Lamont Weekly Report, December 11, 2015

    It has been a busy week: the last full week of classes, the last week of the Paris Climate Summit, and the last week before the start of the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. It was also the last week of the continuing resolution that has funded the U.S. government, but Congress is pushing forward a short-term extension that will permit an omnibus spending bill to be considered next week, albeit a bill with multiple riders on a broad range of topics from immigration and taxes to environmental regulation (

    On Monday, the Campus received the good news that Dake Chen has been elected to membership in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. A former Lamont Research Professor and currently a Special Research Scientist, Dake is the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Satellite Ocean Environment Dynamics at the Second Institute of Oceanography in Hangzhou, China ( Congratulations to our newest Academician!

    On Wednesday, Ángel Muñoz successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis. Completed under the supervision of Lisa Goddard and Walter Baethgen from IRI and Yochanan Kushnir, Ángel’s thesis was on the topic of “Cross-timescale interference and rainfall extreme events in south eastern South America.” To Dr. Muñoz, congratulations, as well!

    The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Xinwei Zhai as a new part-time Visiting Research Scientist. A Quaternary geologist, Xinwei is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth Science at Lanzhou University. At Lamont, he will be working with Sid Hemming on the applications of dating methods and elemental analyses to issues in Quaternary paleoclimate.

    For a fourth week, Kirsty Tinto reported from Antarctica on the progress of the Rosetta expedition and its objective to survey the internal structure of the Ross Ice Shelf and the bathymetry of the underlying seafloor. On Sunday, Kirsty wrote, “Our fourth week of flying has been extremely productive, and substantially changed the map to bring us closer to our year 1 goal…The flight schedule for the week had us flying night and day lines from Tuesday to Friday. We accomplished 7 flights in a row in an impressive effort from the [Air National Guard] and Rosetta crews. In one week we almost doubled our flights for the season and are now at a total of 16 survey flights…We are now coming in to our last week on the ice. We have two more flight opportunities available to us – a dedicated line on Monday evening and a backup on Tuesday. The backup mission means that if the primary scheduled mission doesn’t go we will fly a Rosetta mission in its place. Alongside these we are packing to be ready to leave on Thursday, so we have another busy week ahead.”

     The R/V Langseth completed its active seismic survey of the Santorini volcanic system in the eastern Mediterranean this week, having logged approximately 2150 line kilometers as of Monday. The ship deployed 91 ocean-bottom seismometers for the experiment and had retrieved all but one of them as of yesterday. Other portable land seismometers were contributed to the experiment by European partners. The ship will next shoot a 200-km-long line across the Hellenic subduction zone west of Crete as part of a project led by Anne Bécel in collaboration with Mireille Laigle from CNRS.

    On Monday, Robin Bell participated in a Climate Change Roundtable discussion in Manhattan on the ecological and societal implications of New York’s changing climate. The four-hour roundtable, sponsored by the Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Climate Change Work Group of the New York State Assembly, included five members of the Assembly and was chaired by Steve Engelbright, Chairman of their Environmental Conservation Committee.

    On Tuesday, two school groups visited the campus on field trips. Fifty-one 7th-grade students and six teachers from The Hewitt School in Manhattan heard presentations on research at the poles by Margie Turrin and the work of the Tree-Ring Laboratory by Laia Andreu Hayles. The group was then treated to a tour of the Core Repository led by Nichole Anest and a local hike led by Mike Passow. The Lycée Français de New York brought 30 11th-grade students and two teachers as part of the Lycée’s yearlong program with the Observatory. Students heard the third of a series of talks by Einat Lev and Elise Rumpf and toured the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, where two students from the school will be completing internships this summer. The group also heard a talk on local geology by Dave Walker, toured the Seismic Instruments Museum with John Armbruster, and analyzed a sediment core from the Hudson with Nichole Anest. If you are interested in volunteering for similar outreach opportunities in the future, please contact Cassie Xu.

    I spent three days this week in Pasadena, California, at two meetings in support of NASA’s planned Europa Multiple Flyby mission. I chaired a meeting of the Europa Gravity Science Working Group on Sunday, and the mission’s Project Science Group met for the two days thereafter. At least all of the meetings were held at The Langham Huntington, a hotel self described as offering “timeless grandeur nestled at the base of the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains.”

    Late last week, Science magazine posted on Science Express an advance copy of a paper not yet in print by Gerald Rustic, Athanasios Koutavas, Brad Linsley, and colleagues on evidence from climate proxies in marine sediments for the nature of tropical Pacific Ocean dynamics over the past millennium. Specifically, the group analyzed the Mg/Ca ratio as a proxy for sea-surface temperature and population-level variance in foraminiferal δ18O as a measure of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) activity in a marine sediment core retrieved near the Galápagos Islands. The team documented a “mid-millennium shift” from a strong tropical Pacific zonal gradient and dampened ENSO to one with a weak gradient and amplified ENSO that coincided with the deepest cooling of the Little Ice Age, leading the group to propose an atmospheric trigger mechanism, possibly a southward shift in the intertropical convergence zone.

    On Lamont’s blog pages this week, the Paris Climate Summit blog includes Stacy Morford stories on the Center for Climate and Life and the nature and impact of ocean acidification, with commentary from Peter deMenocal and Bärbel Hönisch, respectively ( News stories this week on Lamont science focused on two papers that appeared last Friday, one led by Nick Balascio and Billy D’Andrea reporting that the rate of glacial retreat in Greenland over the past century has been at least twice as fast as at any time in the past 9500 years (, and another led by Nicolás Young and Joerg Schaefer demonstrating that the Medieval Warm Period in Europe did not extend to Greenland at the time of Viking colonization there (

    For all who are heading to the AGU Fall Meeting, the reception co-hosted by Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences will be at the usual time (Tuesday, 6:30 to 8:30 pm) and the usual hotel (San Francisco Marriott Union Square). As it was last year, the reception will be in the Union Square Ballroom–Mezzanine. I hope to see many of you there.

    At 1 pm this afternoon, at a quarterly meeting of Lamont’s Senior Staff that has been opened to Junior Staff and administrative staff, an overview of Lamont’s budget status, current searches, scientific initiatives, and other activities will be presented. The meeting will be held in the Monell Auditorium.

    Later this afternoon, our Earth Science Colloquium will feature Ruth Blake, a Professor in Yale University’s Departments of Geology and Geophysics and Chemical and Environmental Engineering and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies  ( Ruth’s colloquium will be on the “Geobiological evolution of planetary P reservoirs: O-isotope studies.” I hope that you will join me for her talk.