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AGU Council Recommends “Cool Science” at Fall Meeting


We are experimenting with the introduction of scientific “neighborhoods” – Earth Interior, Earth Covering, Beyond Earth, and Scientific Nexis – in New Orleans at the Fall Meeting. The convention center is very long and spread out, and so to make more time for conversation between disciplines and reduce travel time, the Poster Hall and Session rooms will be oriented around these neighborhoods.

Today the AGU Council, AGU’s scientific leadership as represented by the sections and others, were seated in a manner similar to the neighborhoods for the first time. I asked them, “What is the coolest science coming out in your field, and what sessions/events are you most excited about at this year’s Fall Meeting?” I heard amazing conversations linking things we had not thought about connecting before.

I have captured their ideas about the coolest things and compiled them here. I hope they help guide you to new and exciting science at the meeting. This complements earlier suggestions by AGU editors published in Editors’ Vox  here and here.

Beyond Earth

Maribeth Stolzenburg, Atmospheric and Space Electricity-President-elect. Here are two cool presentations: One is an entirely new way, still in prototype testing, of using machine-learning methods to harness big datasets, in real-time, to generate rapidly updating probability forecasts of lightning occurrence within a one-hour time for specific locations [AE11A-08]. Currently, no official “lightning warning” exists. Eventual intended end-users include forecasters, emergency managers, and the public.

The second is the confirmed (second) discovery of positron annihilation at 12 km altitude in thunderstorms, using an aircraft instrumented with gamma-ray detectors and video cameras [AE31A-01]. Video data from the time of positron detection will be shown. The physical mechanism of such positron generation is not known.

Sarah Stewart, Planetary Science-President. P31F: Nature and Evolution of Climate and Water on Early Mars I. Last year’s comparable session was an amazing lesson in contradictory working hypotheses about early Mars. These questions are still not resolved — looks like there will be another dynamic session about early Martian climate.

Larry Paxton, Space Physics and Aeronomy-President. SA11 Solar eclipse effects on the upper atmosphere – the study of an event witnessed by the greatest migration of humans in the history of the world… as manifested in its effects on the “space weather” at the top of our atmosphere. SM13G Visions for Innovation… bringing the science back by using Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), new space opportunities, and embracing risk to implement change to transform the way we study the space environment.

Christina Cohen, Space Physics and Aeronomy-President-elect. SH21A, SH22A, and SH23D Preparing for Parker Solar Probe – this upcoming mission will enter an area of the heliosphere still unexplored… orbiting to within 10 solar radii of the Sun will provide answers to many existing questions in the acceleration of the solar wind and energetic particles. No doubt it will also yield many new questions.

SH42A Science results from the eclipse—not just an amazing natural spectacle that many viewed in person but also a chance to do unique and useful scientific studies.

Rosaly Lopes, Planetary Science-President-elect. Special sessions on Juno results (U21A; P23E, P24A; P31C) and special sessions on Cassini end of mission (P11G;P12B; P13D:P31B; P43B; P51F).

Timothy Lang, Atmospheric and Space Electricity-President. We will have several presentations on observations (e.g., in  AE33A, AE41A, AE42A) from three new space-based, lightning-observing instruments—the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on GOES-16, the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) on the ISS, and the Lightning Mapping Imager (LMI) on the FY-4 satellite.

Earth Covering

Lora Koenig, Cryosphere-President-elect. C13H Understanding the New Arctic: Meeting Societal Needs Through Observing Networks, Indigenous Knowledge, System Science, and Synthesis II, C22A Hydrology of Mountain Glaciers and Ice Sheets II.

Kristie Llera, Student. Session A11F highlights the historical and timeliness of the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), using small satellites (backpack sized or smaller), and a strong hurricane season. The talks show how we can use our space expertise closer to home to better understand cyclone evolution.

Elise Pendall, Biogeosciences-President-elect. I would like to highlight session (B42A), “Advanced Plant Phenotyping for Global Food Security,” which demonstrates opportunities to link optically detected plant traits across scales from leaves to fields for improvements in predicting crop productivity and stress tolerance.

