Lamont Weekly Report, January 17, 2014


      This week has been one of new milestones and transitions.

      On Thursday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Columbia and Lamont alumnus Peter Molnar is to receive the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences for 2014. Peter, a Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was selected “for his ground-breaking contribution to the understanding of global tectonics, in particular the deformation of continents and the structure and evolution of mountain ranges, as well as the impact of tectonic processes on ocean-atmosphere circulation and climate" ( The Crafoord Prize, first awarded in 1982, is given in the Geosciences once every three or four years. Wally Broecker received the prize in 2006.
    Also on Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that “The Square,” a documentary on the Egyptian Revolution for which Lamont Advisory Board chair Sarah Johnson served as Executive Producer (, has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature. The film has already garnered a number of other awards and will be available on Netflix starting today.
     Yet another milestone this week was the unveiling on Monday of the omnibus federal appropriations bill for the remainder of this government fiscal year. The bipartisan bill, which satisfies the terms of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, was passed by the House on Wednesday and the Senate yesterday. Federal science agencies fare reasonably well in the bill (, with NASA, NOAA, and NSF $120M above, $310M above, and $82M below 2013 enacted base levels, respectively. The bill is expected to be signed by the President.
     Two transitions among our Lamont Research Professor ranks are worthy of mention. Jason Smerdon’s promotion to Lamont Associate Research Professor (Senior Staff) was approved by the Provost this week and was effective as of 1 January. And today is the last day on campus for Lamont Assistant Research Professor Daehyun Kim, who has accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. Many Lamont staff members in the Ocean and Climate Physics Division are alumni of that distinguished department, so we can hope that Daehyun’s students in a few years will be attractive candidates for recruitment. Please join me in congratulating both Jason and Daehyun on their new positions.
     The first 2014 issue of Lamont-Doherty News, the Observatory’s newsletter for alumni, staff, students, and friends, went out by e-mail yesterday ( Under the guidance of editor Rebecca Fowler, the newsletter has received an all-electronic facelift that will permit more frequent issues and more timely dissemination of news from the campus. Featured in this issue is a new interactive story on the many geological features named for Lamont scientists (, with information on both the geographic setting of each feature and the scientist honored by each naming (along with a photo, in some cases recovered from deep in the Observatory archives).
     Yesterday Lamont was visited by astronaut and Columbia University alumnus and Visiting Professor Mike Massimino (, along with Victoria Hamilton, Director of the Office of Research Initiatives in the university’s Office of the Executive Vice President for Research. Mike is encouraging interest across Columbia in programs at NASA, particularly experiments or sensors that might fly on the International Space Station. Art Lerner-Lam gave Mike and Victoria a tour of Lamont, including a visit to the Marine and Polar Technology Center hosted by Robin Bell, Nick Frearson, and Chris Zappa. Art and I then hosted a roundtable discussion of Lamont interests in Earth observing and possible zero-gravity experiments among Mike, Victoria, Robin, Nick, Chris, Tim Crone, Jim Davis, Joaquim Goes, Maya Tolstoy, and Margie Turrin. Mike is planning a symposium on scientific opportunities on the ISS to be held on the Morningside campus in May.
     A final transition worthy of mention is that of the academic calendar. Tuesday of next week will be the first day of classes in the spring semester. And the winter/spring season of Lamont’s Earth Science Colloquium kicks off on Friday next week with a visit by Julie Brigham-Grette of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst ( Julie’s colloquium will be on “Arctic climate history of the past 3.6 Myrs from Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia: Making sense of the Warm Pliocene and Super Interglacials.”