From Paul Richards, Lynn Sykes, and John Armbruster, I learned the sad news this week that Lamont and DEES alumnus Jack Boatwright passed away on September 20, in the company of his wife, Tia, and his children, Phoebe and Charlie. A seismologist who specialized in seismic source theory, Jack received his Ph.D. here in 1980, under the supervision of Paul Richards. He joined the U.S. Geological Survey’s Branch of Ground Motion and Faulting in Menlo Park that same year, and he remained with the Survey for 38 years. On the occasion of Jack’s retirement in September, USGS Earthquake Science Center Director Steve Hickman wrote, “Jack [was] highly regarded for his studies relating earthquake rupture dynamics, radiated seismic energy, and strong ground motion and developed novel approaches to image the properties of earthquake sources. He performed intensive studies of modern earthquakes throughout the U.S. and in eastern Canada, applying his new methods to obtain a better understanding of source directivity, seismic wave propagation, and ground motion amplification. Jack also worked to glean a better understanding of what happened during earthquakes of the past, including his extensive analysis of shaking intensity from the 1868 M6.8 earthquake on the Hayward Fault and the 1906 M7.9 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. In so doing, he used not only reports from the Lawson Report (1908) but added his own fieldwork, investigating percentages of toppled tombstones in cemeteries in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Mendocino, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz Counties. He served with U.C. Berkeley and the California Geological Survey as the USGS lead on implementing ShakeMap for Northern California and mapping intensities for important historical earthquakes. Throughout his career, Jack worked hard to bridge the gap from scientific discovery to risk reduction, forming productive partnerships with scientists, engineers, and public officials at the local, regional, and national levels who work to improve public safety and societal resilience.” Steve added recently that the Earthquake Science Center plans to dedicate the next meeting of their Northern California Workshop, to be held sometime in January, to topics of particular interest to Jack and will encourage speakers to add remarks on Jack’s contributions.
As we remember the passing of a long-time member of Lamont’s extended family, we also take note of several important scientific and personnel milestones from the past week.
Last Friday, a day chosen so that the news would be noticed by as few U.S. citizens as possible, the federal government released Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/23/climate/us-climate-report.html). Federal law mandates that the U.S. Global Change Research Program deliver a report to Congress every four years on the impact of global change on this nation. Volume I of the fourth report, issued last year, described the foundational science. Volume II “focuses on the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change and variability for 10 regions and 18 national topics, with particular attention paid to observed and projected risks, impacts, consideration of risk reduction, and implications under different mitigation pathways.” The report, written by more than 300 experts and reviewed by 13 federal agencies, is in stark contrast to the environmental policies of the current administration.
The Tree-Ring Laboratory this week welcomed Postdoctoral Research Scientist Kasey Bolles. Kasey completed her Ph.D. this fall at Baylor University with a thesis on the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s and its effect on land degradation across the Great Plains. At Lamont, Kasey will work with Park Williams and others on the causes and impacts of drought across North America over the past 1200 years.
On Monday, NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed successfully on the surface of Mars (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/26/science/nasa-insight-mars-landing.html), becoming the eighth spacecraft to do so. InSight carries a sensitive broadband seismometer provided by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, a heat flow probe supplied by the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, and a radio science experiment for geodesy and telecommunication. The seismic experiment is the first delivered successfully to another planetary body since the Viking mission carried seismic instruments to two landing sites on Mars in 1976.
On Tuesday, Michael Howe successfully defended his thesis on “Improving estimates of seismic source parameters using surface-wave observations: Applications to earthquakes and underground nuclear explosions.” In addition to his thesis supervisor, Göran Ekström, Mike’s committee included Meredith Nettles, Paul Richards, Spahr Webb, and Chuck Ammon from The Pennsylvania State University. Mike will be moving to the Detroit area in two weeks to take a position in analytical research at Ford Motor Company.
Also on Tuesday, Lamont’s web site gained a story by freelance writer Renee Cho on carbon dioxide capture and storage (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/can-removing-carbon-atmosphere-save-us-climate-catastrophe). Motivated by the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the impacts of global atmospheric warming by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the story treats a broad range of possible processes now in development or application to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide, including Dave Goldberg’s work on the mineralization and long-term storage of carbon dioxide by reaction with subsurface basalt.
On Wednesday, Lamont and DEES alumna Cassaundra Rose visited the campus to speak to our students and postdoctoral scientists on the topic of “Non-academic careers in the geosciences.” Cassy is now a Program Manager at the American Geoscience Institute, where she oversees their Policy and Critical Issues Programs. Her visit was organized jointly by Kuheli Dutt’s office and DEES staff, following feedback at the Town Hall in September that our students and postdocs seek to learn more about non-academic jobs in science.
Yesterday, Columbia University’s lobbyists, Federal Science Partners, drew attention in their Periodic Update mailing to the possibility of a partial shutdown of the federal government one week from now. Although several appropriations bills to support portions of federal government operations for this fiscal year have already been approved and signed into law, seven appropriations bills that cover NSF, NASA, NOAA, EPA, USGS, and the Departments of Interior, Transportation, and Homeland Security have not yet been finalized or approved, and those segments of the government have been operating under a continuing resolution that expires next Friday. Without passage of the remaining bills or a new continuing resolution, there will be a partial shutdown just as the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union is set to begin in Washington.
Today’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by mineral and planetary physicist Kanani Lee, an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University (https://people.earth.yale.edu/profile/kanani-lee/about). Kanani will speak on “Facilitating oxidation of the atmosphere through mantle convection.” May the flow of colleagues driven by the mantle of oxidative curiosity facilitate your attendance.