This week was spent off campus for the many from Lamont who joined more than 22,000 others at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
The week was launched on Saturday and Sunday with a meeting of the Marcus Langseth Scientific Oversight Committee, chaired by Dale Sawyer of Rice University. The first afternoon featured an extended introduction to the Langseth and its capabilities for early-career scientists. The business portion of the meeting on Sunday morning included reports from representatives of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, as well as an operator’s report by Sean Higgins. The highlight of Sunday’s meeting was a series of presentations on the science that has been and will be accomplished during Langseth cruises.
On Sunday, Pete Sobel and I paid a visit to Oleg Jardetzky, son of former Lamont geophysicist Wenceslas Jardetzky and Director Emeritus of Stanford’s Magnetic Resonance Laboratory. It is through Oleg’s generosity that the Jardetzky Lecture in geophysics was established in 1992 and continues to draw prominent geoscientists to the Observatory on approximately an annual basis (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/about-ldeo/office-director/internal-awards/jardetzky-lecturer).
On Tuesday, the directors of several oceanographic institutions and I met with Roger Wakimoto, Assistant Director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation, and Deborah Bronk, Head of the Ocean Section of NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE). Institutional leads included Ginger Armbrust, Director of the University of Washington’s School of Oceanography; Susan Avery, President of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Bruce Corliss, Dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island; Margaret Leinen, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Brian Taylor, Dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii. Our discussion ranged broadly over such topics as the Geosciences Directorate’s draft strategic plan (GEO Vision); the ongoing Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences; active searches for the Directors of OCE and the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division; programmatic initiatives for research; budgetary challenges for facilities and infrastructure; and cross-directorate objectives in information technology, including data management, supercomputing, and smart systems.
Lamont’s Alumni Board met later that day. Chaired by Greg Mountain, the Board has 15 members with staggered three-year terms who “advance the interest and promote the welfare of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory through their personal commitment to serving as informed advocates and enthusiastic supporters of the Observatory’s mission.” At their meeting the Board heard committee reports and discussed a proposed map-based directory of Lamont alumni before Pete Sobel summarized recent progress in development and external relations and I gave an overview of scientific and academic progress at the Observatory.
The Alumni Board adjourned their meeting just in time to join the annual reception hosted jointly by Lamont and Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The reception was well attended by staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Observatory and DEES, and feedback on the food offerings and the diverse mix of colleagues in attendance was uniformly positive. All of us who participated in the event owe our thanks to the skilled planning efforts of Stacey Vassallo.
At the AGU Honors Ceremony on Wednesday evening, Mark Cane was awarded the Maurice Ewing Medal, named for Lamont’s founding Director and jointly sponsored by the U.S. Navy. In a citation by Princeton’s George Philander, Mark was cited “for original contributions concerning the circulations of the tropical oceans with the atmosphere that cause El Niño.”
A number of other scientists from the extended Lamont family were honored as well. New AGU Fellows included Lamont Alumni Board member Michael Perfit, alumni Alan Mix and Jeff Severinghaus, former Marie Tharp Fellow Natalie Mahowald, and David Rind from GISS. Lamont alumnus and former staff member John LaBrecque received 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.” Solomon Hsiang, who worked with Mark Cane, Suzana Camargo, and Adam Sobel during his Ph.D. research in Columbia’s Sustainable Development program, was the first recipient of AGU’s Science for Solutions Award. The award was established last year through a gift from Peter Schlosser to recognize a student or postdoctoral scientist “for significant contributions in the application and use of Earth and space sciences to solve societal problems.”
Media reports on papers delivered by Lamont scientists this week at AGU are beginning to appear. A blog posted Wednesday by Patricia Waldron of the University of California, Santa Cruz, discussed the experiments of Nina Keul documenting that changes in water temperature and dissolved carbon dioxide produce tell-tale chemical signatures in the shells of small marine mollusks both in the laboratory and in natural settings, providing a new tool for the elucidation of past conditions in the oceans (http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2013/12/11/butterflies-of-the-sea-record-ocean-conditions-in-their-shells/). Yesterday, Climate Central carried an article on presentations by Ed Cook and others on the possibility that the drought that has affected the western U.S. for the past 13 years may be the opening stages of a megadrought to rival the most severe such episodes of the past millennium (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/is-the-wests-dry-spell-really-a-megadrought-16824). Today, BBC News ran a story on Robin Bell’s leadership role in the U.S. portion of an international program to measure the distribution of ice thickness and basal water in the Recovery Catchment area of the East Antarctic ice sheet (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25173121).
A new story and video by David Funkhouser on the work of Guleed Ali and Sid Hemming on the paleoclimate history of the Mono Lake region in eastern California was posted yesterday on the Lamont web pages (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/climate-change-and-future-mono-lake).
As the week draws to a close, we can take some heart that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan two-year budget bill yesterday. With one eye on the weather in the New York area, Lamont’s meeting-weary travelers are beginning today to head home in the hope that appropriations bills to continue support for federal science agencies may move forward next month and the cycle of our science will include an even larger AGU Fall Meeting next year.