Lamont Weekly Report, February 15, 2013

    This week was ushered in by the largest snowstorm of the season for the northeastern U.S. At least we had a weekend to dig out.

    I am pleased to report several promotions, all effective as of the beginning of this month. Joerg Schaeffer and Gisela Winckler have been promoted to Lamont Research Professor, and Andy Juhl and David Schaff have been promoted to Lamont Associate Research Professor, Senior Staff. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues on their new positions.

    The Research Vessel Technical Enhancement Committee (RVTEC) of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) met at Lamont for five days this week. Hosted by Lamont’s Office of Marine Operations, the meeting brought about 100 technical staff from throughout the academic oceanographic fleet. Discussion ranged widely over new instrumentation and software, communications, shipboard operations, and problem solving at sea.

     On Monday, Louise Rosen began her new position as Lamont’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Development, and External Relations. Louise will be leading the reorganization and coordination of all fundraising, communications, and education activities at the Observatory.

    Also on Monday, seismologist Lars Ottomöller arrived at Lamont to begin a 6-month sabbatical visit. An Associate Professor at the University of Bergen, Lars is an expert on the design and operation of seismic networks, seismicity, seismotectonics, earthquake ground motion, and the seismic structure of the crust.

    On Tuesday, I met for four hours with the Associate Directors and Division Administrators from each of Lamont’s research divisions and the Office of Marine Operations, as well as other directorate and Finance Office staff, in the annual budget meeting. Lamont’s budget for the 2014 fiscal year is built from the informed projections developed by each of the divisions, and the considerable planning efforts completed to date by each division were evident in the detailed presentations on staffing and budget forecasts presented at that meeting.

    That same day, Milena Marjanovic successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, entitled “Signatures of present and past melt distribution at fast and intermediate spreading centers.” Dr. Marjanovic, I presume.

    News coverage of North Korea’s detonation of a nuclear test on Tuesday included quotes from Paul Richards in a story by Bill Broad in The New York Times ( and from Won-Young Kim in The Huffington Post (

    In his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Obama once again pledged to “do more to combat climate change…while driving strong economic growth.” He emphasized “job-creating investments in science and education,” arguing that “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.” Notwithstanding those hopeful signs for federal investments in scientific research, the latest fiscal cliff for sequestration of the budgets for federal science agencies is only two weeks away.

    The Council of Deans meeting on Thursday included discussion of a new President’s Global Innovation Fund. A request for proposals to this fund will be made early next month. The fund is designed “to leverage and engage Columbia's global center network.” Proposed projects may be based in New York or overseas but must engage at least one of the university’s global centers. Eligible projects include research collaborations (e.g., pilot projects, exchanges, linkages with local institutions), support for the development or implementation of educational or curricular initiatives, and scholarly events (e.g., conferences, symposia) in collaboration with local institutions or colleagues. Award categories include planning grants (up to ~$25K, no more than one year, non-renewable) and project grants (~$25 to $100K, up to three years, reviewed annually). Proposals will be reviewed approximately twice a year; the first submission deadline will be 1 May.

    On Thursday afternoon and all day today, Robin Bell, Peter deMenocal, Yochanan Kushnir, Art Lerner-Lam, John Mutter, Stephanie Pfirman, Peter Schlosser, and I joined Bob Chen (CIESIN), Lisa Goddard (IRI), Pedro Sanchez (Agriculture and Food Systems Center) and others at a retreat of the Earth Institute faculty. The event was marked by lively discussion of EI activities and directions for the Institute over the coming year and longer-term future.

    Today’s proposal submission deadline at NSF has meant that I’ve had the pleasure of reading at least the summary and budget pages of more than two-dozen proposals this week. The sweep and ambition of the proposed projects constitute a wonderful snapshot of the vitality and originality of the Lamont community.

    A highlight of next week will be the presentation of the Vetlesen Prizes to Jean Jouzel and Susan Solomon on Thursday evening. Jouzel will arrive sufficiently early to visit Lamont on Wednesday, and a seminar is planned in Comer that afternoon. Solomon will be in town only on Thursday, and Lorenzo Polvani is hosting a seminar she will give that morning at the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research. On Friday of next week, the Lamont Strategic Planning Committee is hosting a Town Hall meeting of all Lamont Research Professors to seek broad input to the planning process. That meeting should end in time for everyone to hear the Earth Science Colloquium by Gabriel Vecchi, of the Climate Change, Variability and Prediction Group at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

    As if to provide another natural bookend to this week, a near-miss encounter (by about 28,000 km) with asteroid 2012 DA14 (about 50 m across) occurred today ( You might nonetheless keep your head down ( as you head to today’s colloquium by Marie Tharp Fellow Camille Li.