The first snowstorm of the season from yesterday afternoon through this morning was made more memorable for many by traffic accidents on the George Washington Bridge that delayed traffic – including the Lamont shuttle – for hours (https://abc7ny.com/traffic/snow-snarls-evening-commute-overcrowding-at-port-authority-/4695686/). That we could open this morning with only a 2-hour delay is the result of long hours of plowing, shoveling, and salting last night on the part of a crew that included Tom Burke, Carmine Cavaliere, Bob Daly, Tony Deloatch, Charlie Jones, Kelley Jones, Maurice Mack, Larry Palumbo, Andy Reed, Ray Slavin, Eric Soto, Kevin Sullivan, and Ricky Trubiroha. From everyone at Lamont, thanks, guys!
The national news this week has been dominated by the devastating wildfires in northern and southern California, including one that is now the deadliest in state history. From the start of the week, Park Williams has been a media resource on the factors that have yielded such a fierce wildfire season this year in the U.S. west, including for a Kendra Pierre-Louis story in The New York Times last Friday (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/climate/why-california-fires.html). Rebecca Fowler picked up the story thread with an article from the Center for Climate and Life on Monday (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/yes-climate-change-making-wildfires-worse). On Tuesday, an interview with Park formed the basis for a feature-length article in The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/california-wildfire-why-humans-cant-control-them/575740/), and Park also put in an appearance on PBS News Hour (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/the-science-behind-californias-surging-wildfires).
The Ocean and Climate Physics Division this month welcomed Visiting Senior Research Scientist Paul Kushner. A climate dynamicist who specializes in Arctic–mid-latitude and stratosphere–troposphere interactions, Paul is on sabbatical leave this year from his position as Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto. He earlier spent several years at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory as a co-leader of their global atmospheric model development team, and he was recently invited by the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies to participate in a tour of several of the world’s leading Earth System Model centers. Paul is spending two months at Lamont, during which he is collaborating with Lorenzo Polvani, Adam Sobel, Mingfang Ting, and others on the impact of aerosols on climate and climate extremes.
Mike Steckler’s blog reporting progress on the seismic and geodetic experiment he leads to study the IndoBurman subduction zone continued this week with postings on Saturday (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/i-switch-installing-seismometers) and Monday (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/end-fieldwork-and-mandalay-hill). Meals seem to be as important to the fieldwork as the installation of Global Positioning System and seismic instruments, judging by Mike’s narrative.
Wednesday was the Lamont Fun Run, a 4 x 1-mile relay plus walk. Organizers Mike Sandstrom, Chloe Gustafson, and Genevieve Coffey report that the number of participants in the event, at 60, set a record. The fastest woman runner was Genevieve, followed by Sophie Hines and Laura Stevens, and the fastest man was Mike, followed by Roger Creel and Gijs De Cort. With a normalization for gender and age included, the fastest individual was Roseanne Schwartz, followed by Genevieve and Kerstin Lehnert. The fastest walker was IRI’s Jing Yuan, followed by Dorothy Peteet and Marian Mellin. There were 14 relay teams from Lamont’s five research divisions, the Geoinformatics Research Group, IRI, and CIESIN. The fastest team was Biologists in a Hurry (from Biology and Paleo Environment), followed by Ice Ice Maybe (from Marine Geology and Geophysics) and Polar Vortex (from Geochemistry). Congratulations to all who ran, walked, or watched!
Yesterday’s issue of Nature included a News & Views piece by Donna Shillington (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07335-8) on the report by another group of seismic velocity images of the crust and mantle across the Mariana trench, derived from the analysis of Rayleigh waves recorded by a network of broadband ocean-bottom seismometers, indicating that the thickness of hydrated mantle entering the subduction zone is substantially greater than previous estimates. Evidence of hydration of the oceanic mantle, presumably driven by the circulation of water along fractures in the plate at the subduction zone’s outer rise, extends to 30 km beneath the seafloor along the Marianas, a site of subduction of old and cold lithosphere. As Donna points out, the new result has global importance for the rate of recycling of water into the mantle. Live Science carried a story on the findings, including Donna’s commentary (https://www.livescience.com/64091-earth-is-eating-its-oceans.html).
Lamont is cosponsor of a one-day workshop today on “Man and Nature: East and West Philosophy and Science,” being held on the Morningside Campus. Xiaojun Yuan is a member of the workshop organizing committee, and among today’s scheduled workshop speakers are Robin Bell, Mike Kaplan, Art Lerner-Lam, Dorothy Peteet, and Martin Stute. Other cosponsors of the workshop are the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the Confucius Institute, Columbia Global Centers, and the School of Philosophy at Renmin University of China.
Media and web stories featuring Lamont scientists, beyond those on California wildfires or the global water cycle, were abundant this week. On Saturday, Forbes ran an interview with Art Lerner-Lam (https://www.forbes.com/sites/columbiabusinessschool/2018/11/10/investing-to-save-the-planet-with-arthur-lerner-lam/#3af4566c7a33) on sustainable development, climate change, and other themes of Columbia University’s CleanTech Innovation Showcase, to be held next Monday in the Low Library rotunda (https://cleantechinnovation.splashthat.com/). Dennis Kent was interviewed Monday by Hari Sreenivasan of SciTech Now on the geological record of Earth’s climate cycles (https://www.scitechnow.org/videos/earths-climate-swings/#). On Wednesday, Kevin Krajick posted an interview with Jason Smerdon on some of the issues treated in the recently published second edition of his book, Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/new-primer-climate-change). A feature-length news story in today’s issue of Science on a paper in a companion journal which concluded that an asteroidal or cometary impact into the Greenland ice sheet sufficiently large to have created a 31-km-diameter crater (now buried by ice) triggered the Younger Dryas climate cooling event about 13,000 years ago included comments by Wally Broecker and Sophie Hines (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/massive-crater-under-greenland-s-ice-points-climate-altering-impact-time-humans).
This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by our own Paul Olsen, an Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~polsen/nbcp/peo.cv1.html). Paul will be speaking on “The geological orrery: Mapping chaos in the solar system from geology on Earth.” Please join me in Paul’s audience, to learn how the geological record provides novel constraints on solar system dynamics, including tests of gravitational theories, clues to the possible existence of additional planets earlier in solar system history, and even information on dark matter in the plane of our galaxy. May you eschew chaos, shine light on the dark, and gravitate to Monell for his talk.