Lamont Weekly Report, August 10, 2018

    The week has been a difficult one for those faced with natural hazards. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake ( hit Indonesia Sunday near the island of Lombok, in an area that had experienced a magnitude 6.4 quake only one week earlier, and destroyed more than 40,000 structures, killed more than 160, and displaced more than 150,000 residents. In a summer marked by extraordinarily widespread and severe heat waves and wildfires across much of the northern hemisphere, the Mendocino Complex Fire in northern California became the largest wildfire in the state’s history this week (

    In counterbalance, the week was marked by important milestones for Lamont scientists.

    Yesterday morning, Sid Hemming and Richard Seager were named Fellows of the American Geophysical Union; so, too, was our Earth Institute colleague, Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies ( According to AGU, “the Fellows program recognizes AGU members who have made exceptional contributions to Earth and space sciences as valued by their peers and vetted by a committee of Fellows.” No more than 0.1% of AGU’s members may be elected Fellows in any given year. Newly elected Fellows will be honored at AGU’s Fall Meeting, which will be held for the first time this year in Washington, D.C., in December. A Marie Aronsohn story on our web site gives more details ( Please join me in congratulating Sid, Richard, and Gavin on this well-deserved recognition of their scientific contributions!

    Speaking of the AGU Fall Meeting, the conference will feature a record number of presentations this year ( The nearly 26,000 abstracts submitted means that more than 5000 papers will be given each day over a 5-day period. Running shoes will no doubt be standard meeting wear.

    Last Friday, our web site gained a story by freelance writer Renee Cho on Radley Horton’s work on the future severity and frequency of heat waves ( Because of the positive feedback between heat waves and greenhouse gas emissions from cooling systems, the article focused on green strategies to keep cool during times of peak summer temperatures.

    On Wednesday, Lamont distributed electronically the August issue of our monthly newsletter ( Under the theme “Preparing for Rising Seas,” the issue includes links to five stories on Lamont science and scientists, an education story by Cassie Xu story on this year’s six Lamont Summer Interns from local community colleges, and 13 media stories from the past month about Lamont research and its impact.

    Also on Wednesday, The Guardian ran a story about the work of Ben Bostick testing the quality of drinking water in Puerto Rico nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island ( Ben, whose fieldwork included sampling and testing water from homes and waterways near three Superfund sites, found that there are chronic problems with the reliability of the water supply and broad distrust of local drinking water and government authorities at all levels.

    Closer to home, an editorial in The New York Times Wednesday referred to a paper by Park Williams in a piece chastising President Trump for tweets that blamed California’s wildfires on “bad environmental laws” and on water “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean” yet ignored the role of climate change on local temperatures and aridity. The editorial cited “an authoritative paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 …[which] concluded that rising temperatures linked to climate change had been heavily responsible for the greatly increased range of these fires, mainly by intensifying droughts.” The citation included a link to Park’s paper, written with John Abatzoglou from the University of Idaho. Kudos to Park for helping the Times rebut what they termed “preposterous tweets”!

    Park was also quoted yesterday in a Newsweek story on the California heat waves, particularly on the role played by disappearing coastal cloud cover ( Two days earlier, Mike Previdi was quoted in a Mongabay story on the role of climate change in the heavy rains that led to the collapse of a dam in southern Laos last month ( In her feature-length article in National Geographic yesterday on the vulnerability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Alejandra Borunda quoted Tim Creyts on the difficulty of addressing the issue given the limited sampling to date of glacial processes in the region (

    May our efforts to understand the changes to our planet – political as well as environmental – lead to more effective strategies for mitigation and adaptation.