Lamont Weekly Report, December 15, 2017

     Many from Lamont have spent much or all of the week at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held in New Orleans this year for the first time.

     On Sunday, I joined Sean Higgins and Art Lerner-Lam at a meeting there of the Marine Seismology Research Oversight Committee (MSROC). The meeting began with an overview by MSROC chair Pat Hart (U.S. Geological Survey) of recent activities of the committee, a briefing by NSF’s Maurice Tivey (Marine Geology and Geophysics Program Director) and Rick Murray (Ocean Sciences Division Director) on the status of NSF’s ongoing decisions on the future of marine seismology capabilities and the selection of an ocean-bottom seismometer instrument center, and a presentation by UNOLS Executive Secretary Jon Alberts (University of Rhode Island) on the competition for a new UNOLS office and underway planning efforts for a new global-class research vessel. Sean Higgins gave an overview of recent operations of the Marcus Langseth, Sean Gulick (University of Texas Institute for Geophysics) spoke on the need for seismic surveys of many of the sites of high priority for ocean drilling, and Del Bohnenstiehl (North Carolina State University) summarized the activities of the Ocean Bottom Seismometer Oversight Committee. The next set of presentations focused on recent and planned experiments in marine seismology. Emily Roland (University of Washington) spoke on the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment planned to begin next spring, Nathan Bangs (University of Texas Institute for Geophysics) reviewed the three NSF-sponsored Langseth cruises – one just completed and two to follow – to image the Pacific-Australian plate boundary near New Zealand, and Harold Tobin (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and Maureen Walton (USGS) gave brief summaries of plans to improve multi-channel seismic profiling coverage of the Cascadia subduction zone. Afternoon presentations touched on experience with high-resolution three-dimensional marine seismic imaging in industry, seismic data acquisition training for early-career scientists, and public outreach.

     On Monday, Nature Climate Change posted online a story coauthored by Anders Levermann reporting the results of new models for the effects of ice shelf mass loss on Antarctic ice sheets. The models show that highly localized thinning of the ice shelf can be felt across the shelf and can accelerate the seaward flow of land ice far from the initial perturbation. The effects are strongly dependent on the location of thinning, however; some of the most critical areas are those accessible to warm ocean water. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper’s findings was posted to our web site the same day (

     On Tuesday, I joined the directors of several oceanographic institutions at a meeting with Rick Murray and Bill Easterling, NSF’s Assistant Director for Geosciences (GEO). Institutional leads included Bruce Corliss, Dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island; Margaret Leinen, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Roberta Marinelli, Dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University; Brian Taylor, Dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii; and Debbie Thomas, Interim Dean of the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. Our discussion ranged broadly over budgets, facilities, and upcoming openings at the head of each of GEO’s three divisions.

     Tuesday also marked the reception hosted by Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for those of our alumni, students, staff, and friends who were at the AGU meeting. Judging by the attendance, the enthusiasm of those who came, and the long time that many lingered after the bars were closed and moved from the room, the reception was a great success. To all who attended, please join me in thanking Stacey Vassallo for finding a suitable location for the event and making all of the arrangements.

     At AGU’s Honors Ceremony on Wednesday evening, three Lamont and DEES alumni were honored as Fellows of AGU: Arthur Frankel (now at the U.S. Geological Survey), Walter Smith (now at NOAA), and Youxue Zhang (now at the University of Michigan). Also named a Fellow at that ceremony was Upmanu Lall, a member of the faculty of the Earth Institute and Director of the Columbia Water Center. All new AGU Fellows were congratulated on the stage of the convention center’s auditorium by AGU President-elect Robin Bell. In addition, former Lamont Postdoctoral Research Scientist Don Forsyth received the Maurice Ewing Medal, named for Lamont’s founding Director and jointly awarded by AGU and the U.S. Navy, and former DEES Assistant Professor Tiffany Shaw received AGU’s Macelwane Medal.

     Yesterday, Lamont’s web site gained a Rebecca Fowler interview with Billy D’Andrea on his plans to collect sediment cores next year from the floors of lakes on Easter Island to study the paleoclimate of the region and its relation to the rise and decline of the Rapa Nui culture on the island ( Billy’s research project is being supported by Lamont’s Center for Climate and Life.

     Several Lamont scientists were featured in media stories this week. Vicki Ferrini’s bathymetric survey of the young Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai island in Tonga – born through submarine volcanic eruptions in late 2014, a possible analogue to volcanic features on Mars, and the subject of a press briefing at AGU on Monday – featured in an article in National Geographic on Monday ( and Newsweek one day later ( On Tuesday, the BBC covered an AGU presentation by Scott LaPoint reporting that adult golden eagles are unable to adapt their migration pattern to climate-driven changes in food availability ( On Wednesday, PBS NewsHour posted a Miles O’Brien television interview of Park Williams and Radley Horton on the role of climate change in the frequency and severity of California wildfires (

     For everyone still at AGU today, may your return home proceed safely and on schedule.