Disaster Experts: A Journalist’s Guide

by |February 14, 2017

[Updated Sept.11, 2017]  Earth Institute scientists stand ready to help journalists cover the causes and effects of natural and manmade disasters: earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, extreme weather, wildfires, water pollution, oil spills, civil conflicts, nuclear issues, infrastructure failures. Below is a guide. Unless otherwise stated, researchers are at our Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. If you need help reaching someone, contact: Kevin Krajick, kkrajick@ei.columbia.edu | 212-854-9729 or Kyu-Young Lee, klee@ei.columbia.edu | 212-851-0798

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A metal roof and a bathroom sink—almost the only remains of a home shortly after a lava flow came through Pahoa, Hawaii, in 2014. Photo: Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute

 

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS & RESPONSE
Steven Cohen,
executive director of the Earth Institute and a former EPA official, has long studied how communities can become more resilient to disasters and longer-term challenges. He is author of Understanding Environmental Policy and other books. Contact through Alix Schroder: aschroder@ei.columbia.edu | 212-854-1214

Irwin Redlener, physician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, is a leading thinker regarding emergency planning and response, and in dealing with the aftermaths of all kinds of disasters, including epidemics, hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorism.  ir2110@columbia.edu | 212-535-9797

Jeffrey Schlegelmilch is deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He has broad expertise relating to both disaster policy as well as the development and implementation of disaster preparedness, response and recovery programs.  js4645@columbia.edu |646-845-2318

Arthur Lerner-Lam is deputy director of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. A seismologist by training, he also studies the broader economic and social factors that drive vulnerability to hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes.  lerner@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8348

John Mutter began his career as a seismologist, studies the long-term economic costs of catastrophes. He is author of the book The Disaster Profiteers, about how the rich often benefit from disasters, and the poor suffer. He led a long-term effort to reach a definitive count of the casualties of Hurricane Katrina.  jcm@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-0716

Marc Levy is a political scientist at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network. He and colleagues map the interaction between humans and earth’s surface, generating global images vital for assessing hazards and risks ranging from sea-level rise to forced migration. mlevy@columbia.edu | 845-365-8964

Benjamin Orlove, an anthropologist at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, studies the psychology and sociology of disasters, and how individuals prepare for and react to them.  bso5@columbia.edu | 212-854-1543

 

EXTREME WEATHER/HURRICANES/FLOODING
Adam Sobel, an atmospheric scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, heads Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. Author of Storm Surge, a book about Hurricane Sandy, he assesses hurricanes and other extreme weather, and related social issues.  ahs129@columbia.edu | 212-854-6587

Suzana Camargo is a professor of ocean and climate physics at Lamont-Doherty. She is an expert on hurricanes and cyclones, their genesis, intensity, and their relationship to climate, from intraseasonal to centennial time scales.  suzana@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8640

Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty, studies large-scale cycles such as El Niño that influence weather, including floods, hurricanes snowstorms and droughts. He is author of a widely cited study about the connection between climate and the Syrian civil war.  seager@ldeo.columbia.edu  | 845-365-8743

Klaus Jacob, special research scientist at Lamont-Doherty, is expert in the consequences of coastal storms. An advisor to New York City on climate adaptation, he accurately predicted the flooding of the subways during Hurricane Sandy.  He is a seismologist by training, and has also worked on seismic hazards around the world. jacob@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8440

Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has done a wide variety of interdisciplinary work on the physics of storms, their interaction with climate, and the socioeconomic risk factors, especially in coastal areas. He has advised the mayor New York City and the U.S. president on climate and weather risks.  hortonr@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8496

Timothy Hall, a senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, assesses the physics of cyclones and hurricanes, their landfall, and their threats to coastal communities, especially in the U.S. northeast.  timothy.m.hall@nasa.gov | 212-678-5652

Chia-Ying Lee, associate research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, is an expert on tropical cyclones/hurricanes, how they intensify, their relationship to climate, and how we assess their potential risks. Clee@iri.columbia.edu  | 845-680-4523

Kyle Mandli studies the physics of destructive waves including tsunamis, debris flows, and especially storm surges related to hurricanes. He is an assistant professor at Columbia’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Math.  kyle.mandli@columbia.edu | 212-854-4485 

Anthony Barnston is chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), which seeks to make medium-term (several month) climate forecasts around the world. He especially monitors the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which can spark extreme weather patterns including droughts and floods across much of the world.  tonyb@iri.columbia.edu | 845-680-4447

Andrew Robertson, head of the climate group at IRI, studies the relationship between medium-term climate swings and extreme weather including floods and droughts.  awr@iri.columbia.edu | 845-680-4491

Andrew Kruckiewicz is a staff associate at IRI who specializes in satellite imagery of flooding and other hazards, and subsequent organization of relief; he has worked internationally with the Red Cross. andrewk@@iri.columbia.edu

Michael Tippett is a meteorologist at IRI who specializes in the study of tornadoes, and how to forecast them.  tippett@iri.columbia.edu | 845-680-4420

Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center, leads studies of the natural and manmade factors that cause inland flooding, and how they might be mitigated.  ula2@columbia.edu   212-854-8905

 

EARTHQUAKES & TSUNAMIS
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory deploys seismologists across the world to study earthquakes on land and under the sea. Their work extends to manmade quakes including nuclear tests. Lamont runs the official network that monitors earthquakes in the northeast United States, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey. The Lamont Cooperative Seismic Network displays this quake information in real time on its Seismic Events list. 

