American Geophysical Union 2017: Key Events From the Earth Institute
A chronological guide to key talks and other events presented by Columbia University’s Earth Institute at the American Geophysical Union 2017 meeting. Unless otherwise noted, scientists are at our Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. For abstracts, see the Meeting Program. Reporters: contact scientists directly, or news editor Kevin Krajick, [email protected] 917-361-7766.
Emergence of a New Pacific Island: Analog to Mars? Vicki Ferrini
In 2015, a brand-new island emerged in the Pacific’s Tonga chain, when a volcano exploded through the water line. NASA scientists are studying its evolution with satellite imagery, and Ferrini and colleagues have mapped the bathymetry around it from a ship. This is the first time a newly forming island has been so studied in real time. The observations open a new window onto earth processes, and also may serve as an analog to understanding similar-looking island-like features on Mars. Ferrini will speak at an AGU-sponsored press conference with NASA scientists Jim Garvin and Dan Slayback.
PRESS CONFERENCE: Evolution of a New Pacific Island May Unlock Secrets to Mars. Monday, Dec. 11, 9am, Press Conference Room
Scientists Map a New Volcanic Island
Wildlife on the Move in a Warming Arctic Scott LaPoint, Ruth Oliver
Fast warming in the arctic appears to be altering wildlife movement, behavior and ranges. LaPoint discusses tracking data showing that migratory golden eagles are arriving in northern breeding grounds earlier every spring. Oliver discusses automated bioacoustic networks that record bird calls at select far northern locations, allowing researchers to track changes in the arrival of many species. LaPoint will later join researchers from other institutions in a press conference to discuss climate-related changes among other species.
LaPoint: Monday, Dec. 11, 10:50-11:05am, Morial Center 356-357. B12C-03
Oliver: Monday, Dec. 11, 11:05-11:20am, Morial Center 356-357. B12C-04
PRESS CONFERENCE: Climate Change and Unexpected Consequences for Animal Populations. Monday, Dec. 11, 4pm, Press Conference Room
Getting Under an Antarctic Ice Shelf Robin Bell
AGU president-elect Bell will discuss the latest findings from the ROSETTA project, which is using instruments above and below the ice to produce new images of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, the ocean, its floor, and deep geologic structures. Among other things, the research is revealing that the shelf is melting from the top in some areas, but the bottom in others—differences that in some cases may be influenced by underlying geology.
Monday, Dec. 12, 4:12-4:15pm, Morial Center eLightning Area. C14B-04
Unlocking the Secrets of the Ross Ice Shelf
Studying Lava With Drones and Neuroscience Einat Lev
In 2016, Lev and colleagues trekked to Chile’s Quizapu volcano, site of South America’s largest historical lava flow, to map the vast surface in great detail via drone. Along with related work at volcanoes in Hawaii, Iceland and elsewhere, this research should yield new insights into natural controls on lava flows, and how people might deal with them. Lev and colleagues are also now about to simulate lava dynamics in the lab using materials and methods adapted from cutting-edge neuroscience experiments.
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 9:30-9:45am, Morial Center 208-209. V21A-07
Peering Into Chile’s Quizapu
Facebook and the Mapping of Humanity Alexander deSherbinin, Robert Chen, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)
CIESIN scientists have partnered with Facebook to map human habitation and infrastructure at fine scales across the world. Facebook started the effort in order to locate billions of people not yet connected to the internet—information that can be applied to a wide variety of socioeconomic projects. De Sherbinin discusses information newly available in 30-meter resolution, and how institutions are working to use the data. Chen will discuss relatively new tools collecting data, including drones, cell phones, internet providers, satellites and citizen scientists, and new “big data” capabilities to process it.
Chen: Tuesday, Dec. 12, 10:50-11:05am, Morial Center 255-257. PA22A-03
De Sherbinin: Friday, Dec. 15, 9:09-9:21am, Morial Center 228-230. IN51H-06
Mapmakers Team With Facebook
The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Party
Traditionally on Tuesday night at AGU, staff and alumni of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory gather from around the world for a reunion. Journalists registered for AGU are welcome—a great chance to make contacts, hear the buzz about new work, and have fun.
Tuesday Dec. 12, 6:30-8:30pm, Lowes New Orleans, Louisiana Ballroom, 300 Poydras Street
From Plate Tectonics to Nuclear Bombs Lynn Sykes
Seismologist Lynn Sykes has devoted much of his long career to detecting secret nuclear test explosions, and working to develop verifiable test-ban treaties. In his new book Silencing the Bomb: One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing, he details the science and intrigues of his work. Sykes will sign copies at the Columbia University Press exhibit booth. He will also give a talk on his role in solidifying the theory of plate tectonics, when he mapped undersea earthquakes in the 1960s—subject of his second book, coming in 2018.
