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Roundup of EGU Twitter Journal Club 2

13 Jul

The EGU’s Twitter Journal Club had its second virtual meeting yesterday, this time focusing on a paper from the EGU’s journal Biogeosciences, investigating the means by which microscopic life is sustained in the hostile aridity of the Atacama Desert. Read a full transcript of our discussion on our Storify page!

Vast expanse of Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the most arid regions in the world. (source: Wikimedia)

The European Geosciences Union, through publishing house Copernicus Publications, publishes 14 peer-reviewed Open Access journalsBiogeosciences (BG, IF 3.587)  is an international scientific journal dedicated to the publication and discussion of research articles, short communications and review papers on all aspects of the interactions between the biological, chemical and physical processes in terrestrial or extraterrestrial life with the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. The objective of the journal is to cut across the boundaries of established sciences and achieve an interdisciplinary view of these interactions.

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EGU Twitter Journal Club: Article 2

6 Jul

Time for the second edition of the EGU’s Twitter Journal Club, our interactive online discussion about a timely scientific article. Full details can be found here

This time, our article focuses on one of the most extreme environments on Earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and the method by which rock-dwelling microorganisms obtain their water. The Twitter discussion will take place on Thursday 12 July at 17:00 CEST (hashtag #egutjc2). Please email the EGU’s Science Communications Fellow Edvard Glücksman with further questions. Happy reading!

The Atacama Desert is one of Earth’s driest environments. (credit: Wikimedia)

Novel water source for endolithic life in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert
Biogeosciences, 9, 2275-2286, 2012

Abstract. The hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert, Chile, is possibly the driest and most life-limited place on Earth, yet endolithic microorganisms thrive inside halite pinnacles that are part of ancient salt flats. The existence of this microbial community in an environment that excludes any other life forms suggests biological adaptation to high salinity and desiccation stress, and indicates an alternative source of water for life other than rainfall, fog or dew. Here, we show that halite endoliths obtain liquid water through spontaneous capillary condensation at relative humidity (RH) much lower than the deliquescence RH of NaCl. We describe how this condensation could occur inside nano-pores smaller than 100 nm, in a newly characterized halite phase that is intimately associated with the endolithic aggregates. This nano-porous phase helps retain liquid water for long periods of time by preventing its evaporation even in conditions of utmost dryness. Our results explain how life has colonized and adapted to one of the most extreme environments on our planet, expanding the water activity envelope for life on Earth, and broadening the spectrum of possible habitats for life beyond our planet.

Questions to think about:
1. How would you summarise this article in a tweet?

2. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest environments on the planet. Can you think of others, and do you know of similar studies done there?

3. What is the link between the research presented here and our quest to find extraterrestrial life?

4. How could the methods presented here be improved in follow-up studies?

5. Do you see industrial applications for these findings?

Related media coverage
National Geographic Magazine
Sydney Morning Herald

The European Geosciences Union, through publishing house Copernicus Publications, publishes 14 peer-reviewed Open Access journalsBiogeosciences (BG, IF 3.587)  is an international scientific journal dedicated to the publication and discussion of research articles, short communications and review papers on all aspects of the interactions between the biological, chemical and physical processes in terrestrial or extraterrestrial life with the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. The objective of the journal is to cut across the boundaries of established sciences and achieve an interdisciplinary view of these interactions.

Roundup of EGU Twitter Journal Club 1

22 Jun

The EGU’s Twitter Journal Club had its first virtual meeting yesterday, discussing an article on a climate change related blunder made by The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World and the swift response of an international group of scientists.

You can read a full transcript of our discussion on our brand new Storify page. Even though Twitter went down after an hour’s discussion, we’re optimistic that the TJC will continue to bring out the best of our now-over-1,000 followers!

Greenland ice outlines, from Kargel et al. 2012, published in The Cryosphere, an open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union (6, 533–537, 2012)

The European Geosciences Union, through publishing house Copernicus Publications, publishes 14 peer-reviewed Open Access journalsThe Cryosphere (TC) (IF 3.641)  is an international scientific journal dedicated to the publication and discussion of research articles, short communications and review papers on all aspects of frozen water and ground on Earth and on other planetary bodies.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Jointed Colorado Rockies

18 Jun

Jointed Colorado Rockies by Will Gosnold, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons license

The Rocky Mountains, or Rockies, are a North American mountain system stretching around 5,000 km from northern British Columbia, Canada, to New Mexico in the southwestern United States. They are made up of a discontinuous series of mountain ranges with distinct geological origins, the last of which was formed during the Laramide orogeny (mountain formation event) 80–55 million years ago.

With a population of 568,158 (2011 estimate), Wyoming has the lowest population and second lowest population density of any US state, yet it has the 10th largest area. Its environment is defined by its geological history, lying at the intersection of the Rockies to the west and, to the east, the Great Plains, a broad expanse of flat land running north to south across North America.

