Lamont Weekly Report, October 26, 2018

    The Earth and other rocky planets were in the news this week. On Friday night, the European Space Agency launched the dual BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury, on a trajectory that will involve nine planetary flybys over seven years before the two probes are captured by Mercury’s gravitational field ( Yesterday morning (local time), Super Typhoon Yutu – with winds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane – passed over the Northern Mariana Islands, leaving a trail of devastation on Tinian and Saipan (

    Context for this year’s record of tropical cyclones can be found in the second edition of Jason Smerdon’s book, Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future, published this month by Columbia University Press. The volume is coauthored with Ed Mathez, curator emeritus in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the American Museum of Natural History (

    The R/V Marcus Langseth arrived safely in Honolulu on Sunday morning, after completing all objectives for the first leg of the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain Seismic Experiment ( The crew and science party successfully demobilized all the ocean-bottom seismometer gear with the assistance of their counterparts from the OBS operator groups at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Sean Higgins writes, “We’ve had great cooperation and support from the University of Hawaii at their Marine Center facility. The crew is now shifting towards catching up with maintenance and repair items, and the Office of Marine Operations is focused on completing plans and permitting for 2019 projects.”

    The work of Richard Seager and his colleagues on the eastward shift over the last several decades in the so-called 100 th meridian – the hydrological divide between the humid eastern United States and the arid western plains – was described in an article Monday in Yale Environment 360 ( The article also discussed other shifts in the world’s climate zones, including the latitudinal widening of the tropics, the enlargement of the Sahara, the eastward shift in Tornado Alley, the northward movement of the northern permafrost line, and the poleward shift in the wheat belts.

    On Tuesday, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced that Colleen Baublitz is the recipient of this year’s Sara Fitzgerald Langer Book Prize, an award given annually since 1984 to a pre-orals graduate student for contributions to student life in DEES and at Lamont ( Other nominees for this year’s prize include Daniel Bishop, Miranda Cashman, Una Miller, and Yuxin Zhou. Congratulations to all!

    On Tuesday evening, the Earth Institute launched The Earth Series lectures, a set of engagement events to promote the institute’s strategic themes. Park Williams gave the inaugural lecture on the topic of “Wildfire, megadrought, and the role of humans.” All lectures in this year’s series are being given at The Harold Pratt House on the Upper East Side.

    This Tuesday and Wednesday, the campus was visited by a National Science Foundation review panel charged to evaluate the performance of Lamont’s management of the U.S. Science Support Program (USSSP) for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). The panel was specifically tasked to address the question of whether performance under the existing award justifies renewal for an additional five years, or whether USSSP-IODP support activities should instead be recompeted next year.

    Wednesday was Columbia University Giving Day, the seventh such annual one-day fundraising event. During the day, our development team received 114 gifts totaling $54,351. The number of gifts is up 28% from last year. The total raised is not quite as high as the $69,698 raised on Giving Day last year, but that amount included a one-time gift of $50,000, so the amount raised this year through smaller gifts is much higher than the year before. Also, the Earth Institute outside of Lamont received 134 gifts totaling $30,793. University-wide, Columbia received more than 17,000 gifts totaling $20.1 million.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Yingzhe Wu successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Investigating the applications of neodymium isotopic compositions and rare earth elements as water mass tracers in the South Atlantic and North Pacific.” Her committee included her thesis advisor, Steve Goldstein, along with Bob Anderson, Arnold Gordon, Leo Pena, and Rob Sherrell from Rutgers University. Yingzhe will be taking a postdoctoral position at Lamont to work on marine biogeochemical cycles as part of the GEOTRACES Program.

    Yesterday’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS included a scene in which one of the regular characters (Bert, a Caltech geologist) appears at a Halloween costume party as Maurice “Doc” Ewing (, even mentioning that Ewing received the 1960 Vetlesen Prize, “generally regarded as the Nobel Prize of geology.”

    Maureen Raymo leaves town this weekend to spend several weeks at the University of Miami as a Distinguished Presidential Scholar ( While there, she is scheduled to give two public lectures on climate change and sea level, participate in a series of scientific roundtables, and co-lead a field trip to local geological records of ancient sea level.

    On Wednesday evening next week, on the sixth anniversary of the landfall of Superstorm Sandy, the Public Broadcasting Service will air the first episode of their four-part series on “Sinking Cities,” which “examines how cities are preparing for the real-time effects of climate change” ( The first episode, to be broadcast on WNET at 10 pm, will focus on New York (with episodes on Tokyo, London, and Miami to follow) and will include an interview with Klaus Jacob.

    On Thursday and Friday next week, the Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative will host a two-day Workshop on Air Pollution Extremes, in Lerner Hall on the Morningside Campus ( Arlene Fiore and Dan Westervelt serve as members of the workshop organizing committee, as well as session moderators; Alex Karambelas will give one of the oral presentations; and Dan, Steve Chillrud, Martin Stute, and Beizhan Yan will give poster presentations.

    In the meantime, as Steve Goldstein announced earlier this week, this afternoon’s weekly Geochemistry Coffee Hour at 2:30 pm will be a celebration of the contributions of longtime Lamont staff member John Longhi. Dave Walker and others will lead the remembrance, members of John’s family will attend, and “John’s favorite biscotti and pignoli cookies” will be featured, according to Steve. Everyone across the campus who knew John (or feels in need of a snack) is welcome to attend.

    Later this afternoon, the Earth Science Colloquium will be given by geophysicist, glaciologist, and Columbia University alumnus Sridhar Anandakrishnan, a Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University ( Sridhar will be speaking on “Heat flow beneath Greenland: Implications for NE Greenland and whole-ice-sheet response.” May your response to this information be to enter the flow toward NE Lamont and join me for his talk.