Lamont Weekly Report, November 8, 2019

    A noteworthy solar system event will occur next Monday: a solar transit by Mercury. Although Mercury’s close approaches to Earth, known as inferior conjunctions, occur often (approximately once every 116 days), Mercury passes across the disc of the Sun as viewed from Earth much more rarely, because of the 7° inclination of Mercury’s orbit to the ecliptic, Earth’s orbital plane. The transit on Monday will be the fourth of only 14 Mercury transits this century. It will last about 5 and a half hours and will be visible in its entirety from the eastern U.S. For anyone interested in viewing the celestial show, the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York will set up telescopic observing facilities at several locations across the city.

    The R/V Marcus Langseth has been in drydock this week at a shipyard in Alameda, California. According to Sean Higgins, the ship is scheduled to undock tomorrow and will undergo inspections as well as dock and sea trials next week. Once all inspections have been completed, she will sail to the Oregon State University Marine Facility in Newport, Oregon.

    On Monday this week, Nature Geoscience posted online a paper by Justin Mankin, Richard Seager, Jason Smerdon, Ben Cook, and Park Williams on the effect of plants on freshwater runoff at the global scale in response to climate change. In contrast to earlier studies indicating that increased resistance to evapotranspiration by plants under increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will lead to more global-scale runoff, Justin and his colleagues took a closer look with climate models at the partitioning of precipitation to vegetation canopies, runoff, and soils and long-term storage under scenarios with increases in atmospheric temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations. They showed that across broad mid-latitude areas of North America, Europe, and Asia, projected plant responses will act to reduce future freshwater runoff, notwithstanding increases in resistance to evapotranspiration and total water use efficiency by vegetation, even in areas with unchanging or increasing precipitation. Terrestrial vegetation thus plays a large but still poorly resolved role in future freshwater availability at the regional scale. A press release was posted to our web site Monday, and the story was carried by Yale Environment 360 and other media.

    A radio interview with Ben Holtzman, on the topic of the sound of earthquakes, aired on the Public Broadcasting System on Saturday. Park Williams was quoted in a New York Times story Monday on lessons learned from this season’s wildfires in California. Klaus Jacob was quoted in a City Limits story Tuesday on the importance of New York City’s bus network to the resiliency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system to the next Superstorm Sandy. And Lamont’s education and outreach team received a shout-out in a story Wednesday from Hudson Valley 360 on last month’s Day in the Life of the Hudson River and Harbor.

    Last week’s Monell Lobby exhibit of field photographs of “Antarctica” by Lamont scientists Robin Bell, Isabel Cordero, Nick Frearson, Jonny Kingslake, David Porter, Margie Turrin, Martin Wearing, and Carson Witte was featured on GlacierHub, with an accompanying story and a quote from Nick. The exhibit photos are now decorating the Lamont Café.

    Wednesday of next week will feature the Lamont Fun Run, the seventh in the series. Organizers Genevieve Coffey, Chloe Gustafson, and Mike Sandstrom have designed a 5 k course that starts and ends at Lamont Hall and includes four loops around the campus. There will be a shorter route (one loop) for walking and jogging races. Prizes will be offered for fastest Lamont division (top five finishers, normalized by gender and age, although provision of such information is optional), greatest divisional participation, fastest female, fastest male, fastest individual normalized by gender and age, fastest walker, and fastest jogger. Events will kick off at 3 pm.

    The 2019 John Diebold Memorial Chili Cook-off will follow the Fun Run next Wednesday, at approximately 4 pm in the Lamont Café. Organized by the Graduate Student Committee under the leadership of Chloe Gustafson and Lauren Moseley, the cook-off will feature contests for the best meat chili, best vegetarian chili, best cornbread, and best dessert. Lauren and Chloe announced this week that our Office of Marine Operations will provide liquid refreshments for the event.

    On Thursday next week, Brendan Buckley will be part of a panel discussion on “Understanding climate change on the Tibetan Plateau: Environmental conservation research and climate science approaches.” The event, hosted by Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute, will be held from noon to 1:30 pm in room 918 of the International Affairs Building on the Morningside Campus.

    Today’s Earth Science Colloquium will also be Lamont’s annual Distinguished Alumni Lecture and will be given by geomagnetist Lisa Tauxe, Distinguished Professor of Geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. The Distinguished Alumni Lecture series was established by Lamont’s Alumni Board to bring an accomplished alumna or alumnus back to campus to meet with current students and talk about career paths after graduate school. For her lecture, Lisa will be speaking about “A reassessment of the timing of the late Miocene C3-C4 vegetation transition across the Indian subcontinent and the globe.” Whatever your personal photosynthetic process, I hope that you will transition across the Lamont subcontinent to join me for her talk.