Lamont Weekly Report, November 20, 2020

     Hello Friends, I’m sorry I have to start with the gloomy stuff—the pandemic is worsening in the region and we must continue to be vigilant, in the labs and especially in the café and other common spaces.  We’ve all seen how things can go south quickly.  The NYC schools have closed down again making life even harder for those with children.  Please go here to find many university resources for parents, including daycare.  Hopefully we can bend the curve down quickly.  The University is asking everyone to please ramp down their Thanksgiving plans, especially if they involve travel.  From downtown: “While we continue to recommend avoiding non-essential travel, for those needing testing for travel-related purposes, especially around the holidays, we will support this testing through our testing sites, and you have a travel option to select when scheduling online.   Outbound travelers should note that most results are received within 72 hours.  If you are travelling during Thanksgiving or the Winter break we recommend that you have a test and receive a negative result before departing.”  There are more recommendations and rules for coming back to NY.   

     I also want to pass on some info from Göran Ekström that went out to graduate student advisors but could be useful to others on campus who interact regularly with our students.  Namely, graduate students are experiencing a lot of stress related to productivity, progress, fieldwork, lab access, funding and, of course, personal and family situations, all exacerbated by the lack and form of social interactions.  DEES surveyed the students and found a majority reported feeling isolated/lonely/disconnected from their peers, especially the first-year students (understandably).  So, let’s all be especially attuned to the students, initiating conversations and trying to find ways to connect, particularly through seminars and group meetings.  

     A glimmer of good news is that the COVID experts at CU are excited about how effective the new vaccines appear to be and are already planning the logistics for vaccine distribution to clinical workers as early as December.  What I found interesting is that the vaccines work on lessening the severity of the symptoms but do not necessarily prevent transmission.  Thus, I fear masking will be with us for a long time.  Face masks, a thoughtful stylish gift set for a loved one at Xmas?  Or an N95(!) stocking stuffer?

     On Wednesday I had the privilege of addressing 90 members of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, an organization that connects funders to scientists and their organizations.  Reps and leaders from many of the big names were there (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Heising-Simons, Sloan, Wellcome, Kavli, Rockefeller, Brinson) plus many names I didn’t recognize.  I was asked to speak on Extreme Weather and Events so you can believe that last weekend I did a crash course on the work we do in this area.  Thank you to Adam Sobel, Suzana Camargo, Park Williams, and Radley Horton for sending me papers and figures.  I think fundraising is like farming, you just keep planting seeds and hope for a good harvest someday down the road.

     From hoped for future success to current success—congratulations to Lamont Research Professor Yochanan Kushnir on being elected a 2020 AGU Fellow!  This is one of the most prestigious honors in our field, and fewer than 0.1% of AGU members will ever join this elite group.  I asked Yochanan if he wanted to share any transformative moments in his career, possibly as a student or junior scientist, that might inspire our early career scientists.  He replied that his years of study and research were paved with many such moments. From Yochanan, “Since my years as a weather forecaster and through graduate school and the following research career as a climatologist, each time a new understanding developed, an obstacle in research was overcome, or new colleagues presented themselves, was an energizing transformative moment that opened the way to the next one.”  He also credits the broad support from his Lamont colleagues and the overall supportive, stimulating and collegial atmosphere that the Observatory has nurtured all these years.  Booyah!  You do us proud, Yochanan! 

     Please keep in mind we are now soliciting comments from the scientific staff for the Lamont Postdoc Fellowship applications. The committee chair, Mike Kaplan, will send out a more detailed email. The comment window, for this round, ends on November 30th, so you have 10 days.  We warned you it would be a tight schedule this year.  AGU is just around the corner!

     A shout-out to the many wonderful talks we’ve had this week, on top of the normal line-up of weekly seminars.  DEES undergraduates had an evening seminar on Volcanic Degassing Along the Ring of Fire with DEES professor Yves Moussallam on Wednesday, followed by an Alumni Talks Panel with Peri Sasnett, Elizabeth Adkins, Peggy Flannery, and Dan Cohen yesterday.  We also were honored to have Kathryn Clancy talk this afternoon on “Course corrections in addressing sexual harassment in academia”.  Kathryn is this year’s annual Diversity Colloquium speaker—e.g. not a science talk, but a talk that focuses squarely on issues of diversity in science. She is recognized for her groundbreaking research on sexual and gender harassment in academia and was featured in the documentary we sponsored earlier this fall, Picture a Scientist

     We also had two thought-provoking panels on climate justice issues.  The first was “An Unjust Burden: Climate Change and the Vulnerable” with Belinda Archibong, Malo Hutson, and Wolfram Schlenker on Tuesday evening.  And on Thursday evening, I listened to the panel on “Intersectional Environmentalism: A Conversation about Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Climate Action” sponsored by a new student-led initiative, Columbia Climate Conversations.  This series is the brainchild of Lauren Ritchie, an undergraduate intern working with Kailani Acosta, Benjamin Keisling, and Kuheli Dutt to advance DEI issues at Lamont.  It was clear from watching and listening that Lamont is far too small a stage for the powerful voices featured on this panel.  An engaging interview with Lauren can be found here and at link below. 

     It is 4:55 pm on Friday, and listening to these presentations, and their sometime uncomfortable truths, reminded me of this quote by Valarie Kaur: “Deep listening is an act of surrender. We risk being changed by what we hear.” 

     Ever forward.  Stay safe, Mo








Slew of Rapidly Intensifying Hurricanes Portends Trouble in a Warming World

Washington Post

November 18, 2020

Article quotes Lamont climate scientist Suzana Camargo.


Giant 'Lost World' Prehistoric Lake Found Beneath Ice in Greenland

Metro UK

November 16, 2020

Article on research by Lamont polar geoscientists Guy Paxman, Jacky Austermann, and Kirsty Tinto.


Fossil Lake Detected Under Greenland Ice

Radio Canada

November 12, 2020

Article on research by Lamont polar geoscientists Guy Paxman, Jacky Austermann, and Kirsty Tinto.




Q&A with Lauren Ritchie on Intersectionality in the Climate Movement

November 18, 2020

This undergraduate student, blogger, and activist organized an upcoming panel around climate action that highlights diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. She shares her thoughts on the changing role of social justice within the climate movement.


Columbia Researchers Team With Global Firm to Enhance Hurricane Risk Scenarios

November 16, 2020

The enhanced models will enable insurers to analyze the financial implications of catastrophic events and to understand which areas are most at risk.