Lamont Weekly Report, October 18, 2019

    Yesterday marked the 30-year anniversary of the Loma Prieta, California, earthquake, a magnitude-6.9 event well known not only to seismologists – because of its unusual source characteristics, widespread damage, and 63 fatalities – but also to major league baseball fans, because it resulted in the postponement of the third and fourth games in the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics (

    I am pleased to announce that Jim Davis has agreed to serve as Associate Director for the Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division, effective next Monday. In that position, he will be a member of Lamont’s senior leadership team and will represent SGT at meetings of Lamont’s Executive Committee and Associate Directors Council. He will also lead management efforts for the division on topics ranging from strategic planning to the allocation of infrastructure and space. I would like to call out Jim Gaherty for special thanks for his outstanding service as SGT AD for more than six years on this, his last day in that role. Jim has been a consistently thoughtful voice on ExCom and ADC and a persuasive proponent for the interests and aspirations of the division.

    Late last week, Geophysical Research Letters published the accepted but pre-edited version of a paper by Patrick Alexander, Marco Tedesco, and colleagues on the density of snow and firn near the surface of the Greenland ice sheet and its role in models of ice sheet mass balance. The team compared vertical profiles of density from a regional climate model with temporally coincident in situ measurements. They showed that the climate model tends to underestimate snow and firn density in dry areas, which can lead to a comparable bias in the surface mass balance derived from remote sensing observations, and to overestimate density in areas that see substantial summer meltwater production, retention, and refreezing. Further, they suggested model adjustments that can improve the simulation of both snow density and mass balance.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Sean Higgins (by phone), Jeff Rupert, and I visited the National Science Foundation to meet with the senior leadership of the Ocean Sciences Division to discuss a potential new support model for Langseth operations. NSF personnel at the meeting included Jamie Allen, Rose Dufour, Matthew Erickson, Jim Holik, Bob Houtman, Candace Major, Terry Quinn, Debbie Smith, Holly Smith, and John Walter.

    On Wednesday and Thursday, I was at the National Academy of Sciences for a meeting of the NAS Council. The topics discussed were those common to many scientific organizations, including those in academia – implementing a new strategic plan, deciding on budget trade-offs, increasing diversity among members and awardees, increasing institutional impact on national policy matters that have a scientific component, and improving communication with the scientific community and the public.

    Yesterday’s issue of Nature magazine includes a review paper by Terry Plank and Craig Manning of UCLA on the carbon cycle at subduction zones. As Terry writes, “carbon moves from microfossils on the seafloor to erupting volcanoes and deep diamonds, in a cycle driven by plate tectonics. Subduction links surface biological processes with the deep Earth, creating a planet suffused with the signature of life.” Richly illustrated with figures and boxed details, the article – part of Nature’s 150th anniversary collection – belongs on everyone’s reading list.

    For the last three days, Lamont has been host to one of two hackathon meetings organized in support of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 ( The goal of the hackathons, organized locally by Ryan Abernathey and Galen McKinley, has been to share data and code so that the community can analyze quickly the newly released climate models that will be used for 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Lamont meeting has involved about 20 participants, about half from Lamont and the other half from other institutions.

    On Monday, our web site gained a Marie Aronsohn story on a new multi-institutional study of Helheim Glacier, part of the Greenland Ice Sheet ( Marco Tedesco leads the Lamont portion of the study, which is being funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation. The project will apply a variety of in situ and remote sensing measurements and high-resolution models to improve our understanding of the processes occurring in the atmosphere, ice, and ocean at the marine margin of the glacier.

    On Wednesday, our web site added a story by freelance writer Lisa Foderaro on Kevin Griffin and his research on trees ( A particular focus of the story is his use of point dendrometers to record changes in tree girth on daily and longer timescales. In collaboration with colleagues at Black Rock Forest, Kevin is exploiting citizen science to monitor and analyze dendrometer data over large areas.

    Also on Wednesday, Elizabeth Case completed a three-post blog on her recent bicycle trip through the Hudson Valley from New York City to Poughkeepsie, along the line of retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet at the end of the last ice age ( As part of the Cycle for Science program, Elizabeth stopped along her journey at local schools to speak about the ice sheet and its role in shaping the Hudson River region. The first and second parts of her blog were posted on Monday and Friday last week.

    Media mentions of Lamont science and scientists this past week included a Live Science story last Friday about a new television series that depicts a future after a failed geoengineering experiment brought on a new global ice age (; the story includes quotes from Robin Bell and Mo Raymo on the causes of ice ages and the plausibility of one in the near future. On Wednesday, Marco Tedesco was quoted in a Washington Post story on the risk that rising sea levels will flood major sports arenas, including Citi Field in Queens and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (

    Wednesday of next week will be Columbia University’s Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising initiative, and Lamont will be taking part. Two of our alumni have generously offered the challenge to match up to $25,000 of cumulative donations by others. Lamont’s Giving Day web page ( features a video of Gisela Winckler filmed on the JOIDES Resolution during the drilling expedition she co-led to the Southern Ocean.

    Also on Wednesday next week, Lamont will celebrate Ted Koczynski’s 50 years of contributions to the Observatory’s scientific productivity, at sea and in the lab, with a party from 3 to 5 pm in the Monell Lower Lobby. All friends and colleagues of Ted are invited.

    On Thursday through Saturday next week, Lamont will host a special symposium to celebrate the life and scientific impact of Wally Broecker ( The event will kick off with a reception at 4 pm Thursday in the Comer Atrium. A daylong session of talks on Friday in the Monell Auditorium will be followed by an evening banquet at the HNA Conference Center. Scientific talks will resume Saturday morning, and an open-mike session will precede a closing lunch. Those planning to attend the symposium should pre-register for the event.

    In the meantime, our Earth Science Colloquium this afternoon will be given by environmental engineer Cesunica Ivey, an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside ( She will be speaking on “Multiscale impacts of poor air quality: Case studies of regional, local, and community air pollution sources and exposures.” I hope that you will join me in her local and community audience to experience an exposure to what she has to say.