Lamont Weekly Report, July 28, 2017

    Every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has had a science advisor, and this administration has gone longer than most without one. A lengthy article in Eos yesterday ( suggests that a science advisor to President Trump may soon be named. Of course, an advisor is effective only if his or her advice has an influence on policy.

    In the meantime, at the Observatory this week, the Geochemistry Division welcomed Marie Protin as a visiting graduate student from the Centre Européen de Recherche et d'Enseignement des Géosciences de l'Environnement (CEREGE) in Aix-en-Provence, France. During her month-long visit to Lamont, Marie will work with Joerg Schaefer and Gisela Winckler on a project in the area of climate change and its impact on mountain glaciers in the French Alps. 

    Also this week, Sophia Brumer successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Wave breaking at high wind speeds and its effect on air-sea gas transfer.” Sophia’s committee included her thesis advisor, Chris Zappa, as well as Arnold Gordon, Adam Sobel, William Asher from the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington, and James Edson from the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Sophia has accepted a postdoctoral research fellow position with the Laboratoire d'Océanographie Physique et Spatiale at the Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) in Plouzané–Brest, France, to study ocean-atmosphere-wave interactions in coastal regions. Congratulations, Dr. Brumer!

    On Monday, Nature Geoscience posted online a paper by Anne Bécel, Donna Shillington, Spahr Webb, Jiyao Li, and colleagues reporting on the seismic structure of a section of the Alaska subduction zone currently marked by creep on the major plate-boundary fault, the Shumagin Gap region, which has experienced no great earthquake in the last 150 years. From analyses of seismic reflection, refraction, and bathymetric data collected by the R/V Marcus Langseth, Anne and her coauthors showed that this segment of the subduction zone displays structural characteristics – a heterogeneous plate interface, a small wedge of deformed sediment at the toe of the overriding plate, and splay faults in the crust of the overriding plate that root in the plate-boundary megathrust – that match those seen in regions of large tsunamigenic earthquakes, such as the great Tohoku-oki earthquake of 2011. Their work provides a basis to identify other subduction-zone regions where large tsunamis may be anticipated, even in areas where the major plate-boundary fault is currently creeping and there is no record of historical large earthquakes.

    On Tuesday, Dave Goldberg, Sean Higgins, and I visited the National Science Foundation to meet with Ocean Sciences Division Director Rick Murray, Integrative Programs Section Head Bob Houtman, and Marine Geology and Geophysics Lead Program Director Candace Major to discuss the future of the Langseth and marine seismology more broadly. NSF issued a solicitation in May ( that seeks “provision of marine seismic capabilities to the U.S. research community,” and we discussed Lamont’s plans to respond to that solicitation.

    On Wednesday, Eos published an interview with Denis-Didier Rousseau, who has begun his second term as chair of the Program Committee for the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting ( The article includes a good summary of Denis’s ideas for the first Fall Meetings in cities other than San Francisco – New Orleans this year and Washington, D.C., next year – as well as the Fall Meeting that will culminate AGU’s centennial year in 2019. As most of you know, the abstract submission deadline for this year’s Fall Meeting is Wednesday of next week.

    Yesterday morning, AGU announced the names of those elected as Fellows for 2017 ( New Fellows include Lamont alumni Arthur Frankel, now at the U.S. Geological Survey, and Walter Smith, now at NOAA, as well as our Earth Institute colleague Manu Lall, from Columbia’s Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. To Art, Walter, and Manu, kudos!

    Also yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce (including NOAA) and Justice, NASA, NSF, and other agencies. Columbia University lobbyists Joel Widder and Meg Thompson, of Federal Science Partners, report that the bill includes $7.3 billion for NSF, $161 million below the FY 2017 enacted level and $658 million above the President’s request. NSF Research is funded at $5.9 billion, down $116 million from FY 2017 but $556 million above the request. Within the MREFC account, $105 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. The bill provides $5.6 billion for NOAA, an $85.1 million decrease from the FY 2017 enacted level, but includes full funding for the agency’s weather satellites and funding for research at the FY 2017 level of $478 million. The bill provides $19.5 billion for NASA, $124 million below the FY 2017 enacted level and $437 million above the budget request, and includes $1.9 billion for Earth Science. The final agency budgets for FY 2018 will be decided by a Conference Committee of House and Senate appropriators later this calendar year or early next year.

    The Enid (Oklahoma) News last Friday published a video created by Ben Holtzman and his SeismoDome colleagues of induced earthquakes in Oklahoma; the video covers the period 2004-2016, and the rapid increase in seismicity rate over that interval is spectacularly captured in graphics and sound ( Adam Sobel was quoted in a Salon story Saturday about the influence of climate change on heat waves and other extreme weather events ( Jason Smerdon answered a question Monday for Claiborne Ray’s Q&A section of The New York Times on the consequence to our climate of a small change in the semi-major axis of Earth’s orbit (  Marco Tedesco was interviewed for a story Tuesday on Climate Central on the interplay between summer snow and melting ice on the rate of net mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet (

    On Wednesday next week, the Lamont Summer Interns will be giving presentations on their summer research projects. Beginning at 1:15 pm in Monell Auditorium, each intern will give a one-slide summary of their project, and thereafter the group will move to the Comer Atrium for a poster session until 4 pm. A reception for the interns and their guests and mentors will follow.

    Until then, may you enjoy that last July weekend of the year.