Lamont Weekly Report, November 13, 2015

    This week was one of heightened anticipation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that will begin in Paris at the end of the month. An article summarizing a number of the milestone studies by Lamont scientists that changed our views of Earth’s climate system was updated from one of four years ago and posted on our website as background for the climate summit (

     In Science Advances last Friday, Ed Cook, Richard Seager, Yochanan Kushnir, Laia Andreu-Hayles, and coauthors from another 39 organizations described their newly completed Old World Drought Atlas, a set of annual maps of summer wetness and dryness constructed from tree-ring observations across Europe and the Mediterranean Basin over the last two millennia. Together with earlier drought atlases of North America and Asia, also led by Ed, the new work gives a hemispheric view of hydroclimate variability in the past and promises to improve climate model projections in the future. A press release on the paper ( appears on the Lamont website, and the work received widespread coverage (

     On Tuesday, Lamont launched a high school program with the Lycée Français de New York with a lecture by Einat Lev. The year-long program, organized by Cassie Xu, features three talks by a Lamont scientist in the fall semester and three by another scientist in the spring semester. The lectures are designed for juniors and seniors and will be on specific topics that align with the Lycée’s curriculum. Einat’s talks are focused on seismic waves and plate tectonics, and Brad Linsley will give lectures on paleoclimate in the spring. The juniors and seniors will also make a visit to the Observatory as part of the program to learn more about our campus and the science conducted here. The program will culminate with internship opportunities for four students in the labs of Einat and Brad next July. We will also stage a career day at the Lycée for their middle and high school students at which several of our scientists will speak about their research and how they were attracted to their fields.

     On Wednesday, Lamont staged its first Fun Run. Organized by Sjoerd Groeskamp, Zach Eilon, and Michael Sandstrom, the 5-km race drew 53 runners and a comparable number of supportive observers. Zach and Michael had the fastest and third-fastest times, at 18:54 and 19:15, and Mathieu Levesque finished 3 seconds ahead of Michael. The fastest female runners were Genevieve Coffey (21:30), Natalie Boelman (22:01), and Cathleen Doherty (22:04). Divisions were ranked on the basis of the sum of the finish times of their three fastest runners; Biology and Paleo Environment finished first (60:28), and Ocean and Climate Physics came in second (62:56). Our thanks go both to the event’s enthusiastic organizers and to our Facilities staff for preparing the course and directing traffic flow during the race.

     Following the Fun Run was the 2015 John Diebold Memorial Chili Cookoff, staged by Graduate Student Committee members Kyle Frischkorn, Laura Haynes, and Sam Phelps. The winning meat chili was the entry by Ted and Jennifer Koczynski. First place for vegetarian chili went to Laura Gruenberg and Fun Run winner Genevieve Coffey, the pair of whom also took top honors for desserts. The cornbread contest ended in a tie between Lorelei Curtain and Hannah Rabinowitz. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to the organizers!

     On Thursday, Art Lerner-Lam, Dave Goldberg, Sean Higgins, and I visited the National Science Foundation to meet with Ocean Sciences Division (OCE) Director Rick Murray and about a dozen OCE program officers to discuss the future of the R/V Langseth. Support from the foundation for marine multichannel seismology will be cut next fiscal year, as one of several steps the agency will be making to reduce the fraction of their budget devoted to ship time and other infrastructure costs, in response to a recommendation in the most recent decadal survey for ocean sciences from the National Academies. Discussion topics ranged broadly over a variety of operational and financial issues for the vessel and marine seismology more generally.

     The same day, the Langseth arrived in Piraeus, Greece, although a port strike prevented docking until today. The ship will sail on Tuesday to begin an experiment to image the magmatic plumbing network beneath the Santorini volcanic system led by Emilie Hooft and Doug Toomey of the University of Oregon.

     In a paper published yesterday in Environmental Research Letters, Justin Mankin, Deepti Singh, and their colleagues identified the northern hemisphere drainage basins in which present spring and summer snowmelt has the greatest potential to supply human water demand not met by instantaneous rainfall runoff. From an ensemble of climate models, the group also showed that these same basins – in the American west, southern Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia – face a 67% risk of reduced snow levels later this century that will threaten water supply. A press release on the article’s findings has been posted on the Lamont web site ( Justin was interviewed about the work by Neil Abram on Free Speech Radio News yesterday (

     I remained in Washington today for a meeting of the GRAIL Science Team, held at the National Museum of the American Indian. Three blocks from NASA Headquarters, the museum provides a much more interesting venue than a government or contractor office building.

     Jeff Bowman continued his blog this week from the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) station on the Antarctic Peninsula. Jeff is studying cooperative interaction between phytoplankton and bacteria at the base of the marine food web ( 

     Other Lamont scientists were also in the news this week. A story Tuesday on WXshift quoted Suzana Camargo on possible links between the current El Niño and recent back-to-back cyclones in the Arabian Sea ( An article in USA Today on the same day quoted Peter deMenocal on the implications for ancient climate of a subsurface riverbed beneath the sands of northwest Africa revealed by satellite radar images ( Also on Tuesday, the Columbia Spectator ran a story on Lamont’s participation, led by Margie Turrin, in A Day in the Life of the Hudson River last month (

     For all of you on campus this afternoon, today’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Thorne Lay, a Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a highly decorated seismologist expert in earthquake mechanics and Earth structure. Last year alone, Thorne received AGU’s Lehmann Medal and the Seismological Society of America’s Reid Medal and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Thorne’s lecture today will be on “Recent major and great earthquakes: Surprising attributes.” I hope that you will be able to hear about the surprises.