Prompted by the widespread protests this week over the killing last week of George Floyd, for Wednesday’s issue of Climate Fwd: – the climate-focused newsletter of The New York Times – writer Somini Sengupta interviewed three prominent black climate activists about the connections between racism and climate change: Sam Grant at MN.350.org, Robert Bullard at Texas Southern University, and Heather McGhee at Demos.
Director's Weekly Reports
Earlier this month, Lamont and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences alumnus Leon Thomsen learned that he had been awarded the 2020 Maurice Ewing Medal by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG).
It was a week of very mixed emotions. The Lamont community was deeply saddened by the news that Rhonda Martinson passed away on Tuesday. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, Rhonda worked as an Office Assistant in the Lamont Core Lab from 1979 to 1982. Most now at the Observatory knew Rhonda primarily in her 48-year-long role as the spouse and life partner of Doug Martinson, who retired from his Lamont Research Professor position at the end of January this year. Our thoughts and support go out to Doug and all of Rhonda’s friends and family members.
This is an unusual Final Examinations week at Columbia, the capstone to what Lee Bollinger described in a community e-mail yesterday as “one of the most difficult and perplexing semesters in memory.” A large fraction of Columbia personnel spent the week developing plans to reopen university campuses, in a carefully phased manner and at a pace that will be set by criteria to maximize the safety of those returning to the workplace.
For all of us who have been sheltering in place since late March, we should have spent more time outside. The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported this week that last month was tied for the warmest April on record. Two weeks earlier, NOAA had announced that there is a 75% chance that 2020 will be the warmest year since 1880, when instrument records began.
The coronavirus pandemic and the directives to shelter in place have had very different effects on different segments of our community. Of course, those who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms or whose immediate family members have done so have understandably focused on testing, treatment, and recovery. Health-care providers who have selflessly devoted their time and attention to those most severely ill have earned our sustained gratitude, and the families of health-care workers are no less in our debt for the continuing support they provide.
The greater Lamont community was saddened to learn of the death last week of geologist and former Lamont postdoctoral scientist Maarten de Wit, at the age of 73. Born in the Netherlands, Maarten obtained his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Cambridge.
Results from this year’s National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship competition have been a topic in this report series for each of the last two weeks. This week, one more applicant to next year’s class of graduate students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences who received one of NSF’s fellowships announced that she has accepted the department’s offer of admission.
The Lamont community was saddened this week by the news that Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences alumna Patience Cowie passed away on Tuesday. An expert in fault mechanics and a Professor of Earth System Dynamics at the University of Bergen, Patience obtained M.Sc. (1988), M.Phil. (1989), and Ph.D. (1992) degrees from Columbia, where she worked under the supervision of Chris Scholz. Prior to moving to the University of Bergen, she held a series of positions at the University of Edinburgh from 1993 to 2011.
This was the third week of remote work for most of us on the Lamont campus. It is beginning to feel normal to see and hear our colleagues only on laptops, to have no access to our laboratories and offices, and to wonder when fieldwork and in-person conferences and workshops will once again be possible.
This has been the first week of New York state’s Policies Assure Uniform Assurance for Everyone (PAUSE) order, and also the first full week during which nearly all of us on the Lamont campus have worked remotely from homes or other off-site locations. Most of us are becoming increasingly familiar with Zoom and other group communication software, and we wrestle with the challenges of conducting research and educational activities with strong new constraints on interpersonal interactions. Notwithstanding these challenges, some progress continued.
This week has been a time of extraordinary disruption and uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the news and the actions of governments at national, state, and city levels around the world. At Columbia, all classes are now being taught online, most personnel are working remotely, and domestic and international travel on university business has been suspended.
This week has been dominated by news of the coronavirus outbreak and its consequences for the global population, international travel, public health and healthcare systems, and our region and university. As of Wednesday, Columbia University classes are now all being taught online.
Christine Chesley has been twice honored for a talk that she gave at the 2019 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting last December.
This week was bookended by new results from solar system spacecraft missions. Nature Geoscience on Monday published the first observations from NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, including confirmation of the occurrence of marsquakes. Today’s issue of Science includes the first in-depth papers from the New Horizons flyby of classical Kuiper-belt object (486958) Arrokoth, a small, peanut-shaped body largely undisturbed since solar system formation.
The U.S. Presidential race continued to provide a backdrop to our scientific activities this week, as the Democratic candidate debate on Wednesday evening provided the longest exchange so far in the campaign on the need for major action on climate change.
This week the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry announced the good news that Sidney Hemming has been elected a 2020 Geochemistry Fellow. The honor is reserved for “outstanding scientists who have, over some years, made a major contribution to the field of geochemistry.” Geochemistry Fellows at Lamont elected in earlier years include Bob Anderson, Steve Goldstein, Alex Halliday, Peter Kelemen, Terry Plank, and Dave Walker.
The first votes in the U.S. Presidential election process were cast this week at the Iowa caucuses. A story in The Verge on Wednesday reports that, according to a recent survey by Yale and George Mason universities, climate change was named as the fifth most important issue that registered voters considered when voting for a candidate, and as the top issue for liberal Democrats.
Notwithstanding the holiday on Monday (or a Presidential impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate), the spring semester officially began this week with the start of Columbia University classes on Tuesday. Scientific progress at Lamont continued at an uninterrupted pace.