Lamont Weekly Report, September 22, 2017

     This has been a terrible month for natural disasters, with two major earthquakes in Mexico and multiple Atlantic hurricanes. On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake southeast of Mexico City produced widespread structural damage and more than 200 fatalities ( The normal faulting event occurred at 50 km depth, probably within the subducting Cocos plate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. As the week unfolded, Hurricane Maria cut a wide swath of destruction across Dominica, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and elsewhere, devastating communities still reeling from Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier ( The thoughts of all of us are with those who have suffered losses of loved ones and property from Mexico to the Caribbean.

     This week has been Climate Week NYC ( Sponsored by The Climate Group, Climate Week NYC “is the collaborative space for climate-related events in support of the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” The Earth Institute presented a number of climate-related events spread over the week (

     This week has also been the 8th annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week, intended “to recognize the significant contributions that postdoctoral scholars make to U.S. research and discovery” ( To acknowledge the substantial contributions of Lamont’s postdoctoral scientists to the Observatory’s dual missions in research and education, Columbia’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs sponsored a lunch for all Lamont postdocs on Monday. Thanks to Kuheli Dutt for making the local arrangements!

     The Ocean and Climate Physics Division recently welcomed the arrival of Postdoctoral Research Scientist Nathan Laxague. Nathan was most recently at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, where he received a Ph.D. in Applied Marine Physics in December. His work there focused on the role of short ocean waves in the mediation of physical air-sea fluxes. As a member of Chris Zappa's air-sea interaction group, Nathan will build on his past experience to work on marginal ice zones and other research frontier topics by combining scientific measurements with information from indigenous communities to study sea ice change in Arctic Alaska.

     OCP also welcomed Juan Dou this week. Juan is a visiting Ph.D. student from the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology. She will be at Lamont for one year, with support from the China Scholarship Council, to work with Mingfang Ting on relations among the southern annular mode, the Indian monsoons, and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. 

     On Wednesday, the Geochemistry Division welcomed Visiting Research Scientist Runkui Li, an expert in the field of environmental exposure and assessment and an Associate Professor in the College of Resources and Environment at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. During his yearlong visit to Lamont, Prof. Li will work with Beizhan Yan to characterize exposure to air pollutants in China and New York City and to explore the relation between air pollutants and adverse health outcomes.

     In turn, the Marine Geology and Geophysics Division bid farewell to Zhonglan Liu, a visiting Ph.D. student from the School of Earth and Space Sciences at Peking University. Zhonglan returned to China after a productive year at Lamont working on models of the geodynamics and tectonics of mid-ocean ridges with Roger Buck, Arthur Olive, and Xiaochuan Tian. 

     The R/V Langseth is scheduled to sail from Honolulu tomorrow, after successfully completing her biannual inspection by the National Science Foundation and annual inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping. Sean Higgins wrote, “The inspections went well and smoothly throughout, and crew and staff did a great job all around. We’ve had great support from the University of Hawaii while in port this summer, and it worked out well for us.” The ship heads to New Zealand, where the first of three NSF-sponsored cruises in the region is scheduled to begin late next month.

     Yesterday the Center for Climate and Life posted a video on marine ecosystems and food webs in the face of projected warming and acidification of the oceans. The video, accompanied by a brief Rebecca Fowler story, features Hugh Ducklow, Sonya Dyhrman, and Bärbel Hönisch (

     Adam Sobel was quoted in a New York Times story last Friday on links between climate change and extreme weather ( The work of Wally Broecker was mentioned in a story Monday in The Guardian ( on why the science behind accurate hurricane tracks is also much of the science behind climate change predictions. The October issue of Air and Space magazine includes an Alexandra Witze article on the future of the polar ice sheets that includes mention of the work of Marco Tedesco ( Eos yesterday posted a story on the findings of Anne Bécel and her colleagues that the fault structures imaged seismically in the Shumagin Gap region of the Alaskan subduction zone match those in subduction zone segments along which particularly large tsunamis have been generated by megathrust earthquakes ( Also yesterday, Radley Horton was interviewed by PBS NewsHour on the impact of climate change and sea level rise on coastal flooding and flood insurance policy (

     And as a prompt to remind us of Earth’s orientation in the solar system, the northern hemisphere’s autumn equinox will occur today at 4:02 pm EDT. Summer will formally end halfway through this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium.

     Today’s colloquium speaker will be John Valley, the Charles R. Van Hise Professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an expert in the application of secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to geological, petrological, and geochemical problems ( John’s seminar title is a declarative: “Hadean zircons are not from Hell: Evidence from atom probe tomography and SIMS.” The road to Monell is said to be paved with good intentions, so I hope that you will gain solace for an extraordinary week of Earth in the news and mark the change of seasons by joining me for the talk.