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AGU 2011: Day 1

Filed under: — group @ 6 December 2011

A number of us are at the big AGU meeting in San Francisco this week (among 20,000 other geophysicists). We will try to provide a daily summary of interesting talks and posters we come across, but obviously this won’t be complete or comprehensive.

Other bloggers are covering the event (twitter #AGU11). A small number of the posters are viewable on their website as well.


Two good general talks this morning – Harry Elderfield gave the Emiliani lecture and started off with a fascinating discussion of the early discussions of Harold Urey and Cesare Emiliani on isotope thermometry – and showed that even Nobel Prize winners (Urey – for the discovery of deuterium) are sometimes quite wrong – in this case for insisting that the overall isotope ratio in the ocean could not ever change. (This talk should become available online here).

The second general talk was by author Simon Winchester who excellently demonstrated how to communicate about geology by using human stories. He gave a number of vignettes from his latest book about the Atlantic ocean – including stories of the shipwreck of the Dunedin Star on the ‘Skeleton coast’ of Southern Africa, time on St Helena, and the fate of his book on the Pacific that apparently only sold 12 copies… He finished with a mea culpa and gracious apology to the assorted geophysicists for his rather hurried comments on the Tohoku earthquake disaster that caused some consternation earlier this year. In his defense, he only had 90 minutes to write what he was unaware would be the Newsweek cover story that week.

In the science sessions in the afternoon, there was some good talks related to attributing extreme events including Marty Hoerling discussing the Moscow heat wave and a very different perspective from the cpdn group in Oxford. It would have been good to have had some actual discussion between the different people, but AGU is not conducive to much back and forth because of the very tight scheduling. The oxford group estimated (based on volunteer computing) that the likelihood of the Russian heat wave was something like 3 times more likely with 2000’s background climate vs the 1980’s. Some good points were made about the non-Gaussian nature of observed distributions the semantic challenges in explain attribution when there are both proximate and ultimate causes. Kerry Emanuel gave an update of his views on hurricane climate connections.

In the next door session, there was interesting discussion on the philosophy of climate modelling (from actual philosophers!) and the strategies that need to be adopted in dealing with the multi-model ensembles of CMIP3 and CMIP5.

(Day 2)(Days 3&4)(Day 5 and wrap up)

8 Responses to “AGU 2011: Day 1”

  1. 1
    JamesA says:

    Couldn’t make it this year (San Fran is a bit of a hike from the UK), which is a shame because it is one hell of an uber-conference.

    One observation about I have about the AGU is that it is a rather spectacular antithesis to the picture of climate science that many of the deniers like to paint. Thousands of scientists discussing and critically assessing each each other’s work on the cutting edge, as opposed to conspiring together about how they can continue to hoodwink the general public on behalf of a communist world government (or something). The fact that the whole time, they’re rubbing shoulders with scientists whose work is connected with the fossil fuel industry just goes to further dispel the myth.

  2. 2
    Mike Ellis says:

    On the inability to have some discussion of papers, it is not the AGU that dictates this, it is the convener of the session. Conveners are able to schedule as few talks as they wish in their oral session, allowing for example an empty 15 or 30 minute slot at the end to hold a longer discussion. You can even have a panel discussion. It’s basically your (convener) session to do with what you like. The problem is, as you can anticipate, that everyone wants their chance to talk for 15 minutes, or more!

  3. 3
    Dan H. says:

    Here is a nice poster which would go well with our earlier discussion about trees retaining their leaves longer.

  4. 4

    Any progress to report on coupling global models with detailed ice pack effects? At a symposium on climate change at Woods Hole two (or so) years back, there was mention that the models did not have a coupling into models for ice pack or ice mass effects, e.g,. Greenland and Antarctica, because of the poor state of understanding dynamics, let alone the complexity of modeling these.

  5. 5
    CM says:

    When you find the time, could you unsnarl this sentence, please? “Some good points were made about the non-Gaussian nature of observed distributions the semantic challenges in explain attribution when there are both proximate and ultimate causes.”

  6. 6
    D. Trent says:

    Yes, please do explain the point made by #5, “CM says”; I. too am totally baffled by the wording.

  7. 7
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Ok I’ll try:
    “Some good points were made about the non-Gaussian nature of observed distributions and the semantic challenges in explaining attribution when there are both proximate and ultimate causes.”

    Let’s really appreciate the fact that RC group is bloging from the conference at all, and give them a break on close enough syntax.

  8. 8
    CM says:

    Pete (#7), thanks, that would make sense. (No pedantry intended. I honestly couldn’t make it out, I thought two different sentences must have got mixed up).