The sheer size and distance covered by the Rockies, even through just the one state of Wyoming, is hard to imagine by European standards. At 253,348 sq km, Wyoming itself has a greater area, for example, than the UK, Romania, Belarus, Greece, or Bulgaria, just to name a few. Perhaps the best way to understand the scale of the Rockies is by experiencing them from above, an experience captured here by Will Gosnold through an aircraft window. Gosnold, a professor within the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of North Dakota, describes this photo opportunity, “I took the photo from the window of a Delta Airlines plane, over what is likely Wyoming, during a flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis while returning from the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union on 9 December 2011.”

Apart from boasting the Rockies and its vast expanse of publicly owned land, including a section of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming produces a broad array of mineral commodities. Apart from being the largest and second largest producer of coal and natural gas respectively in the US, it also produces coalbed methane, crude oil, uranium, and trona, an evaporite mineral used for the production of washing soda (sodium carbonate). Diamond and uranium mines have also recently operated in the state.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

EGU Twitter Journal Club: Article 1

15 Jun

The EGU is pleased to announce the launch of its Twitter Journal Club, a regular, interactive online discussion about a timely scientific article. Full details can be found here

Our first ever article, described below, covers a climate change related blunder made by The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World and the swift response of an international group of scientists. The Twitter discussion will take place on Thursday 21 June at 17:00 CEST (hashtag #egutjc1). Please email the EGU’s Science Communications Fellow Edvard Glücksman with further questions. Happy reading!

Greenland ice outlines, from Kargel et al. 2012, published in The Cryosphere, an open-access journal of the European Geoscience Union

Greenland’s shrinking ice cover: “fast times” but not that fast
The Cryosphere, 6, 533–537, 2012

Abstract. A map of Greenland in the 13th edition (2011) of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World made headlines because the publisher’s media release mistakenly stated that the permanent ice cover had shrunk 15% since the previous 10th edition (1999) revision. The claimed shrinkage was immediately challenged by glaciologists, then retracted by the publisher. Here we show: (1) accurate maps of ice extent based on 1978/87 aerial surveys and recent MODIS imagery; and (2) shrinkage at 0.019%a−1 in 50 000 km2 of ice in a part of east Greenland that is shown as ice-free in The Times Atlas.

Questions to think about:
1. Broadly, how does this article tie in with the current climate change debate, and the general public’s perception of environmental change?

2. Based on this paper, do you get the impression we need to be worried about Greenland’s ice shrinkage?

3. Do you often catch mistakes in the scientific content given to the general public by respected publishers? If so, what are some examples? Do you challenge them?

4. Here, the authors brought the Greenland map mistake up on www.cryolist.org, an open listserver for glaciologists. Would it be worth setting up a more general communications environment (website, forum etc) where mistakes like this can be reported? Do you know of any currently in use?

5. Is an article like this really necessary (see its final sentence), or are the authors being pedantic or perhaps even exaggerating the importance of the impact of their work?

6. Given all the benefits of online distribution methods (cheaper, easy to correct, wider potential audience), are paper atlases on their way out and, if so, is this a good thing?

Related media coverage
The BBC
The Carbon Brief
The National Review
The Telegraph

The European Geosciences Union, through publishing house Copernicus Publications, publishes 14 peer-reviewed Open Access journalsThe Cryosphere (TC) (IF 3.641)  is an international scientific journal dedicated to the publication and discussion of research articles, short communications and review papers on all aspects of frozen water and ground on Earth and on other planetary bodies.

Launching the EGU Twitter Journal Club!

12 Jun

To commemorate approaching the magical 1,000-follower mark on Twitter, the EGU is happy to launch its online journal club! This relatively new concept has proven to be very popular in other areas of science and we’re keen to see how it evolves within the rapidly growing EGU online community.

Get ready for the launch of EGU’s very own journal club!

How does it work?
Initially, we will present you with a publicly accessible journal article (likely from an EGU publication), you read it, then all of us ‘discuss’ it on Twitter at a specified time using a specific hashtag (#egutjc). The Storify transcript of the event will subsequently be published on our blog. As the club progresses, you will be asked to recommend articles for discussion based on your own interests and expertise.

How long do we get to read the article?
You will get around a week to read each article before the discussion takes place.

How long is the discussion?
The formal portion of the discussion will last one hour but, if there’s more to say, feel free to continue for longer.

Will we be provided with background information?
Yes, we will precede each discussion by tweeting any relevant links and information we can find – and we hope you will do the same. The announcement of the article will be accompanied by a short summary as well as discussion points to get you started.

Sounds great! When does it start?
Soon! The first article will be divulged on GeoLog and Twitter on Friday 15 June. The first journal club discussion will take place on Thursday 21 June at 17:00 CEST, allowing even our most distant North American friends to join in from the breakfast table.

What if I have more questions?
Please email the EGU’s Science Communications Fellow Edvard Glücksman with further questions.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Halo

11 Jun

Halo by Farahnaz Khosrawi, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons License

“Ring around the sun or moon brings rain or snow upon you soon.” Before the development of meteorology, visible atmospheric phenomena, such as halos, were used to forecast the weather. Though meteorological prediction has come a long way since then, these extraordinary halos really do appear in the sky on otherwise ordinary days, a lesson learned by Farahnaz Khosrawi when she saw the sun rise on a cold Swedish morning.

