Kicking off this week was Lamont’s Open House on Saturday. The skies were overcast, but the light rain held off for most of the day, and the many students, neighbors, and friends of the Observatory who joined us contributed to a final attendance figure of 2998, more than 200 higher than two years ago. In the tents and in our buildings, visitors experienced hands-on science, toured laboratories and exhibits, and enjoyed a diverse menu of talks and presentations. Thanks to the considerable creative labors of hundreds of Lamont and Earth Institute volunteers, our guests had an engaging experience and left knowing us better than when they arrived. Photos from the day have been posted on Lamont’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Lamont.Doherty), five of the day’s lectures are now on our video page (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/video), and the event received good coverage from local media (http://www.northjersey.com/news/hundreds-get-rare-access-to-columbia-university-s-lamont-doherty-earth-observatory-1.1674151).
The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Visiting Assistant Professor Na Li from the Department of Air Quality Monitoring at the Institute of Environmental Health and Related Product Safety, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Prof. Li will be at the Observatory for nine months to collaborate on an investigation of the relation between pediatric asthma and airborne pollutants. Her Lamont host is Beizhan Yan.
A paper by Park Williams and the University of Idaho’s John Abatzoglou posted online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes the case that anthropogenic climate change has affected the severity of wildfires in western U.S. forests. The duo used climate model projections to estimate the contribution of human-induced climate change to fuel aridity and forest fire area. They found that anthropogenic climate change nearly doubled the area subject to forest fires in the absence of such change and lengthened the wildfire season, accounting in part for increases in the number of large forest fires and area burned per year over the past several decades. A press release by Kevin Krajick (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/climate-change-has-doubled-western-us-forest-fires-says-study) led to widespread coverage of the paper’s findings in the media (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/11/science/climate-change-forest-fires.html).
Posted online last week by Earth and Planetary Science Letters was a paper by Tammo Reichgelt, Billy D’Andrea, and Bethany Fox from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, on evidence for an abrupt increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide near the time when Antarctic ice sheets began a major retreat in the early Miocene, about 23 million years ago. The group collected well-preserved fossil laurel leaves and organic matter from early Miocene sediments recovered from a lakebed on South Island, New Zealand. From magnetostratigraphy, fossil leaf physiology, isotopic analyses of leaf wax and sediments, and a leaf gas exchange model, Tammo and his colleagues deduced that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels doubled from ~500 to ~1100 ppm over a 20,000-year period before returning to levels similar to those of today. They suggested that the carbon dioxide levels during this period would have been sufficient to initiate Antarctic deglaciation. A Stacy Morford story on the paper’s findings was added to our web site on Tuesday (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/historic-shrinking-antarctic-ice-sheet-linked-co2-spike). Nature World News covered the research report the next day (http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/30041/20161012/ancient-fossilized-leaves-link-shrinking-antarctic-ice-sheets-increased-carbon.htm).
Also on Tuesday, the American Geophysical Union announced the results of their biannual elections (http://elections.agu.org/), and the three candidates from Lamont all did well. Bob Anderson will be the next President-elect of the Ocean Sciences Section, Kerstin Lehnert has been elected to AGU’s Board of Directors, and Robin Bell will be the next AGU President-elect. The only other time that an AGU President worked at Lamont during his or her term of office was during the AGU Presidency of Maurice Ewing. A Stacy Morford story on the elections is on our web site (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/lamont%E2%80%99s-robin-bell-elected-agu-president-elect).
Lamont is participating in a pilot project in crowdfunding that Columbia University launched Wednesday night (https://crowdfund.columbia.edu/). You and other members of the public can help support the deployment by Robin Bell’s group of ALAMO buoys to measure ocean temperature in the vicinity of the Ross Ice Shelf, the instrumentation of drones used by Chris Zappa’s group to study changes in sea ice along the Arctic coast, and the sampling of South Pacific corals by Brad Linsley and his team to document and understand recent coral bleaching events. Links to the three Lamont crowdfunding projects have been added at the bottom of our home page.
On Thursday, BioScience posted its October issue with a special three-paper section on the analysis of more than two decades of observations of Antarctic ecology and its response to warming climate at the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) stations on the Western Antarctic Peninsula and in the McMurdo dry valleys. Jeff Bowman led one of the papers, and Hugh Ducklow coauthored two of them. Along the Antarctic Peninsula, for instance, the group found that the declining extent and duration of sea ice led to diminished phytoplankton blooms as a result of reduced stratification and greater mixing of the water column. In contrast, in Antarctic lakes in the McMurdo region the thinning of ice cover enhances phytoplankton blooms because of increased light penetration into the water column. Both responses, although rendered more complicated by other processes, affect upper trophic levels in the regional food webs. A press release on the special section, written by Marty Downs, communications lead for the LTER network, appears on our web site (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/ice-defining-characteristic-antarctic-continent-what-happens-when-it-melts).
At the height of Hurricane Matthew last week, journalists turned to Lamont scientists for commentary. Suzana Camargo was asked by Forbes about the role of climate change in the severity of hurricanes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2016/10/06/hurricane-matthew-is-scary-but-is-it-our-fault/#4f8c5bcf5526), and Adam Sobel commented to Scientific American on the challenge to current hurricane models of predicting rapid storm intensification (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hurricane-matthew-monitors-fly-into-the-belly-of-the-beast/).
Next week, Lamont’s Annual Report for fiscal year 2016 will be distributed by our development staff to a broad audience. The report, well illustrated and with a more professional look than in the past, features stories on topics from each of the Observatory’s strategic initiatives, as well as articles on our educational programs and major honors accorded to Lamont scientists over the past year. A summary of annual financial activities and a list of the Observatory’s supporters this past year round out the 52-page document. An early view of the report is available (https://view.publitas.com/ldeo/annual-report-2016) for Lamont personnel.
On Wednesday next week, Adam Sobel will be a panelist in a discussion on Lessons of Climate Resilience in New York City, sponsored by the Earth Institute and the MPA Program in Environmental Science and Policy. The event, from 6 to 7:15 pm in the Low Library Rotunda, will be chaired by the Earth Institute’s Steve Cohen. Pre-registration (https://events.columbia.edu/cal/event/showEventMore.rdo;jsessionid=8E2571433DB91B6C80350D55CD0686A2) is required.
In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Peter Huybers, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Science and Engineering at Harvard and co-director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment (http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~phuybers/). Peter will be speaking on “Delayed CO2 emissions from mid-ocean ridge volcanism as a possible cause of late-Pleistocene glacial cycles.” I hope that you are not similarly delayed and will join me for the lecture.