Lamont Weekly Report, August 24, 2018

    This week has served as the approximate midpoint of a gradual transition from summer to fall schedules, marked most visibly by the demographics of the students on campus.

    Last week marked the end of the 14th summer of Lamont’s Secondary School Field Research Program, which culminated in a poster session by the interns on Wednesday, oral presentations by the interns on Thursday, and a farewell barbecue behind Lamont Hall last Friday. This year’s SSFRP brought to our campus 44 inner-city high-school students, 10 undergraduate team leaders – all alumni of the program – and eight high-school science teachers. Approximately 50 Lamont scientists served as intern team leaders or lunchtime mentors. For the first time, the poster session this year included teams from four pilot programs in the Hudson Valley region launched through a partnership led on the Lamont side by Bob Newton, Margie Turrin, Cassie Xu, and others with support from the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) program.

    This week, in counterpoint, the 19 members of the new class of graduate students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences began to arrive, and nearly all are scheduled to be here for a departmental orientation next week. The students, the institutions where they obtained their most recent degree, and their Lamont research divisions are as follows:

Student Prior Institution Division
Kailani Acosta Brown University BPE
Tanner Acquisto Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris MGG
Shanice Bailey Boston University OCP
Allie Balter University of Maine, Orono Geochemistry
Janine Birnbaum Stanford University SGT
Clara Chang Barnard College BPE
Roger Creel Amherst College SGT
Emily Follansbee Gonzaga University OCP
Sarah Giles Texas A&M University SGT
Joohee Kim Columbia University Geochemistry
Michelle Lee University of Washington MGG
Abby Lunstrum University of Virginia Geochemistry
Lauren Mosley Williams College Geochemistry
Rose Oelkers William Paterson University BPE
Kristina Okamoto University of California, Santa Cruz SGT
Theresa Sawi University of California, Berkeley SGT
Arianna Varuolo-Clarke Stony Brook University OCP
Carson Witte Pomona College OCP
Yulia You University of Oklahoma OCP

Please join me in welcoming our new colleagues to the Lamont community!

    The Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division also recently welcomed the arrival of Visiting Research Scientist Yoshihiro Ito, an Associate Professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University. An earthquake seismologist expert in fault mechanics, Professor Ito will be spending his sabbatical year at Lamont. He plans to collaborate with Spahr Webb and others on the detection, observation, and modeling of slow-slip events on major fault zones. 

    Last Friday, Klaus Jacob was interviewed by Ira Flatow for WNYC’s Science Friday on the topic of proposed engineering solutions to protect coastal cities from rising sea level ( Also last Friday, Park Williams was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on how climate change has contributed to the frequency and severity of heat waves in western North America, including California ( One day later, Park was quoted again in a story on Discover reporting that smoke from western North American wildfires was visible from space, including from the L1 Lagrange point about a million miles sunward (

    On Monday, three of Alex Halliday’s graduate students from the University of Oxford visited Lamont for the day: Sean Hopkins, Matt Jerram, and Naomi Saunders, geochemists all. They were given tours of the campus by Anna Barth, Stephen Cox, and Sophie Hines. According to current plans, Sean, Matt, and Naomi will join Lamont as Postdoctoral Research Scientists sometime this coming winter or spring.

    On Tuesday, Lamont’s web site gained a Kevin Krajick story on work that Lex van Geen’s lab has been conducting with the Reuters news agency to test for lead levels in water, soil, and paint samples from housing facilities at U.S. Army bases in Georgia, Texas, Kentucky, and New York ( The analyses showed no harmful lead levels in returned samples of water or soil, but lead levels in paint samples in areas within reach of children were greater than permissible limits by large factors. Following a report issued by Reuters, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner from Virginia and Johnny Isakson and David Perdue from Georgia have written to the Secretary of the Army to ask for a Senate briefing on their mitigation plans. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a long article on the Reuters study, along with a photo of Lex in his lab, last Saturday (

    On Wednesday, a paper led by Bruce Shaw appeared in Science Advances reporting that a map of earthquake hazards in California calculated from a simulation conduced with physics-based earthquake models is in “strikingly good agreement” with the hazard maps produced by traditional probabilistic seismic hazard analysis. The standard methodology for seismic hazard assessment relies on parameterized statistical models that combine a variety of regression analyses and scaling laws to describe fault rupture behavior along with ground motion models to describe site-specific shaking. Although such methods now form the basis for regional and national hazard assessments, they are complex and involve myriad derived parameters, and models developed for one region cannot readily be exported for use in another seismic area. Shaw and his colleagues developed a physics-based simulator that incorporates information on the rate- and state-dependence of fault behavior, specifies fault locations and slip rates on the basis of geological and geodetic measurements, and requires comparatively few model parameters. Their result cross validates both methods and points to an approach that can be applied broadly with far fewer assumptions than the traditional probabilistic analysis. A Kim Martineau story on the paper’s findings ( has been posted on our web site.

    Today’s issue of Science includes a Paul Voosen news article on work presented at last week’s Goldschmidt Conference by Maayan Yehudai, Joohee Kim, Steve Goldstein, Karla Knudson, and collaborators on the events that led up to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT) in the glacial cycle period from ~40,000 years to ~100,000 years. The astronomical driving mechanisms for ice ages did not change at the time of the transition (about one million years ago), and whereas some studies have suggested that the triggering events occurred in the northern hemisphere, others have pointed to the southern hemisphere. Maayan and her colleagues documented major increases in erosion from Canada or Scandinavia to the North Atlantic over the several hundred thousand years that preceded the MPT, in support of a northern hemisphere trigger (

    As the week draws to a close, Hurricane Lane is passing close to the Hawaiian Islands ( The R/V Marcus Langseth, at the University of Hawaii marine facility in Honolulu until her next cruise, will ride out the storm dockside.