Lamont Weekly Report, September 8, 2017

    Two weeks ago Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, today we await the U.S. landfall of the still stronger Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose is not far behind. The topic of extreme weather is dominating headlines, changing the political landscape in Washington, and prompting broad humanitarian support for those now recovering from a hurricane’s passage.

    Lamont’s capabilities in climate science were enhanced this month with the arrival of new Lamont Assistant Research Professor Yutian Wu. Yutian is a climate modeler who works on the links among climate change and variability, atmospheric circulation, radiation, and hydroclimate. Many will remember her as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, where her 2011 thesis was completed under the supervision of Richard Seager and Mingfang Ting. Yutian was a postdoctoral fellow for two years at the Courant Institute of New York University, and for the last three and a half years she has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, where she recently received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. Please join me in welcoming Yutian to Lamont!

    Another new arrival to the Ocean and Climate Physics Division this week is Visiting Associate Research Scientist Shailendra Rai. Shailendra is an Assistant Professor at the K. Banerjee Centre of Atmospheric and Ocean Studies at the University of Allahabad in India. He is visiting Lamont for 9 months on a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship to work on a project entitled “South Asian summer monsoon predictability: An assessment of key teleconnections, their reproduction, and possible improvements.” His host at the Observatory is Yochanan Kushnir.

    The Geochemistry Division, in turn, welcomed the arrival this week of Visiting Scientist Fiz Fernández Pérez, a Research Professor at the Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas of the Spanish National Research Council. Fiz is visiting Lamont for three months to work with Taro Takahashi’s group on the relation between climate change and the carbon cycle in the North Atlantic Ocean.

    One of the consequences of Hurricane Harvey is that the prospect of a government shutdown over failure to pass a budget or a continuing resolution to fund federal agencies in fiscal year 2018 has considerably lessened. Joel Widder and Meg Thompson from Federal Science Partners report that the President met with the leadership of the House and Senate this week and agreed to pass a bill that would provide disaster relief for areas hardest hit by Harvey. To that emergency supplemental appropriations bill, the Senate will add a three-month continuing resolution to keep the government operating until early December as well as an extension of the debt ceiling for the same period. Under the continuing resolution, federal science agencies will operate at levels very close to fiscal year 2017 levels through early December. Before mid-December, Congress will have to enact additional legislation to keep the government operating and set the debt ceiling. 

    Yesterday, the September issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter was sent out to a broad audience ( The newsletter’s “spotlight” was on extreme weather, with links to two web stories on Hurricane Harvey. There were also links to stories on the paper by Corey Lesk and colleagues on the impact of climate change on the expanding range of the southern pine beetle, the paper by Mike Kaplan and coauthors on evidence for the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet during past episodes of changing climate, the work of Joaquim Goes and Beizhan Yan on the proliferation of microbeads in the waters around New York City, and the radiocarbon dating of elephant tusks by Kevin Uno and colleagues as a tool for tracing the pathways of illegal ivory. Links to information about the next Open House and media stories on the research and commentary of Lamont scientists rounded out the issue.

    With astounding prescience, Columbia University’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate is cosponsoring today a Workshop on Atlantic Climate Variability – Dynamics, Prediction and Hurricane Risk ( Among the topics to be addressed at the workshop are the causes and predictability of Atlantic climate variations and associated hurricane risk. Mark Cane and Mingfang Ting are among today’s speakers.

    Hurricanes have also figured in many media stories this week that feature Lamont scientists. Adam Sobel was interviewed by WNYC Tuesday on the role of global climate change in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Harvey ( Adam also contributed an article Wednesday for CNN on what to expect from Hurricane Irma ( Suzana Camargo was interviewed for a video posted by Vice News, also on Wednesday, on Hurricane Irma ( And for a web story yesterday, Sarah Fecht asked Suzana and Radley Horton whether a new Category 6 should be added to the Saffir-Simpson scale for hurricanes with sustained wind speeds as high as those clocked by Irma (

    But not all of the media articles about Lamont scientists were on the topic of hurricanes. A Popular Mechanics story on Tuesday focused on Paul Richards and what he’s been able to learn to date from the seismic signals from North Korea’s nuclear test of last weekend ( In a story Wednesday in Inside Science, Art Lerner-Lam offered the skepticism of a seismologist to claims by neutrino physicists that a solar neutrino detector that will come on line in the next decade will resolve new information about Earth’s interior structure ( And Park Williams was quoted in a story in The Atlantic yesterday that summer heat has been a major contributor to the large number of wildfires in western North America this season (

    On Monday afternoon next week, the ceremony for the annual Lamont Campus Excellence in Mentoring Award will be held in the Monell Auditorium. The award selection committee this year received 54 letters of nomination or support for eight nominees, so their choice was a difficult one. Nominees include Solange Duhamel, Arlene Fiore, Joaquim Goes, David Goldberg, Jerry McManus, Richard Seager, Jason Smerdon, and Mingfang Ting. The individual selected for this year’s award will be announced at the ceremony, and a reception will follow in the Monell lobby.

    On Wednesday afternoon next week, the Lamont Advisory Board will meet at the Columbia Club in Midtown. The focus of the meeting will be on Lamont’s role in Columbia’s Capital Campaign and particularly the Climate Response theme of the campaign. Presentations on the report of the Climate Faculty Task Force in the areas of rising levels of carbon dioxide, rising sea level, and short-term climate variability and extreme events will be given by Task Force members Dave Goldberg, Mo Raymo, and Adam Sobel, respectively.

    On Friday afternoon next week, we will hold a quarterly meeting of the Lamont Senior Staff. The meeting, which will be open to members of the Junior Staff and will be held in the Monell Auditorium, will offer an overview of the state of the Observatory and will include presentations on the budget, capital projects, and development efforts. Time will be set aside for questions from the faculty.

    Also, Friday of next week will see the launch of the fall season of Lamont’s Earth Science Colloquium series. This year’s colloquia are being organized by a committee that includes Bridgit Boulahanis, Genevieve Coffey, Jing Jean Guo, Laura Haynes, Elise Myers, and Lucy Tweed, with Marco Tedesco serving as Coordinator. The inaugural colloquium for the fall season will be given by our own Kevin Griffin.

    Until next week, please join me in wishing that our family members, friends, and Caribbean and American neighbors in the path of this weekend’s hurricanes remain safe and dry.