Lamont Weekly Report, April 13, 2018

    This week was made much more difficult by the announcement Tuesday that the National Science Foundation will divest from its ownership of the R/V Marcus Langseth after the end of existing and anticipated commitments to projects requiring the vessel’s special capabilities ( This decision, in the works behind the scenes at NSF for at least three years, is expected to mean the end of ship operations “no later than mid-2020.” Several meetings I held this week with Art Lerner-Lam, Dave Goldberg, Sean Higgins, Mike Purdy, and many of Lamont’s marine seismologists were just the beginning in a series of discussions and actions that will extend over many months and will change in major yet not fully foreseeable ways the seagoing arm of the Observatory and academic marine seismology in this country more generally. Shortly before the NSF announcement, the Langseth arrived in Honolulu following her transit from New Zealand and will remain there pending the start of the next funded project later this calendar year.

    Otherwise the week was appropriately busy for this time of year.

    On Monday, Mike Purdy’s office announced the good news that a project of Natalie Boelman, Jonathan Nichols, and Dorothy Peteet is one of five selected for funding under the 2018 Research Initiatives in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. Entitled “Evolution in the Arctic: Genomic reconstruction of microbial, plant, and animal communities during the Holocene,” the project includes collaborators Simon Anthony from the Department of Epidemiology and Jeff Shaman from the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, both in the Mailman School of Public Health.

    Also on Monday, the Earth Institute hosted a reception to thank Steve Cohen for his many years of leadership as Executive Director. Speakers at the reception included Earth Institute Faculty Chair Mike Gerrard, Provost John Coatsworth, and President Lee Bollinger.

    On Tuesday, Marie Aronsohn posted to the Observatory’s web site a story about Bronx High School student Alexandria Ang, who parlayed two summers of work in the lab of Joaquim Goes into a finalist slot at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair ( Alexandria’s project demonstrates that the invasive dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans, harmful blooms of which are disrupting the marine food web in the Arabian Sea and elsewhere, grows faster under higher concentrations of carbon dioxide.

    The March issue of Earth Interactions consists in its entirety of two papers by Richard Seager, Mingfang Ting, Park Williams, Jennifer Nakamura, Haibo Liu, Naomi Henderson, and colleagues on the 100th meridian, a divide between the humid eastern regions and the arid western regions of North America first recognized by John Wesley Powell. In the first paper, Richard and his colleagues demonstrate that the aridity gradient – which strongly affects soil moisture, land cover, and agriculture – is a consequence of patterns of atmospheric circulation and moisture transport. In their second paper, Richard and coworkers show that the aridity divide will move eastward during this century in response to changes in evapotranspiration and precipitation in a warming climate. A Kevin Krajick press release posted on Wednesday ( discussed the findings from the two papers, and The Weather Channel ( and other media picked up the story.

    On Wednesday evening, Kevin Griffin gave an Earth Institute Distinguished Lecture at The Lotos Club in Midtown Manhattan. Kevin’s presentation was entitled “Biology of the global carbon cycle: Monitoring tree growth from New York to Northern Alaska.”

    I missed Kevin’s lecture because I was visiting the Simons Foundation at that time to give one of their Simons Foundation Lectures ( I did so at the invitation of astrophysicist David Spergel, Director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the foundation’s Flatiron Institute and father of sometime Antarctic blogger Julian Spergel (

    On Thursday morning, Art Lerner-Lam, Edie Miller, Kim Schermerhorn, and I joined Steve Cohen, David Dvorak, Alison Miller, and Rafayel Nagdimov from the Earth Institute at a meeting with Provost John Coatsworth, Executive Vice President for Finance and Information Technology Anne Sullivan, Vice President for Budget and Financial Planning Nancy Johnson, and members of their staff. At the meeting we presented a financial and strategic overview of the Earth Institute and the Observatory and summarized budget projections for the current and coming fiscal years.

    Last night and today, the Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative has been hosting a conference in Morningside on “Urban Floods: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.” On today’s program (, Adam Sobel is moderating a panel discussion on “Extreme weather interventions,” and Suzana Camargo is giving a presentation on “Hurricanes and floods – Katrina, Sandy, Harvey.”

    In the news this week, The Washington Post on Monday included a Jason Samenow story on the announcement by the climate-risk modeling firm Jupiter of a collaboration with Lamont and Columbia University climate scientists ( On Wednesday, Susan Hellauer’s Earth Matters column in Nyack News & Views featured Robin Bell and her geophysical exploration of the polar ice sheets ( And in a Futurism story yesterday on two recent studies reporting that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is slowing down (, Richard Seager advised that – contrary to stories in some media – such a slowdown is not projected by current climate models to lead to an AMOC collapse.

    Tomorrow will be the 2018 March for Science ( Marches and related events are planned for Washington, D.C., and at more than 230 other locations around the world.

    Two Lamont scientists will be visiting with and speaking to Columbia University alumni clubs next week. Richard Seager will speak to the London club on Monday, and Marco Tedesco is scheduled to speak to the Houston club on Thursday.

    In the meantime, today is the Student Symposium for first-year and transfer students in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The program began at 9:45 this morning and will run until 4 pm. Talks are grouped more or less by division and are being given in the Monell Auditorium. I hope that you have already heard, or will be able to hear, many of the presentations.