Lamont Weekly Report, September 23, 2016

     This week has been Climate Week NYC (, designed by the organizers to bring “together influential global figures - and new voices - from the worlds of business, government and society who are leading the low carbon transition” and provide “the collaborative space for climate events in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.” Columbia University hosted an International Conference on Sustainable Development on Wednesday and Thursday, IRI cosponsored an event Wednesday on Innovative Approaches for Scaling Up Climate-Smart Agriculture, the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate hosted a seminar on climate change and national security on Thursday, and other units across the Earth Institute and the university more broadly staged activities on related themes. President Obama chose this week to announce a Presidential Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security, establishing a Federal Climate and National Security Working Group to “identify the U.S. national security priorities related to climate change and national security, and develop methods to share climate science and intelligence information to inform national security policies and plans” ( One day later, the White House launched the Partnership for Climate Preparedness and Resilience, “a public-private collaboration among Federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, private-sector companies, and civil-society organizations”…charged to “identify priority-information needs, reduce barriers to data access and usability, and develop an open-source platform to enable sharing and learning on the availability and use of data and information for climate resilience” ( 

     On the Lamont Campus, the Biology and Paleo Environment Division welcomed three new Postdoctoral Research Scientists this month. Paleoecologist Ben Gaglioti holds a Ph.D. earned earlier this year from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and his background spans isotope geochemistry, botany, dendrochronology, and Quaternary geology. At Lamont he will work with Laia Andreu-Hayles and Rosanne D’Arrigo on Alaskan tree-ring and paleoclimate studies aimed at increasing our understanding of atmosphere-ocean circulation variability linked to the Aleutian Low pressure cell and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. 

     Paleoclimatologist Francesco Muschitiello studies the mechanisms of abrupt climate change in the North Atlantic region and has worked extensively on the dynamics of the Fennoscandian ice sheet during the end of the last glacial period. He received his Ph.D. earlier this year from the University of Stockholm, where he combined modeling approaches, statistical analysis, isotope geochemistry, and geochronology to investigate past changes in ocean and atmosphere dynamics. At Lamont, Francesco will work with Billy D’Andrea on the development of new marine-based records to examine changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and sea ice extent in the Norwegian Sea during the termination of the last glacial period. 

     Biologist Scott LaPoint joins Lamont from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, where he was a postdoctoral researcher since 2014. He holds an M.S. degree in conservation biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Konstanz. His research to date has blended fieldwork, biotelemetry, and modeling to understand how species, populations, and individuals respond to changing environments. At Lamont, Scott will work with Natalie Boelman on her Animals on the Move project, part of NASA’s Arctic–Boreal Vulnerability Experiment. 

     On Monday, I joined Gavin Schmidt, Ron Miller, and Ben Cook from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Alison Miller from the Earth Institute at a meeting with Ofir Akunis, Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology and Space. The minister was joined by Nadav Douani, Advisor to the Minister, Omer Schechter, Media Advisor to the Minister, and Jackie Retig, Director of Academic Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York. After brief introductions to GISS, the Earth Institute, and Lamont, our discussions ranged broadly over global warming, climate models for the eastern Mediterranean, earthquake and tsunami hazards for the region, and mechanisms for fostering collaborations between Israeli and Columbia University scientists. 

     On Tuesday, Lamont hosted a visit by Dyer Ridley, Columbia’s Director of Development for Arts and Sciences, and four of his colleagues: Major Gift Officers Christina Vellios and Talya Westbrook and Leadership Gift Officers Cari Griggs and Amanda Lasker. Over a lunch at which I was joined by Karen Buck, Kathy Callahan, Art Lerner-Lam, and Farhana Mather, our guests heard brief presentations on Lamont’s five strategic initiatives: the Center for Climate and Life by Peter deMenocal; the Changing Ice, Changing Coastlines initiative by Robin Bell; the Anticipating Earthquakes initiative by Jim Gaherty; the Real-Time Earth initiative by Tim Crone; and the Extreme Weather and Climate initiative by Adam Sobel. Our visitors were then treated to tours of the IcePod lab by Robin and Nick Frearson, the Tree-Ring Lab by Park Williams, and the Lamont Core Repository by Nichole Anest. 

     On Wednesday, Nature published online a News and Views piece by Peter deMenocal and Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London, on the role of climate variations paced by changes in Earth’s orbital parameters in the timing of major migrations of Homo sapiens over the past 125 thousand years. Their article is a commentary on a paper now online in the same journal by the University of Hawaii’s Axel Timmermann and Tobias Friedrich summarizing a new model of past climate, vegetation, and human dispersal in which waves of migration out of Africa were enabled by episodes, 10 to 15 thousand years long, during which the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula were wetter and more heavily vegetated than they are today. 

     Also on Wednesday, Stacy Morford posted on the Lamont web site an audio interview of Bill Ryan on the topic of his exploration by submersible of the submarine canyons along the continental margin south of Georges Bank ( Several of the canyons are now part of the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument announced by President Obama last week. The interview is well worth a few minutes of your time to hear about how Bill and his colleagues learned in the late 1970s how the geology, biology, and tidal currents of the canyons are all interrelated. 

     Stacy also posted, just today, a story on Ben Holtzman’s SeismoDome show, an immersive visual and audio introduction to seismicity, seismic wave propagation, and seismic noise ( The story is accompanied by several videos that capture the flavor of the production, but the show must be experienced in person for the full effect. An early opportunity will be in two weeks at the Lamont Open House. The next SeismoDome production at Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History will be on Saturday, November 19. Admission is free, but tickets must be obtained in advance ( For the last SeismoDome show in the planetarium, available tickets were booked far in advance, so early action is recommended for all of you who want to have a seat at the show. 

     Next week a dozen of Lamont’s scientists and students will travel to Boise, Idaho, for a planning workshop for a Subduction Zone Observatory, “a multidisciplinary science program to study a significant portion of one or more subduction zones as an integrated system” ( A two-page news story in today’s issue of Science magazine describes the SZO concept and the plans for the workshop, which will be co-chaired by Terry Plank. Others attending from Lamont will include Merry Cai, Suzanne Carbotte, Zach Eilon, Jim Gaherty, James Gibson, Helen Janiszewski, Samer Naif, Megan Newcombe, Heather Savage, Donna Shillington, Mike Steckler, Maya Tolstoy, and Spahr Webb. 

     On Monday afternoon next week, the 12th Excellence in Mentoring Award Ceremony will be held in Monell Auditorium. The award, which includes a cash prize and a certificate, recognizes outstanding mentoring and is open to anyone on the Lamont Campus ( This year’s nominees include Laia Andreu-Hayles, Louise Bolge, Arlene Fiore, Jim Gaherty, Steve Goldstein, Andy Juhl, Bob Newton, Heather Savage, Jason Smerdon, and Elisabeth Sydor and Xiaoshi Xing from CIESIN. The ceremony will begin at 3:30 pm, and a reception will follow. 

      In the meantime, this afternoon there will be a Town Meeting in Monell Auditorium to discuss the issue of graduate student unionization. Short presentations by Peter deMenocal, in his capacity as Dean of Science, and a representative of the Provost’s Office will be followed by an open discussion. Background material has been posted on the web by the Provost’s Office ( and the Graduate Workers of Columbia ( The meeting will begin at 1:30. 

     Two hours later, this week’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Cynthia Ebinger, Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Rochester ( A geologist and geophysicist expert in the tectonic and volcanic processes at rift zones and hot spots, Cindy will be speaking on “Fluid fluxes and crustal dynamics: New insights from rift zones.” I hope to see you there.