Lamont Weekly Report, August 25, 2017

    For the second week in a row, the extended Lamont community was saddened by the news of the loss of one of our members. Joseph Valenti, who worked in the Observatory’s Buildings and Grounds Department for 24 years from 1979 to 2003, passed away on August 14 ( Pat O’Reilly writes, “Joe was a remarkable carpenter, who preferred to work independently, or with the least amount of help necessary. Among his many long-lasting accomplishments, he built the Marine Storage Building, additions to the Paleomagnetics Lab, and the B&G Garage, and he contributed to a number of other renovations on campus. He is remembered with admiration and missed by his colleagues in B&G.” A funeral service for Joe was held last Saturday in Nyack.

    Late last week, Geology published online a paper by Mike Kaplan, Gisela Winckler, Joerg Schaefer, Roseanne Schwartz, former Lamont summer intern Claire Mathieson, and their colleagues on the cosmogenic dating of a sequence of glacial moraines on the margin of the Law Glacier in the Transantarctic Mountains. From measurements of the short-lived cosmogenic isotopes of helium, beryllium, and aluminum, Mike and his coauthors showed that a series of moraines 1-10 m high increase progressively in age with distance from the glacier edge to ages of at least 200 thousand years. Because the Law Glacier is part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the moraine dates span the last one or two glacial-interglacial cycles during which substantial changes in ice surface height have been documented near the seaward edge of the glacier, Mike and his colleagues concluded that this region of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in the Transantarctic Mountains has been stable to changes in global climate for the past 200 thousand years and, by implication, should remain stable even in the face of major changes to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in the modern era. A Rebecca Fowler story on the paper’s findings can be found on the Lamont web page (

    This week the Geochemistry Division welcomed Visiting Research Scientist Quanshu Yan, an Associate Professor of Seafloor Petrology at the Key Laboratory of Marine Sedimentology and Environmental Geology at the First Institute of Oceanography in Qingdao, China. Quanshu is visiting Lamont for three months to work with Susanne Straub on the analysis of igneous rocks from the Cocos Ridge, offshore Costa Rica, and the South China Sea.

    On Monday, of course, the entire continental United States was treated to a total eclipse of the Sun (, an occurrence that warrants pause to consider the dimensions and dynamics of our solar system. Whether you traveled to the path of totality or watched the partial eclipse from the comfort of the Lamont campus, I hope that everyone experienced the rare event in some manner.

    Also on Monday, Lamont submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation for continued operation of the R/V Marcus Langseth as the national facility for marine seismology in the U.S. academic fleet. That same day, a Paul Voosen story in Science ( highlighted the issues facing NSF and the marine geology and geophysics community if current capabilities for seismic imaging of the oceanic crust and upper mantle are to be maintained.

    In October and November this year, Lamont’s polar geophysics group is scheduled to fly the third and final season of the Rosetta project to survey the Ross Ice Shelf in the Ross Sea, and a Marie Aronsohn story posted last Friday describes the work, its rationale, and its likely impact (  In partnership with the New York Air National Guard flying out of McMurdo Station, the group will again fly the IcePod system of radars, imagers, lidar, and magnetometer ( along with two gravimeters to characterize the topography and thickness of the ice shelf and the bathymetry and magnetic structure of the underlying seafloor. Last year, for the first time, the group also deployed six ALAMO (Air-Launched Autonomous Micro Observer) floats to measure temperature and salinity in the ocean adjacent to the shelf edge.

    Registration and housing reservations opened this week for the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held this December in New Orleans for the first time. For those who plan to attend that meeting, the annual reception jointly sponsored by Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences will be held as usual on Tuesday evening of that week. Stacey Vassallo is completing final arrangements for the reception venue.

    Several Lamont scientists have been in media stories recently. The Atlantic ran a feature last week on the work of Lex van Geen and his Lamont and Mailman School colleagues on the characterization and mitigation of toxic levels of arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh ( Art Lerner-Lam was interviewed for a story last Saturday in the Earth Matters column of Nyack News & Views on the terminology and politics of climate change ( And earlier this month, Ars Technica ran a story on the work of Billy D’Andrea and Nick Balascio on the paleoclimate of the Lofoten Islands off the northern coast of Norway over the last several millennia and its impact on Viking settlements there and in other areas of the North Atlantic (

   As the weekend approaches, the Texas Gulf coast is bracing for the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, and our website includes a list of Lamont experts on severe storms as a media resource ( At the same time, we should all extend our wishes for safe passage to those in the storm’s path.