Lamont Weekly Report, September 6, 2019

    This week began with hurricane Dorian striking the northwestern Bahamas as an historically devastating storm, Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. After an extraordinarily lengthy pause, Dorian’s path turned northward to follow the U.S. southeastern coast. That early forecasts of the storm’s track and intensity included considerable uncertainty led Adam Sobel to write an article Sunday for The New York Times that laid out an explanation for those uncertainties (, and he answered additional questions from readers in a follow-on article Tuesday ( Much in demand this week, Adam was also interviewed Tuesday for The Takeaway on WNYC ( about the link between hurricanes and climate change, and he was quoted in a story in the Miami Herald Wednesday about whether the Saffir-Simpson scale should be extended or replaced ( Suzana Camargo commented on the storm’s hazard risks in a NOVA Next story on Wednesday (

    The start of Columbia University classes this week also denoted the arrival of a new cadre of graduate students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The first-year students, by immediate prior institution and Lamont research division, are as follows:

Student Prior Institution Division
Shannon Bohman Stony Brook University OCP
Andrew Hollyday Middlebury College SGT
Catherine Ivanovich Princeton University OCP
Ingrid Izaguirre University of Miami Geochemistry
Caroline Juang Harvard University OCP
Sarah Ludwig University of Alaska, Fairbanks OCP
Maria Rosabelle Ong University of the Philippines, Manila AMNH
Celeste Pallone Barnard College Geochemistry
Kevin Schwarzwald Peking University IRI
Madankui Tao University of Wisconsin, Madison OCP
Jingyi Zhuang Columbia University SGT

To welcome the new students, and to acknowledge their advisors and the general Lamont community, DEES will be hosting a picnic behind Lamont Hall this afternoon, starting at 3:30 pm. (In the event of rain, the picnic will be in the Monell Lobby.)

    Several Lamont research divisions welcomed new arrivals this week.

    The Ocean and Climate Physics Division welcomed Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Jane Baldwin. Jane obtained her Ph.D. in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from Princeton University last year with a thesis on orographic controls on hydroclimate and temporal compounding of heat waves, under the supervision of Gabriel Vecchi. For the past year, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Princeton Environmental Institute, she extended her research on heat waves to human health impacts and also worked on tropical cyclone genesis. At Lamont she plans to work on the compounding of extreme weather and climate events, with a particular focus on tropical cyclones.

    OCP also welcomed Jenny Lee as the division’s new Administrative Assistant. Jenny holds a B.S. degree in communications and business and an M.S. degree in guidance counseling. Before joining Lamont, Jenny worked for a number of years at Nyack College, in their adult degree program, their office of student development, and their department of auxiliary services.

    The Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division welcomed new Postdoctoral Research Fellow William Hawley. William obtained his Ph.D. earlier this year from the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked with Richard Allen and Mark Richards on applying seismic and other geophysical and geological observations to improve our understanding of lithosphere-asthenosphere interactions in oceanic regions and the evolution of western North America. With the support of a National Science Foundation Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, William will work at Lamont with Jim Gaherty on the development of new models for the seismic anisotropy of the oceanic mantle off Cascadia and their implications for the dynamics of the lithosphere-asthenosphere system in that region.

    The Marine Geology and Geophysics Division welcomed Rafael Antwerpen as a new part-time Staff Associate. A graduate student at Utrecht University visiting Lamont this year under a Fulbright grant, Rafael will work with Marco Tedesco on the analysis and modeling of remote-sensing observations of areas of bare ice on the Greenland ice sheet.

    Lamont’s ocean-bottom seismometer team last week completed a portion of the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment aboard the R/V Sikuliaq. Chief scientist Spahr Webb and colleagues Carlos Becerril, Pete Liljegren, Ted Koczynski, and Walt Masterson recovered 45 OBSs after yearlong deployments off Kodiak Island and the Alaska Peninsula. This large community experiment was designed to build a comprehensive understanding of the Alaska subduction system, including portions of the megathrust interface responsible for the great 1964 Good Friday earthquake ( Like Spahr, Anne Bécel and Donna Shillington are among the experiment investigators.

    The R/V Marcus Langseth continued work this week on the last phase of the community experiment. Early and late portions of the week were devoted to the recovery of ocean-bottom seismometers, and multi-beam surveying filled a mid-week period of rougher weather. Six days from today the ship is scheduled to drop off the science party – led by co-chief scientists and experiment investigators Geoff Abers and Peter Haeussler from the U.S. Geological Survey – in Kodiak, Alaska. Thereafter she will sail to San Francisco to complete demobilization of the recovered OBSs, host the vessel’s annual U.S. Coast Guard inspection, and put into a shipyard for planned maintenance at the end of the month.

