Lamont Weekly Report, September 5, 2014


    For another week, the campus was saddened by the loss of a long-time member of the Lamont family. Oceanographer and geophysicist Ken Hunkins passed away on Tuesday. Ken began his affiliation with Lamont in 1957, when as a Stanford University graduate student he was recruited by Jack Oliver to work at an Arctic ice floe station to measure bathymetry and collect gravity and magnetic field observations. He is credited with the discovery of the Alpha Ridge, a major bathymetric feature of the Arctic Ocean floor. After completing his Ph.D. in 1960, Ken joined the Observatory full time, and he remained at Lamont for the rest of his career. He retired from a Senior Research Scientist position in 1989, but he thereafter held an appointment as a Special Research Scientist until last year. Some of the highlights of Ken’s field experiences and scientific work are well captured in an obituary that Kevin Krajick posted on Wednesday ( Ken will be missed by all who knew him.

    As if to emphasize that the end of one chapter in the history of our campus coincides with the beginning of another, Tuesday also marked the beginning of classes for the fall semester. A new generation of students has joined the scientific ranks of those seeking to explore and understand our planet.

    The R/V Langseth this week continued its two-dimensional seismic survey of the outer shelf of the U.S. Atlantic continental margin. The cruise, led by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, has to date collected more than 1300 km of reflection data acquired with an 8-km-long streamer, measured magnetic and gravity anomalies, and conducted multibeam and chirp mapping of the seafloor. Operations were halted briefly last weekend for the medical evacuation of an injured crew member with assistance from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. The current schedule calls for completion of the survey and a port call in Norfolk, Virginia, by September 13.

    Yesterday and today I joined Alex Evans and Peter James at a meeting of the GRAIL Science Team, held in Quissett, Massachusetts. On Wednesday evening, I caught my first view of the National Science Foundation’s “other” oceanographic vessel, the R/V Sikuliaq, tied up at the pier of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

     Lamont’s web pages gained several new features this week. A “photo essay” by Kevin Krajick, posted yesterday, describes the efforts by Beizhan Yan and James Ross to document with field measurements the effects on groundwater and airborne contaminants of widespread hydrofracturing operations in northeastern Pennsylvania (

    New to The Lamont Log is a video of a seminar that Richard Seager gave at Yale University earlier this year. Hosted by the Yale Climate and Energy Institute, Richard spoke on the topic of “Global decadal hydroclimate variability in observations and models.” The talk is a good summary of the impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions on regional hydroclimates (

    Speaking of regional hydroclimates, droughts were much in the news this week, and several Lamont scientists were sought out for commentary. In a major story on the California drought that USA Today ran on Wednesday, Ed Cook and Park Williams provided context from the paleoclimate record for the geographic extent and duration of the current drought ( An Andy Revkin follow-up piece in The New York Times the same day included Park’s comments and cited a 2007 paper by Ed, Richard Seager, and Mark Cane ( Earlier in the week, Jason Smerdon commented on a study on the implications of climate change for future droughts in articles posted by Climate Central ( and other media.

    In other news stories this week, the work of Suzanne Carbotte and former Columbia University professor Charlie Langmuir on the relation between volcanic activity and glacial cycles in Cascadia, now being explored with multibeam and coring surveys on a cruise of the R/V Atlantis, is the subject of an article on Tuesday in the Chinook Observer in Washington ( An investigation several years ago by Bill Menke and Dallas Abbott of a circle of downed trees in Berkeley Township, New Jersey, attributed to a microburst was the subject on an article posted on Monday by The Ocean Signal (

    On Wednesday of next week, Lamont’s Advisory Board will hold its September meeting in the Comer Building. The meeting will be followed by a Director’s Circle lecture by Göran Ekström on the topic of “Remote analysis of catastrophic landslides using seismology.”

    Lamont’s Earth Science Colloquium series will resume next week. The colloquia are being organized this year by Alberto Malinverno and a graduate student committee that includes Natalie Accardo, Olivia Clifton, Kassandra Costa, Jonathan Gale, Ruthie Oliver, and Hannah Rabinowitz. The first speaker in the series next Friday will be seismologist Maureen Long from the Department of Geology & Geophysics at Yale University (

    In the meantime, may you all enjoy the warmth of a late-summer weekend, and may the predicted afternoon thunderstorms tomorrow remind you of our regional hydroclimate.