William Dietrich, Earth and Planetary Surface Processes-President. In past 10 years, the “critical zone” (the thin veneer of Earth that extends from the top of the vegetation to the base of weathered bedrock) has emerged as field of study. The >150 abstracts (across three sections) this year report fundamental breakthroughs in documenting controls and advancing theory for both the evolution and function of the critical zone. These critical zone abstracts provide new insights about basic hydrologic, biogeochemical, geomorphic and even climate processes.

Figen Mekik, Paleoceanography and Paleoclimateology-President. Natural disasters claim lives and cause billions of dollars of losses around the world. Assessing and mitigating these hazards challenges societies with “wicked” problems, in which crucial information is missing and proposed solutions involve complex interactions with other societal goals. For example: How should we prepare for a great earthquake in areas where tectonics favor such events but we have no evidence that they have occurred and hence how large they may be or how often to expect them? How can we assess the hazard when the recurrence of large earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes is changing with time or is expected to do so? This session delves into the scientific and business issues, utilizing state‐of‐the‐art methods and advanced analytics for better understanding, quantification, and management of natural hazards and risks

Jeff McDonnell, Hydrology-President. On Thursday, from 10.20-12.20 there is a very important session led by the Editors of Water Resources Research. It deals with the fact that Hydrology is a broad discipline with strong interactions across several other fields of science. Water science also directly benefits society (e.g., informing policy), demanding a current awareness of progress. Tracking the diversity of topics is arduous, but innovations in one sub-discipline often generate rapid learning for others. The section’s Journal, Water Resources Research, publishes articles from across the scope of hydrology and its interdisciplinary connections, providing an informed cadre, in the form of its editors, to offer synthesis of recent progress. In this session, editors and authors from Water Resources Research will discuss areas of fundamental growth, summarizing the key scientific messages and highlighting emergent research challenges. Overview presentations will offer context and framing relative to the broader field from both reflective and visioning perspectives. Workshop on publishing (with WRR); workshop on making professional spaces more inclusive through first impressions; workshop on partnerships between academia, industry and government; workshop on career paths in academia.

Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Global Environmental Change-President. Our section is very interdisciplinary so we draw from a variety of disciplinary areas that are represented by those in our section. Specific topics include rapid and recent melting of glaciers around the world. Smaller mountain glaciers pose geohazards with potential outburst flooding and the anticipated collapse of marine terminating glaciers from Greenland and West Antarctic and their impact on sea level rise. There is a strong focus on forest ecology and the current increase in fire and links to the global carbon cycle. Multi-decadal climate variability is a strong focus as it underpins understanding, modeling and predicting regional climate changes. We have a large number of early-career scientists who aspire to make their scientific results (outcomes) socially relevant and directly applicable improving the human condition. At the 2017 annual meeting the GEC Section is sponsoring an Early-Career Networking event entitled “Translating Knowledge into Action: Developing Strategies for Careers, Funding and Public Communication. This was developed by our early career representatives who serve on our Executive Committee.

Aisling Dolan, Early Career. Session on the birth, life and death of icebergs really interesting interdisciplinary topic that has implications for current understanding of ice sheet dynamics, but also potential paleo -applications to understand ice sheet history.

Bob Anderson, Ocean Sciences-President-elect. Sessions on Seafloor Mapping(Monday – Thursday) reveal amazing features that are otherwise hidden from view by kilometers of water. Structures mapped at high resolution such as volcanic mountains and erosional channels inform us that the earth below the ocean is every bit as dynamic as the surface where we live. These features provide a remarkable opportunity for outreach as well as for research.

Ariel Anbar, Biogeosciences-President. Several sessions engage climate intervention (aka geoengineeing) and its implications and consequences, which crosses sections. Notably: : B51F, B53J, GC43H, GC53H. Also, increasing cross-sectional research about evolution of Earth’s habitability: e.g., V21B, V33A.

