On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that last month had been the hottest September on record. With an unusually strong El Niño adding to the effects of global warming, the year promises to set records as well, as a Justin Gillis story (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/science/2015-likely-to-be-hottest-year-ever-recorded.html?_r=0) citing Richard Seager reported that same day. Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever recorded in the western hemisphere, is predicted to hit Mexico later today (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/weather/hurricane-patricia-strongest-storm-ever-measured-hit-mexico-n449731). Among other extreme events this week, even if not demonstrably climate related, was Wednesday night’s ultimate sweep of the Cubs by the Mets and second baseman Daniel Murphy’s sixth consecutive playoff game with a home run, a major league postseason record (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/sports/baseball/new-york-mets-beat-chicago-cubs-nlcs.html).
Although not qualifying as extreme events, two of our colleagues received extremely good news this week.
Kerstin Lehnert has been elected Chair of the Leadership Council of EarthCube, “a community-led cyberinfrastructure initiative for the geosciences.” Kerstin’s 30-month term will begin in December (http://earthcube.org/announcements/2015-earthcube-leadership-election-results).
Anna Barth was awarded First Place in the 2015 Neftex Earth Model Award competition, intended “to stimulate research relevant to global geoscience” (http://www.neftex.com/about-us/earth-model-award). Anna’s award is for her project entitled “Gas migration through crystal mushes: Implications for the dynamics of persistently degassing volcanoes.” She will collect her £2000 prize at the Founders Day Dinner of the Geological Society of London next month.
To both Kerstin and Anna, congratulations!
Tuesday was a Day in the Life of the Hudson River Estuary, a multi-institutional environmental science program (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/k12/snapshotday/) for local students and teachers. Lamont – led by Margie Turrin – partners with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Cornell University’s New York State Water Resources Institute, and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission to stage the annual event. This year, about 4700 students and 560 teachers from more than 95 schools participated in the day’s activities.
Wednesday was Giving Day at Columbia. The Development staff at Lamont teamed with their counterparts at the Earth Institute to coordinate fundraising for the occasion. Lamont raised $42,245 from 78 donors, including alumni, faculty and staff, Advisory Board members, and other friends of the Observatory. These figures compare with $5,545 from 16 donors received on Giving Day last year. The Earth Institute Development Team raised another $55,806 from 70 donors on Wednesday. All in all, a great showing!
On Thursday, Columbia’s Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences, Dean of Columbia College, and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences hosted a reception in the Low Library Rotunda for 197 members of the Arts and Sciences faculty who received awards and honors during the 2014-2015 academic year. Sixteen faculty members from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences were so honored, a total matched only by the Department of Economics and surpassed only by the Department of History.
Two blog pages this week show the diversity of Lamont’s fieldwork. Louis Clément describes the ongoing Dynamics on Mid-Ocean Ridge flank Experiment (DoMORE) project, led by Andreas Thurnherr and Louis St. Laurent from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/exploring-rugged-hills-turbulent-waters-4500-meters-down). Aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer, Louis outlines the program of measurements of the deep currents, internal waves, and multi-scale turbulence that govern the mixing of cold bottom water with shallower warm water as part of the global overturning circulation process in the Atlantic Ocean.
Mike Steckler added three entries this week to his long-running blog on fieldwork in Bangladesh (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/research/blogs/geohazards-bangladesh) as part of a project (http://www.banglapire.org/About) aimed at understanding the interrelation of earthquakes, sea-level rise, flooding, and changes in the courses of rivers in the region. The need for resilient solutions to unforeseen snags is a recurring theme of his narrative, as are some of the particular challenges of his field area, including heavy rain, fire, traffic jams, and bedbugs. “In Bangladesh, nothing goes as planned, but we always get everything done,” he concluded.
A number of Lamont scientists were in the news this week, many covered in follow-on stories to recent publications from weeks past. On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry cited, without specific attribution, the paper of Mark Cane, Richard Seager, Yochanan Kushnir, and their colleagues arguing that a regional drought contributed to civil unrest and war in Syria (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/17/us-climatechange-summit-kerry-idUSKCN0SB0PN20151017). A story Sunday in The Ecologist quotes Peter deMenocal on his paper with Jessica Tierney on paleoclimate evidence that continued global warming will lead to further drying in the Horn of Africa (http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2985916/warming_world_means_more_drought_in_horn_of_africa.html). Park Williams provided commentary in a Los Angeles Times story Tuesday (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-dying-forests-20151020-story.html) that as many as 20% of the trees in California’s forests have died or will die from the multi-year drought. Stories also appeared Tuesday on Indrani Das’s work on the ablation of snow in wind-scour zones on Antarctic ice sheets (http://www.theweathernetwork.com/us/news/articles/extreme-weather/strange-mystery-of-antarcticas-disappearing-snow-solved/58764/) and on Monday on Jean-Arthur Olive’s paper with Roger Buck and others arguing that, contrary to a recent proposal, mid-ocean ridge bathymetry does not record variations in climate on time scales less than 100,000 years (http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/10/can-the-climate-really-control-mid-ocean-ridges/). On Tuesday, NASA posted “before” and “after” images of an 11 October landslide (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=86826) onto the Steele Glacier in the Yukon Territory first identified from global seismic signals by Colin Stark and Göran Ekström.
Today’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Jung-Eun Lee, from Brown University. An Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Jun-Eun will be speaking on the “Global sea ice distribution and the glacial tempo.” The colloquium will be followed by a special reception in the Monell Lower Lobby in honor of our 2015 Blavatnik Young Scientist Award winner, Nicolás Young. I hope to see you at both events.