Lamont Weekly Report, December 1, 2017

    The week began with a magmatic eruption at Mount Agung, a volcano on the island of Bali in Indonesia. The ash cloud from the eruption led to closure of the local airport for several days (, and past eruptions from this volcano have been of sufficient magnitude to affect global climate (

    This week the Geochemistry Division welcomed new Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Jennifer Middleton. Jenny is an isotope geochemist who focuses on paleoceanography and paleoclimate. She recently obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University under the supervision of Sujoy Mukhopadhyay (now at the University of California, Davis) and Charlie Langmuir. For her thesis, she applied records of biogenic, terrigenous, and hydrothermal sediment fluxes in Atlantic and Pacific core samples to investigate millennial-scale variations in continental dust deposition and the possible influence of glacially driven sea-level change on mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal activity. At Lamont, Jenny will work with Gisela Winckler and others to apply the marine sedimentary record to test the idea that enhanced delivery of ice-rafted nutrients during millennial-scale Antarctic-warming events led to increased biological activity and carbon export in the Southern Ocean.

    Also this week, the Ocean and Climate Physics Division welcomed new Postdoctoral Research Scientist Jeffrey Strong. Jeff received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences last year from Princeton University, where his advisor was Gabriel Vecchi and his thesis was on the effects of Saharan dust on climate, particularly tropical cyclones. Prior to his move to Lamont, Jeff held a postdoctoral position at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he worked with Shang-Ping Xie on regional climate responses to aerosols. At Lamont, Jeff will work with Adam Sobel and Suzana Camargo, as well as with Tony Del Genio and Maxwell Kelley at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, on tropical cyclones within a high-resolution version of the GISS climate model.

    On Monday, a Kevin Krajick interview of Lynn Sykes on the topic of Lynn’s forthcoming memoir was posted on the Lamont web site ( Entitled Silencing the Bomb: One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing, the memoir chronicles the work of Lynn and others on the seismological discrimination of underground nuclear explosions from earthquakes and on seismological methods for estimating yields and other characteristics of nuclear tests. The book is scheduled to be published by Columbia University Press later this month, and Lamont will host a book-signing event open to all in the Monell Auditorium on Friday afternoon, 12 January.

    On Tuesday, Farhana Mather and I attended a meeting of the Columbia Climate Task Force, co-chaired by Roy Vagelos and Steve Denning. Staffed by the Office of Alumni and Development, the Climate Task Force consists of volunteers who can help recruit major donors to the Columbia Commitment campaign under the Climate Response theme. Mike Purdy had organized a small group of faculty members to speak to the task force members on the topic of a carbon-free future. Other participants included Jason Bordoff from the Center on Global Energy Policy; Ruth DeFries from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; Daniel Esposito from the Department of Chemical Engineering; and Xiaoyang Zhu from the Department of Chemistry.

    Also on Tuesday, Julian Spergel added another entry to his blog on the progress of the Rosetta-Ice team and their efforts to carry our systematic geophysical mapping of the Ross Ice Shelf ( The team was nearing completion of their third and final season of surveying as of the date of posting.

    On Tuesday evening, I attended at Hayden Planetarium the world premiere of Voyagers, a musical composition written to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft and to evoke selections of music included on the gold-plated record of sounds and images from planet Earth that was sent on each of the probes ( The musical piece, performed by clarinet and string quartet, was composed by Gerald Cohen, the spouse of Caroline Stern, Executive Assistant to the Provost at Columbia. Video accompaniment on the planetarium dome was provided by Carter Emmart, the Director of Astrovisualization at the American Museum of Natural History.

    On Tuesday and Wednesday, Lamont hosted the third meeting of NASA’s Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team (HAQAST). The team “use[s] NASA satellite data to help solve real-world public health and air quality problems…on issues from wildfire smoke to diesel emissions.” HAQAST member Arlene Fiore served as local host for the meeting, which was also supported by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (

    On Wednesday, a story on the increasing rate of occurrence of sunny-day flooding in U.S. coastal cities was posted to our web site ( The article, by science writer Kristen French, emphasizes the role of sea-level rise and its regional variations in rate on the ever more common phenomenon. Klaus Jacob and others are quoted in the story.

    Wednesday afternoon also marked the fall Lamont Fun Run, organized by Mike Sandstrom and Genevieve Coffey and featuring a 1-mile-long race route. Mike and Genevieve report that there were 46 runners and walkers. The top three women finishers in order were Melanie Bieli, Laura Haynes, and Roseanne Schwartz; and the top male runners were Mike, Kevin Uno, and Sebastian Vivancos. Walkers were separately ranked this race, and the top three finishers in this category were Dallas Abbott, Xiaojun Yuan, and Claudia Giulivi. With the now traditional scoring system that normalizes by age and gender, the top three runners were Roseanne, Mike, and Jim Gaherty. A Golden Running Shoe, awarded to the division with the best three finishing times corrected for age and gender, went to Biology and Paleo Environment, with Geochemistry a close second and a combined IRI/CIESIN team third. Congratulations to all who participated!

    Yesterday, I flew to Seattle with Farhana, Art Lerner-Lam, and Nick Frearson to visit Jerry Paros, a Columbia University alumnus and long-term patron of Lamont. Jerry’s gifts have led to the establishment of the Jerome M. Paros Senior Research Scientist of Observational Geophysics Fund, the Jerome M. Paros – Palisades Geophysical Institute Fund for Engineering Innovation in Geoscience Research, and the Paros Fund for Geophysical Instrumentation. The first two funds, both endowed, support the Paros Lamont Research Professor Chair (held currently by Spahr Webb) and the Observatory Technology and Innovation Fund, respectively. The third and most recent fund supports the design and construction of a new-generation of seafloor geophysical instruments with seismic and geodetic sensors to monitor earthquakes and tsunamis along submarine subduction zones.

    Next Tuesday, Lamont will be visited by Meg Thompson and Joel Widder from Federal Science Partners, Columbia University’s lobbyists in Washington. During their visit, at 2 pm that afternoon in Monell, we will host a Town Hall meeting for all hands to hear from them on the status of this year’s appropriations bills for federal science agencies, the status of tax bills now under consideration by Congress, budget bills, the prospects for a government shutdown later this month, and other legislative topics of interest to the academic community. Everyone from the Lamont Campus will be welcome to attend. For those who cannot attend in person, the presentation will be live streamed, and a video recording will be posted shortly after the conclusion of the event.

    In the meantime, our Earth Science Colloquium speaker this afternoon will be Raymond Bradley (, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Ray will be speaking on “Arctic Ocean freshwater as a trigger for abrupt climate change.” If you’re up for a splash of cold water and an abrupt change in your Friday routine, I hope that you will come to hear his talk.