Lamont Weekly Report, October 6, 2017

    This is the week that most Nobel Prizes were announced, and we congratulate our Columbia University colleague Joachim Frank for his 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (!

    On Monday the Biology and Paleo Environment Division welcomed micropaleontologist and paleoclimatologist Robert Poirier as a new Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Robert recently obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and for the final year of his graduate work he held a Schlanger Ocean Drilling Fellowship from the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). At Lamont he will work with Reinhard Kozdon on the application of in situ analysis and advanced imaging techniques to investigate the preservation of benthic foraminifera, particularly from the mid-Pliocene warm period.

    In a paper published online late last week in Scientific Reports, Merry Cai, along with Michael Rampino at New York University and Sedelia Rodriguez and Eva Baransky at Barnard, reported evidence – based in part on new analyses conducted at Lamont – that the end-Permian extinction was a time of high nickel abundances worldwide. The group suggests that this pattern indicates that Ni-rich volatiles were released during the eruption of Siberian flood basalts at that time. The peaks in Ni abundances correlate with isotopic anomalies in carbon and oxygen, a result attributed to explosive reactions between magmas and coal during the eruptions, the release into the atmosphere of large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane, and abrupt global warming. A Kevin Krajick release describing the work was posted on Wednesday (

    This week Geology published online a paper by Peter deMenocal, along with Jessica Tierney and Paul Zander of the University of Arizona, on the paleoclimate of northeastern Africa over the past 200,000 years, a period that spanned the dispersal of Homo sapiens from eastern Africa into Europe and Asia. With a core from the Lamont Core Repository that was collected by the R/V Conrad in the Gulf of Aden more than 50 years ago, the team measured the hydrogen isotopic composition of leaf waxes to assess aridity and applied alkenone paleothermometry to estimate regional sea surface temperature. A common premise in studies of human migration out of Africa is that dispersal events occurred when northeastern Africa hosted a humid climate, and evidence for an early migration 120,000 to 90,000 years ago is matched with warm and wet conditions in the new regional climate reconstruction. In contrast, the primary migration out of Africa, dated on the basis of genetic and fossil evidence as between about 65,000 and 55,000 years ago, occurred when the regional climate was transitioning into or already within a state of cold and dry conditions, implying that climate change may have served to “push” dispersal rather than “pull” it as it had earlier. A Kevin Krajick story on the paper’s findings was posted on the Lamont web site yesterday (

    On Monday, Etienne Dunn-Sigouin successfully defended his thesis on “The role of stratosphere-troposphere planetary wave coupling in driving variability of the North Atlantic circulation.” His thesis committee consisted of his advisor, Tiffany Shaw (now at the University of Chicago), as well as Lorenzo Polvani, Richard Seager, Mingfang Ting, and Edwin Gerber of New York University. Etienne’s next post will be as a postdoctoral scientist at the Geophysical Institute and Bjerknes Center for Climate Research at the University of Bergen, where he will work with Camille Li. 

    On Tuesday, a Marie Aronsohn story about the work of Adam Sobel and Suzana Camargo on the threat of a devastating cyclone to the city of Mumbai was posted on our web page ( The city is particularly vulnerable because of its low elevation, lack of natural barriers to the sea, and dense population, and the risk is underappreciated locally because the last major cyclone to strike the city was in the 19th century. The project involves combining storm models with global climate models and aims to improve estimates of flooding hazards, both for the present and as sea level rises, as well as the economic and health impacts of those hazards.

    On Wednesday, the October issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter went out to a wide audience ( The lead story is on Open House this Saturday, and there are links to other stories on Billy D’Andrea’s paleoclimate work on the Lofoten Islands, the recent Center for Climate and Life video on ocean health, Ryan Abernathey’s Pangeo project to improve access to climate model information, Ben Holtzman’s SeismoDome project to simulate earthquakes and seismic wave propagation in sight and sound, and a discussion by Radley Horton and Suzana Camargo on whether the Saffir-Simpson scale for hurricanes should be opened upward to include storms as intense as Hurricane Irma. Links to media articles on Lamont research or with commentary by Lamont scientists round out the issue.

    Also on Wednesday, Jonathan Kingslake was featured on WAMC’s Academic Minute ( speaking on the surface meltwater drainage systems in Antarctica that are active in the austral summer and whether those systems serve to stabilize or weaken the ice shelves that buttress the great ice sheets. 

    On Thursday and Friday, Lamont’s Climate Center hosted a workshop on “Ozone dry deposition: Constraints from multiplatform observations and multi-scale modeling” ( The goal of the two-day workshop has been “to facilitate collaboration among the scientific communities that measure and model ozone dry deposition to the terrestrial biosphere and its relevance to atmospheric chemistry, canopy processes, and surface-atmosphere exchange.” Arlene Fiore has been the local host.

    The 14 tents that have been assembled on campus this week demonstrate that Open House is upon us ( A map of exhibits and schedule of lectures are now online ( and promise that this year’s event will be at least as lively as those past. Local media ( are helping to spread the word, and the weather forecast looks good. Open House started two days early for some of us, with a reception that our Development Office hosted on Thursday evening for a number of our neighbors. I hope that everyone at the Observatory can participate in some fashion on Saturday.

    On Wednesday to Friday next week, Lamont will host a workshop on “Drilling into young oceanic crust for seafloor observations at Axial Seamount.” The workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Science Support Program of IODP, has as its goal the development of a proposal for drilling and downhole experiments at Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge ( Tim Crone shares workshop organizing responsibilities with Julie Huber of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Deborah Kelley of the University of Washington. Plenary sessions of the workshop, which will be attended by approximately 50 scientists from the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland, will be in Monell Auditorium.

    This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by seismologist Marine Denolle, an Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University ( Prof. Denolle will be speaking on “Deciphering earthquake dynamics from broadband seismic radiation.” May the seismic radiation from the footsteps of those heading to Monell this afternoon be sufficiently dynamic that you elect to join me for the lecture.