James Hurrell, Atmospheric Sciences-President-elect. Several sessions on subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) predictability and predictions. This is important because there is growing interest in the scientific, operational, and applications communities in developing S2S forecasts to provide early warning of high-impact meteorological events such as tropical cyclones, floods, droughts, heat and cold waves.

Eileen Hofmann, Ocean Sciences-President. Special session on Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding (OS21B,OS22A, OS23B) deals with an issue that has enormous implications for coastal communities. Special session on Translating Arctic Ocean Science to Policy (OS24C) explores ways science can inform policy with a focus on the changing Arctic. Special session on Carbon and Nutrient Cycling and Transport at the Land-Ocean Interface (OS23C, OS31D,OS32A,OS33A) considers linkages across a continuum from land to the coastal ocean. The Rachel Carson Lecture (OS33D) given by Paola Rizzoli (MIT) focuses on flooding of Venice and its lagoon over the past 50 years and engineering solutions to protect the city from recurring flooding. Special session on Seafloor Mapping’ (OS14B and throughout week) reviews advances in seafloor mapping and recent geologic discoveries.

Scott Tyler, Hydrology-President-elect. The development of “reanalysis data” for weather, essentially reconstructing a gridded record of the earth’s weather over the past 40 years is game changer for hydrologic sciences, providing us with the input, (precipitation, temperature, wind, humidity, etc.) to drive the first set of continental scale hydrologic models at scales that matter to scientists and the public.

Petra Dekens, Paleoceanography and Paleoclimateology-President-elect. The Lecture by Thomas Stocker will be a highlight for PP. The talk will focus on the interplay between paleoclimate data and models. There is also a session that focuses on integrating data and model approaches.

Earth Interior

Allen McNamara, Study of the Earth’s Deep Interior-President. DI44A – Multidisciplinary session to explore chemical heterogeneity in the Earth.

Catherine Johnson, Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism & Electromagnetism-President-elect. I am highlighting a talk (GP31A-08) that demonstrates the first (I think) use of automated underwater vehicles (AUVs) in marine electromagnetic surveys. Typically, these surveys are done using instruments towed close to the seafloor. The use of AUVs can make these surveys faster and more accurate in terms of navigation allowing highly localized mapping of electrical conductivity anomalies associated with hydrothermal venting and seafloor massive sulfide deposits. I picked this presentation because these kinds of technical advances are in some ways the backbone of our science, often driving a field to an entirely new level of discovery.

Laurie Brown, Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism & Electromagnetism-President. I am highlighting one talk (GP13A-01), from a session on biomagnetism, magnetic proxies, and diagenesis of magnetic minerals, that investigates the direct production of magnetite in early Archean oceans. The author, Yi-Liang Li, suggests that magnetite precipitated directly from seawater through reaction with Fe-rich hydrothermal fluids in the photic zone. Once the early ocean has cooled this reaction shuts off and hematite becomes the primary authigenic Feoxide, as observed in the thick banded iron formations found throughout the Precambrian.

Susan Owen, Geodesy-President. I would like to highlight the advances and innovations using InSAR at this meeting with the increasing availability of space-based SAR data, thanks in a large part to the Copernicus Sentinel 1 satellites (G23A, G33A, G34A as well as results scattered throughout Geodesy and other section sessions).

Andrew Campbell, Mineral and Rock Physics-President. Increased attention in mineral physics to conditions relevant to exoplanetary interiors. These studies are facilitated by developments in shockwave science. An example is MR31B-0447 on the principal Hugoniot of Mg2SiO4 to 950 GPa, from one of MRP’s 2017 Graduate Research Award winners.

Anne Sheehan, Seismology-President-elect. New results on induced seismicity, including processes behind triggering, fault activation, and observations of temporal permeability changes (S11E, S12A, S13D, S14A).

Michael Manga, Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology-President-elect. Session V011 – This session tries to promote a different way of thinking about Earth accretion and mantle evolution by combining several fields into one session. It is truly an interdisciplinary session that focuses on the formation of the Earth.

