Contact: Faye Yates
(914) 365-8623
For immediate release
July 20, 1998

Media Alert:

Columbia Breaks Ground July 22 at Lamont On New Climate Prediction Institute

In the first new construction since 1975 at its earth sciences campus, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University will break ground July 22 on a $10 million building to house a new climate prediction institute.

The 27,000-square-foot building at Lamont, in Palisades, N.Y., will be the home to the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, a facility that will make use of recent advances in understanding El Nino to provide early warnings of extreme climate events to a global network of researchers and government agencies. The IRI is a joint venture among Lamont, Columbia's earth sciences research division; the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, located in La Jolla, Calif., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is providing $18 million over three years in a cooperative agreement to establish the institute.

The IRI building will be situated on the Palisades Cliffs, a narrow ridge 300 feet above the Hudson River, with views across to Westchester County and up to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Since the Lamont campus is now a mix of architectural styles, the architects were asked to create a building that would mesh well with the hilly terrain and offer a direction for future expansion.

"We came up with a fairly thin, long building that takes advantage of that landscape," with a series of terraced steps that match the ridge's climb, said John Kinnaird of Rafael Vinoly Architects, P.C., of New York, who is project manager for the IRI building. The one-story wooden building, 600 feet long, uses natural ventilation, via a clerestory window on the roof and office windows that open and close, to bring river breezes indoors. F. J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc., New York, is the contractor. Construction is expected to take a year.

The IRI currently employs about 25 researchers and administrative personnel at both the La Jolla and Palisades locations. On its completion, however, the Lamont building will house about 80 to 85 students, researchers and administrators, said Antonio Moura, director of IRI. Each office will have a workstation with Internet connections, and the facility will rely on both an Origin 2000 supercomputer from Silicon Graphics located in a nearby building and on high-speed connections to remote computers for the enormous computing capacity required for climate prediction research. Training rooms for visiting scholars, a teleconferencing room and an auditorium complete the design.

"The intellectual community at Columbia is unmatched in its new mission to promote the study of the whole Earth system," Dr. Moura said. "As a member of this interdisciplinary consortium, IRI will provide extraordinary opportunity for intellectual cross-fertilization within Columbia as well as internationally."

Said Peter Eisenberger, director of Lamont: "The new building that will serve as IRI's headquarters has a special significance because it is a physical realization of the scientific progress made in our understanding of climate and will house efforts that demonstrate the powerful connection between scientific progress and societal impact."

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the IRI are units of the Columbia Earth Institute, launched to develop innovations for wise stewardship of our planet.

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