Lamont Weekly Report, August 21, 2015

     After two weeks away from the Lamont Campus, I find that much has happened in the intervening time.

     A feature article remembering Denny Hayes was added to Lamont’s website last week ( Written by Kevin Krajick, the article chronicles Denny’s more than half century of research at Lamont and is filled with stories of his considerable efforts devoted to conducting marine geological and geophysical surveys at sea.

     Steve Pica, Chief Engineer on the R/V Langseth, retired this month after devoting 34 years to the operation of Lamont’s research vessels. A graduate of Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Steve started as a 3rd Engineer on the R/V Conrad in October 1981. He worked his way up to Chief Engineer, first on the R/V Ewing and more recently on the Langseth. Sean Higgins writes, “Steve has been a big part of things on LDEO ships for a long time. He’s set to take full advantage of his new life in Key West.” Please join me in wishing Steve well on all of his future ventures!

     In more Langseth news, the National Science Foundation last week awarded Lamont $1.8 million to replace the ship’s aging and outdated Syntrak seismic streamer system with a Sercel Seal 408 marine seismic system with 18 km of Sentinel solid hydrophone streamer. The new system, supported and widely used by industry, will allow towing of a single streamer up to 15 km in length or a range of combinations of multiple streamers (e.g., 2x12 km, 3x8 km, 4x6 km). Together with the Langseth’s well-tuned source array, the new system will enable high-resolution seismic imaging deeper than ever before and will open new avenues to address novel problems in oceanic crustal structure, magma systems, and fault zone dynamics. Acceptance testing and training for the onshore electronics began this week in Houston for members of Jeff Rupert’s group. Installation of the shipboard system, scheduled between mid-September and mid-October, will be followed by sea trials of the entire system off the U.S. east coast. The new streamer system is also discussed in a Stacy Morford story, posted on Lamont’s website on Wednesday, on the cruise of the Langseth this past June, led by Greg Mountain, to image in three-dimensions and high resolution the record of past changes in sea level along the U.S. continental margin off New Jersey ( 

     Fieldwork for phase 2 of the SUwanee suture and GA Rift basin (SUGAR) experiment to conduct seismic imaging of the coastal plain of Georgia continued over the past two weeks with the successful denotation of 25 explosive charges in tamped drill holes. As described and copiously illustrated on the SUGAR blog, the charges were set off at night to take advantage of low levels of seismic noise from local traffic (

     The National Academies Press last week released a new decadal strategy for the U.S. Antarctic Program, entitled A Strategic Vision for NSF Investments in Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research ( Written by a committee co-chaired by Robin Bell (along with Robert Weller of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), the report “identifies priorities and strategic steps forward for Antarctic research and observations for the next decade…and the infrastructure most critical to this research.” A news article in Science last week cited Robin on the balance adopted by the writing committee between compelling major scientific opportunities and conservative budget projections (

     On Wednesday and Thursday this week, Carl Brenner, Dave Goldberg, Maureen Raymo, and Angela Slagle hosted a meeting of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Scientific Ocean Drilling (USAC), the panel that provides counsel and guidance to the new U.S. Science Support Office at Lamont, headed by Carl. Attending the meeting were USAC committee members from around the country as well as representatives from NSF and the JOIDES Resolution science operator. After the meeting, Mo Raymo gave the group a tour of the Lamont Core Repository.

     Mukund Rao, Nicole Davi, Rosanne D’Arrigo, Caroline Leland, and their coauthors recently published a paper in Environmental Research Letters on the relation of large-scale livestock mortality events in Mongolia, known as dzuds, to regional climate change. The team showed that dzuds are closely linked to anomalously cold winters and drought conditions during preceding summers. Their work was highlighted by Environmental Research Web last week ( 

     Also last week, the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (colloquially known as G-Cubed) published online a paper by Roger Buck and Kenni Petersen from Aarhus University in Denmark describing a new thermomechanical model for the exhumation of ultra-high-pressure rocks at subduction zones. The model, motivated by petrological, tectonic, and seismic observations of the D’Entrecasteaux Islands, involves the finite subduction of buoyant continental lithosphere, followed by locking of the subduction zone and initiation of subduction elsewhere, diapiric rise of portions of the more deeply subducted and reheated crust, and reverse subduction – termed eduction by Roger and Kenni – of whole sections of less deeply subducted and still strong lithosphere. In their model, the eduction process can promote large-scale continental extension and seafloor spreading in a marginal basin. A Stacy Morford story on our website describes the work in greater detail ( 

     Yaakov Weiss is the lead author of a paper published in yesterday’s issue of Nature on the implications of the chemistry and isotope systematics of fluid inclusions in diamonds for the ancient plate tectonic dynamics and fluid-rock interactions that led to diamond formation. In particular, he and his coauthors argue that the highly saline fluids found in diamonds from the Northwest Territories, Canada, indicate that fluids released from a Mesozoic subduction zone along western North America interacted with the overlying continental mantle and promoted deep mantle melting and the formation of the fluid-rich diamonds. The findings were the topic of a news story Wednesday in Hakai Magazine ( 

     In a paper posted online yesterday by Geophysical Research Letters, Park Williams, Richard Seager, Ben and Ed Cook, Jason Smerdon, and John Abatzoglou of the University of Idaho evaluated the role of anthropogenic warming in the current California drought. With a suite of climate models and a variety of representations of atmospheric moisture demand, the group was able to assess the contributions of individual climate variables. They found that anthropogenic warming may have contributed as much as one-quarter of the drought severity recorded over the period 2012-2014. A detailed press release on the work ( was picked up by the Los Angeles Times (, The New York Times (, and other media.

     John Mutter has a new book out this month on The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer. The Lamont website includes an excerpt from an interview about the book posted by the School of International and Public Affairs, where John devotes a portion of his time to teach and direct the Ph.D. program in sustainable development ( John also spoke about the book last week on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC (       

     Lamont’s Secondary School Field Research Program, led by Bob Newton, brought 40 high school students, 11 college students, and 10 high school science teachers to the campus this summer to study the ecology, chemistry, and biology of Piermont Marsh. The culmination of the summer program was a Research Symposium last Friday at which the students presented the results of their work. A photo essay on the program by Stacy Morford, along with short contributions by three of the students, was posted on our website this week ( The SSFRP was also the subject of a video story last week on NY 1 (

     In other news stories over the past two weeks, Joaquim Goes was quoted in a VICE News story last week on the causes of a large and toxic algal bloom in the Pacific that stretches from southern California to Alaska ( Taro Takahashi offered extensive comments on the pace and consequences of ocean acidification in a lengthy article ( in Motherboard last week on the future oceans. A magnitude 2.7 earthquake on a branch of the Ramapo Fault in northern New Jersey early last Friday prompted several media calls to Won-Young Kim, including one by ABC News ( Also last Friday, Adam Sobel was interviewed by MSNBC about the powerful El Niño event now underway (

     It is good to see how active my colleagues have been in the middle two weeks of August. May you all enjoy one more week at the activity of your choice before the page on the calendar turns to September and other distractions compete for our attention.