Lamont Weekly Report, October 16, 2015

   The week has been notable because of the confluence of several major proposal deadlines at the National Science Foundation within a few days of one another. Lamont scientists have risen to the occasion: 28 proposals have crossed my inbox so far this week.

    This week also brought the good news that Nicolás Young won a 2015 Blavatnik Young Scientist Award ( for the New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey region. There are three such awards annually, each accompanied by a cash prize of $30,000. Nicolás won in the area of physical sciences and engineering and will be honored at a gala held in New York City next month. A Stacy Morford overview of Nicolás’s work on the record of past climate read from lake sediments and cosmic-ray exposure ages of rocks at the margins of ice-covered regions in Greenland and Baffin Island has been posted on Lamont’s web page (

    The Ocean and Climate Physics Division recently welcomed Katinka Bellomo as a Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow. Katinka recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Miami under the supervision of Amy Clement. She earlier obtained B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics from the University of Torino. At Lamont, Katinka will be working with Lorenzo Polvani on coupling between clouds, atmospheric circulation, and sea surface temperature and the influence of that coupling on climate.

    The U.S. Science Support Program (USSSP) office for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) welcomed Sharon Cooper this week as Education Officer. Sharon spent the last eight years at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership as Assistant Director of IODP’s Education Department, so she is well positioned to lead USSSP’s education and outreach efforts. Among the many activities in her portfolio are selecting and supervising the Onboard Outreach Officers who sail on the JOIDES Resolution; organizing professional development programs for teachers who promote STEM learning related to scientific ocean drilling; and spearheading USSSP’s collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History as part of the museum’s Millstein Lecture Series. Sharon is eager to meet others on campus who are interested in STEM education and public outreach, so please introduce yourself if you have ideas for collaboration.

    In a paper posted online by Geophysical Research Letters on Monday, Indrani Das and colleagues from the University of Colorado and Utrecht University documented the roles of surface ablation and downwind deposition of snow over wind-scour zones at the top of a portion of the East Antarctic ice sheet. From shallow ice radar, ice core, and ice surface velocity measurements; satellite observations; and regional climate models, the group showed that snow deposition downslope is a small fraction of the mass loss by ablation, so most of the mass lost to ablation must be transported downwind as water vapor, an important result for estimating ice mass balance in Antarctica. A press release on the paper is posted on our web site (, and a story on Climate Home features the findings (

    In another paper posted online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sonya Dyhrman, Mónica Rouco, Sheean Haley, and coauthors from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Hawaii address the question of how major phytoplankton groups will respond to changes in the temperature, acidity, and nutrient content of the oceans as a consequence of climate change. The group simulated blooms in phytoplankton communities in the North Pacific by mixing nutrient-rich deeper water with shallow-water communities and using genomic methods to track the responses of individual species. Their work will better inform models for changes in the distribution of phytoplankton types in response to projected chemical and physical changes in the major oceans. A summary of their work by Stacy Morford appears on our web site (

    Late Tuesday afternoon, the motor in an electric pump for the campus water system failed 12 hours before it was scheduled to be replaced by our staff. To replace the motor, restore water to the campus, and reset building air conditioning units so that normal operations could resume the next day, Lenny Sullivan, Mike McHugh, Pat O’Reilly, Mort O’Sullivan, and mechanics Ray Slavin, Rick Trubiroha, Tom Burke, and Charles Jones worked until 10 pm that night. Thanks, guys!

    On Wednesday, the October issue of Lamont’s newsletter ( was mailed out to more than 4000 recipients. The issue includes links to six recent stories on Lamont research; five stories on awards to Lamont scientists, field blogs, and a local workshop; and four media articles on Lamont science. The newsletter also highlights Columbia’s annual Giving Day next Wednesday and the opportunity to respond to challenge gifts that leverage donations and yield added support to the Observatory.

    On Thursday, Columbia University’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs released a video on the R/V Langseth, including interviews with Sean Higgins, Greg Mountain, and Donna Shillington ( The Langseth completed the conversion to the new Sercel Centinel seismic streamer this week and is conducting sea trials of the new system prior to returning to port tomorrow to ready for its next cruise in the eastern Mediterranean.

    On Thursday evening, Jason Smerdon gave an Earth Institute Distinguished Lecture in the series “Toward a Sustainable Earth.” Jason spoke on “Our hot and dry future: American megadroughts and 21st Century climate change” to a full room at the Lotos Club on the Upper East Side. Ben Cook, Peter Schlosser, Park Williams, and I were in the audience.

    In today’s issue of Science, Jean-Arthur Olive, Roger Buck, and their collaborators rebutted a proposal earlier this year by a Harvard University group that bathymetric variations near mid-ocean ridges record climate-induced changes in sea level on time scales from 23,000 to 100,000 years. From models of faulting and magma emplacement, Jean-Arthur and his colleagues showed that the forces shaping sea-floor topography act as a low-pass filter on time scales less than 100,000 years and that the variation in the wavelength of sea-floor topography with spreading rate is best matched by a model of fault growth and abandonment under a constant rate of magma supply. The team predicted that climate modulations of magma supply on these time scales might best be found by imaging the base of the crust through multi-channel seismology. A Stacy Morford story on the paper was posted on Lamont’s web site yesterday (

    This afternoon, beginning at 2:30 pm in the Monell Auditorium, we will hold a memorial celebration of the life and scientific contributions of Jim Simpson ( Organized by Steve Chillrud and Martin Stute, the event will feature a keynote presentation on Jim’s career by Michael Bender of Princeton University, briefer reminiscences by Steve, Martin, Paul Richards, and Jim’s daughter Julie, and an open microphone for others to offer comments. A reception will follow. I hope that you will be able to participate.