Lamont Weekly Report, December 16, 2016

      Many from Lamont have been in San Francisco this week for the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In addition to a number of news items from the meeting, there are a few items from last week that were not included in the previous Weekly Report.

     On Wednesday and Thursday last week, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia’s Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative, and the Sub-seasonal and Seasonal Prediction Project of the World Weather Research Program and the World Climate Research Program jointly hosted, in the Monell Building, a Workshop on Sub-seasonal to Seasonal (S2S) Predictability of Weather and Climate. Topics discussed included the international S2S research initiative and data archive, operational S2S forecasting, private-sector forecasts, sources of S2S predictability of weather extremes, and risk management perspectives, and over 100 scientists from around the world attended. Videos of workshop presentations are online (

     On Friday last week, the White House announced the creation of the Northern Bering Sea Resilience Area, and the accompanying fact sheet ( drew attention to recent philanthropic commitments to projects in rural northern Alaska and Canada. The fact sheet called out for particular mention a $3.7 million award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to Chris Zappa and colleagues at Lamont, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and the Native Village of Kotzebue. The Moore Foundation award, also announced on Friday, will fund an investigation of changes in sea ice and other characteristics of Kotzebue Sound and the Chukchi Sea conducted from indigenous knowledge and remote sensing by drones ( A Stacy Morford story provides additional information (

     Federal Science Partners, Columbia’s lobbyists in Washington, D.C., have kept us abreast of many of the most important announcements from Congress, the science agencies, and the incoming administration. (Those interested in subscribing to the regular mailings from Federal Science Partners, by the way, can sign up on the web: On Friday, Congress passed an extension of the continuing resolution to keep the government in operation until late April, with Senate approval coming less than an hour before a partial government shutdown would have been triggered. Also on Friday, House Republicans elected Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey as Chair of the Appropriations Committee; Rep. Nita Lowey, whose district includes Lamont, was nominated by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to remain the Ranking Member on that Committee. The same day, the National Science Foundation announced ( that Bill Easterling, Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, will become the Assistant Director for Geosciences in June. News of key appointments to the Trump administration and transition teams continued this week, and there were hallway rumors at AGU that an announcement regarding the President’s Science Advisor will come sooner than most had expected. Steve Cohen’s Huffington Post blog this week about the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency makes interesting reading (

     On Sunday, I joined Sean Higgins, Anne Bécel, Suzanne Carbotte, and Donna Shillington at a meeting of the Marcus Langseth Science Oversight Committee (MLSOC). The committee heard from UNOLS Executive Secretary Jon Alberts on plans for the MLSOC to be replaced by a Marine Science Research Oversight Committee (MSROC). Sean gave the operator’s report, and MLSOC chair Nathan Bangs summarized recent MLSOC activities. NSF was well represented at the meeting, and several Program Managers gave reports on foundation plans. Summaries of results from recent Langseth cruises were accompanied by talks targeting particular opportunities now available with a 12-km-long streamer. Much of the afternoon was devoted to broad-ranging discussions of the scope of activities of the MSROC, expansion of the regional planning model for the Langseth to as far ahead as 5 years, enhancing international collaboration, and early-career training.

     On Monday, Farhana Mather and I visited Marc Kastner, President of Science Philanthropy Alliance in Palo Alto ( The alliance is “a community of funders who work together to inspire new, emerging, and current philanthropists to dedicate a portion of their philanthropy to basic science” and to serve “as champions and advisors to other philanthropists to ensure more private funding is earmarked for the kinds of research initiatives that have led to the scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs that fuel our technology and information-driven economy of the 21st century.” Our visit was intended to educate Marc, a former Professor of Physics and Dean of Science at MIT, about the scientific work at Lamont and to offer our scientists as sources of advice on areas where philanthropic support of the Earth and environmental sciences can have particular impact.

     On Monday, Eos posted a summary by Michael Rampino of the Symposium on the History of the Earth’s Crust held 50 years ago last month at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies ( The meeting was viewed as a milestone in the growing acceptance of the ideas of sea-floor spreading and continental drift that within two years has been synthesized into the theory of plate tectonics. Rampino’s article includes photos of Pat Hurley from MIT, John Dewey and Teddy Bullard from Cambridge, Harry Hess from Princeton, and Paul Gast and Marshall Kay from Columbia, along with the “magic” Eltanin 19 magnetic anomaly profile of Walter Pitman and Jim Heirtzler. Others from Lamont mentioned in the article include Maurice Ewing, Xavier Le Pichon, Neil Opdyke, and Lynn Sykes.

