Lamont Weekly Report, November 9, 2018

    This week began for me at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America. On Sunday morning, I co-convened (along with the University of Oxford’s John Dewey, MIT’s Wiki Royden, and Celâl Şengör from Istanbul Technical University) and co-chaired a special session held in honor of the late Kevin Burke. For those unfamiliar with Kevin’s many contributions to our understanding of global geology, Celâl’s tribute to Kevin in Eos earlier this year captured the importance of his work (

    Mike Steckler’s blog reporting progress on the seismic and geodetic experiment he leads to study the IndoBurman subduction zone continued this week with postings on Saturday ( and Tuesday ( Mike is in Myanmar to install Global Positioning System stations with the assistance of colleagues from the government’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, and his photos and text convey a rich sense of the sights and tastes he’s experiencing in the course of his work.

    The last two weeks have seen several noteworthy milestones for solar system and planetary science. Last week marked the end of both NASA’s Kepler mission that discovered and characterized thousands of transiting extrasolar planets from photometric measurements of their host stars ( and the Dawn mission that sent a spacecraft to visit both of the two largest main-belt asteroids, Vesta and Ceres ( Lamont alumna Carol Raymond served as Deputy Principal Investigator for the Dawn mission and was quoted in the Times mission obituary. On Tuesday, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe passed 24 million kilometers from the Sun, the first of two dozen planned closest approaches to the solar corona ( Moreover, in two and a half weeks, the InSight spacecraft is scheduled to land on Mars, where it will deploy a broadband seismic instrument and measure the heat flow from the interior (

    On Monday, the November issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter was distributed broadly ( Under the theme “Seeking Solutions,” the issue included three stories on Lamont science, two stories about Lamont campus milestones, and a story on Margie Turrin’s Outstanding Educator Award from the Hudson River Environmental Society. An article from our Education and Outreach Office and links to a dozen media stories on Lamont scientific projects and findings rounded out the issue.

    The midterm elections Tuesday, although illustrative of the deep political divisions that have impeded effective governance in this nation and many states, will bring important changes to Congress. Several Senators and Representatives who have been outspoken supporters of federal science agencies lost their seats (, yet the new members of Congress include a number with backgrounds in STEM fields ( All committee chair positions will change in the House, and Rep. Nita Lowey – representing Rockland County and parts of Westchester County – is likely to be named chair of the influential House Appropriations Committee (

    Tuesday, too, saw the posting on YouTube of a 58-minute audio interview with Wally Broecker on the topic of climate change (, the thermohaline circulation, carbon capture and storage, geoengineering, and related topics. Also on Tuesday, Health Worlds News posted a story on the work by Lex van Geen and his group on arsenic levels in groundwater in Bangladesh and strategies for drilling water wells to aquifers with low arsenic concentrations (

    Yesterday, I attended a meeting hosted by Mike Purdy’s office on research-related responsibilities for department chairs and center directors. Although such meetings are scheduled annually, this was the first time since my arrival at Columbia that I was able to attend. Others at yesterday’s meeting included Jerry McManus from DEES, Lisa Goddard from IRI, Sri Vinay from CIESIN, and Michael Puma from the Center for Climate Systems Research. Naomi Schrag, Columbia’s Vice President for Research Compliance, Training, and Policy, led all of us through such topics as safety, pre-award responsibilities, grants management, research integrity, and international research issues. Naomi volunteered that her office would be willing to organize a briefing on research management for Principal Investigators on the Lamont Campus, so if you are interested in such a presentation please let me know.

    Wednesday of next week will also feature the next Lamont Fun Run. Organizers Mike Sandstrom, Chloe Gustafson, and Genevieve Coffey report that the event, to begin at 3 pm, will include a 4 X 1-mile relay race and a 1-mile walk. Prizes will be given to the top male, female, individual (normalized by age and gender), and team finishers as well as the fastest walker. The Fun Run will be followed by the 2018 John Diebold Memorial Chili Cook-off, to be held in the Lamont Café. Daniel Babin and the Graduate Student Committee have announced that prizes will be given in the usual categories of best meat chili, best veggie chili, best cornbread, and best dessert.

    On Friday of next week, Lamont will cosponsor a one-day workshop on “Man and Nature: East and West Philosophy and Science,” to be held in Fayerweather Hall on the Morningside Campus. Xiaojun Yuan is a member of the workshop organizing committee, and among the workshop speakers will be Robin Bell, Mike Kaplan, Art Lerner-Lam, Dorothy Peteet, and Martin Stute. Other workshop cosponsors include the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the Confucius Institute, Columbia Global Centers, and the School of Philosophy at Renmin University of China.

    In the meantime, the Earth Science Colloquium this afternoon will be given by physicist Christopher Fairall, an expert in air–sea interaction at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder ( Chris will be speaking on “Marine boundary layers: Observations and models.” I hope that you will join me among the few and the proud in the boundary layer to his audience.