Lamont Weekly Report, December 4, 2015

The week began with the sad news that our colleague Lenny Sullivan died suddenly last Thursday morning while running in the Rockland Road Runners’ 5-mile Turkey Trot with other members of his family.

Lenny came to Lamont in 2003, when he joined Lamont’s Buildings and Grounds office as Assistant Manager of Facilities. Ten years later, he was promoted to Manager of Facilities. Pat O’Reilly summarized the reactions of all of us when he wrote, “Lenny was a pillar of our facilities management team. Bright, energetic, dedicated, and resourceful, he provided charismatic, caring leadership for our staff, well serving all of us 24/7 through all weather and circumstances. He will be sorely missed.”

A service for Lenny on Monday morning at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Tappan filled the pews and most of the standing space, with many from Lamont in attendance. Lenny’s wife, Barbara, and his three brothers spoke lovingly of his generosity, his kindness, his skill with mechanical and electrical repairs, and his willingness to drop whatever he was doing to help a friend or a colleague. In his homily, the Rev. John Dwyer voiced his confidence that Lenny is now in Heaven, but he added that Lenny faces the challenge that nothing there needs fixing.

Even as we mourned the loss of a friend and leader, the pace of the campus quickened abruptly after the Thanksgiving break.

On Monday, Kirsty Tinto reported from the Rosetta team conducting airborne surveys of the internal structure and underlying bathymetry of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Kirsty wrote, “We have flown five more survey flights since the last report, and have also spent time on the ground for maintenance, crew availability, and finally the Thanksgiving holiday. In spite of all the down time, the map is showing a good distribution, with 18 survey lines and 4 tie lines from a total of 9 flights, giving over 16,000 line km of data… We are now half way through our target flights for the season, but more than half way through our originally scheduled opportunities. A new window will be installed on the plane tonight, and starting tomorrow the flying schedule has been extended to allow us to use night and day lines through this week. In the coming days we plan to fly over the remaining control points, as well as known points in the ice and more tie lines to improve the coarse grid.”

On Tuesday, the Center for Climate and Life launched a new web presence. The web site describes the center’s mission, research themes, and personnel, and has a variety of research and news stories (

On Wednesday, the December issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter was mailed to friends and subscribers. The issue ( introduces readers to the Center for Climate and Life and features research stories on the completion by Ed Cook and colleagues of the Old Word Drought Atlas; the work of Justin Mankin, Deepti Singh, and others on the predicted effects of declining snowpacks later this century on water availability for human consumption and agriculture; and the findings of Donna Shillington and her colleagues that the orientation of lithospheric normal faults outward of subduction zones can strongly influence the reactivation of and water circulation in those faults at a trench outer rise and thereafter the subducted water budget and its influence on subduction zone seismicity. Links to other stories on research results, awards, and field reports; recent videos and podcasts; and media articles on Lamont science round out the issue.

Also on Wednesday, Lamont’s Advisory Board held one of their quarterly meetings at the Columbia University Club in Midtown. The featured presentation was by Robin Bell on progress to date on Lamont’s initiative on Changing Ice, Changing Coastlines. Following the meeting Park Williams gave a Director’s Circle Lecture on the topic of “How climate and humans are shaping droughts in western North America.”

A paper by Nick Balascio, Billy D’Andrea, and Raymond Bradley from the University of Massachusetts posted today in the December issue of Climate of the Past reports the first continuous record of glacier activity over the past 9500 years from southeastern Greenland, derived from measurements made on a proglacial lake sediment sequence. The work has documented multiple examples of glacier expansion and retreat on multi-decadal to centennial timescales. The episodes coincide with ice rafting events in the North Atlantic and periods of ice cap expansion, so they are of regional significance and indicate that glacial activity on these timescales is a normal feature of cryospheric behavior. The group also concluded that recent anthropogenic warming has influenced the regional cryosphere outside the natural range of Holocene variability. A Stacy Morford story on this paper was posted today on our web page (

Also out today is a Science Advances paper by Nicolás Young, Joerg Schaefer, and colleagues on the extent of glaciers in Greenland and Baffin Island over the past 1000 years, including the interval over which the Medieval Warm Period marked warmer temperatures in Europe between about 950 and 1250 AD. It was approximately 985 AD that Vikings began to settle in southwestern Greenland, and their settlements were active for approximately 400 years, so it has been hypothesized that warmer temperatures there enabled the Vikings to colonize, and a return to colder temperatures caused them to abandon the area. Young and his collaborators showed instead that the Greenland glaciers reached their maximum Little Ice Age positions between 975 and 1275 AD, implying that the Vikings did not arrive at a particularly warm time. Another implication of their work is that the Medieval Warm Period need not have extended beyond Europe and may have been only an extended phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. A Kevin Krajick press release on the paper has been posted on Lamont’s web page (

On Lamont’s blogs this week, a peak in the rate of new postings on the 2015 Paris Climate Summit page ( marked the start of the summit and included articles by Jeff Sachs and others across the Earth Institute. Jeff Bowman added an entry to his blog from Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula ( about the spring phytoplankton bloom beneath the local sea ice and the arrival of curious seals and penguins. On Monday, a blog penned by Kyle Frischkorn on the zooplankton of the ocean’s deep scattering layer and their diurnal rise to feed on near-surface phytoplankton – “the largest animal migration on the planet” – appears online in Scientific American ( One day later, The Times of India published a piece by Adam Sobel arguing that, notwithstanding a widely reported story of a major cyclone that hit Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1892 but apparently never occurred, the increasing frequency of cyclones in the Arabian Sea means that the city can take lessons learned from severe storms that have hits other coastal cities, including Katrina and Sandy (

This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by physical oceanographer Anand Gnanadesikan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University ( Anand will be speaking on the topic of “Dispersion, diffusion and confusion: Lateral mixing in the ocean.” May you battle successfully against both dispersion and confusion and diffuse your way to hear what he has to say.