Lamont Weekly Report, October 2, 2015

     The big news nationally this week was that our government did not shut down at the end of the fiscal year ( With a few hours to spare, Congress approved a continuing resolution that keeps federal agencies open until mid-December.

     At the Observatory, Adam Sobel learned this week that he is to receive the 2015 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award from the American Meteorological Society. The award, given for “a newly published book about atmospheric and related sciences that fosters public understanding of meteorology,” is being given to Adam for last year’s Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future. A Stacy Morford story on the award, the book, and the book’s aftermath is posted on our web site ( Congratulations, Adam!

     Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Roger Fu arrived this week from MIT, where he completed his Ph.D. earlier this year on the topic of magnetic fields in the early solar system and the geophysical and magmatic evolution of asteroids and meteorite parent bodies, under the supervision of Ben Weiss. At Lamont, Roger will continue his work on the role of magnetic fields in planet formation, partly in collaboration with Denton Ebel at the American Museum of Natural History, and he will partner with Dennis Kent on a study of the Jurassic massive polar shift, a rapid and large-amplitude apparent polar wander event that may have had geodynamical implications.

     The Biology and Paleo Environment Division this week welcomed Postdoctoral Research Scientist Gerald Rustic. Gerry recently completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the City University of New York, where his thesis was completed under the supervision of Lamont alumnus Tom Koutavas. At Lamont Gerry will be working with Pratigya Polissar on a study of El Niño Southern Oscillation variability recorded in Pleistocene sediments from the Pacific basin.

    The Geochemistry Division welcomed Beiyi Xu, a graduate student at China Geoscience University, as a part-time Staff Associate. Over the coming year, Beiyi will be working with Beizhan Yan and Yan Zheng on problems in groundwater contamination as part of her Ph.D. thesis research.

      Also this week, Senior Electronic Technician Tom Protus retired after nearly 46 years at the Observatory. Lamont hosted the Tom Protus Symposium in 2011 to celebrate his many contributions to the scientific productivity of the campus. Tom’s last full-time workday was Wednesday, but he will continue to work on special projects as needed. This afternoon at 2:30, the Geochemistry Division is hosting a gathering in the Comer Café area, open to all, to wish Tom well as he embarks on new activities. Please consider stopping by.

     On Monday morning I participated in a World Leaders Forum in Low Library ( on the topic of “Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance.” The theme for the forum was provided by a report ( of the same name issued this June by the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance. The commission co-chairs, former U.S. Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations Madeline Albright and former Nigerian Foreign Minister and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari (both of whom hold Ph.D. degrees from Columbia), participated in the forum, which was divided into two panel discussions. I sat on the second panel, devoted to “Strengthening peacebuilding and climate governance: Security and justice as two ships in the night.” I’m sure that I learned more than I contributed.

     On Wednesday, Cassaundra Rose successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on the “Late Cenozoic evolution of aridity and C4 vegetation in North Africa.” Cassy’s dissertation was supervised by Peter deMenocal.

     Today and tomorrow I’m in Greensboro, North Carolina, to give a public lecture tonight at the Cline Observatory at Guilford Technical Community College and a second lecture tomorrow morning at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Astronomers. I try to accept invitations to speak about results from the MESSENGER mission whenever I can, on the grounds that the taxes of those making the request contributed to the success of the project.

     Two weeks ago, Michela Biasutti and Aiko Vogt co-convened a workshop held on Columbia’s Morningside Campus on the effect of climate change on tropical rainfall ( Entitled “Monsoons and the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone: The annual cycle in the Holocene and the future,” the workshop brought together experts in paleoclimate, large-scale climate and atmospheric dynamics, observations and parameterizations of convective processes, and the analysis of climate model projections. Aiko has written a summary of the workshop that was posted on the Lamont web site this week (

    In a paper published this afternoon in Science Advances, Ricardo Ramalho, Gisela Winckler, Joerg Schaefer, and their coauthors documented geological evidence in the Cape Verde Islands for a tsunami more than 200 m in amplitude generated by the sudden flank collapse of a volcano in the archipelago. The submarine slide occurred 73,000 years ago at Fogo volcano, and the tsunami deposits are found on Santiago, more than 50 km away. A press release by Kevin Krajick (, along with a video and slide show by Kim Martineau, was posted today on the Lamont web site. The story received widespread media coverage (

     Several Lamont scientists have been in the news recently. Chris Small’s receipt of the Golden Goose Award two weeks ago was the topic of remarks by our own Rep. Nita Lowey ( and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) ( in the Congressional Record, as well as a Huffington Post piece by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) ( A Columbia Spectator story late last week ( featured the field and laboratory efforts of Nicolás Young to document the extent of the Greenland ice sheet during a warm period approximately 5000 years ago. A Washington Post story ( Tuesday on the urgency of studying the rapid changes in the West Antarctic ice sheet quotes Robin Bell on the infrastructure needed to conduct such work. A story Wednesday in Earth magazine discusses Yaakov Weiss’s research on fluid inclusions in diamonds and links between those fluids and seawater that implicate the subduction process in the recycling of volatiles deep into Earth’s mantle (

     On the heels of NASA’s announcement Monday of the discovery of evidence for the flow of liquid water on Mars (, this week’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Caleb Scharf, Columbia’s Director of Astrobiology ( Caleb will be speaking on “Astrobiology: The science of life in the universe.” I hope that you can contribute to life in Caleb’s audience.

     This weekend, the eyes of most of us (particularly those of us on the road) will be on the weather maps and the projected track of Hurricane Joaquin. Adam Sobel has been much in demand to offer commentary ahead of the storm, on WNYC Wednesday ( and in a blog one day earlier ( on the large “cone of uncertainty” for the hurricane track even by the middle of this week. We can all hope that the storm’s impact will not be so severe as to provide sufficient material for an entirely new book.