James Gaherty heads the seismology department. He has worked extensively across the globe, from North America to Asia and Africa. He can discuss quakes on land or under the sea, and related phenomena including tsunamis.  gaherty@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8450

Won-Young Kim heads the Lamont Cooperative Seismic network, covering the northeast United States. He is also expert in seismicity related to hydraulic fracking, nuclear explosions or other human activities, and in quakes that occur in unusual places within the continents. wykim@ldeo.columbia.edu  | 845-365-8387 / 8583

Leonardo Seeber responds to northeast U.S. quakes. He also works extensively in quake-prone areas of Italy, India, Bangladesh, Turkey and other nations. He is expert in manmade quakes.  nano@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8385

Arthur Lerner-Lam is deputy director of Lamont-Doherty. He has studied big earthquakes in many parts of the world, including China and Haiti. He also studies the socioeconomic factors that make people vulnerable to quakes. lerner@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8348

Michael Steckler has assessed major seismic threats in Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Italy and other nations. His studies have revealed major threats in large areas, especially in southeast Asia. steckler@ldeo.columbia.edu  |845-365-8479

Christopher Scholz is expert in the mechanics of earthquakes, and the possibility of quake forecasting. He has worked in Africa, and is particularly interested in quakes along the U.S. West Coast.  scholz@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8360

John Armbruster has worked in the U.S. Northeast, Pakistan and the Himalaya, among other places. He is highly knowledgeable about both natural and manmade quakes.  armb@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8556

Heather Savage is expert in rock mechanics, fault stresses and human-induced earthquakes. She has worked in California, Wyoming and Nevada, among other places.   hsavage@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8720

Donna Shillington is a marine geologist who studies the threats posed by continental rifts and undersea earthquakes, including tsunamis. Her work has focused on eastern Africa, Turkey and especially Alaska.  djs@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8156

Anne Becel is a geophysicist specializing in undersea structures that can cause earthquakes and tsunamis. She has worked off Alaska and other places.  annebcl@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8813 

Spahr Webb is a seismologist specializing in undersea earthquakes and their consequences, including tsunamis. He has worked globally, including in the east and west Pacific, and off Alaska.   scw@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8439

Kyle Mandli studies the physics of destructive waves including tsunamis caused by earthquakes. He is an assistant professor at Columbia’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Math.  kyle.mandli@columbia.edu | 212-854-4485 

Meredith Nettles has worked globally. Her specialty is earthquakes that occur within glaciers, particularly in Greenland.  nettles@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8613

George Deodatis, a member of the Earth Engineering Center, assesses the earthquake resistance of buildings, bridges and other structures.  deodatis@civil.columbia.edu | 212-854-9728

 

VOLCANOES
Terry Plank, a geochemist, studies the deep-earth forces that drive explosive volcanoes. Winner of a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, she has worked in Alaska, the continental United States, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico and islands in the Pacific Ocean.  tplank@ldeo.columbia.edu  |845-365-8410

William Menke  is highly knowledgeable in general volcanology, seismology and geology, especially in volcanoes related to mid-ocean spreading ridges and hot spots. He has worked in Iceland and the U.S.  menke@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-304-5381

Cornelia Class is a geochemist and field geologist highly knowledgeable in general volcanology. She has analyzed volcanic rocks in Africa, Panama and many other places.  class@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8712

Einat Lev studies the physics of lava flows, and how they interact with topography and human structures. She is also knowledgeable about many other aspects of volcanoes. She has worked in Hawaii, Japan, Chile, Iceland and other nations. einatlev@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8616

Maya Tolstoy, a marine geologist and geophysicist, studies the workings of undersea volcanoes at mid-ocean ridges and seamounts, including their possible relationships to sea level, tides and climate. She has worked on oceans across the earth.   tolstoy@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-36-8791

Peter Kelemen, a geochemist and geologist, studies igneous rocks in many areas of the world, from the Aleutian Islands to Oman. He is particularly interested in deep-earth processes that drive volcanism.  peterk@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8728

 

LANDSLIDES
Colin Stark is a seismologist who studies landslides from Alaska to Nepal, Taiwan and other countries. He and his partner Goran Ekstrom have shown that slides in remote areas can be detected and assessed remotely, using seismic waves.  cstark@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8742

