Lamont Weekly Report, September 13, 2013

     It is a rare week that features a New York City mayoral primary, an anniversary of September 11th, and a Friday the 13th.
    The week nonetheless included some good news. I am pleased to report that Keep Rockland Beautiful has named Margie Turrin as the recipient of their Education Award this year ( The organization writes that “Margie is an extraordinary educator who has brought engaging, experiential learning to thousands of students throughout Rockland,” and that “her leadership continues to support a cleaner, more environmentally sound Rockland County.” Margie will receive the award at the Keep Rockland Beautiful Awards Gala in Sparkill on October 26.
    The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Lamont welcome Ryan Abernathey as the department’s newest Assistant Professor this semester. A physical oceanographer who received his Ph.D. last year from MIT and recently completed an appointment as a postdoctoral scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ryan studies the influence on ocean circulation of mixing and transport by eddies. A particular focus of his work has been on the southern oceans and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. He also brings a strong interest in the development and application of computer visualization tools (e.g.,
    The Geochemistry Division welcomed several arrivals this week. Sarah Lambart, an experimental petrologist with a Ph.D. from Université Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand and postdoctoral experience there and at Caltech, has joined Lamont as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to work with Peter Kelemen. Mohamed Ezat, a graduate student from the University of Tromsø, Norway, is visiting the Observatory this academic year to work with Bärbel Hönisch as a part-time Staff Associate. Giulio Borghini, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Milan, has returned to Lamont as a part-time Postdoctoral Research Scientist and is working with Conny Class and Steve Goldstein.
     On Monday, Tuesday, and today, Lamont was visited by a delegation from the Institute of Earth Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IEECAS). The visitors included Zhisheng An, Weijian Zhou, Junji Cao, Youbin Sun, and Li Li, as well as Yongmin Han, who has been on our campus since July to collaborate with Beizhan Yan on the provenance of airborne black carbon in Chinese megacities. The Chinese scientists toured our campus and participated in discussions on scientific topics of joint interest in paleoclimate and related subjects. Participants from Lamont, in addition to Beizhan, included Wally Broecker, Elizabeth Clark, Yoni Goldsmith, Laia Andreu Hayles, Sid Hemming, Mike Kaplan, Dennis Kent, George Kukla, Yochanan Kushnir, Tanzhuo Liu, Jerry McManus, Aaron Putnam, Joerg Schaefer, and Gisela Winckler. The objective of the visit was to develop plans for one or more cooperative research projects to be conducted between IEECAS and Lamont.
     On Tuesday, the Agriculture and Food Security Center hosted a daylong symposium in the Rotunda of Low Library. On the theme of “The Nexus of Agriculture, Environment, and Livelihoods,” the event was kicked off by a keynote address by Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria. Panel discussions on challenges to sustainable agriculture, integrating agricultural data, and defining the strategic directions for the new center featured a broad mix of international experts salted with Columbia University colleagues, and a set of demonstrations of new tools and technologies to further the center’s research agenda punctuated the early afternoon. Pedro Sanchez, Cheryl Palm, and their colleagues are to be congratulated for a thoroughly stimulating day that provided an apt inauguration for the new center.
    The R/V Langseth has completed its multibeam, magnetic, and gravity survey of its main study area on the southern Reykjanes Ridge, and the shipboard party has begun filling in gaps in multibeam coverage on their northward return to Iceland. The ship is scheduled to arrive on Sunday morning in Reykjavik, from which she will depart next week to make her first stop on the U.S. east coast since 2007.
    In the news this week is a paper in yesterday’s issue of Nature by Lex van Geen, Ben Bostick, and their colleagues on the effect of increasing rates of groundwater withdrawal in the Hanoi, Vietnam, region on arsenic contamination of the primary aquifer that supplies the area’s drinking water. The group showed that adsorption of arsenic onto the aquifer sands markedly retarded the lateral extent of arsenic contamination from an adjacent aquifer relative to the reconstructed lateral flow of groundwater over the study period ( The story was covered by Fox News ( and other media.
    Lamont scientists were mentioned in a number of other news stories this week. Chris Zappa was quoted in a Climate Central story on Sunday on the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles to make measurements of the rapidly changing polar regions ( In another Climate Central story on Tuesday, Roger Anderson was quoted on the challenges facing cities and regions in the design of more storm-resistant power grids ( An article on ClimateWire, also on Tuesday, discussed the project of Peter Kelemen and Juerg Matter to explore the potential of the ultramafic rocks of the Samail ophiolite in Oman as sites of underground carbon dioxide sequestration ( For a National Geographic story on Wednesday, Wally Broecker was interviewed on the hypothesis that a comet impact may have contributed to the onset about 12,900 years ago of the Younger Dryas interval of cooler climate (
     On Wednesday of next week, the second Lamont Postdoctoral Symposium will be held in the Comer Seminar Room. Thirty-seven of Lamont’s current cadre of 45 postdoctoral scientists will give talks or posters on their research. Presentations have been grouped by research division during this day-long event.
    Also on Wednesday, Lamont’s Advisory Board will meet in Midtown Manhattan. A prime agenda item for that meeting will be a presentation on the status of Lamont’s scientific strategic plan by Robin Bell and Maureen Raymo, co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Committee. The Board meeting will be followed by a Director’s Circle talk by Mark Cane on “Climate and conflict.”
    In the meantime, I hope that you will join me this afternoon for the first Earth Science Colloquium of the new academic year. Richard Bulliet, Professor of History at Columbia and an expert on the Middle East and the history of technology, will be lecturing on “The Black Sea flood and the invention of the wheel.” Presumably both events predated mayoral elections in New York City.