Lamont Weekly Report, April 16, 2021

     Hello Friends,  A big cheer for the last week of classes!  It was another bittersweet semester as the pandemic prevented us from interacting with our students in our usual ways.  Indeed, my class was entirely on Zoom and it was obvious to me that I did not get to know my students as well as during the “before times”.  Hopefully there will be opportunities to sit in the cafeteria and share a meal as our workplace returns to normal over the coming months.  Along these lines, I have been happy to hear that people are enjoying the new picnic tables and outdoor chairs.  Certainly, the campus looks lovely this week and the cherry trees outside Seismology are a thing of beauty.  Still no baby geese, but the turkeys are everywhere this week (presumably it is mating season for them now as well).

     A lot has been going on, it being a week with an Earth Institute faculty meeting, a DEES faculty meeting, a meeting of Lamont’s Associate Directors Council, the usual profusion of Climate School planning meetings, all topped by some terrific talks.  Jacques Laskar gave an informative talk on Earth’s orbital history, “The AstroGeo project: Bringing the long-term astronomical solutions to a next level”, in the Friday Colloquium—over a hundred people attended.  On Monday, and following an EI spring tradition, three of our scientists gave presentations at the Earth Institute faculty meeting.  Einat Lev, Billy D’Andrea, and Kevin Uno each spoke about their work on lava, Easter Island, and the illicit elephant ivory trade, respectively.  Many conveyed to me later how much they enjoyed their presentations. The incredible privilege it is to study our Earth is further supported by the breathtaking field photos being highlighted on our social media channels this month in honor of Earth Month.  You can see many of the photos here and on Earth Day, I invite you to visit us at Giving LDEO to see how you can invest in our planet.  Your gift supports our world-leading Earth and climate science research enterprise that informs transformative solutions.  And thank you to our dedicated communications team.

     Our scientists not only carry out ground-breaking and exciting research, their collective commitment to education and outreach never ceases to impress me.  On April 13, the Columbia University Alumni Association hosted a virtual talk by Robin Bell titled “Sea Change: Melting Ice and the Rising Tides” in which she discussed her research on sea change and provided scientific strategies to respond to changing sea levels.  The Columbia Spectator also had a nice article this week about an event Robin moderated last week, ‘Actors from Witnesses,’ Artists and Scientists Discuss How They Inspire Action Against Climate Change.  They quote Robin, “I love talking about science, but I also love talking about art and science and how we can walk across the bridge between these two creative spaces, and how we can use both science and art to make our world a better place and make it a place that everybody can thrive.”  That’s a bridge I’d happily walk across any day.

     Cassie Xu, our educator extraordinaire, would also like to remind everyone that the Earth Institute LIVE K-12 series on Thursdays at 4:00pm will continue until June 17. Next week’s session titled “A Penne for Your Thoughts” will include presentations by Vicki Ferrini (just elected a Fellow of The Explorers Club), Mike Kaplan, Kirsty Tinto, and Jonny Kingslake.  I’d also like to give a shout-out and thanks to the Campus Life Committee that hosted the art class “Your Life in Four Panels” with Shan Xu this week. Shan is a NYC visual artist and cartoonist who created “In Her Corner”, a semi-autobiographical webcomic that highlights small, comical moments in life. Her work touches on themes of millennial angst, adulthood, and immigration with a specific focus on the Asian American experience.  Finally, next Wednesday on April 21 at 3:00 PM, please join Ajit Subramaniam on Reddit “Ask Me Anything” where he will be answering questions from a research vessel in the tropical Atlantic about his work studying the outflow of the Amazon River. 

