As this week draws to a close, the partial shutdown of the federal government – including most federal science agencies – is three weeks old, and by tomorrow the shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/us/politics/border-wall-government-shutdown.html). When the political impasse preventing the reopening of shuttered departments and agencies will be resolved is anyone’s guess.
Director's Weekly Reports
For this first week of the year, the news has been a mix of good and bad.
It has been a workweek shortened by national and university holidays, and a week during which the federal government was partially shut down, the third federal shutdown this calendar year (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/us/politics/government-shutdown-wall.html). This latest shutdown began at the end of last Friday and affects nine government departments and a number of independent federal agencies, including NASA and NSF.
The Lamont Campus was saddened this week by the passing this Saturday of Benno Blumenthal, Lead Systems Analyst at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Benno joined Mark Cane’s group at Lamont in 1987 after obtaining his Ph.D. in physical oceanography that same year from the MIT–Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, under the supervision of Charlie Eriksen. Benno held postdoctoral and Associate Research Scientist positions at Lamont until 1995, when he transferred to a Senior Staff Associate position.
This week, many from Lamont have been in Washington, D.C., for the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. It has been a week full of new scientific findings, meetings with professional friends and scientific colleagues, and hundreds of side meetings called to advance some aspect of one or more of the subfields of Earth and space science. With more than 28,000 attendees, the meeting set records for number of participants and number of papers presented.
This week began with the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit near Anchorage, Alaska, last Friday. The U.S. Geological Survey characterized this normal-faulting event as intraslab, i.e., within the subducting Pacific plate. At 44 km depth, the earthquake produced ground motion that was widely felt across the state and left widespread damage to buildings, roads, and other components of the built infrastructure (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/01/us/anchorage-alaska-earthquake.html).
From Paul Richards, Lynn Sykes, and John Armbruster, I learned the sad news this week that Lamont and DEES alumnus Jack Boatwright passed away on September 20, in the company of his wife, Tia, and his children, Phoebe and Charlie. A seismologist who specialized in seismic source theory, Jack received his Ph.D. here in 1980, under the supervision of Paul Richards. He joined the U.S. Geological Survey’s Branch of Ground Motion and Faulting in Menlo Park that same year, and he remained with the Survey for 38 years.
This workweek has been shortened 40% by the Thanksgiving holiday, and this weekly report is also briefer than usual.
The first snowstorm of the season from yesterday afternoon through this morning was made more memorable for many by traffic accidents on the George Washington Bridge that delayed traffic – including the Lamont shuttle – for hours (https://abc7ny.com/traffic/snow-snarls-evening-commute-overcrowding-at-port-authority-/4695686/).
This week began for me at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America. On Sunday morning, I co-convened (along with the University of Oxford’s John Dewey, MIT’s Wiki Royden, and Celâl Şengör from Istanbul Technical University) and co-chaired a special session held in honor of the late Kevin Burke.
The extended Lamont community was saddened to learn this week of the passing of former Lamont seismologist Keith McCamy on October 13. Keith first joined Lamont as a Research Associate in 1966, following Ph.D. work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, under Bob Meyer. Keith left Lamont in 1968 for a research position at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, but he returned for the period from 1970 to 1977.
The Earth and other rocky planets were in the news this week. On Friday night, the European Space Agency launched the dual BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury, on a trajectory that will involve nine planetary flybys over seven years before the two probes are captured by Mercury’s gravitational field (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/science/bepicolombo-mercury-launch.html).
This week began with Open House on Saturday. The total attendance was 3452, a good showing given that morning rain darkened the skies and turned the fields soft with mud. The official head count was certified by Howie Matza, who logged 425 individuals arriving by automobile to the campus, 665 attendees delivered by bus from the city, 2324 riders on the shuttles from the HNA parking lot, and 38 who came on other buses. This year’s attendance was down from last year’s record of 3891.
Four weeks after the widespread flooding from Hurricane Florence, a broad swath of the southeastern U.S. was hammered by Hurricane Michael, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane along the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, passed through half a dozen states, and headed out to sea earlier today (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/us/hurricane-michael-live-updates-florida.html).
This week was launched last Friday by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami off Sulawesi, Indonesia, that tragically took more than 1,500 lives.
This week has been Climate Week in New York City (https://www.climateweeknyc.org/), and a Sarah Fecht story posted to our web site on Tuesday describes six options for decreasing one’s personal carbon footprint (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/6-ways-our-team-taking-action-climate-change%E2%80%94and-how-you-can-too).
The flooding across the Carolinas caused by the extraordinary rainfall during Hurricane Florence continued this week long after the storm dissipated and moved north, as swollen rivers crested to different degrees and at different times.
Today’s landfall of Hurricane Florence, as well as the unusually large number of concurrent tropical cyclones (https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2018/09/12/seemingly-overnight-oceans-are-exploding-with-tropical-cyclone-activity/), provides us with a timely reminder of the importance of Lamont’s work on severe storms and other forms of extreme weather and climate in a world undergoing climate change.
For the second week in a row, the Observatory was saddened by the loss of a member of the extended Lamont family. Erik Hauri, a Visiting Senior Research Scientist in Lamont’s Geochemistry Division hosted by Terry Plank during the fall semesters of 2016 and 2017, passed away after a long battle with cancer (http://dtm.carnegiescience.edu/news/dtm-staff-scientist-erik-hauri-passes-away).
Lamont was saddened to learn this week that petrologist and long-time Lamont staff member John Longhi passed away last week. John earned his Ph.D. in 1976 from Harvard University, where he worked in the lab of Jim Hays, along with fellow students Dave Walker, Ed Stolper, Tim Grove, and others on melting relations in basaltic systems and lunar basalts in particular.