Lamont Weekly Report, August 2, 2013

     When the monthly page on my wall calendar flips to August, the imminence of the new academic year can be clearly felt, much like the air in a subway station presages the approach of a train.
     This week I spent the first four workdays in Washington, D.C., chairing a review panel for NASA. The panel was asked to evaluate proposals from multi-institutional teams for membership in a new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. The institute aims to stimulate “an innovative, broadly based research program addressing basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the nature of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near-space environments of these target bodies, to enable human exploration of these destinations.” NASA is gamely trying to align scientific planning with the ever-changing objectives of the agency’s human spaceflight program.
     In late-breaking news last week, the American Geophysical Union announced that Mark Cane is to receive the 2013 Maurice Ewing Medal. Named for Lamont’s founding director, the Ewing Medal is awarded for “significant original contributions to the scientific understanding of the processes in the ocean; for the advancement of oceanographic engineering, technology, and instrumentation; and for outstanding service to the marine sciences” ( The medal was first awarded in 1976, and past recipients have included Wally Broecker, Manik Talwani, Xavier LePichon, Walter Pitman, Arnold Gordon, Rick Fairbanks, Gerard Bond, and Mike Purdy. Mark will receive the medal at the Honors Ceremony at the AGU Fall Meeting in December.
     Others with Lamont connections will also be honored by AGU this fall. Lamont alumnus and long-term staff member John LeBrecque is to receive AGU’s Edward A. Flinn III Award, given to an “individual who personifies the Union’s motto ‘unselfish cooperation in research’ through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities” ( And the first recipient of AGU’s Science for Solutions Award, established last year through a gift from Peter Schlosser and intended to recognize a student or postdoctoral scientist “for significant contributions in the application and use of Earth and space sciences to solve societal problems” (, will be Solomon Hsiang, whose research as a student in Columbia’s Sustainable Development Ph.D. program included work with Mark Cane, Suzana Camargo, and Adam Sobel.
     A new arrival in Lamont’s Borehole Research Group this week was Postdoctoral Research Scientist Sally Morgan. A marine geologist, Sally wrote a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Leeds on high-temperature fluid-rock interactions at seafloor hydrothermal systems. Since 2009, as a Research Associate at the University of Leicester, Sally participated in several expeditions of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and other drilling projects to acquire borehole measurements and analyze core petrophysical properties.
     A paper by Philipp Ruprecht and Terry Plank in this week’s issue of Nature documents evidence for the rapid ascent of magma from mantle source regions to surface eruptions 50 years ago at the Irazú volcano in Costa Rica. On the basis of profiles of nickel in primitive olivine crystals transported by the ascending melt, Philipp and Terry argue that the ascent time can be measured in months to years, raising the prospect that appropriately designed seismic or geodetic measurements might be able to identify impending eruptions earlier than current monitoring methods. A press release by Kim Martineau ( stimulated articles posted by The Christian Science Monitor (|+All+Stories%29) and other media.
     Appearing online this week in Nature Geoscience was a paper by Maureen Raymo and Australian and American collaborators documenting an abrupt rise in sea level at the end of the last interglacial about 118 thousand years ago. The group combined stratigraphic mapping with precise dating of corals and geophysical models of sea level records to conclude that eustatic sea level rose several meters at that time to 9 m higher than at present, implying that a critical stability threshold for polar ice sheets was crossed (
     The R/V Langseth returned to Vigo, Spain, this morning, after having completed an investigation of the three-dimensional seismic structure of the Galicia Rift. Despite having the cruise interrupted by engine repair during an unplanned port stop, the scientific party completed all but six of the 56 multi-channel seismic lines originally planned. Expedition blogs by Natalie Accardo, James Gibson, and others brought the cruise to life for all of us watching from afar (
     News from Washington this week included President Obama’s nomination of France Córdova as the next Director of the National Science Foundation ( and Kathryn Sullivan as the next Administrator of NOAA ( An astrophysicist by training, Córdova served as Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside and President of Purdue University. A geologist and former astronaut, Sullivan was most recently Deputy Administrator of NOAA and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.
     In the news this week has been a video series in the Poughkeepsie Journal on the IcePod project. Poughkeepsie is the home of the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard, the group flying Lamont’s IcePod remote sensing package over the ice sheets of Greenland. A first video installment on Saturday featured an interview with Nick Frearson (|tvideo2|article). The text that accompanied a second installment focused on IcePod’s flight to Greenland ( A third video on Wednesday featuring Greenland’s Russell Glacier (and sounding more like a travelogue) ( and a fourth one today on challenges to the IcePod flights ( complete the set.
    Whether you are contemplating the next volcanic eruption or the fate of the polar ice sheets, I hope that you nonetheless have an enjoyable weekend. Before that train reaches the station, I will be taking a vacation next week. So, too, will the next weekly report.