     Speaking of being on a ship and experiencing small comical moments in life, I cannot help but remember that this week, two years ago, I was in the middle of a two-month expedition on the JOIDES Resolution with my colleague Sid Hemming.  Being at sea for two months, working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week renders any small comical moment a precious jewel.   It would also have been about this week that she and I participated in a Zoom-like meeting with President Lee Bollinger who was visiting Lamont.  None of us could have ever comprehended how thoroughly Zoom would come to dominate our existence.  That visit might also be considered a turning point in Lamont’s history as the effort to establish the new Columbia Climate School soon began in earnest.  Finally, congratulations again to Sid who was recently awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to work on the extraordinary cores we collected during that Antarctic expedition, all while dodging icebergs in “Iceberg Alley”!

     Tomorrow, on Sunday, April 18 at 10:30 AM, brew up your favorite cup of joe and tune into Earth Institute Live, Sustain What? hosted by Andrew Revkin.  Sunday’s episode will feature an Earth Day Warmup – Special Sunday Sanity Song and Story Swap.  The program will include Chuck Leavell, the forest-minded keyboardist for the Rolling Stones, former astronaut Cady Coleman, John Hall of Orleans, Apollo historian and songwriter Andy Chaikin, climate scientist and accordionist Ray Pierrehumbert, and an "Earthaluja" sermon by the Reverend Billy Talen of the "Church of Stop Shopping".  Follow the link…you know you are curious!

     “Quietly devastating.” “Sweeping in scope yet intimately compelling.” These are some of the descriptions of the powerful documentary Picture A Scientist, was aired on PBS Nova earlier this week, and is now available to stream online, for those of you who missed it or would like to watch it again. If you have never watched it, I recommend viewing it. As we work to promote a more inclusive environment, stories such as this are highly relevant. Speaking of which, we are in the process of wrapping up the writing of the Directorate Response to the LDEI Task Force Report, which was disseminated to all of you in January this year. We hope to circulate the response within the next couple of weeks. Kuheli would also like me to mention that, as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin wraps up, the Office of University Life will be holding a special forum: University Life Forum: Racial Justice, the Chauvin Trial and Beyond this Tuesday, April 20, at 3 PM EST on Zoom. Please register here.

     In conclusion, I’d like to join OCP in welcoming Dr. Shuwen Tan to Lamont.  She is joining Andreas Thurnherr's group as a postdoctoral fellow of the US GO-SHIP program. Dr. Tan received her Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from Institute of Oceanography, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, China.  During her PhD and in a postdoctoral project carried out during the pandemic, Dr. Tan studied small scale processes including internal waves, flow over topography, and ocean turbulence. At Lamont, she will be investigating how such small-scale processes influence the large-scale ocean circulation and, ultimately, affect the Earth's climate. Welcome Shuwen!

     Wishing all a peaceful weekend.   Mo








Global Warming Is Making India's Monsoon Season More Erratic


April 14, 2021

Article on study co-authored by Lamont climate scientist Anders Levermann.


Age of Hotly Debated Skull from Early Human Homo Erectus Determined, New Specimens Discovered


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Article on study co-authored by Lamont paleoecologist Kevin Uno.


Alaskan Glacier Has Started Moving 50 to 100 Times Faster than Normal, Scientists Say

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Article quotes Lamont glaciologist Jonny Kingslake.


In the Online Panel ‘Actors from Witnesses,’ Artists and Scientists Discuss How They Inspire Action Against Climate Change

Columbia Spectator

April 11, 2021

Article features Lamont polar scientist Robin Bell and Ph.D. student Caroline Juang.




Climate Change Is Making Indian Monsoon Seasons More Chaotic

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A new study finds that summer monsoon rainfall in India will become stronger and more erratic, posing a threat to the region’s agriculture and economy.


Sidney Hemming, Paleoclimate Detective, Wins Guggenheim Fellowship

April 13, 2021

A Q&A with the geochemist, who plans to investigate a key climate interval millions of years ago.


Age Newly Verified, One of Oldest Prehuman Fossils Leads to New Finds

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Controversy over the age of an early fossil of Homo erectus has been settled, and has led to other specimens.


Earth Institute Photos of Our Amazing Planet

April 12, 2021

Throughout Earth Month, we’ll be sharing some of the incredible photos that our researchers have captured during field work. Enjoy!