Khosrawi, an Associate Professor at the Department of Meteorology, University of Stockholm, recalls her trip to the office, “A wonderful halo was visible [around the sun] in the early morning of 8 December 2010. It was a very cold winter morning in Stockholm with temperatures around -20 C. The picture was taken in front of the university on my way to work. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this wonderful huge halo. I was so glad that I had my camera with me. I never have seen such an halo before and who knows when I will have the chance to see one again.”

Like rainbows, halos are beautiful optical phenomena. However, unlike rainbows, where sunlight hits atmospheric water droplets, halos are formed when light is reflected and refracted by ice crystals in the thin, wispy cirrus clouds high up in the upper troposphere (5–10 km altitude). Khosrawi explains, “The shape and size of the ice crystals determines the appearance of the halo. The halo produced by the ice crystals appears as an arc or spot in the sky. Many halos occur near the sun but others appear elsewhere and can even appear in the opposite part of the sky.”

Two ‘sundogs’, another atmospheric phenomena that takes the shape of two bright spots of light to the left and right of the sun, are also visible in this stunning picture.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Melt Stream

28 May

Melt Stream, Greenland by Ian Joughin, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons license.

Supraglacial lakes are created when water forms in depressions on top of a glacier, remaining there until it dissipates by seeping through crevasses, or cracks in the ice sheet. Despite their sometimes impressive size, supraglacial lakes may drain in a matter of hours under the right conditions, when the pressure they exert on the ice causes it to crack creating a sometimes spectacular lake draining event.

Draining of supraglacial lakes may have important environmental consequences and may even, as warming temperatures further increase meltwater volumes, affect rates of sea-level rise by accelerating the rate by which ice sheets slide into the ocean.

Dr Ian Joughin, from the University of Washington Polar Science Center, took this breathtaking photo under freezing conditions, earning him the 1st Prize at the 2012 General Assembly photo competition. He explains, “This image was taken as part of a project investigating the rapid drainage of supraglacial lakes in Greenland. Each year, these lakes, which often are a few kilometers across and 10 or meters deep, fill with melt water. If the water can find an open crack, it fills the crack and the greater density of water relative to ice allows it to hydro-fracture through the full thickness (~1 km) of the ice sheet, causing the entire lake to drain rapidly (< 2hours). This picture shows a large melt stream that we encountered as we were out exploring the lake basin, and it is only one of many streams feeding the lake.”

Additional images from this trip can be viewed here.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Icy Landscape

21 May

Icy Landscape by Lucien von Gunten, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons license.

Ice is a hazardous beauty, ephemeral in nature and, under the right conditions, capable of dominating landscapes. Earlier this year, while North America enjoyed an unusually mild winter, central and eastern Europe experienced brutal cold spells. The continent witnessed widespread freezing as cold air swept south from Siberia, claiming hundreds of lives, knocking out power supplies, and disrupting transport services. In Poland and the Ukraine, temperatures dropped as low as -33C and in Italy over 80,000 citizens were left without electricity after power lines were felled by trees.

This year’s icy spell brought Switzerland its coldest weather since 1987, the year it experienced its lowest ever recorded temperature. Lucien von Gunten, Science Officer at PAGES (Past Global Changes), explains the exceptional circumstances behind this captivating shot, taken earlier this year. “In Versoix, near the Lake of Geneva, the combination of low temperatures and strong easterly winds led to an unusual natural spectacle as the lake shores were partly covered with ice. Images of cars and boats under a thick ice shell were shown in the international press. Next to these popular eye-catchers one could also admire smaller scale ice structure, such as those depicted on this photograph, which covers an area of 30×30 cm.” This photo won 3rd Prize at the 2012 General Assembly photo competition.

Exceptional weather events, such as extreme temperatures, drought, or tropical storms and hurricanes, have increased in frequency over the past 50 years, partly as a result of human-induced climate change.

More pictures of Switzerland during this year’s freeze can be seen here.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Burst

14 May

Burst by Melissa S. Bukovsky, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons license.

This photo won 2nd Prize at the 2012 General Assembly photo competition and, according to the photographer, Melissa S. Bukovsky, epitomises the idea that an expensive camera is not a necessity for taking great photos. “You just need to know how to use what you have. I travel with a point and shoot that fits in my back pocket,” she explains.

Currently a Project Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Bukovsky snapped this shot on one of her many work related trips. “This picture of a bursting mud bubble in a boiling pool of mud was taken just outside of the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area near Rotorua, New Zealand.  The area is part of New Zealand’s Taupo volcanic zone. I stayed in this area for a few days of holiday before traveling back to the US after working in Melbourne for the summer.  Aside from all of the fantastic geothermal phenomena to see in that area, there are numerous hot springs that are great for relaxing in.”

Mud pools, hot springs of bubbling mud, form in high-temperature geothermal areas where water is in short supply. The little water that is available rises to the surface at a spot where the soil is rich in volcanic ash, clay, and other fine particulates. The viscosity of the mud varies, from fluid during the rainy season to viscous in drier months.

The Wai-O-Tapu geothermal complex has been protected as a scenic reserve since 1931 and it remains a major tourist attraction.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.