Göran Ekström is a seismologist who studies landslides worldwide, with a special interest to assessing and mitigating hazards. He and colleague Colin Stark have worked extensively on landslides in Alaska, Nepal and other areas. ekstrom@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8742 

 

WILDFIRES
Park Williams,
a bioclimatologist at Lamont-Doherty, studies the factors that lead to destructive wildfires, especially in relation to drought and warming climate.  He is author of several seminal studies on this topic. williams@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8150

Justin Mankin, a postdoc at Lamont-Doherty and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, investigates the response of land and vegetation to drought, and resulting wildfire risk.  jsmankin@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8373

 

POLLUTION
Alexander van Geen, a geochemist, studies how arsenic, heavy metals and other dangerous substances enter and spread through drinking water, either naturally or through human action. Much of his work focuses on southeast Asia, but he also works in the U.S.   avangeen@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8644

Benjamin Bostick, a geochemist, studies how arsenic and a variety of other pollutants enter and spread through drinking water. He works in both Asia and the U.S. bostick@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8659

Beizhan Yan is a geochemist who analyzes the relationship between hydrofracking and groundwater pollution, the prevalance of plastics in surface waters, and other types of water pollution, mainly in the U.S. northeast.  yanbz@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8155

Andrew Juhl is a biological oceanographer who studies how sewage and other pollutants move through surface water. He has worked on the Hudson River, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic.  andyjuhl@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8837

Ajit Subramaniam is a biological oceanographer who studies the effects of sewage, oil and other pollutants in coastal areas from Africa to Asia. Among other things, he has investigated the the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  ajit@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8641

Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist, specializes in studying underwater physics. He produced the first credible estimate of the magnitude of the great 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, revealing its true extent.  crone@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8687

Christopher Zappa is an oceanographer specializing in upper-ocean and estuary processes including turbulence, currents and waves that influence how pollutants may spread through ocean and estuary waters.  zappa@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8547

Joaquim Goes, a biological oceanographer, studies the factors that drive blooms of harmful plankton, known commonly in some areas as “red tides.” His work ranges from the Amazon to the Arabian Sea. He also studies the prevalence of plastics in coastal waters.  jig@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8467

 

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
Michael Gerrard directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He has had a long career in all aspects of local, national and international environmental law, including litigation related to pollution. mgerra@law.columbia.edu | 212-854-3287

Michael Burger is executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He has studied a wide variety of environmental issues, including pollution control. mburger@law.columbia.edu | 212-854-2372

 

WARFARE/CIVIL CONFLICT
Josh Fisher
is director of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4), which seeks to resolve the conditions that lead to violent conflict. Fisher has a focus on extractive industries; he works in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.  jf2788@columbia.edu | 435-764-0383

Peter Coleman is co-executive director of AC4. He studies multicultural conflicts, and ways to resolve seemingly intractable conflicts.  pc84@columbia.edu | 212-678-3112

 

NUCLEAR ISSUES
Paul Richards 
is a seismologist who has refined the modern techniques used to detect nuclear blasts, and their application to arms control. He has studied nuclear explosions in Russia, Kazakhstan and North Korea, among other places.  richards@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8389

Won-Young Kim, a seismologist, has worked on techniques to detect nuclear test explosions across the world, with a particular focus on North Korea. He also heads the Lamont Cooperative Seismic Network, which monitors the U.S. northeast and also picks up signals globally.  wykim@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8387

Lynn Sykes is a seismologist who helped refine techniques for detecting nuclear test explosions across the world. As a technical advisor, he has been involved in evaluating key international treaties for the United States.  sykes@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8880

Timothy Kenna, a geochemist, studies the spread of radioactivity substances in the environment. tkenna@ldeo.columbia.edu | 845-365-8513

 

INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEMS

Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center, and postdoctoral researchers Maura Allaire and Michelle W.K. Ho, are studying the threats posed by decaying water infrastructure, including dams susceptible to collapse, and unsafe municipal water-delivery systems that introduce lead or other harmful substances to water supplies.  Upmanu Lall: ula2@columbia.edu  212-854-8905 |Michelle Ho: mh3538@columbia.edu  212-854-1695 | Maura Allaire: ma3536@columbia.edu  21-854-1695

 

 

RELATED PREVIOUS PRESS ADVISORIES:

Hurricane Experts: Earth Institute Resources for Journalists  (October 2016)

The Paris Climate Summit: Resources for Journalists (November 2015)

El Niño: Resources for Journalists (October 2015)

Building Resilience: Post-Sandy Resources for Journalists (August 2013)

Post-Sandy Resources for Journalists (November 2012)

Hydraulic Fracturing: Resources for Journalists  (August 2011)

Gulf Oil Spill Resources (June 2010)

Haiti Quake and Reconstruction Resources  (January 2010)


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