Lamont Weekly Report, December 6, 2019

    The Lamont community was deeply saddened this week by the passing on Tuesday of geochemist and long-time Observatory staff member Taro Takahashi.

    Taro first came to Lamont as a graduate student in 1953, and he completed his Ph.D. in 1957. For the two years thereafter he remained at the Observatory as a Research Associate, although he spent much of that period at sea and in the field. After positions at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the New York State College of Ceramics, the University of Rochester, Caltech, and Queens College, Taro returned to Lamont in 1977 as a Senior Research Scientist. He served as one of the Observatory’s Associate Directors from 1981 to 2006. At the creation of the Lamont research faculty, Taro was named one of the first Ewing Lamont Research Professors, a position that he held until his retirement in May of this year. A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, Taro received the Champion of the Earth Award in 2010 from the United National Environment Programme.

    Over a span of more than half a century, Taro led the systematic measurement of CO2 in the global ocean. With the extensive database he established, he and his associates published maps showing the variation in the mean monthly distribution of sea-air CO2 transfer rate, both spatially over the global surface ocean and by year. His estimate for the annual uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the global ocean was the first based entirely on observations and showed how different regions of the global oceans act differently in reducing the rapidly accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere. In related work, Taro demonstrated that the acidification of the modern ocean is primarily attributable to the increase of CO2 in seawater in response to anthropogenic emissions, and he estimated the rate at which the global surface ocean waters are becoming more acidic.

    Bill Smethie wrote, “Taro was an observationalist, befitting for an Earth Observatory. From many thousands of measurements, he determined how and where CO2 is exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere, which is fundamental for understanding the global carbon cycle and Earth’s climate. More than observations are needed to understand complex problems, and he worked closely with colleagues in other disciplines interpreting these observations. Taro’s research group has continued making measurements across the global ocean to this day, documenting the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the oceans. His scientific legacy includes a large body of published works and a huge database readily available to the scientific community to use in future research and climate modeling.

    “Taro was one of Lamont’s great citizens, a wonderful colleague and a person of highest integrity. He was devoted to his family, including Elaine, his wife of 53 years, and their children, Timothy and Suzi. His second home was Lamont, and he worked tirelessly for its success and betterment, serving as an Associate Director for 25 years during a period when the directorship changed four times. He provided steady and thoughtful leadership during this time and was always respectful and honest in his discussions with colleagues on the many issues that had to be dealt with. He cared about people and their careers and was an advocate for students, young scientists, and indeed all of his colleagues. Taro provided sound advice, constructive criticism, and assistance in many other ways, and was always sincere, honest and fair. Through the years I was fortunate to have received his counsel and friendship, and I will miss him greatly.”

    A symposium to celebrate Taro’s life and scientific contributions, originally scheduled for last month, was postponed and will be rescheduled. A detailed obituary for Taro, written by Kevin Krajick, was posted on Wednesday.

    Yves Moussallam, who will be moving to Lamont full time next month as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, was honored as an associate laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise at a special event held in Paris last Thursday. A volcanologist and experimental petrologist, Yves combines laboratory experiments with field measurements and thermochemical models to improve our understanding of the transfer of Earth’s volatile elements by magmatic processes from the deep interior to the surface. He holds a 2013 Ph.D. in volcanology from the University of Cambridge, and he is currently a Research Scientist at the Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans in Clermont-Ferrand, France. A press release on Yves’s Rolex Award for Enterprise was posted to our web site last Friday.

    Chris Zappa, Nathan Laxague, Una Miller, Ajit Subramaniam, and Carson Witte are on the R/V Falkor this week. Chris wrote, “[We are near] Fiji in calm ocean conditions studying the impact of cyanobacteria on the ocean surface heat budget. As part of this science expedition, we’re testing new capabilities of high-endurance, hybrid, fixed-wing, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for oceanographic applications from research vessels. Lamont owns three L3Harris model HQ-90s UAVs and operates them in conjunction with the L3Harris Advanced Systems and Technologies Division in Tucson. Yesterday, we achieved a significant milestone in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flight. We succeeded in the first fully autonomous deployment of a hybrid-VTOL fixed-winged UAV from a moving ship on the open ocean. Fully autonomous denotes no manual piloting of the aircraft, with takeoff, flight, and landing completely operated by the UAS surface station.”

    Our area’s first winter storm of the season arrived on Monday. The campus closed early on Monday afternoon, but we were able to open normally on Tuesday morning because of the efforts of many from our Buildings and Grounds and Traffic departments, including Bruce Baez, Tom Burke, Carmine Cavaliere, Bob Daly, Tony DeLoatch, Charles Jones, Kelley Jones, Maurice Mack, Larry Palumbo, Ray Slavin, Eric Soto, Kevin Sullivan, and Richard Trubiroha. From everyone on campus, thanks, guys!

