Lamont Weekly Report, November 25, 2015

Like an island amid a torrent, the Thanksgiving holiday offers a placid break from the turbulent pace of the fall semester. Both the workweek and this report are correspondingly briefer than normal.

    On Monday, the Seismological Society of America issued a release on the award of their Harry Fielding Reid Medal, the society’s highest honor, to Chris Scholz ( According to the release, “throughout his 50-year career, Scholz has brought a unique, interdisciplinary approach to seismology that bridges the gap from laboratory studies of rock mechanics to fundamental studies of crustal-scale deformation. His work on the brittle tectonics of the Earth's crust has guided influential seismological research in areas such as the physics of earthquakes and the growth of faults and mountains.” Chris will receive his medal at the society’s annual meeting next April in Reno, Nevada.

    Also on Monday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences posted online a paper on which Dennis Kent is an author reporting new paleomagnetic intensity measurements from Pliocene-Pleistocene lavas in the Galápagos. Together with careful paleointensity measurements from rocks of the same age in Antarctica, the results confirm the geocentric axial dipole hypothesis and indicate that the average strength of Earth’s dipole field over the past several million years has been only ~60% of the modern value. Because the dipole strength has been dropping rapidly over the past two centuries, some had suggested that the decrease might herald a reversal of the dipole, but Dennis and his coauthors suggest instead that an unusually strong field at present may merely be returning to more typical values. A Stacy Morford story on our web site ( summarizes the work nicely.

    Yesterday, a Kevin Krajick story on the work of Einat Lev on the physical properties of flowing lava ( was posted on Lamont’s web page, along with a video and photo essay of her visit earlier this year to Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii. Einat’s work promises an improved understanding of how best to influence the directions of future lava flows, in the interest of protecting homes and other manmade structures in volcanically active areas.

    A recent addition to the blog section of the Lamont web page is a series of articles written mostly in anticipation of the Paris Climate Summit that begins next week ( With many pieces written by Earth Institute faculty (and borrowed from their State of the Planet blog), the site this week includes Stacy Morford stories on the work of Robin Bell’s group over the Ross Ice Shelf and the study of rapid ecological changes along the Antarctic Peninsula by Hugh Ducklow and his team.

    Jeff Bowman, a member of Hugh’s group, added a story to the blog he has been writing on his Antarctic experiences at the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Station. Jeff’s latest piece, posted Saturday, summarizes the history and operation of the Palmer Station and was written on the centennial of the loss of the Endurance, the ship of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, to the crush of sea ice in the Weddell Sea ( 

    On Tuesday next week, the Earth Institute will host the second in its workshop series on Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists, and the focus will be on Water Contaminants ( Lex van Geen will be one of four panelists in a discussion moderated by EI faculty member Trish Culligan. Pre-registration for the event, to be held in the Satow Room of Lerner Hall from 4 to 6 pm, is required.

    On Wednesday next week, Lamont’s Advisory Board will meet at the Columbia University Club in Midtown Manhattan. Featured at the Board meeting will be a presentation by Robin Bell on progress to date on Lamont’s initiative on Changing Ice, Changing Coastlines. Following the meeting will be a Director’s Circle Lecture by Park Williams, on the topic of “How climate and humans are shaping droughts in western North America.”

    In the meantime, may we all take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with family and friends and give thanks for the opportunities we have been provided to seek an improved understanding of our environment and our planet.