Lamont Weekly Report, April 2, 2021

     Hello Friends,  This week’s science round-up has some great stories.  Lamont Associate Research Professor Anne Bécel is quoted in an article about an emerging effort to harness the power of satellite-linked cargo ship GPS systems to detect the presence and pathways of tsunamis in the ocean.  What an amazingly creative idea and perfect example of merging ocean science and technology in ways that can save lives.  The ships have something called the Automatic Identification System that continuously tracks their latitude and longitude (presumably this is what feeds into the on-line ship locator apps). But the info doesn’t include elevation since boats “presumably stay at sea level”. I can imagine any number of fascinating studies one could do with such a real-time data array and a little AI help, especially as we all know that sea level is never level!

     A similar story of “remote” sensing of Earth hazards comes from DEES Prof. Göran Ekström this week.  With the global seismic array, he recently detected the largest landslide yet for 2021, in a remote valley in Tibet.  After conveying the calculated coordinates to colleagues with satellite data, they indeed saw the visual evidence of this dramatic landslide. The scientists are now debating, as only scientists can, whether the event was the caused by the collapse of a hanging glacier with rock, or a rockslide with some ice in it. Whichever the cause, these observations inform consequential economic decisions about whether hydropower should be developed in the region.

     Cocktail party conversation alert (we wish)—did you know that the Japanese have been assiduously recording the peak bloom date for cherry blossoms since 812 CE? Charlemagne was Emperor of the West, Mamun the Great was setting up the first “university” in Bagdad, and algebra was formalized by the Arabic scholar al-Khwarizmi. Last week, on March 26th, the earliest bloom date in the entire >1200 year-long record was recorded, part of an ongoing and unrelenting trend to earlier bloom dates.  Adjunct Associate Research Scientist Ben Cook discusses this unique climate proxy record in the Washington Post and its implications for climate.  Here on campus, our cherry blossoms are still days to weeks (?) away from blooming, but the forsythia and magnolia trees are now flowering.  And multiple reports are coming in of juvenile raptor sightings.  I might mention that some of the best naturalists on campus are our building and grounds crew who spend lots of their time outdoors crisscrossing the campus.  The other day I asked Andy Reed about moving an upside-down wheelbarrow and learned that it was serving as a rabbit habitat! 

     From Carl Brenner this week, we were saddened to learn of the death of Marsha Meyer who worked at Lamont in Geochemistry and then became a fixture and valued member of the Borehole Research Group from 2000 to 2011.  Her unfailing good humor, kindness, and exuberance energized her colleagues and contributed to the success of the group’s participation in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. She also was an extraordinary naturalist and anyone fortunate enough to take nature walks with Marsha was treated to her encyclopedic knowledge of any and all flora and fauna encountered along the way. She was a brilliant observer of natural life and, on a nightly basis for 20 years, Marsha and her partner catalogued wildlife activity in the ponds of Tallman, taking water temperatures and noting the timing of the arrival of various amphibious species each spring. A true scientist! Because of the pandemic, no services are planned at this time; but in lieu of flowers, please send any gifts to South County Health, 100 Kenyon Ave., Wakefield, RI 02879.

     Continuing this week’s naturalist theme, graduate student Mukund Rao just let me know he was awarded both a NOAA Climate & Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship and a European Commission Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) Fellowship.  This is an amazing accomplishment Mukund!  He plans to work with Troy Magney (UC-Davis), Kevin Griffin (LDEO), Josep Peñuelas (CREAF, Barcelona), and Iolanda Filella (CREAF, Barcelona) focusing on how drought and climate change impacts the forest carbon cycle.  An important part of this work will involve understanding the dynamics of photosynthesis and tree-growth in the Lamont Sanctuary Forest on our campus. Committed readers of this weekly will already know about the LDEO PhenoCam.  In addition to that capability, the group has added tree point dendrometers and a trace gas measurement network to our campus forest—the beginnings of a permanent ecological monitoring network on campus (and Mukund sends big thanks to the Climate Center for the seed funding!). He also wants us to know that if anyone else wants to join the effort to set up this ecosystem network and has ideas of other variables they would like to measure (e.g. soil chemistry?), they should contact him. Mukund also wonders if we need to get the Lamont met station back up and running? Apparently the last update was in 2018.  Does anyone know who ran this?  Finally, thank you to everyone involved in the Lamont Sanctuary effort including Arturo Pacheco, Milagros Rodríguez, Laia Andreu-Hayles, Nicole Davi, Bar Oryan, Kevin Griffin, Natalie Boelman, Johanna Jensen, Róisín Commane, and Pierre Gentine.  I know an Interim Director that needs a guided walk through this magical place!

     We had a number of terrific talks this week. For those who could not attend Kristina Douglass's Special Seminar earlier this week, you can view her talk here, archived on the Lamont livestream site.  On Saturday, April 3, at 10 am, Sid Hemming will share her research about climate changes based on ice-rafted debris in deep-sea cores off Antarctica as part of Earth2Class’s efforts to share Lamont research with middle and high school teachers, as well as students. Lastly, this week’s seminar on Race, Climate Change and Environmental Justice featured Dr. Dilshanie Perera and Dr. Miranda Massie from the Climate Museum. Dr. Perera is a Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Climate and Inequality. Her research and writing examine the intersection of emergent forms of risk and structural dispossession. Dr. Massie, who seven years ago left a career in social justice law to start laying the groundwork for the Climate Museum, is now the Museum's Director.

     I’ll end by reminding everyone that every April Columbia Health’s Sexual Violence Response office recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Please take a moment to check out the events for this month.

     Have a lovely weekend.

     Best, Mo








How Cargo Ships Could Help Detect Tsunamis


March 31, 2021

Article quotes Lamont seismologist Anne Bécel.


Red Rocks: Using Color to Understand Climate Change


March 30, 2021

Article on study co-authored by Lamont paleontologist Paul Olsen.


Women’s History Month: A Conversation with Dr. Allison Wing

NOAA Climate Program Office

March 30, 2021

Interview with Lamont adjunct associate research scientist  Allison Wing.


Thaw-Triggered Landslides Are a Growing Hazard in the Warming North

Arctic Today

March 30, 2021

Article cites research by Lamont seismologists Göran Ekström and Colin Stark.


Japan’s Kyoto Cherry Blossoms Peak on Earliest Date in 1,200 Years, a Sign of Climate Change

Washington Post

March 29, 2021

Article quotes Lamont climate scientist Benjamin Cook.


Women Pioneers in Deep Ocean Science

Monterey Bay Aquarium

March 26, 2021

Article features pioneering Lamont geologist Marie Tharp.


Observing a Galápagos Volcano from Buildup to Eruption


March 26, 2021

Article quotes Lamont volcanologist Einat Lev.


The Big Question About Iceland's 'Cute' Volcano


March 25, 2021

Article by Lamont volcanologist Einat Lev.


What Is Happening to the Greenland Ice Sheet?

Fair Planet

March 25, 2021

Article on research by Lamont geochemists Nicolás Young, Joerg Schaefer, and colleagues.