     At the AGU Fall Meeting this week three of our Lamont colleagues received notable honors. Heather Savage received the 2016 Mineral and Rock Physics Early Career Award from AGU’s Mineral and Rock Physics Focus Group ( Jerry McManus received the Dansgaard Award from the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Focus Group ( And Maya Tolstoy was tapped to give the Birch Lecture by AGU’s Tectonophysics Section and spoke on “Taking the pulse of mid-ocean ridges” (

     Several presentations at the AGU Fall Meeting have been described in Stacy Morford stories posted to Lamont’s web site, as well as on Twitter. Monday’s web story was on the poster by Josh Maurer, Joerg Schaefer, Summer Rupper from the University of Utah, and Alison Corley from Barnard on a multi-decadal remote sensing survey of glacial mass loss across High Mountain Asia ( Josh and his colleagues combined declassified spy satellite images from the 1970s with NASA Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) images from 2000 to the present and the global digital surface model from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) to assess the local and regional response to climate change of the area’s glaciers. The group documented a variety of ice loss mechanisms and processes. BBC covered the paper’s findings on Tuesday (

     One of two stories posted Tuesday ( was on the approach of Lamont’s International Earth Data Alliance to the management of large data sets in Earth science and the opportunity presented by “big data” to pose and answer new scientific questions. IEDA Director Kerstin Lehnert convened two AGU sessions that will be live streamed today, a Union session (U52A) on “Power to our samples! Increasing impact of scientific specimens and collections,” and an Earth and Space Science Informatics session (IN53D) entitled “Darth data: Awakening the forces to rescue old data for new discoveries.”

     Also posted Tuesday was a story on Marco Tedesco’s participation that day on a group that presented an Arctic Report Card on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( By many metrics, including the length of the melting season and the average thickness of sea ice, the Arctic is undergoing rapid changes. Marco was interviewed for a story on “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio (

     On Tuesday, too, I attended a meeting of Lamont’s Alumni Board, held immediately before a well-attended reception hosted by the Observatory and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for alumni, students, and staff. The Board discussed a range of topics, including continuing efforts to link alumni with current students to provide objective and sympathetic advice on career choices and professional development. Board Chair Greg Mountain announced that this year’s “alumni rock star” invited by the Board to visit the Observatory and give a colloquium will be Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography ( Jeff is scheduled to visit Lamont at the end of March. Also, two Lamont alumni were honored by AGU this week as new Fellows, Bob Kay (Ph.D., 1970) and Uri ten Brink (Ph.D., 1986).

     Stacey Morford’s AGU story Wednesday featured the work of Spahr Webb and his colleagues on slow-slip events along shallow portions of the plate interface at subduction zones ( A paper given yesterday by Spahr and his colleagues provided additional details, beyond the information published earlier this year in Science, about a slow-slip event recorded in 2014 by a network of absolute pressure gauges deployed on the seafloor near the Hikurangi Trench east of New Zealand. Modeling of the deformation during the event indicates that slip occurred within 2 km of the trench. Spahr is planning follow-on experiments off Alaska and elsewhere.

     On Wednesday, the directors of several oceanographic institutions and I met with Roger Wakimoto, Assistant Director for Geosciences (GEO) at the National Science Foundation (a position from which he will step down by late February), and Rick Murray, Director of NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE). Institutional leads included Mark Abbott, Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Ginger Armbrust, Director of the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington; 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; Brad Moran, Dean of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; and Brian Taylor, Dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii. Our discussion ranged broadly over such topics as budgets, the transition in leadership at GEO, possible impacts of the new administration and changes in Congress, the restructuring of Polar Programs, progress at OCE toward implementation of the Sea Change report, and consequent increases in the budgets for the core research programs.

     Another of Stacy Morford’s web stories was devoted to yesterday’s presentation by Genevieve Coffey, Heather Savage, Pratigya Polissar, and colleagues on biomarkers as indicators of frictional heating during fault slip ( Genevieve’s talk focused in particular on methylphenanthrine, which has both thermally stable and thermally unstable isomers. A thermal maturity index, dependent on both the maximum temperature and the duration of heating, was determined across fault zones in Nevada and Italy from measurements of these isomers and indicates novel details of fault zone architecture, including the locations of principal slip zones.

     For everyone still at AGU, may your travel home be safe and on schedule. For everyone at Lamont today, may the cold temperatures prompt a new understanding of the polar vortex (