Lamont Weekly Report, October 5, 2012

     The week has been one of continued honors, professional advancement, and institutional impact.
     In last week’s list of those in the Lamont community who received awards over the past year, an inadvertent omission was Celia Eddy. As a graduating senior in DEES last spring, Celia received Departmental Honors. Already a research veteran who has presented her work at the past two AGU Fall Meetings, Celia elected to remain at Columbia and Lamont and is now a first-year graduate student in seismology.
     We inaugurated the coming year of honors spectacularly with Monday’s announcement that Terry Plank was selected as a 2012 MacArthur Fellow (see Terry joins the ranks of Paul Richards and Pedro Sanchez from the Lamont Campus and Joel Cohen and Ruth DeFries from the Earth Institute, all former MacArthur Fellows. Terry’s colleagues toasted her well-deserved recognition with a champagne reception and a “12-cork salute” in the lower lobby of Monell on Wednesday afternoon.
     I am pleased to announce the promotions of five young scientists, all effective this week. Four individuals have been promoted from postdoctoral scientist to Lamont Assistant Research Professor. Laia Andreu-Hayles applies dendrochronological techniques to study the interactions between forests and the environment and the impact of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems. Atmospheric dynamicist Daehyun Kim works on the interaction between cumulus convection and large-scale tropical circulation and its role in climate variability. Jonathan Nichols is a paleohydrologist who uses fossil plant materials to study the past climate of wetlands, swamps, and related settings to understand the influence of climate change on Earth’s hydrological and carbon cycles. Philipp Ruprecht is a volcanologist and petrologist who studies magmatic systems with a combination of fieldwork, analytical geochemistry, and numerical modeling. Timothy Creyts has been promoted from postdoctoral scientist to Associate Research Scientist (Project). Tim is a glaciologist who combines numerical modeling and field observations to investigate interactions between ice and water, including the hydrology of glacier beds and processes that influence water transport in glacial systems.
     At this afternoon’s meeting of the DEES faculty, Peter deMenocal announced that Ryan Abernathey has accepted Columbia’s offer of an Assistant Professor position, beginning next July. Ryan is a physical oceanographer who received his Ph.D. earlier this year from MIT and is currently a postdoctoral scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Ryan studies the influence on ocean circulation of mixing and transport by eddies, and a particular focus of his work has been on the southern oceans and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. He will also bring a strong interest in the development and application of computer visualization systems (e.g.,
     My copy of last Friday’s Science magazine arrived in this week’s mail. A four-page spread featured the work of our Tree Ring Laboratory’s Neil Pederson and Ed Cook on Lamont’s Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas and recent work on climate change in central Asia in the early thirteenth century, a period that coincides with the remarkably rapid rise of the Mongol Empire led by Genghis Khan. Neil and his colleagues are exploring the idea that a two-decade interval of abundant rainfall in Mongolia may have led to a flourishing of the region’s grasslands to levels capable of supporting a much larger population of livestock than usual, enabling the Mongols to develop the “horsepower” needed for conquest.
     On Monday, The New York Times posted the first installment of Aaron Putnam’s blog on his fieldtrip to Bhutan to explore links among climate, glaciers, and water resources in the Himalayan region. The travelogue (, part of the Scientist at Work series at the Times, promises to be a good read.
     All of us at Lamont look forward to tomorrow’s Open House. This annual tradition dates back decades, I am told, and it has grown to be an event enjoyed by thousands of visitors. I hope to see many of you during the day.