Lamont Weekly Report, November 27, 2019

    This workweek has been shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday, and this weekly report is also briefer than usual.

    Last Friday, Maayan Yehudai successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Geochemical studies of marine sediments from the Atlantic Ocean: Implications for past transitions in ocean circulation and dust deposition.” Maayan’s committee included advisors Jerry McManus and Steve Goldstein, as well as Arnold Gordon, Gisela Winckler, and Yair Rosenthal from the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. Maayan has accepted a postdoctoral position that will be split between Alfredo Martínez-García’s lab at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and Daniel Sigman’s lab in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. She plans to use nitrogen isotopes to study biogeochemical cycling in modern and past coral reefs and in the oceans.

    Jim Gaherty and Josh Russell, aboard the R/V Kilo Moana to complete a portion of the Pacific OBS Research into Convecting Mantle (ORCA) experiment, were part of an unplanned ship rescue operation late last week. A French catamaran transiting south of the Austral Group in French Polynesia sent out a distress call when one of its pontoons began taking water in rough seas. As the nearest ship in the area, the Kilo Moana – at the time in the process of deploying ocean-bottom seismometers – ceased operations and diverted to assist the distressed vessel. Last Thursday morning, local time, the Kilo Moana reached the catamaran, and her crew fabricated a device that resolved the pontoon flooding issue and helped to complete needed repairs. The catamaran was able to head to port, and the Kilo Moana returned to the ORCA deployment site.

    The R/V Marcus Langseth on Saturday left the California shipyard at which a number of maintenance tasks had been completed and sailed to the Oregon State University marine facility in Newport, Oregon. The ship conducted sea trials while in transit. The Langseth is scheduled to remain in Newport through the end of the calendar year.

    Last week, Geophysical Research Letters posted the pre-copy-edited version of a paper coauthored by Lex van Geen, Ben Bostick, Tyler Ellis, Bibhash Nath, and Peter Schlosser on the origin of arsenic in deep well water in the southwestern Bengal Basin. Drilling deep wells is currently the most effective mitigation method to avoid arsenic contamination in shallow aquifers in the Bengal Basin, but deep well water in the basin’s southwestern border area between Bangladesh and India is also high in arsenic. The team showed from a combination of groundwater dating, stratigraphic analysis, and flow modeling that the high arsenic levels in deep water from that region are the result of flow from shallower levels, enabled by an absence of low-permeability clay layers that vertically divide the sandy aquifer in other basin areas. A Nicole deRoberts story on the paper’s findings was posted on our web site on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Environment Programme issued its Emissions Gap Report 2019, which details the expected differences between greenhouse gas emissions under different emission scenarios and the figures needed to meet the 1.5°C and 2°C targets for maximum global warming since the pre-industrial era set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. According to the report, sharp annual decreases in emissions are required between 2020 and 2030 if the world is to avoid the most severe outcomes of climate change.

Lamont scientists in the news this past week included Vicki Ferrini, who was quoted in a news article in Science Friday on plans for a new White House strategy to explore and map the seafloor in all U.S. territorial waters. Comments by Jim Davis appeared in a Live Science story Saturday on all of the scientific arguments against the idea that Earth is flat.   

I hope that everyone takes advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with family and friends. May you also join me in giving thanks that we at Lamont are able to work on improving our understanding of our planet and endeavoring to ensure that our global environment will be sustainable for the generations that will follow us.