    Last Friday, Nature published online the accepted version of a paper coauthored by Jacky Austermann on new estimates of global mean sea level during the Pliocene, when Earth’s atmosphere was 2-4°C warmer than the immediate pre-industrial era. The estimates were derived from the measured positions and U-Pb ages of phreatic overgrowths on speleothems in a cave on Majorca, Spain, after corrections for glacial isostatic adjustment, long-term uplift, and thermal expansion of the ocean. The team, led by Oana Dumitru from the University of South Florida, showed that during the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (3.3-3.0 million years ago), when atmospheric temperatures were 2-3°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, global mean sea level was 6-19 m higher than today. During the Pliocene Climatic Optimum (4.4-4.0 million years ago), when the atmosphere was ~4°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, global mean sea level was 9-27 m higher than today. These figures guide estimates for future sea-level rise expected under different greenhouse gas emission scenarios. A press release on the paper’s findings, modified from one issued by the University of South Florida, was posted last Friday (, and the story was picked up by IFLScience and other media (

    Today’s issue of Science magazine includes a paper coauthored by Sonya Dyhrman and Matthew Harke on the phytoplankton bloom fueled last year off Hawaii by the flow into the locally oligotrophic ocean of molten lava from the eruption along the eastern rift of Kilauea. First detection of the bloom by satellite measurements of ocean color three days after lava first entered the ocean prompted an oceanographic expedition to characterize the bloom region further. The bloom waters contained enhanced levels of silicic acid and trace metals attributable to the added lava. They also contained elevated levels of nitrate, despite a lack of fixed nitrogen species in the magma. The study team, led by Samuel Wilson from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, hypothesized that the high nitrate levels – key to the biological response to the eruption – came from buoyant plumes of nutrient-rich deep waters heated by the lava that poured into the ocean. The same journal issue includes a Perspectives piece on the paper’s findings by Hugh Ducklow and Terry Plank (“a great Lamont-flavored collaboration,” according to Hugh), who pointed out the importance of the new work for understanding the response of plankton ecosystems to external perturbations more generally in an era of global change, as well as the uncertain balance between carbon dioxide emissions during volcanic eruptions in marine settings and the export to the deep ocean of volcanically stimulated biological carbon ( A Kevin Krajick press release was posted today (, and a story on the paper’s findings ran yesterday on NOVA Next (

    Today, Meghan Fay, Nick Frearson, Art Lerner-Lam, Spahr Webb, and I are in Redmond, Washington, to visit Jerry Paros, a Columbia University alumnus and long-term patron of Lamont. Jerry’s gifts have led to the establishment of the Jerome M. Paros Senior Research Scientist of Observational Geophysics Fund, the Jerome M. Paros – Palisades Geophysical Institute Fund for Engineering Innovation in Geoscience Research, and the Paros Fund for Geophysical Instrumentation. The first two funds, both endowed, support the Paros Lamont Research Professor Chair (held currently by Spahr) and the Observatory Technology and Innovation Fund, respectively. The third and most recent fund supports the design, construction, and field testing of a new-generation of seafloor geophysical instruments with seismic and geodetic sensors to monitor earthquakes and tsunamis along submarine subduction zones.

    Today was also a double header for Ph.D. defenses. At 9 am, Takaya Uchida led off with the defense of his thesis, completed under the supervision of Ryan Abernathey, on “Seasonality in surface (sub)mesoscale turbulence and its impact on iron transport and primary production.” Takaya’s committee, in addition to Ryan, included Galen McKinley, Andreas Thurnherr, Marina Lévy from the Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Climatologie: Expérimentations et Analyses Numériques – Institut Pierre Simon Laplace at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, and Shafer Smith from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. In October, Takaya will begin a postdoctoral position with the MultiscalE Ocean Modeling (MEOM) group at the Institut des Géosciences de l'Environnement in Grenoble, where he will work on the development of parameterizations for submesoscale turbulence to improve global models of ocean dynamics.

    Second up was Daniel Rasmussen, who one hour later began the defense of his thesis on “The Aleutian arc through and through: Subduction dynamics and the generation, storage, and eruption of hydrous magma.” In addition to his advisor, Terry Plank, Dan’s committee included Steve Goldstein, Einat Lev, Donna Shillington, and Jacob Lowenstern from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory. Dan has accepted a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Mineral Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

    In the news this week, Kevin Griffin was quoted in an article Wednesday in Undark Magazine on the challenges to estimating the contribution of forests to the storage of carbon ( The work of Park Williams and Richard Seager on drought and wildfires in the American west was the focus of web story, written for the Center for Climate and Life by freelance writer Bill Chaisson and posted to our web site on Wednesday ( Yochanan Kushnir was quoted in a Nature news feature yesterday on the contribution of climate change to extreme water shortages in the Middle East, particularly Jordan (

    Next week will feature several highlights. The Lamont Advisory Board will meet next Monday afternoon in the Comer Building. This year’s Lamont Postdoctoral Symposium will be held next Wednesday, also in Comer; 20 of our postdoctoral scientists are scheduled to give talks about their research, and another 11 will give poster presentations. And next Friday will mark the kick-off of this season’s Earth Science Colloquium series, with a seminar by atmospheric chemist Daniel Jacob from Harvard University.

    In the meantime, may you all enjoy the first weekend of the fall semester.