Lamont Weekly Report, April 26, 2013

     The week began with the third in our Spring Public Lectures, given at Lamont Sunday afternoon by Emily Klein, on sabbatical leave this spring from Duke University as a Visiting Senior Research Scientist in the Observatory’s Geochemistry Division. Emily spoke on “Volcanoes and vents: A hidden world beneath the sea” to an appreciative audience.

     Late last week, Lamont’s IcePod team of 10 scientists and engineers flew to Greenland with the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard. Mounted on the outer hull of an LC-130, the IcePod imaging system includes a deep-ice radar, a shallow-ice radar, a LIDAR, an infrared camera, a visible photogrammetric camera, and a precise inertial motion unit. Nick Frearson leads the IcePod engineering team, and Robin Bell and Chris Zappa lead the science effort. This week the team collected their first data over the Greenland ice sheet and ice-covered polar oceans. The goal of the program is to advance our understanding of the effects of climate change on Greenland’s glaciers and Arctic sea ice.

     Monday was Earth Day, and media stories ranged widely over news and opinion regarding our planet. One of my favorites consisted of ten selected quotes about Earth, from Copernicus through Whitman and Gandhi to Sagan ( Jason Smerdon marked the day by speaking to employees at the New York Power Authority in White Plains on “Climate extremes and our march into a warmer world.”

     On Monday, Art Lerner-Lam participated in a lunchtime meeting on opportunities for collaborative scientific work in Chile. The meeting was hosted by Paula Pacheco, Program Coordinator for Columbia’s Global Center in Santiago, and was preparatory to a meeting the next day with the President of Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT).

     From Monday to Wednesday, I was in Chicago for a scientific workshop on the topic of the composition and interior of planet Mercury, jointly sponsored and organized by representatives of NASA’s MESSENGER mission and the BepiColombo mission of the European Space Agency and the Japan Exploration Space Agency. BepiColombo is a dual orbiter mission scheduled to be launched in 2016 and to arrive at Mercury in 2023. The workshop, one of a series, had been postponed from its original dates of 30 October to 1 November 2012, because the venue for that workshop was to have been the Park Central Hotel in Midtown. Most of our European participants had arrived two days ahead of the workshop’s start, the better to have a spare day to shake off jet lag, but their airline flights were among the last to land at city airports that week. The U.S. participants saw their flights and trains cancelled before departure, and the workshop had to be put off, but our European colleagues had a front-row view of the damaged 70th-story crane on 7th Avenue that dangled above their hotel room windows during the height of the storm.

     Klaus Jacob joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others Thursday at an Energy for Tomorrow Conference on Building Sustainable Cities sponsored by The New York Times ( Klaus participated in a “columnist conversation” with Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera on the topic of “Planet-warming emissions: Is disaster inevitable?”

     Also on Thursday, the Columbia Climate Center and the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions sponsored a screening of the documentary “Chasing Ice,” in which photographer James Balog captured the effects of changing climate on the world’s glaciers. Stephanie Pfirman participated in a panel discussion that followed the film. 

     In the news this week was a story posted on Sunday describing a public hiking lecture that Paul Olsen led in Union County, New Jersey, through fossil-rich limestones and basalts of the central Atlantic magmatic province ( On Monday, U.S. News carried a story on a Nature Geoscience article by Ed Cook, Brendan Buckley, Jason Smerdon and coauthors documenting, on the basis of a seven-continent climate reconstruction, that Earth warmed more in the last three decades of the 20th century than it has over any comparably long period during the past 1400 years ( On Tuesday, a video story on Al Jazeera featured an interview with Maureen Raymo on sea level during the Pliocene warm period (

     Several notable deadlines fall next week. Monday is the deadline for nominations for Lamont’s Excellence in Mentoring Award ( Proposals to Lamont’s Climate Center ( should be submitted by Tuesday. Proposals to the Earth Institute’s Cross-Cutting Initiatives ( and Earth Clinic ( programs are due on Wednesday.

     Today’s Earth Science Colloquium features geochemist Scott McClennan, from the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University. Scott has been dividing his sabbatical this year between visits to Lamont and trips to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in his role as a Participating Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Scott’s lecture, on “Returning samples from Mars – no prospect of an end?,” was postponed once (because of a February snowstorm), and I’m sure that it will be worth the wait.