    Geophysical Research Letters recently posted online the pre-copy-edited version of a paper coauthored by Suzana Camargo that reported an analysis of the intensity and spatial extent of precipitation associated with Atlantic hurricanes that have made landfall in the eastern and southeastern U.S. since the beginning of the twentieth century. The team, led by Danielle Touma, until earlier this year at Stanford University and now at the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that the highest median intensity and the greatest spatial extent occurred for hurricanes that had weakened in wind speed to tropical storm strength. Moreover, the group showed that the spatial extent of heavy precipitation increased significantly between 1900–1957 and 1958-2017, indicating possible increases in flood risk to coastal communities in recent decades. A press release on the paper’s findings was posted to our web site on Tuesday.

    Also on Tuesday, Eos published a paper by Kuheli Dutt on the importance of diversity in the geosciences, and science more generally. Kuheli described the selection process, and the outcomes, for the Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow program as an illustration of how transparency in the selection process promotes a diverse outcome, and why a diverse cohort of postdoctoral fellows yields the strongest possible contribution to the Observatory’s scientific workforce. Kuheli also wrote about improving the fraction of underrepresented minorities in the population of young scholars who choose to work in the geosciences, and she described Lamont’s Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) as an outstanding example of a program that furthers this goal. A photo of SSFRP students – with an inset of Bob Newton – illustrates her article.

    On Wednesday evening, Lamont launched a new public lecture series, under the general theme of “Our Changing Planet.” The inaugural lecture was given by Peter de Menocal and, with an allusion to John le Carré, was entitled “Farmer, Banker, Soldier, Spy – Perspectives on a Warming World.” The event drew an appreciative audience of 84 neighbors and friends of the Observatory. Additional lectures in the series will be given by Mo Raymo in February and Park Williams in April.

    Yesterday, Jim Gaherty and Josh Russell sailed into Pape’ete, Tahiti, aboard the R/V Kilo Moana, following a 24-day expedition to the South Pacific to deploy an array of 30 ocean-bottom seismometers (OBSs). The array is the second to be deployed as part of the Pacific OBS Research into Convecting Mantle (ORCA) experiment, supported by the National Science Foundation and led by Jim, Göran Ekström, Lamont alumnus Zach Eilon – now at the University of California, Santa Barbara – and former Lamont postdoctoral research scientist and long-time Brown University faculty member Don Forsyth. Jim wrote, “Despite some rough weather and a 48-hour detour to rescue a disabled sailboat, the expedition was successful.”  

    Also yesterday, the December issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter was broadly distributed. The issue includes four stories about the Observatory’s science or faculty, and links to 24 media stories last month that featured the work or commentary of Lamont scientists.

    Lamont scientists in the news since last week include Radley Horton, interviewed by Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour  last Tuesday about the recent U.N. assessment of how different greenhouse gas emission scenarios will impact climate change. A Marie Aronsohn story about Ducklow Inlet, the bay in Antarctica recently named for Hugh Ducklow, was posted last Wednesday. Lamont’s recent exhibit of field photos from Antarctica, organized by Miriam Cinquegrana and now on display in the Lamont Café, has also received a shout out on the main Columbia web page. Park Williams was quoted in a Xinhua story Saturday on the role of climate change in the recent increase in the severity of wildfires in California. A Kevin Krajick story and photo essay posted Monday described a field trip by Nicole Davi, Troy Nixon, and others to the old-growth forest on Sandy Hook peninsula in New Jersey to study the effects on the tree-ring record of Superstorm Sandy and earlier severe storms. The lead story  in the science section of The New York Times on Tuesday described a recent cruise of the R/V Marcus Langseth to image in three dimensions the magma system beneath Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Marco Tedesco was quoted, and his work cited, in a  New York Times story Wednesday on the accelerating effects of climate change. Marco was also the focus of a Columbia Magazine story, posted yesterday, on microplastics in snow and the citizen science project he is leading to characterize snow across the New York region. Also yesterday, a Reuters article on Brad Linsley and his research on the paleoceanographic and paleoclimatological record preserved in corals received widespread press. And Rosanne D’Arrigo’s work on the paleoclimate of northern Britain, derived from tree-ring records and tied both to large volcanic eruptions in the tropics and, more speculatively, to the end of an independent Scotland, was the subject of a news article yesterday in Science.

    This afternoon, the Earth Science Colloquium will be given by geochemist, environmental historian, and Adjunct Senior Research Scientist Daniel Walsh, until last year the Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation. Daniel will be speaking on “The environmental history of New York City: Pollution, public policy, and lessons for the 21st century.” Whether you care more about recycling, the cleanup of hazardous waste, or the environmental response to Superstorm Sandy and future severe storms, you should find his talk of interest. May your preparations for next week’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting be sufficiently far along this afternoon that you are able to attend.