Planetary change was much in the news this week, with stories on topics ranging from the effects of the rapid rates of warming in the Arctic on the indigenous population (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/29/science/alaska-global-warming.html) to a record bleaching and die-off of coral produced by ocean warming along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/worl
Director's Weekly Reports
A second week in a row was ushered in by a major earthquake. On Monday (our time), a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck offshore of the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/world/asia/japan-earthquake.html) was reminiscent of the much larger Tohoku earthquake of 2011 in the same area. This week’s quake produced widespread shaking and a modest (1.4 m) tsunami but no major damage.
Much was heard from the southern hemisphere this week. Sunday morning (our time) was punctuated by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in New Zealand on the complex plate boundary that links the subduction zone along the Hikurangi Trough east of North Island to the transform fault through South Island.
If U.S. Presidential elections could be assigned earthquake magnitudes, this week’s election was at least a 9.5. Media articles are beginning to address the question of how federal support for scientific research may fare under a Trump administration, and Robin Bell was quoted in one such story (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/11/09/what-will-president-trump-mean-for-science/) on Wednesday.
This was the last full week before the end of an extraordinarily vitriolic and polarizing Presidential campaign season. Fortunately, the news about our planet’s future has given greater grounds for hope. Late last week, 24 nations and the European Union agreed to create the largest marine reserve in the world in and near the Ross Sea, off the coast of Antarctica (http://www.nature.com/news/world-s-largest-marine-reserve-hailed-as-diplomatic-breakthrough-1.20900).
The Lamont community was saddened by the death this past weekend of University of Maine glaciologist Gordon Hamilton, whose snowmobile fell into a crevasse in an ice sheet shear zone during fieldwork in Antarctica. A Justin Gillis story in the Science Times section of The New York Times on Tuesday captured Gordon, his work, and its importance for climate science (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/25/science/gordon-hamilton.html?_r=0).
It was an unusual week for local weather. Whether the term Indian summer was applicable (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/nyregion/new-york-today-indian-summer.html), temperature records for the date had been set in New York and other northeastern cities by midweek, but markedly cooler and windier conditions were forecast for the weekend.
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.
As this week closes, Hurricane Matthew is centered just off Florida’s eastern coast and is advancing northward, following its devastating trajectory across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Bahamas. Even at Lamont, the storm affected the schedule of research. Joaquim Goes was to have participated on a NOAA oceanographic expedition slated to depart Wednesday from Charleston, South Carolina, but he wrote that the sailing time had been postponed at least until the weather cleared and the scientific party had been sent inland.
On Sunday, Jeff Weissel relayed the sad news that former Adjunct Senior Research Scientist and long-time Lamont Senior Staff member Bob Stoll passed away on September 17 (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/northjersey/obituary.aspx?pid=181596325).
This week has been Climate Week NYC (http://www.climateweeknyc.org/), 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 In
Yesterday, President Obama designated the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/15/fact-sheet-president-obama-continue-global-leadership-combatting-climate).
Late this morning, a note from Enrico Bonatti brought the sad news that Dee Breger passed away yesterday. With a degree in studio art from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dee joined Lamont in 1964 as a scientific illustrator. She quickly gained expertise in electron microscopy, and for 22 years she managed Lamont’s scanning electron microscope and X-ray microanalysis facility. She also participated in more than 30 field expeditions, most at sea.
The arrival of new students to the Morningside Campus this week foreshadowed the end of summer for all of us. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, too, welcomed 17 new graduate students. Those individuals, their undergraduate institutions, and their DEES and Lamont advisors, are as follows:
This week was punctuated by the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that hit central Italy on Wednesday. A normal faulting event, the quake was located 10 km southeast of the town of Norcia in the central Apennines, and casualties numbered in the hundreds. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the event occurred in a gap between the aftershock zones of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in 1997 and the magnitude 6.3 earthquake near L’Aquila in 2009.
This week has brought multiple environmental challenges, from the floods in Louisiana to the wildfires in California. In that context, New York’s heat and humidity don't seem quite so intolerable.
A notable natural event this week was the Perseid meteor shower, which peaked before dawn this morning when Earth passed through the center of the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/11/science/perseid-meteor-shower-2016.html). I hope that some of you caught the show.
I write this week from a South Carolina beach, an apt location for quiet contemplation of coastal zone ecology, longshore currents, and sea-level rise. This week’s report is consequently somewhat shorter than usual.
Carlos Gutierrez retired today after devoting more than 43 years to Lamont, mostly on our oceanographic ships. Carlos sailed on more than 150 cruises on the R/V Vema, Conrad, Ewing, and Langseth, in addition to work in our machine shop and Office of Marine Operations. His introduction to Lamont’s vessels began in July 1973 when he sailed on the Vema for 13 months in a row, took two months off, and then sailed another 9 months in a row, for 25 cruise legs in all.
We are at the midpoint in the quadrennial national gatherings of the two major U.S. political parties. The Republicans completed their convention in Cleveland yesterday, and the Democrats take their turn in Philadelphia next week.