Douglas Wiens, Seismology-President. The Gutenberg lecture by Shuichi Kodaira, outlining how marine scientists in Japan were ready to respond to 2011 Tohoku earthquake and completely changed our understanding of subduction zone earthquakes. Also the late breaking session on the Mexico earthquakes (S32D, S33G), including source studies, performance of early warning systems, lessons learned.

Science Nexus

Seth Stein, Natural Hazards-President-elect. [NH41E-01] Session on Wicked Problems: Natural disasters claim lives and cause billions of dollars of losses around the world. Assessing and mitigating these hazards challenges societies with “wicked” problems, in which crucial information is missing and proposed solutions involve complex interactions with other societal goals. For example: How should we prepare for a great earthquake in areas where tectonics favor such events but we have no evidence that they have occurred and hence how large they may be or how often to expect them? How can we assess the hazard when the recurrence of large earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes is changing with time or is expected to do so? This session delves into the scientific and business issues, utilizing state‐of‐the‐art methods and advanced analytics for better understanding, quantification, and management of natural hazards and risks.

Ramesh Singh, Natural Hazards-President. All kinds of Hazards are associated with land, ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere and biosphere, affecting human population, marine life and natural resources, buildings/structures, vegetation/agricultural crops, weather conditions. We need an integrated approach to understand coupling between land-ocean-atmosphere-biosphere-cryosphere that causes these natural hazards. Such approach will help the scientific community monitor natural hazards occurring around the globe and develop forecast and early warning to save lives on the planet. The Natural Hazards community may need to integrate information about natural hazards so that we evaluate the most vulnerable areas around the globe. The Natural Hazards community often treats different types of natural hazards individually, but in fact natural hazards are strongly coupled with different Earth’s spheres, e,g., recent Hurricanes in Texas, Puerto Rico, or even forest fires which are still burning in southern California (Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles counties) impacted air quality (affecting Human health), weather conditions, atmosphere, Ocean ecology along west coast.

Geoff Plumlee, GeoHealth. Being the “new kid on the block”, the GeoHealth Section does not have any specific name-associated sessions at this Fall Meeting. However, a search of the AGU program shows many different sessions and presentations with some sort of health topic or implication. Examples include health impacts of urban particulate matter, the role of particle surface chemistry in toxicity, climate and the health impacts of heat events, applications of remote sensing and GIS to understand health, and many others. This highlights what we were trying to convey as we were working to establish GeoHealth—we wanted to underscore just how many other sections facilitate science that is germane to health, such as natural hazards, volcanology, hydrology, public affairs, biogeosciences, and atmospheric sciences. We look forward to working with all the other sections to help foster science at the intersection of earth, environment, and health. GeoHealth can also be a component of future cross-section sessions, such as those put forward by the Science to Action workgroup.

Annick Pouquet, Nonlinear Geophysics-President. Chaos and consequences is certainly cool, with a lot of applications across fields. One example, which will be highlighted through the Lorenz Lecture on Wednesday at 1:40 (La Nouvelle C), given by W. Klein (Boston University), is the physics of earthquakes viewed as a phase transition (think ice/water/vapor, and more!). Rainfall intermittency is another example which can be fun at all levels. Another important moment is the Turcotte prize for a newly anointed PhD holder; this year it is given on Monday at 16:00 Room 238-239 by Prachandar Subedi (U. Delaware) on the transport of charged particles in turbulent magnetic fields. We also want to highlight the Space Weather and Nonlinear Waves and Processes prize (SW-NWP) which will be devoted to the NWP side of science this coming 2018. And finally, the arrival on the scene of several exceptional experimental/observational facilities (think the Coriolis table in Grenoble, SHREK for turbulence in superfluids, or MMS – the Magnetospheric Multi-scale Mission to name a few) is going to help sustain the dynamism in the studies of complex systems and the nonlinear geophysical sciences.

Sarah Kruse, Near Surface Geophysics-President. Cool methods being developed more broadly in the discipline of near-surface geophysics include muon detection systems (for example, the recently reported voids in pyramids), distributed node networks of detectors, and high resolution linking of surface features from lidar and drones with subsurface imaging.

