This week has been marked by beautiful fall weather, with high temperatures 5°-10°F higher than historical averages for each date. And yesterday the National Weather Service released its annual winter outlook, which calls for warmer than normal winter temperatures for most of the continental U.S.
Director's Weekly Reports
This week was launched by Open House. Fine weather contributed to a record attendance of 3891, an increase by nearly 900 over last year (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/highlights-2017-lamont-doherty-open-house). The official head count was certified by Howie Matza, who logged 440 individuals arriving by automobile to the campus, 565 attendees delivered by bus from the city, and 2886 riders on the shuttles from the HNA parking lot.
This is the week that most Nobel Prizes were announced, and we congratulate our Columbia University colleague Joachim Frank for his 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2017/10/04/joachim-frank-awarded-2017-nobel-prize-chemistry/)!
A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken last week indicates that 55% of Americans now agree with the statement that climate change has contributed to the severity of the largest recent hurricanes (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/09/28/majority-of-americans-now-say-climate-change-makes-hurricanes-more-intense/). The majority who hold that view rises to 67% for adults under the age of 30.
This has been a terrible month for natural disasters, with two major earthquakes in Mexico and multiple Atlantic hurricanes. On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake southeast of Mexico City produced widespread structural damage and more than 200 fatalities (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/20/world/americas/mexico-earthquakes-explainer.html). The normal faulting event occurred at 50 km depth, probably within the subducting Cocos plate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
With all of the attention devoted to hurricanes last week, it might have been easy to overlook the magnitude 8.1 earthquake that occurred off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico, last Thursday night local time (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/world/americas/mexico-earthquake.html).
Two weeks ago Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, today we await the U.S. landfall of the still stronger Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose is not far behind. The topic of extreme weather is dominating headlines, changing the political landscape in Washington, and prompting broad humanitarian support for those now recovering from a hurricane’s passage.
For the third week in a row, the Lamont family was saddened by loss. Charles Bentley, a graduate student at Lamont early in the Observatory’s history, from 1950 to 1956, passed away on August 19 (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/science/earth/charles-r-bentley-87-pioneer-of-polar-science-is-dead.html).
For the second week in a row, the extended Lamont community was saddened by the news of the loss of one of our members. Joseph Valenti, who worked in the Observatory’s Buildings and Grounds Department for 24 years from 1979 to 2003, passed away on August 14 (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lohud/obituary.aspx?pid=186397227).
The Lamont family was saddened recently by the news that former staff member Adele Hanley passed away on August 1. Mother of Lamont’s Jean Hanley, Adele worked as a Staff Associate in the Geochemistry Division for 32 years, from 1969 until her retirement in 2001. While at Lamont, she provided analytical support for a broad range of studies of marine sediments and ice cores, and she participated in several oceanographic cruises.
One of the news stories that led off this week was a New York Times article on the most recent draft of the Climate Science Special Report of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/climate/document-Draft-of-the-Climate-Science-Special-Report.html), of which Radley Horton is one of 29 lead authors.
Last week, when I mentioned the American Geophysical Union’s announcement of the members elected as AGU Fellows for 2017(https://eos.org/agu-news/2017-class-of-agu-fellows-announced), I neglected to note that Lamont and Columbia University alumnus Youxue Zhang is among the new Fellows. Youxue completed his Ph.D.
Every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has had a science advisor, and this administration has gone longer than most without one. A lengthy article in Eos yesterday (https://eos.org/features/trump-administration-moving-closer-to-picking-science-director?utm_source=eos&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EosBuzz072817) suggests that a science advisor to President Trump may soon be named.
Yesterday marked at least two milestones. It was the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, the first time humans walked on the Moon. And it was six months to the day after the start of the Trump administration. For different reasons, both of those events seem a very long time ago.
It doesn’t matter whether you measure your academic summer by the major league baseball schedule or the time between commencement and the start of fall classes. This week we passed the halfway mark.
A magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Montana yesterday and a record-setting heat wave in southern California brought to a close a holiday-punctuated week that also marked the beginning of a new academic year.
Today marks not merely the end of a month but the end of the university’s fiscal year. A blizzard of personnel and financial matters should finally clear for a time, permitting the latest professional and scientific milestones to gain appropriate attention.
The summer solstice fell on Wednesday this week. The hours of daylight will progressively shorten each day for the next six months, but thankfully there is compensating good news.
It was the last full week of spring, with high temperatures early in the week to foreshadow the coming season, and a giant American flag draped from the superstructure of the George Washington Bridge on Wednesday to announce to those of us commuting from the city that it was Flag Day.
This week included World Oceans Day, a day celebrated “to honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans” (http://www.worldoceansday.org/about). I hope that each of you took a moment this week to acknowledge the importance of the world’s oceans for Earth’s climate and ecology.