriguez, as well as IRI’s Weston Anderson, Xandre Chourio, Tatiana Gumucio, Juan Nicolás Hernández-Aguilera, Laura Hoffman-Hernández, Geneva List, and Dan Osgood.

    Suzana Camargo was quoted in a New York Times story yesterday on the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, prompted by a forecast this week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that this season will have a “near-normal” number (9–13) of named storms and the development of a named subtropical storm ahead of the nominal 1 June start of the season (

    Yesterday evening, I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend a dinner celebrating the 85th birthday of my Ph.D. thesis advisor, Nafi Toksöz. Nafi, a seismologist of unusually broad interests who obtained his Ph.D. at Caltech under the mentorship of Lamont alumnus and former Lamont staff member Frank Press, is now an Emeritus Professor at MIT, where over the past 54 years he supervised the Ph.D. theses of more than 100 graduate students. Roger Buck, another of Nafi’s Ph.D. advisees, also attended.

    Earlier today, Laura Haynes successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “The influence of paleo-seawater chemistry on foraminifera trace element proxies and their application to deep-time paleo-reconstruction.” In addition to Laura’s thesis supervisor, Bärbel Hönisch, her committee included O. Roger Anderson, Sid Hemming, Mo Raymo, and Yair Rosenthal from the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. Laura has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers. She writes, “In my project, I will utilize transcriptome sequencing to determine the cellular pathways by which foraminifera alter their calcifying microenvironment in order to build calcium carbonate shells. The goal of the project is to create a more mechanistic picture of trace element incorporation into foraminifera shells; these proxies provide the basis for past oceanic and climate reconstructions. Before that, I will be sailing on a research cruise to collect sediment cores from the Chile margin in July!”

    Also today, Scientific Reports published a paper by Mingfang Ting, Suzana Camargo, Cuihua Li, and James Kossin from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information on the effect on increased greenhouse gas forcing on the intensification of future Atlantic hurricanes along the U.S. east coast. Mingfang and her colleagues argue that Atlantic hurricanes are strongly controlled by a dipole pattern in vertical wind shear, one feature of which is a protective barrier off the U.S. east coast that inhibits hurricane intensification. They show that this dipole pattern is driven mostly by natural variability on a decadal timescale, but greenhouse gas forcing erodes the pattern and degrades the natural barrier. Their climate model projections for the next century show that during periods of enhanced hurricane activity, this degradation of the atmospheric barrier will result in more rapid intensification of hurricanes as they approach the U.S. coast. A Nicole deRoberts press release on the paper’s findings has been posted on our web site (

    On Tuesday next week, Lamont and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences alumna Catherine Pomposi, now the 2018-2019 American Meteorological Society Congressional Science Fellow, will give a seminar on “Leveraging science in a policy world.” Catherine works in the office of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on the development of legislative priorities across a broad environmental portfolio that includes climate change and resiliency, natural resource management, and emissions reductions. Her seminar will be at 3 pm in the Comer Seminar Room.

    On Wednesday to Friday next week, Columbia will host a Workshop on Correlated Extremes (, climate extremes that occur close together in space and time. The workshop is jointly sponsored by Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, the Earth Institute’s Climate Adaptation Initiative, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Integrated Science and Assessments (RISA) program, the World Climate Research Programme, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), and Aon. Radley Horton and Colin Raymond co-chair the international organizing committee that also includes Suzana Camargo. Weston Anderson, Arlene Fiore, Park Williams, and Sha Zhou will be among the workshop presenters. All sessions will be held in the Davis Auditorium in the Schapiro Center on the Morningside Campus.

    In the meantime, may you all enjoy a three-day weekend that promises both a sunny late-spring day and at least one harbinger of summer.