Lamont Weekly Report, November 23, 2016

     A second week in a row was ushered in by a major earthquake. On Monday (our time), a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck offshore of the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan ( was reminiscent of the much larger Tohoku earthquake of 2011 in the same area. This week’s quake produced widespread shaking and a modest (1.4 m) tsunami but no major damage.

     Notwithstanding a week shortened 40 percent by the Thanksgiving break, Lamont is well positioned today on Columbia University’s home page (, which includes links to a story on the research of Beizhan Yan and his colleagues on changes in groundwater in northern Pennsylvania near sites of recent hydraulic fracturing and to a story on Kevin Uno’s work documenting illegal ivory from carbon dating.

     Kirsty Tinto filed a second weekly report Sunday on the progress of Lamont’s IcePod group now in Antarctica as part of the Rosetta project to survey the Ross Ice Shelf. Kirsty wrote, “The second week of our deployment ended on a high note as we were able to get the IcePod racks and SABIR (Special Airborne Mission Installation and Response) arm installed overnight on Sunday in preparation to begin flying. A planned shakedown flight for this morning was then thwarted by bad weather. Once this weather system passes we hope to fly the shakedown flight and give the instruments their final check before we start full survey flights. The team has split up into their day and night shifts, so we are ready to fly both night and day lines once the weather starts to see things our way. We’ve spent our time on the ground honing our ground-based procedures and training the team on the instruments that they will be operating in flight as well as looking at data from last year’s flying...During down time, we’ve been taking 360° VR (virtual reality) cameras out on hikes and tours around the base. Hoping to have tales of flight lines accomplished when I write next week. McMurdo will celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday, but happy Thursday to all of those back home!”

     On Monday, Lamont hosted a workshop on “Developing international collaboration and cooperation for marine seismics and increasing opportunities for scientific ocean drilling.” Organized through the International Ocean Discovery Program’s U.S. Science Support Office and the Marcus Langseth Science Oversight Committee, the workshop was chaired by Jamie Austin of the University of Texas, Austin. Lamont participants included Anne Bécel, Suzanne Carbotte, Dave Goldberg, Sean Higgins, Art Lerner-Lam, and Donna Shillington.

     On Tuesday, Park Williams was quoted in a story in the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star on the role of climate change in increasing the severity of forest wildfires in the western U.S. and the need for improvements to forest management and planned burns in the future (

     Robin Bell wrote today with the news that the American Geophysical Union has launched a petition ( to President-elect Trump asking him to appoint a science advisor quickly. The petition argues that “The Science Advisor will assist your administration in driving innovation, and provide scientifically sound solutions to the pressing issues facing our nation today; including updating deteriorating infrastructure, combatting health epidemics, providing clean air and water, and securing valuable natural resources and minerals.” The goal is to secure 100,000 signatories to the petition, and Robin recommends that we “encourage people to share widely with family and friends – perfect for Thanksgiving.”

      Nature magazine today posted online a paper coauthored by Pierre Dutrieux reporting evidence that the retreat of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica was underway as early as the 1940s. The retreat of this glacier, which has thinned by about 1 m/yr over the past 15 years, has been well documented since the start of satellite observations in the early 1990s. The paper, led by James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey, describes the analysis of seabed sediment cores obtained from beneath the floating part of the glacier indicating that the flow of warm seawater, prior to the mid 1940s, caused the glacier to lift off from a prominent seafloor ridge that had presumably served to hold it in place. The group suggested that the warm water was associated with an El Niño event.

     May each of you spend time with family and friends tomorrow, and may we all share a collective thanks that we work at a special institution devoted to research and education on some of the most scientifically fascinating and globally important questions facing humanity.