Catalina Oaida, Early Career. ED11A: Early-Career Organizations and Networks in Geosciences l Posters. TH45H: Student & Early Career: Leadership Opportunities in New Orleans and in your local community.

Ross Stein, Tectonophysics-President. Falsification lies at the heart of science. In Science (2016), Fan and Shearer found from beam power back-projection that >30% of all M≥7 shocks trigger M≥5.5 aftershocks at distances up to 300 km within the first 300 s. But Yue et al (GRL 2017) argued that these ‘aftershocks’ were instead water reverberations as the seafloor shallows. At this meeting, Fan and Shearer and Yue et al. have dueling side-by-side posters (S51A-0572 and 0573), each presenting their views and rebuttals.

Ruth Duerr, Earth and Space Science Informatics-President. I draw attention to citizen science. See for example (IN42A+IN42B): Can Public Participation Be the Key to Better Understanding Our Planet? Earth Scientists Say, Yes. From a technology standpoint – deep learning, big data, quantum computing, reducing data friction, seem to be topics gaining interest. It looks like drones/UAV’s; cloud technologies; and even big data are topics that are spreading out from ESSI into most of AGU’s sections.

Claire Horwell, GeoHealth. I would like to highlight session A24B: Atmospheric air pollution and public health: why urban aerosols are so toxic. This session highlights the exciting interdisciplinary collaborations which are already taking place, and which we will enhance within the new GeoHealth Section, bringing AGU scientists together with those in the environmental and public health sectors.

Denise Hills, Earth and Space Science Informatics-President-elect. I’d like to highlight the Union session U41A, How Safe and Persistent is Your Research? highlighting the challenges and opportunities with increased data creation and how we as researchers can protect our scientific legacy through appropriate data curation.

I am also pleased that ESSI (IN) is embracing the alternative presentation formats – for example, we have more eLightning sessions than any other group (IN11D, IN12A, IN32C, IN42B, IN52A) in addition to several panels and regular lightning sessions. It’s often been a challenge for ESSI members to present their research effectively in the more traditional sessions, so it has been great to see alternative engagement models being embraced by our community.

Maggie Walser, Societal Impacts and Policy Sciences-President-elect. Lots of great sessions on communicating science.

Xavier Comas, Near Surface Geophysics-President-elect. Methods across different scales and landscapes, from exploration geophysics with a variety of ground surface applications such as investigations of cave systems to better understand human evolution, to airborne applications including large-scale surveys over Yellowstone National Park to image subsurface fluid activity. Also, landslide Geophysics, and how to use of near-surface geophysics to unstable slopes and help develop early-warning monitoring systems.

Linda Rowan, Societal Impacts and Policy Sciences-President. PA23D Communicating Science During a Natural Hazard Crisis I. Title says it all, will be video on demand too, so you can watch later.

PA42A How Does Your Geoscience Research Matter, and Can You Explain How It Matters to the Public?
Innovation in oral sessions, 21 talks, 5 minutes each, tell value of geoscience to public, will you “get” the value? Will we finish on time?

PA32A Preserving Scientific Integrity and Science-Based Governance in the New Political Era
Covers the difficulties of sound science to inform policy, well worth two hours on hump day.

Tim van Emmerik, Student. SCIENCE POETRY!!!

Jasmine Crumsey, Early Career. Science to Action: Communities Solve Problems with Science and Scientists (U42A). This is a union event that will be live streamed through AGU On Demand. The direct connections that scientists can make with communities is such a critical way of better serving the public and increasing awareness and appreciation of our science.

Peter Griffith, Appointed. The Resilience and Vulnerability of Arctic and Boreal Ecosystems to Climate Change I-V: especially the ABoVE airborne campaign and multi-sensor data fusion enabled by high performance computing; regarding outreach, I ran into a field workshop of music composers at Denali National Park this summer. I spent a few hours with them, after which several said they planned to create “carbon and climate” musical compositions.

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