Lamont Weekly Report, March 1, 2013

    This week ended as sequestration of the federal budget is set to take effect. With nary a whimper and no bang, the House of Representatives adjourned for the weekend on Thursday. One day earlier, NSF issued an “Important Notice” stating that the effect of the sequester at that agency would primarily be felt by a reduction in new awards and that funding agreements for existing and continuing grants would generally be honored, at least for the remainder of this government fiscal year.
    Arriving on campus this week is Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow David Chapman. David obtained his Ph.D. in computer science last year from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Broadly interested in the statistical analysis of large data sets for climate science, David is working on the validation of methods for treating greenhouse gas absorption in global climate models by means of hyperspectral infrared sounder observations from spacecraft. David’s Lamont home is in the Ocean and Climate Physics Division, and I hope that you will join me in welcoming him to the campus.
    On Monday, Lamont was visited by a 19-member delegation from the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The interest of the Commission, newly reconstituted last year for a 5-year term, was stimulated by the fact that marine geological and geophysical data collected by the Observatory is being used by many coastal countries in the preparation of submissions to the Commission on the identification of the limits of their continental shelves under the Law of the Sea. The Commission asked to be informed on the extent of Lamont’s database in marine geology and geophysics and the manner in which it is managed and utilized. The delegation was treated to an introduction to the Observatory and its marine operations by Art Lerner-Lam and Paul Ljunggren, presentations on Lamont’s ongoing research in geoinformatics by Suzanne Carbotte and Bill Ryan, and tours of Lamont’s Core Repository led by Maureen Raymo and Nichole Anest and CIESIN’s Remote Sensing and Visualization Laboratory led by Bob Chen and Mark Becker.
    I spent Tuesday through Thursday at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where I chaired a meeting of the MESSENGER Science Team. On Wednesday, our team submitted to NASA a proposal to extend MESSENGER’s orbital observations of Mercury for another two years. Because the effect of the gravitational pull of the Sun is to bring the spacecraft closer to the planet on each successive orbit, and because the propellant on the spacecraft will have been consumed by that time, MESSENGER will impact Mercury no later than March 2015. There are many new observations that can be made between now and then, including measurements at unprecedentedly low altitudes, so we are hopeful that NASA will agree to the extension.
    On Wednesday, Art Lerner-Lam made a presentation to the Board of the Jamaica Bay Conservancy on the science that Lamont scientists would conduct under a joint proposal to the City of New York and the National Park Service by CUNY, Columbia, SUNY, and Rutgers to establish a Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Center. Lamont’s efforts on the proposed project have been led by Arnold Gordon and include contributions by Andy Juhl, Wade McGillis, Dorothy Peteet, Ray Sambrotto, and Chris Zappa.
    On Thursday, Art, along with Robin Bell, Tim Creyts, Hugh Ducklow, Doug Martinson, and Xiaojun Yuan, conducted a telephone briefing on the science of the Antarctic region to leaders of the Antarctic Forum, a group of Chinese business and political leaders organized to address environmental and global commons issues for the region. The Columbia Global Center in Beijing served as an intermediary in arranging for the discussion. Members of the Antarctic Forum, who were on a cruise from Buenos Aires to Antarctica and back at the time of the briefing, plan a workshop in China this fall to continue the conversation, and several from the Lamont community are likely to be invited.
   Today’s highlight is the Graduate Student Symposium, a daylong series of research talks and poster presentations organized by graduate students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and designed to increase the visibility of graduate students within the research community of the region. The symposium features presentations by graduate students from Yale, Princeton, Brown, MIT, Rutgers, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as Columbia. Abstracts of the presentations have been posted online ( The symposium will be followed tomorrow by a Seismology Student Workshop, also organized by graduate students, and focused on the technical details of different methodologies for the analysis of seismic data sets (
    Lamonters in the news this week include Won-Young Kim and Paul Richards, who are featured in a story and video on North Korea’s most recent nuclear test by Voice of America posted on Tuesday ( On Climate Central yesterday was a story on a paper in a February issue of Journal of Climate by Neil Pederson, Andrew Bell, Ed Cook, Richard Seager, and others on the multi-century history of New York City’s watershed; the paper documented evidence that severe droughts are much more common than the record of the past several decades might suggest (  
    On Friday of next week, NOAA’s Bob Detrick and Rick Rosen will visit the Lamont campus. Bob is Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and Rick is Acting Director of NOAA’s Climate Program Office. They will be speaking on NOAA’s current programs and plans, and a series of meetings with interested scientific staff is being scheduled. Also on Friday, Gavin Schmidt of GISS will give the Earth Science Colloquium. So the week should at least end well.