Lamont Weekly Report, October 9, 2015

     Among this week’s highlights was the announcement on the Columbia campus yesterday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Vice President Al Gore of several actions by New York State to encourage renewable energy usage and limit greenhouse gas emissions at state and regional scales ( Many from Lamont were in the audience at Lerner Hall to participate in the event ( 

     A new arrival to the Marine Geology and Geophysics Division is Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Samer Naif. An expert in marine magnetotellurics and controlled-source electromagnetic sounding, Samer recently completed his Ph.D. at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography under the supervision of Kerry Key and Steve Constable. At Lamont Samer plans to continue his investigations of electrical conductivity structure as a tool to understand the role of fluids in subduction zones, the geometry of magmatic and hydrothermal systems at mid-ocean ridges, and the nature of the asthenosphere. 

     The Ocean and Climate Physics Division welcomed Justin Mankin this week as a new Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow. Justin will be working with Richard Seager, Jason Smerdon, and Radley Horton at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies on a project entitled “Near-term climate uncertainty, decision-making, and the fate of snow in a warming world.” Justin recently completed his Ph.D. at Stanford under the supervision of Noah Diffenbaugh. He was a Columbia undergraduate and holds both an MPA degree in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and an MSc degree from the London School of Economics. 

     Phillip Ruprecht spent last week and this in Chile, where he is organizing a workshop on Andean volcanism to be held in four months with support from Columbia’s Global Innovation Fund. While there, Phillip attended the Chilean Geological Congress held in La Serena this week and gave a public lecture at the Sociedad de Geológica de Chile that has been posted on YouTube ( 

     On Tuesday, I spent the day on Capitol Hill. I joined forces with Sharon Mosher, Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, Austin, to visit members of the New York and Texas delegations in the House and Senate to argue for broad support of the geosciences by federal science agencies and in particular for the continued support of the R/V Langseth as a national facility for marine multichannel seismology. We were accompanied by Nathan Robb, Columbia’s Assistant Vice President for Government Relations; Ellyn Perrone, Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Texas; and Meg Thompson and Joel Widder from Federal Science Partners. We met with Congressman John Culberson (R-TX), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. We also met with staffers in the offices and on the committees of Senator Gillibrand, Senator Schumer, and Congresswoman Lowey, as well as those of Congressmen Carter, McCaul, Smith, and Williams of Texas. 

     I remained in Washington Wednesday to chair a meeting of the Europa Gravity Science Working Group, a committee recently impaneled by NASA to recommend gravity science objectives for a Europa Multiple Flyby Mission now in development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( The goals of the mission are to characterize the subsurface ocean and global ice shell and assess the satellite as a possible habitat for past or extant life. 

     Published today in Science Advances is an article by former Lamont Postdoctoral Research Scientist Jessica Tierney (now at the University of Arizona), Peter deMenocal, and Caroline Ummenhofer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on past and future rainfall in the Horn of Africa, a region that has experienced three decades of recurring droughts and famines. On the basis of hydrogen isotopic analysis of leaf waxes recovered from a sediment core from the Gulf of Aden, Tierney and her coworkers demonstrate that the region is drying at an unusual rate relative to the record of the past two millennia, a rate synchronous with recent regional and global warming. Moreover, the team argues that the paleoclimate evidence contradicts the predictions of many global-scale climate models that the region will become wetter as climate warms and points to the need for high-resolution regional models. A press release by Stacy Morford and Kevin Krajick was posted today on the Lamont web site (

    Other news stories this week featured science and scientists from Lamont. Park Williams was quoted in a story Monday on Discovery News linking the recent increase in large wildfires to global warming ( Media coverage continued this week of the article by Ricardo Ramalho, Gisela Winckler, Joerg Schaefer, and colleagues documenting evidence for a tsunami more than 200 m high generated by the collapse of a volcano in the Cape Verde Islands 73,000 years ago, including a story Monday in The Huffington Post ( in which both Ricardo and Gisela were quoted. 

     The coming week promises to be a busy one. On Tuesday afternoon, Lex Van Geen will be one of two moderators, along with Trish Culligan from the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, of the first in a series of Earth Institute workshops on Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists. Next week’s workshop will be on Airborne Contaminants ( 

     On Thursday evening, Jason Smerdon will give one of the Earth Institute’s Distinguished Lectures in the series “Toward a Sustainable Earth.” Jason will speak on “Our hot and dry future: American megadroughts and 21st Century climate change.” 

     On Friday afternoon, in lieu of a colloquium but beginning one hour earlier at 2:30 pm, we will hold a memorial celebration of the life and scientific contributions of Jim Simpson ( The event, organized by Steve Chillrud and Martin Stute and to be held in the Monell Auditorium, will feature a keynote presentation on Jim’s career by Michael Bender of Princeton and a number of briefer reminiscences by Jim’s family members, friends, and colleagues. A reception will follow. The organizers are collecting photos, thoughts, and well wishes for presentation to Jim’s family at the event, so please send any such materials to

     This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice in the Columbia Law School, Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, and Chair of the Earth Institute Faculty ( Mike will speak on “U.S. climate change action in an era of Congressional paralysis.” I hope that you will exercise analogous action and come to the colloquium.