Late last week, the Observatory was saddened by the news that a member of the Lamont extended family had passed away. Michael Vitelli, who worked as a Systems Analyst for Columbia University for nearly 10 years, first on the Morningside Campus and then at Lamont, died at the age of 52 on March 30 in Nyack after a long illness (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lohud/obituary.aspx?n=michael-j-vitelli&pid=179474380&fhid=14974).
Director's Weekly Reports
The week was notable for the announcement yesterday by President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China that the two nations would both sign the Paris climate change agreement on Earth Day, three weeks from today at a signing ceremony at the United Nations (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/world/asia/obama-and-president-xi-of-china-vow-to-sign-paris-climate-accord-promptly.html?_r=0).
Margie Turrin learned last week that she is to receive this year’s Distinguished Service Award from the Rockland County Municipal Planning Federation. Margie was recognized for her leadership of the Rockland Planning Land Use for Students (RPLUS) program (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/plus/). A milestone event for the program was a symposium last Friday, held at SUNY Rockland Community College, at which the RPLUS students presented their community project to mentors from the county. Congratulations, Margie!
The week began with a double dose of sad news: the loss from the Lamont family of Jay Ardai and Arnold Finck, both of whom passed away on Sunday.
The week we were reminded that Earth shares the solar system with other objects. The Moon passed between the Sun and Earth on Tuesday night (our time) and produced a solar eclipse visible in its totality from Indonesia. And one day earlier, asteroid 2013 TX68 – 20 to 50 m across – passed within about 4 million kilometers of Earth (http://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-2013-tx68-uncertain-trajectory-closest-earth-mar-5-2016), about 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
Arriving at Lamont this week was Jonathan Kingslake, a new Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Jonny received his Ph.D. in glaciology in 2013 from the University of Sheffield, where he studied subglacial water flow and outburst floods with Felix Ng and Grant Bigg. As a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey between then and now, he led field expeditions to West Antarctica to document annual changes in ice sheet structure and longer-term ice flow patterns with phase-sensitive radar measurements.
This week the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced that Ryan Abernathey has been selected as a Sloan Research Fellow for 2016 (http://www.sloan.org/sloan-research-fellowships/2016-sloan-research-fell...).
The Weekly Report this week is shorter than usual because I spent much of the week off campus. From Wednesday to Friday I attended a meeting of the GRAIL Science Team hosted by the University of Hawai’i. The highpoint of the meeting was a daylong field trip, led by Jeff Taylor and Peter Mouginis-Mark of the university’s Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, of the deposits and structures of the Ko’olau volcano in southeastern Oahu.
The scientific highlight of the week was distant from the Earth and environmental sciences but spectacular nonetheless: the announcement on Thursday of the first clear detection of gravitational waves (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/science/ligo-gravitational-waves-black...).
Once again we experienced a week bookended by a snowstorm, this one at the end rather than the beginning. Once again, our Buildings and Grounds crew were in early today to clear roads, paths, and parking lots even as the snow continued to fall.
This week began with a snowstorm that set accumulation records at several locations across the northeastern U.S. The brunt of the storm arrived Saturday, and by mid-morning Sunday the skies were clear. That schedule permitted our crew from Buildings and Grounds to clear all the pathways, roads, and parking lots by the start of work on Monday morning, an amazing transformation of the campus that required long weekend hours on the part of many.
One of the main news stories this week was the announcement Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/science/earth/2015-hottest-year-global-warming.html?_r=0) that 2015 was the hottest on record.
This week marked the first campus snowfall of this winter season. Notwithstanding the limited accumulation, our Buildings and Grounds staff were in early Thursday morning to ensure that roads, sidewalks, pathways, and parking lots were clear and safe.
The first weekly report of the new calendar year provides a good opportunity to mention several recent arrivals to the campus.
It has been another holiday-shortened week, one in which temperatures in the New York City area returned to seasonal levels after the record-setting highs of last week. A CNN blog by Adam Sobel (http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/25/opinions/sobel-warm-december/), posted on Christmas Day, explained that the high December temperatures in the eastern U.S.
It is fitting that a week cut short by university holidays included the winter solstice yesterday, with the shortest interval of daylight this year and the noontime Sun at the lowest point in the sky.
On the heels of a Paris Climate Summit at which the world’s nations agreed to address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in a serious and collective fashion (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/world/europe/climate-change-accord-paris.html?_r=0), many from Lamont headed to San Francisco this week to the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. With more than 24,000 attendees, the meeting is once again the largest in our field this year.
It has been a busy week: the last full week of classes, the last week of the Paris Climate Summit, and the last week before the start of the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. It was also the last week of the continuing resolution that has funded the U.S.
The week began with the sad news that our colleague Lenny Sullivan died suddenly last Thursday morning while running in the Rockland Road Runners’ 5-mile Turkey Trot with other members of his family.
Like an island amid a torrent, the Thanksgiving holiday offers a placid break from the turbulent pace of the fall semester. Both the workweek and this report are correspondingly briefer than normal.