Lamont Weekly Report, November 17, 2017

    The week was ushered in with a magnitude 7.3 thrust-faulting earthquake Sunday along the border between Iran and Iraq. With more than 500 fatalities, the quake is the deadliest in the world this year to date (

    On Monday, Nature Climate Change posted a Comment coauthored by Galen McKinley and 11 international colleagues on the imperative to develop tools for the monitoring in real time of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, through calibrated atmospheric measurements, satellite observations, and integrative modeling, as well as the current challenges to meeting that goal. That same day, Kevin Krajick posted an interview with Galen on the topic of the article (, and a link to the interview appears today on Columbia’s main web page (

    On Tuesday evening, as part of the Earth Institute’s Distinguished Lecture Series, Radley Horton and Adam Sobel served on a panel discussing “Climate Response: Adaptation and Resiliency.” A third panelist was Kate Orff, 2017 MacArthur Fellow and Director of the Urban Design Program in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. EI Executive Director Steve Cohen moderated the panel, and Farhana Mather, Susan Holgate, and Ashley Sheed joined me at the event.

    Yesterday’s issue of Nature magazine included a paper coauthored by Jim Davis that reported evidence from solid-Earth tides for lateral variations in density in the lowermost mantle. Jim and his collaborators inverted observations of the semidiurnal solid-Earth tide at GPS stations distributed around the globe to show that the two large low-shear-velocity provinces (LLSVPs) atop the core-mantle boundary beneath Africa and the Pacific are characterized by a density that is 0.5 percent higher than the global average for the same depth range. The team, led by Harriet Lau and Jerry Mitrovica at Harvard, suggested that the density anomaly contributes to the relative stability of the LLSVPs in the convecting mantle and is a signature of chemical heterogeneity imparted by the accumulation of subducted oceanic lithosphere or perhaps remaining from early planetary differentiation.

    At a meeting of the Council of Deans yesterday, Executive Vice President for Finance and Information Technology Anne Sullivan gave a briefing on planning parameters for budgets for the coming fiscal year. The payout from university (and Lamont’s) endowment will grow by a bit more than 1% next year, a figure that constitutes a compromise between taking advantage of the increase in the endowment’s market value during the last fiscal year and responding to the strong recommendation of the Finance Committee of the university’s Board of Trustees that the fraction of endowment market value that appears in the university’s annual spending rule be gradually lowered to bring Columbia more in line with peer institutions.

    The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed their version of a tax bill. The bill includes several provisions that would be costly to U.S. universities and their workers and students, including a provision that would tax tuition benefits on graduate assistantships as income ( The Senate version of the tax bill omits most of these provisions and faces an uphill battle to passage, so there is time to make your views known to your Senators and Representatives on those aspects of the two bills of most importance to you. Most American universities, including Columbia, are doing the same.

    Also yesterday, a Marie Aronsohn story on Lamont’s two solar farms was posted to our web site ( The two facilities are on schedule to be completed by the end of this month, and within a few months they should be connected to the Orange and Rockland Utilities grid. The two farms will generate 2 MW of power each, enough to supply 75 percent of the electricity usage on the campus and cut the carbon footprint of the campus in half.

    Several media stories that featured Lamont scientists were posted to our web site this week, including a Marco Tedesco interview by Hari Sreenivasan from earlier this year on PBS SciTech Now on the effect at high latitudes of warmer winters ( On Monday, NASA released a story on Jim Davis ( and his work modeling sea level rise along the U.S. east coast. Einat Lev was quoted in a story Tuesday in Scientific American on the use of drones to monitor activity within the caldera of an active volcano ( Andreas Thurnherr was cited in a News Deeply story Tuesday on the decline of the fleet of oceanographic vessels in the U.S. capable of making key climate science measurements around the globe ( Also on Tuesday, a story chronicled the fieldwork of Billy D’Andrea and others investigating the paleoclimate of the Arctic (

    This afternoon, the Earth Science Colloquium speaker will be Lamont alumna Louisa Bradtmiller, an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Macalester College ( A geochemist, paleoclimatologist, and paleoceanographer, Louisa will be speaking on “Reconstructing wind-driven upwelling during abrupt North Atlantic cooling events.” May Observatory winds drive you to well up from your lab or office to join me in her audience.