Lamont Weekly Report, July 18, 2014


    The international news of late has cast a discouraging pall, as the fierce but generally civil national rivalries on the soccer pitch have been eclipsed by rockets, missiles, and armies on the move. The contrasts between military conflict and the peaceful pursuit of a deeper understanding of our planet, an intrinsically global endeavor often advanced through long-term collaborations that bridge the oceans and cross political divides, were etched a little deeper this week. 

    The Geochemistry Division welcomed two visitors this week who exemplify the tradition of multi-national cooperation in science. Mark Holzer, a Visiting Research Scientist arrived last Friday and will remain on campus for about two months. Mark is an Associate Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New South Wales. His research interests span oceanography, atmospheric science, and climate, and he’s coauthored papers in the past few years with Lorenzo Polvani, Bill Smethie, and Samar Khatiwala. At Lamont, Mark and Bill will apply the maximum-entropy technique to estimate transient time distributions and mean ages of subsurface water masses from chemical tracer measurements in the Deep Western Boundary Current, a major deep ocean pathway of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
    On Wednesday, the division welcomed the arrival of Visiting Research Scientist Yihua Cai, a marine biochemist and an Associate Professor in the College of Ocean and Earth Sciences at Xiamen University. Dr. Cai has been awarded a scholarship from China’s State Scholarship Fund to spend one year at Lamont to learn the methods developed here to analyze seawater samples for the isotopic analysis of dissolved thorium and protactinium as part of the international GEOTRACES program. Dr. Cai’s host at Lamont will be Bob Anderson.
    On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey released updated maps of seismic risk across the country. For the New York City area, the risks of earthquake-induced damage are less for modern skyscrapers than older and smaller masonry structures. Interviews with John Armbruster and Art Lerner-Lam following the release appeared, respectively, in The New York Times yesterday ( and on Crain’s New York Business ( this morning.
    This morning, Art, Kathy Callahan, and I met with the leadership of the Graduate Student Committee: Kyle Frischkorn, Laura Haynes, and Sam Phelps. Our discussion ranged widely and constructively over such issues as housing, office assignments, advisor expectations, opportunities for travel to scientific workshops and meetings, and more frequent communication among the graduate student body, DEES faculty and staff, and members of the Lamont research faculty who are advising students. We agreed to ensure that there is a Lamont contribution to new student orientation and to meet regularly on a semi-annual basis to track these and other topics.
    On the Lamont Log this week, recently added stories included a “Throwback Thursday” photo of the recovery at sea of a 200-foot coring head by the R/V Vema 54 years ago ( and an announcement that Robin Bell will host the discussion that will follow the screening of a documentary on Europe’s Large Hadron Collider at a film festival next Wednesday in Nyack ( Also posted is an expanded version of an answer Bill Menke gave ( following a public talk in Maine to the question of what geology can contribute to the topic of global warming. Not a bad answer from a seismologist!
    New to the blog pages on Lamont’s website is a photo travelogue by Dave Porter and Margie Turrin on their fieldwork in northwestern Greenland to understand the effects of climate change on glaciers in the region. Dave and Margie are recruiting residents in local communities to collect temperature measurements from the ocean water column in key fjords to investigate the extent to which warm Atlantic Ocean water circulating through Baffin Bay is influencing glacial flow and ice loss (
    On Thursday afternoon next week, the Observatory will host a party to celebrate the careers and retirement of Dale Chayes, Miriam Colwell, and Bonnie Deutsch. Collectively, our three colleagues have logged more than 80 years of service at Lamont. I hope that you will be able to join us to mark the occasion.
    Until then, may you enjoy the unseasonably pleasant weather, notwithstanding the disconcerting news from overseas.