Lamont Weekly Report, March 15, 2010

One too many 14 hour days this week, so more than usual, I am glad it is Friday.

There was a highly successful and very well-attended Lamont Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Aside from great science presentations by Tim Creyts, Art Lerner Lam, Adam Sobel and Mike Steckler, we had Cecilia McHugh and Nano Seeber on the phone, live, from the research vessel Endeavor, working offshore Haiti.  They have located, and are mapping and sampling, the underwater trace of the fault upon which the devastating earthquake of a few weeks ago
occurred. Clearly this is a very successful operation: planned, funded and implemented in a matter of weeks by a multi-institutional team led by Lamont scientists experienced in precisely these types of investigations (because of their previous work in the Sea of Marmara studying the Annatolian fault system near Istanbul). It seems likely that the findings of this team will not only add significantly to our understanding of the physics and geology of this event, but may also
inform the hugely difficult decisions that the Haitian and UN authorities must make about location of relief centers relative to possible ongoing earthquake activity. The cruise is winding up this weekend, so everyone should be home by next week.

I was in DC for the day on Thursday - mostly for meetings at Ocean Leadership. The highlight was a presentation by NSF Geosciences Assistant Director Tim Killeen. I have never heard him give such an unqualified positive picture of the future of funding at NSF for Geosciences. He was exceptionally optimistic, and confident that the growth curve (to doubling of the NSF budget) would be maintained - 7% to 9% annual increases going forward. He has tripled the number of
graduate research fellowships in GEO.  The new NSF Climate research program will bring $104M in new dollars into climate research in 2011 (NSF-wide).  A key component of this will be a new program to be announced momentarily entitled Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability. The Ocean components of this will emphasize coastal
and estuarine processes and the Arctic.

Tim Killeen also quoted some statistics that were interesting and surprising: he said that retirements in the oil and gas industry in the Geosciences are growing to a rate of 10,000 per year over the next few years. He said the US produces about 4000 graduates per year in the Geosciences - so there is a national undersupply problem that will demand increased emphasis on education. I have no idea how accurate these numbers are - they certainly surprised me.

I also heard an excellent presentation from Susan Humphris (WHOI) who is being supported by NSF to work with Ocean Leadership temporarily to help with the planning for renewal of the Ocean Drilling program in 2013 (an issue of great significance to Lamont because of our Borehole Research Group). Susan has formed a small team to help her with this
important activity, and our own Peter deMenocal is a key member. There is much discussion in DC right now about NOAA's planned reorganization, including the creation of the new Climate Services entity. The precise role of OAR going forward remains unclear - though there seems to be some rhetoric about it serving as NOAA's 'incubator for truly transformative ideas'.  My concern, shared by many, is that if a large part of NOAA's Climate research funding ends up in the new Climate Services division, this research funding will be fighting for survival against the ever-growing operational demands that this new entity will face. Experience shows that when 'operations' and 'research' go head-to-head in budget battles within federal agencies, 'operations' always wins...

On a sad note, for friends of Sam Gerard, (and for those who do not know Sam, he began his 37 year-long career at Lamont as a research scientist in 1954), there is a service to celebrate his life tomorrow, Saturday March 13th, 5pm to 7pm in the Palisades Community Center, 675 Oak Tree Road.

After a beautiful week, the clouds and rain arrive for the weekend.

Enjoy anyway,

- Mike