Silencing the Bomb signing: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 11am-12pm, Columbia University Press booth (#1552), Exhibition Hall
Tectonics: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2:04-2:20pm, Morial Center E2. U33A-02 (Invited)
Unviable U.S. Dams Michelle Ho, Columbia Water Center, Richard Seager
Dams that supply water to the U.S. West were designed with little knowledge about the range, frequency and persistence of precipitation extremes. Scientists have since identified prehistoric droughts worse than any seen historically, and projections say the region will get drier as climate warms. In this light, Ho assesses the viability of existing dams. In a separate talk, Seager synthesizes the latest findings on regional climate, taking in studies of paleoclimate and plant physiology, and new revelations about the influence of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. One concern: as the West dries, plants in natural ecosystems could adapt by sucking up more soil moisture, competing with humans for ever-scarcer water.
Ho: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1:40-6pm, Morial Center Poster Halls D-F. NH33B-0246
Seager: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2:04-2:22pm, Morial Center 343. PP33D-03
Michelle Ho: In a Land of Plenty, Big Water Problems
Richard Seager Sees Hand of Climate Change in Drought
The Melting Himalayas Joshua Maurer Mukund Rao
Due to lack of long-term observations, scientists have been unclear about how Himalayan glaciers as a whole are being affected by warming climate. By combining declassified films from old spy satellites with modern satellite imagery, Maurer and colleagues now have a 40-year record of changes in 1,000 glaciers spanning 2,000 kilometers. They say ice has been consistently wasting since 1975, and the rate has doubled since 2000. In a related study, Rao compares recent stream flows in the glacier-fed Indus River watershed with tree rings going back to 1452. Results suggest that since the 1980s, water flow has been greater than at any time in in the last 500 years, probably driven by increased glacier melt.
Rao: Thursday, Dec. 14, 9-9:15am, Morial Center 267-268. GC41G-05
Maurer: Friday, Dec. 15, 11:35-11:50am, Morial Center 275-277. C52A-06
Africa’s Air Pollution Problem Susanne Bauer, Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Sub-Saharan Africa produces a third of earth’s particulate pollution caused by biomass burning—yet the exact origins, chemistry and health effects of particles remain poorly known. Using satellite imagery and other resources, Bauer and colleagues have done a comprehensive study. She will discuss where particles come from, the number of people affected, and how pollution may work with other factors to cause premature death.
Thursday, Dec. 14, 11:05-11:20am, Morial Center 395-396. A42C-04
A Newly Revealed Record El Niño, and a Killer Drought Deepti Singh
The 1876-78 Great Famine killed more than 50 million people across Asia, Africa and South America–possibly the worst human environmental disaster ever. Blame often has been laid on socioeconomic factors of the colonial era, but the trigger was drought. Using tree rings, instrumental observations and sea-surface temperature reconstructions, Singh says that the drought resulted from the greatest El Niño yet identified, surpassing those of the 1980s ‘90s. Singh says it arose from natural conditions that could be repeated today, affecting multiple grain-producing regions simultaneously and undermining global food supplies.
Friday, Dec. 15, 8:45-9:00am, Morial Center 265-266. GC51F-04 (Invited)
Andean Ecosystems: Early Climate Casualties? Daniel Ruiz-Carrascal, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The world has agreed to limit the rise of global temperatures to 2 degrees C, but that may not be good enough for the high Andes. To study the effects of warming, Ruiz-Carrascal and colleagues have collated weather and biological data for decades across high-elevation South America. He will discuss evidence that many ecosystems are already ailing, due to both warming and human intrusions, and suggests they may start falling apart altogether at 1.5 degrees—a threshold we already are approaching.
Friday, Dec. 15, 1:40-6pm, Morial Center Poster Hall D-F. GC53A-0871
Climate Change Threatens Fragile Andes Ecosystem
Films From the Field
Short films on the fieldwork of our scientists, shot on location, will be screened at the daily AGU Cinema. This year’s crop can also be viewed any time online at the links below.
Biblical Land, Killer Drought (2017) Along the shores of the Dead Sea, in an already sere and volatile land, a team from Jordan, Israel and the United States explores geologic evidence that repeats of ancient megadroughts could reshape the Mideast.
What the Vikings Can Teach Us About Climate Change (2017) Climatologists plumb the bottoms of deep lakes in Norway’s arctic Lofoten Islands, in search of clues to how Vikings survived and thrived here a thousand years ago, at the height of their power.
Sierra Glaciers and the Global Climate Puzzle (2017) Glacial geologists explore remnants of the last ice age in California’s high Sierras, in search of insights into how warming climate may affect water supplies for people far below.
AGU Cinema: 8am-12pm Monday, Tuesday. 8am-10am Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Morial Center, First Floor, Sharing Science Room/Rivergate Room