Lamont Weekly Report, December 20, 2019

    This week has been an unusually hectic one, sandwiched between the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting last week and next week’s university holidays. This week also marked Final Examinations in Columbia University classes, record-breaking high temperatures across Australia, and even more than the usual political drama in our nation’s capital.

    On Monday, Nature Geoscience published online a Comment piece by Kuheli Dutt on race and racism in the geosciences. Kuheli argued in her article that a deeper understanding of the complexities of race is needed by everyone in the community if the geosciences are to become appropriately diverse and inclusive.

    Next month’s issue of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research includes an article by Rosanne D’Arrigo, Rob Wilson, and their colleagues on the evidence from tree-ring records in northern Scotland for an extended cold period in the late seventeenth century that contributed to a socioeconomic crisis in the region. The team’s reconstruction of summertime temperatures from tree-ring records in the northern Cairngorms region indicates that the 1690s were the coldest decade in northern Scotland over the last 750 years, and historical information confirms that the decade was also the worst interval of crop failures, food shortages, and famine in Scottish history. The cold climate episode has been shown by others to be near-hemispheric in scale and linked to several large eruptions of volcanoes in the tropics. Rosanne and her colleagues argued that the impact of the cold pulse was particularly strong in Scotland because of local factors and contributed ultimately to Scotland’s reunification with England. A Kevin Krajick press release on the paper’s findings was posted on Tuesday, and Environmental News Network carried the story one day later.

    On Thursday, Arlene Fiore and Dan Westervelt learned the good news that they will receive funding from Columbia University’s Data Science Institute. A proposal for a project they and several collaborators submitted to DSI’s new Seed Grants Program – entitled “Detecting and attributing spatiotemporal variations in sources of ground-level air pollution with a modeling testbed for integrating multiple noisy satellite datasets” – will receive one of the program’s inaugural grants.

    Facing the prospect of a federal government shutdown after midnight tonight, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed two large spending bills to fund federal agencies through the end of government fiscal year 2020. The Senate passed the two bills yesterday – before adjourning for the remainder of the calendar year – and the President is expected to sign them into law today. In the bills, federal science agency budgets will generally increase over fiscal year 2019 levels, by amounts ranging from 2.5% at the National Science Foundation to 6.5% at the National Institutes of Health and 9.5% for the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The news this week includes a Dave Goldberg opinion piece last Friday on The Conversation on the need for multiple technologies to achieve negative emissions of carbon dioxide at the scale required to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Park Williams was interviewed for an Associated Press story, also last Friday, on limits to the effectiveness of forest thinning efforts in California on future wildfires. Mo Raymo was quoted in a Yale Climate Connections story Monday on the hopes and concerns of climate scientists for the coming year. A video of Radley Horton on “100-year” floods and storms, produced by The Years Project, was posted on YouTube on Tuesday. A Sarah Fecht story posted to our web site Tuesday summarizes an AGU poster presentation given by Dallas Abbott last week arguing from ice-core observations that a “year of darkness” in 536 AD was the result of a series of low-latitude submarine eruptions. Adam Sobel was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story, also on Tuesday, about climate scientists engaging in climate activism. Another web story on an AGU presentation was posted Wednesday by Marie Aronsohn on the work by Mingfang Ting on the harmful effects of climate change – evaporation of soil moisture and the redirection to other areas of moisture-delivering summer storms – to the U.S. corn belt.

    Tomorrow will feature the memorial service for Taro Takahashi. The service, to which all of Taro’s colleagues and friends are invited, will begin at 4 pm and will be held at the Becker Funeral Home, at 2119 Kinderkamack Road in Westwood, New Jersey. As if the solar system itself is acknowledging Taro’s passing, tomorrow will also mark the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice, and the duration of daylight will be the shortest of the year.