Lamont Weekly Report, September 27, 2013

     Our planet flexed its muscles in Asia this week. From Saturday to Monday, “super typhoon” Usagi wreaked widespread damage in the Philippines, Taiwan, and China. On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake leveled villages in Pakistan. These events reminded us of the societal impact of many of the phenomena we study at Lamont.
     In the category of better news, I am pleased to report that the American Meteorological Society announced this week that Yochanan Kushnir and Richard Seager have been named Fellows of the society. Please join me in congratulating our two colleagues on this latest recognition of the importance of their work.
     Scientists from Lamont, CIESIN, and the Earth Institute are in Hangzhou, China, this week for the first Joint Zhejiang-Columbia Workshop on Earth Sciences and Sustainable Development ( The workshop is hosted by Zhejiang University, which is noteworthy for its Ocean College and its Department of Earth Science, as well as important social science centers such as its Population and Development Institute and its Institute of Land Science. The purpose of this inaugural workshop is to facilitate future peer-to-peer collaborations and to share developments in frontier areas of the Earth and sustainability sciences. Participants from the Observatory include Ben Bostick, Jim Gaherty, Art Lerner-Lam, Donna Shillington, Chris Small, Colin Stark, and Felix Waldhauser.
     On Monday this week, Maureen Raymo hosted a visit to Lamont of Michael White, Nature magazine’s editor for climate science. White spoke on “Publishing with Nature: A climate science perspective,” and he met with interested staff members.
     On Monday and Tuesday I was at The Royal Society, in London, for a “discussion meeting” on the origin of the Moon. Organized by Alex Halliday and David Stevenson, the meeting brought together solar system dynamicists, cosmochemists, and planetary geologists and geophysicists to consider anew the question on how Earth’s Moon acquired its singular characteristics. The implied question was not answered with any finality, but the speakers were well chosen and the discussion was lively. Contributors included Lamont alumni Tim Elliott and Alberto Saal.
     The American Museum of Natural History has posted a new video in their Science Bulletins series that features several Lamont scientists. The video, entitled “The Risk beneath Bangladesh,” is on the efforts of Eleanor Ferguson, Nano Seeber, and Michael Steckler to locate and characterize a major earthquake-prone fault beneath the near-surface sediments near Dhaka and the past effects of tectonic deformation on the course of the Brahmaputra River ( The video will also be played in a continuous loop for the next six months in the museum’s Hall of Planet Earth.
     In the news this week is an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which Wally Broecker and Aaron Putnam suggest that the northward shift in Earth’s wind and rain belts that occurred 13,000 years ago, as the planet warmed, may be recurring, with consequent drying of broad areas in the southwestern U.S., Middle East, and elsewhere. Kim Martineau’s news release ( prompted widespread coverage, including a piece Tuesday in The Atlantic Cities (
     NBC News sought out John Armbruster to comment on the formation of an island by the eruption of an offshore mud volcano during Tuesday’s Pakistan earthquake ( And on Wednesday, Live Science featured a story on the drilling project, led by Dave Goldberg and Paul Olsen, now underway on our campus to test the feasibility of underground sequestration of carbon dioxide in the sedimentary rocks of the Newark Basin (
     On Monday next week, Lamont will be visited by Jeremy Grantham, the co-founder and chief strategist of Grantham Mayo van Oterloo (GMO), a global investment management firm with headquarters in Boston. Grantham, who has voiced strong views on environmental limits to global economic growth (see, for instance,, will be giving a lecture on the Morningside campus at 6 pm that evening (
     Next Monday, of course, is also the last day of the federal fiscal year. Congress plans weekend sessions to debate the conditions under which our government will continue thereafter. The pace of progress of our nation’s legislative branch is not often compared with the top winds of a typhoon or the speed of seismic waves from a major earthquake, but we can all hope that the final outcome will not rank with such disasters.
     In the meantime, I hope that you will take advantage of the visit to Lamont today of Elizabeth Cochran, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California ( Cochran will be giving the Earth Science Colloquium on the timely topic of “Seismicity, stress, and complex fault structure: A case study from the Yuha Desert, California, following the 2010 M7.2 El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake.”