Lamont Weekly Report, October 25, 2019

    I am saddened to report that physical oceanographer and former Lamont staff member Eli Katz passed away on Thursday last week, at the age of 83. Eli worked at Lamont from 1979 to 1997, initially as a Senior Research Associate and after 1983 as a Senior Research Scientist. He received a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1962, and he worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for 10 years before moving to Lamont. Eli was a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, and he served for several years as Chief Editor for the Journal of Physical Oceanography. He participated in more than 30 oceanographic cruises, many as chief scientist.

    Mark Cane wrote, “Eli — a special character by every definition — loved to go to sea and did some wonderful observational work. I first knew him in the late 1970s. He and I were co-chairs of the Seasonal Response of the Equatorial Atlantic (SEQUAL) experiment, which was done jointly with a French program, Français Océan et Climat dans l’Atlantique Equatorial (FOCAL). Eli is the one who brought me to Lamont. Eli was epically contrary. Arnold, Eli, and I all grew up in Brooklyn in the days when the Brooklyn Dodgers were Jackie Robinson’s team, the Boys of Summer. For us Dodger fans, the Yankees were the hated enemy. Arnold summed up Eli: "He grew up in Brooklyn, and he was a Yankees fan.”

    Eli’s son Hillel wrote, “If you care to learn more about dad’s work and look through some the many articles he wrote, please use the following link from the American Meteorological Society”. A graveside funeral was held for Eli last Sunday at the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York.

    As those who knew Eli pause to remember a longtime member of the Lamont family, scientific progress at the Observatory continued.

    On Monday, Nature Geoscience published online a paper by Jonathan Nichols and Dorothy Peteet reporting a new inventory of carbon in northern-hemisphere peatlands from the last glacial period through the pre-industrial era. Jonathan and Dorothy showed that the total carbon stored in peatlands (approximately 1000 Gt) is twice that of previous estimates, and that post-glacial increases in the rates of initiation of peatlands and of peatland carbon accumulation were more abrupt than previously reported. The approximate stability of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the period of peatland expansion implies the presence of a major carbon source, which Jonathan and Dorothy suggest came from upwelling of the deep ocean. A Sarah Fecht release on the paper’s findings was posted on Monday, and the story was carried Monday by CarbonBrief and other media.

    Also on Monday, Nature Climate Change published online a paper coauthored by Sarah Ludwig and Róisín Commane on the wintertime release of carbon dioxide from northern permafrost terrain as a result of recent warming and consequent microbial decomposition of soil organic matter. From a synthesis of regional in situ observations of carbon dioxide flux from Arctic and boreal soils, the group estimated that northern permafrost terrain is currently releasing about 1700 Tg (1.7 Gt) of carbon per winter, a figure 70% larger than model-based carbon uptake estimates. Model predictions indicate an increase in wintertime carbon dioxide release of 17% by the end of the century under a moderate mitigation scenario for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and 41% under a “business as usual” scenario.

    On Tuesday evening, Maureen Raymo was one of two panelists at the first event in this year’s Earth Series lectures and discussions, sponsored by the Earth Institute and held on the Upper East Side. Alex Halliday moderated the panel discussion on “Sea Level Change: What Do We Do About It?” The other panelist was George Deodatis from the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

    On Wednesday morning, Meghan Fay and I visited Maurizio Morello and Ambrose Monell, both Directors of the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation. The primary purposes of the visit were to thank the Vetlesen Foundation for their continued generous support of the scientific work at Lamont and to brief them on some of the recent scientific advances that their support has enabled. We also discussed the selection process for the next Vetlesen Prize, which will be awarded this spring.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Lamont celebrated Ted Koczynski’s 50 years of contributions to the Observatory’s scientific productivity, at sea and in the lab, with a party in the Monell Lower Lobby. A number of Ted’s colleagues offered comments on Ted’s remarkable impact on Lamont’s field and laboratory programs over five decades, led off by Jim Gaherty and including Klaus Jacob, Mia Leo, Art Lerner-Lam, Einat Lev, Christine McCarthy, Bill Menke, Chris Scholz, Mike Steckler, Martin Stute, Dave Walker, and Spahr Webb. The next day, Ted went back to work: he boarded a plane to fly to Wellington, New Zealand, to meet a ship.

    Wednesday was also Columbia University’s Giving Day, the eighth such annual one-day fundraising event. During the day, our development team received 103 gifts totaling $119,413. That total is more than double the amount raised on Giving Day last year. In addition, Lamont raised $4,000 in challenge funds from a student origami drawing and – thanks to the efforts of Bärbel Hönisch, Nick Frearson, and Jonny Kingslake – the selfie challenge. For comparison, the Earth Institute outside of Lamont received 156 gifts totaling $117,847, and Columbia University overall received more than 18,622 gifts totaling $22,009,151. Stacey Vassallo, who led Lamont’s Giving Day efforts, and all who contributed or participated in the day’s activities deserve the appreciation of everyone on the Lamont Campus.

    Yesterday, Ajit Subramaniam wrote from the R/V Meteor, currently in the equatorial Atlantic and en route to Recife, “We (Ben Ramcharitar, Ana Fernandez, a colleague from University of Vigo, and myself), along with our physical oceanography colleagues from GEOMAR, Kiel, have just accomplished an unprecedented and historical survey of microbial community structure and productivity on the equator across an entire ocean basin. We sampled almost every degree from 5° E to 45° W. As I explained to my mother, this is the equivalent of driving from New York to Seattle to San Diego in a car going 12 miles an hour and stopping every 60 miles for a 3-hour pit stop. And this is not even counting the sampling we did in the northern Benguela/Angola upwelling region and the Congo River plume when we headed from Walvis Bay, Namibia, to the equator. Our initial measurements seem to support our hypothesis that the productivity of the equatorial region is due to a series of tropical instability waves, and they provide a new understanding of the processes that drive productivity of this region and how this might change in the future due to climate change.”

    Lamont scientists were much in the news this week. Last Friday, Adam Sobel wrote a piece for The New York Times on the distinction between weather and climate, what seasonal forecasts portend for the coming winter, and the scientific basis for climate forecasts on longer timescales. Adam followed with a Times story Wednesday on California wildfires, and the contributions of climate change, land use changes, fire management practices, and deferred maintenance by power companies. A story in Forbes yesterday on how the reinsurance industry is factoring in climate change cites Adam’s work with Chia-Ying Lee. A BBC story Tuesday on recent discoveries of ancient shipwrecks on the floor of the Black Sea discussed Bill Ryan’s and Walter Pitman’s work on the flooding of the Black Sea seven and a half millennia ago, summarized in their 2000 book, Noah’s Flood. Also on Tuesday, a story and video on The Verge about microplastics in seafood featured Debra Magadini, a high-school science teacher who works in the lab of Joaquim Goes. And Jacky Austermann’s contribution to an event last week at the Columbia Law School cohosted by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Earth Institute, on the topic of storm surge barriers for the New York City area, was highlighted in yesterday’s Sarah Fecht story on the event.

    Lamont has been hosting a special symposium this week to celebrate the life and scientific impact of Wally Broecker. The event kicked off yesterday afternoon with a reception in the Comer Atrium. There is a daylong session of talks today in the Monell Auditorium, with remote viewing options via a live stream webcast and in the Comer Seminar Room. There will be an evening banquet tonight at the HNA Conference Center. Scientific talks will resume in Monell tomorrow morning, and an open-mike session will precede a closing lunch.

    I hope that many of you can join in the celebration today and tomorrow of Wally’s many contributions to geochemistry, climate science, and Lamont.