Lamont Weekly Report, November 2, 2018

    The extended Lamont community was saddened to learn this week of the passing of former Lamont seismologist Keith McCamy on October 13. Keith first joined Lamont as a Research Associate in 1966, following Ph.D. work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, under Bob Meyer. Keith left Lamont in 1968 for a research position at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, but he returned for the period from 1970 to 1977. During that time, he worked on long-period seismic data, the manipulation of marine magnetic data, and the Observatory’s ocean-bottom seismometer program, and he sailed on both the R/V Vema and R/V Robert Conrad. Lamont alumnus Vern Cormier wrote, “Keith was a Research Associate while I was a grad student. He taught a Geophysical Data Analysis course that I took. Some things I remember: He chain smoked hand-rolled cigarettes. For a couple of dollars, he purchased an old Cadillac that [Joe] Worzel was recycling (in the days before state inspections, there were always a couple of cars at Lamont that changed hands for a couple of dollars). Keith lived in Manhattan and had the car only a couple of weeks before it was stolen.” Keith moved in 1978 to Greenport, New York, where he lived until his death. He leaves his wife, Arden Scott, four children, and three grandchildren (

    Lamont alumnus George Choy added further recollections: “I have fond memories of Keith. Before Paul Richards came to Lamont, Keith was the closest I had to an advisor. He was coauthor on my very first paper as a graduate student. Eventually the skills he imparted to me were crucial in my work on synthetic seismograms. His course on Geophysical Data Analysis came at a fortuitous time. His expertise in signal processing, computing, and Fourier analysis came just as digital data were working their way into geophysics. Although his course started in the seismology group, it expanded to include and to strongly influence oceanographers and marine geologists. The fingerprints of his course were over many of the important Lamont papers published back in the 1970s. As generous as he was in advising and helping with a plethora of projects involving signal processing, he was commensurately humble. He could easily have been coauthor on many papers but preferred to remain anonymous. He took great pride in just seeing graduate students flourish.”  

    George continued, “Keith’s success was due to a personality that was enormously approachable, affable, and animated. His humor and anecdotes were always refreshingly new, often pungent, and accompanied by an unforgettable booming laugh. I have two immediate recollections of him. One of his inimitable traits was that he rolled his cigarettes, often with one hand. It is memorably amusing because, in trying to simultaneously tell a story or explain a mathematical concept, he invariably spilled more tobacco then was ever put in the rolling paper. Another recollection concerns a group of us who played ice hockey in the 1970s after the Monday Night Seismology Seminar. Keith did not initiate the group (I believe Lynn Sykes, Marc Sbar, and Bryan Isacks were among those who did), but Keith’s enthusiasm kept the group alive for years (who knew we had so many French Canadians?). It started amateurishly in the pond behind the then machine shop and graduated to renting an ice rink in Westwood, New Jersey. I will never forget the time he got a chance at a glorious shot against the grim-faced goalie (Max Wyss). He instead passed the puck to me – standing undefended because I was always the smallest and slowest skater. It typified to me how selfless he always was.”

    Even as we remember the passing of an influential figure from the Lamont of four decades ago, scientific progress at the modern Observatory continues apace.   

    The Geochemistry Division welcomed the arrival this week of Postdoctoral Research Scientist Paulina Pinedo-González. A geochemist specializing in the stable isotope composition of trace metals (Fe, Zn and Cd) in the oceans and the partitioning of trace elements between soluble and colloidal phases in seawater, Paulina obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 2016 and stayed there for another two years as a Postdoctoral Research Associate. At Lamont, she will be working on rare earth elements and thorium in seawater with Steve Goldstein and Bob Anderson, respectively.

    Spahr Webb returned from New Zealand late last week, after completing a cruise on which ocean-bottom seismic and geodetic instruments were deployed along the Hikurangi subduction zone boundary to the east of North Island. A shipboard photo of Spahr and his cruise-mates appeared yesterday in The Gisborne Herald (, along with a comment from Spahr on the importance of the experiment to gaining an understanding of the diversity of seismic sources along this plate boundary.

    On Saturday, Mike Steckler posted a new blog entry describing the field experiment he is leading to monitor deformation and earthquake activity across the subaerial IndoBurman subduction zone (, thought to pose a major seismic hazard for the region. Jim Gaherty, another participant in the same project, returned this week from installing portable seismic stations in Bangladesh, along the western half of the experiment’s transect across the subduction zone. Mike’s blog describes his arrival in Myanmar to install Global Positioning System stations along the transect’s eastern half.

    This week, Vicki Ferrini hosted a meeting at Lamont on Atlantic and Indian Ocean Regional Mapping, as part of the Seabed 2030 Project cosponsored by the Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). Vicki wrote, “The goal of this event [was] to gather international stakeholders from around the Atlantic/Indian Ocean Region to help identify and gather data, review data products, coordinate new mapping activities, and strategize about outreach and engagement efforts for the Seabed 2030 Project. Participants [included] stakeholders from the U.S., Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and Africa. The chairs of the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance formed by the Galway Agreement, also [attended]. The U.S. federal working group on coastal and ocean mapping [participated] in a portion of this meeting.”

    On Wednesday evening, the Public Broadcasting Service aired the first episode in their four-part series on “Sinking Cities,” which “examines how cities are preparing for the real-time effects of climate change” ( The first episode, shown on the sixth anniversary of the landfall of Superstorm Sandy, focused on New York City and included footage of a riverfront discussion by Klaus Jacob. Later episodes will spotlight Tokyo, London, and Miami.

    On Thursday and Friday, the Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative hosted a two-day Workshop on Air Pollution Extremes ( Agenda themes for the workshop included global and regional perspectives, observations and modeling of extreme air pollution events, forecasting of pollution events, and the nexus of science, policy, and health. Arlene Fiore and Dan Westervelt were members of the workshop organizing committee and served as session moderators. Alex Karambelas gave one of the oral presentations, and Dan, Steve Chillrud, Martin Stute, and Beizhan Yan gave poster presentations.

    Yesterday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published online a paper coauthored by Denis-Didier Rousseau reporting a new theoretical model of the physical processes that control Dansgaard-Oeschger events, intervals during the last glacial interval characterized by rapid warming – by up to 15°C over a few decades – followed by much slower cooling. The dynamical model proposed by the group, led by Niklas Boers of the École Normale Supérieure and the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, involves rapid retreat and slow regrowth of thick ice shelves and thin sea ice along with changes in subsurface ocean temperatures induced by changes in ice cover and insolation. The model reproduces the main features of Dansgaard-Oeschger events in both Greenland and Antarctica and provides a basis for improving forecasts of abrupt climate change in the future.

    The Earth Science Colloquium this afternoon will be given by geophysicist Beatrice Magnani, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Southern Methodist University (  Beatrice will be speaking on “Discriminating between natural versus induced seismicity from the long-term deformation history of intraplate faults.” May the naturally discriminating among you be induced to join me for her talk.