Lamont Weekly Report, May 29, 2020

    Earlier this month, Lamont and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences alumnus Leon Thomsen learned that he had been awarded the 2020 Maurice Ewing Medal by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). Named in memory of Lamont’s founding Director, the medal is, according to SEG, “awarded from time to time to a person who, by a unanimous vote of both the Honors and Awards Committee and the Board of Directors, is deserving of SEG's highest honor through having made distinguished contributions both to the advancement of the science and to the profession of exploration geophysics.” Leon completed his Ph.D. in 1969 under the supervision of Orson Anderson, with a thesis on “The fourth-order anharmonic equation of state of solids.” After serving on the faculty at SUNY Binghamton from 1972 to 1980, he took a position as Senior Research Scientist at Amoco (where he remained after the company merged with British Petroleum in 1998). Since 2008 he’s been a Research Professor of Geophysics at the University of Houston. Leon is credited with launching the widespread use of anisotropic models in seismic imaging for geophysical exploration. His 1986 paper on “Weak elastic anisotropy” is the most highly cited paper ever published in the journal Geophysics, with 4787 Google Scholar citations as of today. Leon also made influential contributions to geophysical imaging with converted seismic phases and with electromagnetic waves. He served as President of SEG from 2006 to 2007. Awarded since 1978, the SEG’s Ewing Medal has also been given to Lamont alumni Frank Press and Manik Talwani.

    Reinhard Kozdon this week returned the proofs for a paper in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology on aspects of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) in the circum-Antarctic region. From paired ion microprobe measurements of oxygen isotopes and magnesium-calcium ratios in foraminifers recovered from Ocean Drilling Program Site 690 in the Weddell Sea, Reinhard and his colleagues reconstructed sea-surface temperature and sea-surface salinity in the region during an early phase of the PETM global warming event ~56 million years ago. They showed that following a short-lived ~4°C increase in sea-surface temperature the area saw a ~4 ppt decrease in sea-surface salinity about 50 thousand years later, which they interpreted as a transient increase in mean annual precipitation associated with an increase in the poleward transport of atmospheric moisture.

    Yesterday, Lamont’s Gender and Diversity Coffee Hour was held virtually. Organized by Lucy Tweed, Maayan Yehudai, and Kuheli Dutt and attended by about 30 scientists from the Lamont campus, the Zoom session was on the “Impacts of the COVID Pandemic on Gender Equity,” a topic that has been receiving increased attention in the scientific literature, including yesterday’s issue of NatureIn a post-session summary circulated today, Lucy wrote, “women are publishing less than their male counterparts during the pandemic and also facing greater career uncertainty. These impacts can largely be attributed to broader societal inequalities, with women generally burdening more of the housework, childcare, and other responsibilities such as caring for relatives or community members. The response to the pandemic has dramatically increased these burdens. In academia these inequalities are magnified as they are superimposed on what is already an unequal workforce: women are more likely to be in the earlier stages of their career, as students, postdocs, researchers in short-term contracts, or pre-tenure professors.” Among the topics raised during group discussions was that “the biggest problem we face in Earth Sciences is in racial diversity. Progress has been slow to this point, and it is vital that efforts like diversity hiring schemes are not hit by future hiring freezes or budget cuts. It is more important than ever to reassert our efforts.”

    For the past two years, Marco Tedesco has been writing a science column for La Repubblica, an Italian daily newspaper with headquarters in Rome, and over the past several months the focus of his columns has been on the COVID-19 outbreak. Working with Kevin Krajick and Marie Aronsohn, Marco has translated several of his columns to English, and two were posted to our web site this week. A story yesterday describes the coupled disasters of the global pandemic and the category-5 cyclone Amphan, which made landfall last week in the Indian state of West Bengal. A story today describes the relation between COVID-19 cases and air pollution, including atmospheric aerosols as a mechanism for viral transport and spread of the disease.

    In media coverage this week, John Mutter was interviewed by the English-language South Korean television network Arirang on the topic of how disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic most strongly impact society’s poor and disadvantaged. Frank Nitsche was quoted yesterday in a Gizmodo story on evidence for rapid retreat in the geological past of the ice-sheet grounding line beneath the Larsen ice shelf. Also yesterday, Marco Tedesco was interviewed by about his work on the processes that contributed to the anomalously high rate of summer melting of the Greenland ice sheet last year.

    As all of us await planning efforts by Lamont, Columbia, and the New York City government to begin to relax lockdown rules, may you enjoy the last weekend in May.