Lamont Weekly Report, March 1, 2019

    This week brought more sad news regarding two long-term members of the Lamont extended community. Seismologist Paul Pomeroy, a Lamont alumnus and former Observatory staff member, passed away on Sunday. Paul obtained his Ph.D. here in 1963, and he continued working at Lamont as a Research Associate and Senior Research Associate until moving to the University of Michigan in 1968. (One piece of ancient trivia: I had applied to do graduate work at Lamont in 1966, and my letter of acceptance was signed by Paul.) His best-known research was on the application of relations between body-wave and surface-wave magnitudes to discriminate underground nuclear explosions from earthquakes, and on the development of high-gain, long-period seismographs. The Poughkeepsie Journal ran an obituary for Paul on Tuesday (

    We also learned this week of the December death of James Alberino, a participant in Lamont field expeditions to the Arctic in the early 1960s. According to the Lamont report Studies in Marine Geophysics and Underwater Sound from Drifting Ice Stations, submitted to the Office of Naval Research in 1969 by Ken Hunkins, Henry Kutschale, and John Hall, Alberino spent three-and-a-half months on Fletcher’s Ice Island (T-3) in 1962. Alberino was in an MBA program at Columbia at the time, and he completed his degree the following year. An obituary for him ( appeared in The Jersey Journal late last year.

    Wally Broecker continued to be in the thoughts of many this week. The 2019 Goldschmidt Conference – the premier annual meeting in geochemistry, to be held this August in Barcelona – will include a special session devoted to Wally and his science. Under the theme “Climate of the past, present and future,” the session is entitled “Wally Broecker: A scientific celebration of a life in geochemistry” ( Co-conveners include Sid Hemming, Edouard Bard of the Collège de France, Sigurdur Gislason of the University of Iceland, and Roberta Rudnick of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Kevin Krajick pointed out to me late last week that among the many tributes to Wally in the media, NOVA and the Public Broadcasting System posted on Facebook an interview filmed in the Lamont Core Repository (; the two-minute segment may have been among Wally’s last interviews. Friends and former colleagues continued this week to add comments at the foot of Kevin’s obituary for Wally on the Lamont web site ( Yale Climate Connections collected another half dozen comments by prominent climate scientists on the impact of Wally and his science in an article published Tuesday (

    Carl Brenner reports that members of the Lamont staff who manage the U.S. Science Support Program for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) participated last month in an outreach event at the American Museum of Natural History. Carl wrote, “As part of the museum’s Milstein Science Series, [we] contributed and curated [the program’s] "In Search of Earth’s Secrets” exhibit to bring IODP science to over 8000 museum visitors. Included in the exhibit were the 45-foot inflatable model of the JOIDES Resolution, the accompanying ‘portable immersive experience’ video loop, which is shown inside the ship, and a floor puzzle showing the geologic features of the seafloor.” 

    On Tuesday, Lamont’s web page gained a story, originally published by Columbia’s Data Science Institute (DSI), on the application of deep learning and convolutional neural networks to automate the classification of phytoplankton from microscopic images of ocean water samples ( Three DSI students teamed with Joaquim Goes on the project, which is part of a larger effort by the Goes lab to develop a system to extract underway biological information from flow-through systems on oceanographic research vessels.

    On Wednesday, Radley Horton testified before the House Subcommittee on the Environment, a subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, during a hearing on Sea Change: Impact of Climate Change on our Oceans and Coasts. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D, TX), a freshman Congressman who in November defeated John Culberson – former chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, with jurisdiction over the budgets for NSF and NASA. Radley’s testimony focused on future sea-level rise and its impacts on coastal flooding. A Marie Aronsohn story on Radley’s testimony and the full text of his written remarks have been posted to the Lamont web page (

    Yesterday, Scientific Reports published online a paper coauthored by Donna Shillington reporting evidence for climate-driven variations in the sedimentary record in the Corinth Rift, a geologically young and active rift system. The team, members of the science party on IODP Expedition 381 – for which Donna served as Co-Chief Scientist – documented changes in environmental conditions and sedimentary processes on timescales of tens to hundreds of thousands of years associated with changes in climate and sea level between glacial and interglacial intervals. During interglacials, the rift basin was marine, sedimentation rates were comparatively low, and bioturbation and organic carbon concentrations were comparatively high. During glacial periods, the basin was isolated from the ocean and sedimentation rates were higher by factors of 2–7, a result inferred by the authors to be primarily a consequence of reduced vegetative cover along the rift flanks. The group deduced that similar variations, paced by changes in Earth’s orbital parameters, controlled changes in sedimentation flux and organic carbon deposition and preservation rates along other early rift systems and passive margins worldwide.

    Also yesterday, Lamont’s website gained a story on Yutian Wu and her work exploring connections between Arctic climate variations and extreme weather events at mid northern latitudes ( She has shown in particular that the extent of sea ice in the Barents and Kara seas north of western Russia can affect the strength of circum-polar winds and the ability of polar air to move to lower latitudes over northern Europe and Asia. She has also demonstrated links between variations in sea ice in the Barents and Kara seas and the North Atlantic Oscillation, which controls the strength and direction of westerly winds in that region.

    Lamont’s 2018 Annual Report was recently completed and posted to our website today ( The report, under the theme Science on the Front Lines of our Changing Planet, includes ten Marie Aronsohn stories on Lamont scientists, their work, and their findings from the past year; as well as summaries of institutional financial information; major honors and awards to Lamont scientists, students, and staff; and educational programs during the year. The report is copiously illustrated with photos from the field, and I encourage you to read it.

    This morning, Robin Bell, Alex Halliday, Radley Horton, Peter Kelemen, and Mo Raymo are among a group of Columbia faculty making presentations to the university’s Board of Trustees. Their presentations are part of a cross-university discussion of Columbia’s research strengths in climate science and responses to climate change, organized through the Earth Institute.

    Today also marks the beginning of Harassment Awareness Month at Lamont, and the Observatory’s Office of Academic Affairs and Diversity, led by Kuheli Dutt, has scheduled a month-long series of events on different aspects of the theme. Next Monday, Columbia University’s Ombuds Officer, Joan Waters, will lead a workshop on “Having Difficult Conversations in the Workplace,” a topic meant to include both conversations on difficult topics and conversations with difficult colleagues. Next Wednesday, Kuheli will lead a discussion on “Implicit Bias Awareness and Training.” Both events will be held in the Comer Seminar Room and will start at 11 am.

    This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by biologist James McClintock, University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology in the Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham ( Jim will be speaking about “Antarctic climate change: A model to communicate about global warming.” Communication, of course, requires an audience, and I hope to see you in his.