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‘International Innovation’ meets EGU

13 Jun

International Innovation is a global dissemination publication that provides access to interviews, content and presentations for the wider scientific, technology and research communities. The magazine has, on various occasions, interviewed EGU personalities such as Ulrich Pöschl (Publications Committee Chair), a few division presidents and, most recently, EGU’s Executive Secretary, Philippe Courtial. Some of these EGU-related interviews are now available online.

  • Interview with Gert-Jan Reichard: “Biogeology has emerged over the past decade as one of the most important fields within the geosciences. Dr Gert-Jan Reichart, Division President of Biogeosciences at the European Geosciences Union offers his insight into the environmental challenges we face and how this research area is striving to address them”
  • Interview with Philippe Courtial: “Executive Secretary of the EGU, Dr Philippe Courtial, details the work of the Union in assisting scientists and improving the availability of accurate scientific data”
  • Interview with Michael Kühn: “Boldly trying to push science for solutions to solve the energy problems of tomorrow, Michael Kühn [EGU Division President of Energy, Resources and the Environment] is studying new approaches where renewables play a vital role”
  • Interview with Ulrich Pöschl: “The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is the world leader in interactive open access publishing and public peer review. We speak exclusively to Dr Ulrich Pöschl, the EGU Chair of Publication Committee, about the important work being done in the pursuit of knowledge sharing in the geosciences”
  • Interview with Denis-Didier Rousseau: “President of the European Geosciences Union, Division on Climate: Past, Present and Future, provides an insight into the ever expanding remit of this branch of the EGU”

(A few of these texts have also been reproduced with permission in GeoQ, the quarterly newsletter of the European Geosciences Union.)

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.

Publications by the EGU

10 May

The EGU is responsible for 14 Open Access journals, all freely available online

Since 2001, the EGU and Open Access publishing house Copernicus Publications has published a growing number of successful geoscientific journals. These include 14 peer-reviewed Open Access journals, of which 11 have a Thomson Reuters Impact Factor, placing them in the top echelon of their respective discipline. EGU also publishes a host of other materials available in paper and online. As a signatory of the Berlin Open Access Declaration (2003), the EGU is committed to making all their publications freely available.

The EGU’s Open Access scientific journals are:


Stock market crash hits EGU General Assembly shocker!

2 May

Today’s guest post is the second written at the 2012 General Assembly by Michelle Cain, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Her first covered megacities.

It seems the global economic downturn is so pervasive that it has even hit the Earth sciences! I’ve been to a few talks now that have mentioned the downturn/recession/crisis/apocalypse (delete as appropriate), mainly with reference to emissions of pollutant species or greenhouse gases. I guess this is one of the few good-news stories to come from the bottom falling out of the world’s economy. With no money to burn, production and therefore emissions decreased, thus slowing emissions – ever so slightly.

On Tuesday, Jintai Lin presented some work on NO2 columns measured from space, which he used to back out the NO2 emissions coming from China. (NO2 is itself toxic, and a precursor for ozone, which is a greenhouse gas and is harmful for animal and plant health.) His analysis of the seasonal variation in NO2 showed that the emissions were dominated by anthropogenic sources. Presenting a time series of NO2 columns from satellites, he showed the unmistakable signal from the Chinese economic downturn in 2008-9 (see Lin and McElroy 2011, ACP), and he showed the same signal in aerosol optical depth (a marker for PM2.5 – see my previous blog post for a definition). But this was not to last, as the NO2 caught up again after about a year and a half.

Is recession good for the environment? English Landscape by Norbert Krupp. Distributed on Imaggeo.net by EGU under a Creative Commons license.

Then on Wednesday, Patricia Castellanos showed a similarly striking graph of a stock index (I didn’t catch which one) on the same axes as measures of European industrial activity and road transport. As you might have guessed, they correlated perfectly, all dropping off the edge of a cliff over the space of a few months in 2008. By dropping off a cliff, I mean a 20% decrease in industrial activity and 15% decrease in commercial road transport. Castellanos summarised this effect with what I found to be a surprising finding: NOx is 10-50% lower now than it was in 2004 (that’s not the surprising bit), and at least half of this reduction was due to the recession.

So, for all the EU’s hard work in making policies and targets for air quality, in regulating vehicle emissions and all the other things they are doing to improve the air we breathe, it has at most been as “good” as the recession for reducing NO2 levels. If they are really serious about air quality, policy makers would be wise to reconsider their attitude to economic growth…

By Michelle Cain, University of Cambridge

Megacities at EGU2012

26 Apr

Today’s guest post comes from Michelle Cain, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Almost a whole day’s worth of sessions on megacities – where to begin? I certainly couldn’t pick just one talk to write about, so here’s a mish-mash of the session in general and a few talks in particular.

First things first: what is a megacity? Officially defined (by who, I don’t know) as a city of 5 million people or more, there are only two of them in Europe (London and Paris), and both are among the most polluted cities in Europe. There are other European places that embody megacity characteristics without adhering to the strict definition, so the MEGAPOLI project has focused on two of these alongside the two bona-fide megacities. The Po Valley in Italy, surrounded by mountains on three sides, is populated by 16 million people and contains 37% of the country’s industry. The mountains disrupt the large-scale meteorology so that local winds are often slack, which combines with the high levels of industrial, agricultural and residential emissions to cause worse air quality than in either Paris or London.

Loss in life expectancy (months) attributable to exposure to anthropogenic PM2.5 for year 2000 emissions (Source: EC, IIASA)

The air quality is similarly poor in the Rhine-Ruhr valley in Germany, an industrial region with about 10 million inhabitants. This region suffers not only from local emissions, but often from pollution transported from London, Paris and the Netherlands in the prevailing winds. (Thanks to the MEGAPOLI website for the info about these locations).

The reasons why these non-megacities have been brought into the fold highlight the complexities of trying to understand what might happen in the coming years as the world becomes increasingly urbanised. It’s not only the amount of stuff being pumped into the atmosphere that causes air quality issues. It’s equally how much stuff gets vented out of the boundary layer (the lowest layer of the atmosphere, where people live), and how much gets washed out in rain. And what happens to the stuff before it gets removed? And this is not even considering the climate impacts of all this stuff is getting higher up into the atmosphere, where it has a longer lifetime and can be transported long distances, potentially also affecting air quality downwind. All these interactions could be broadly categorised into: emissions, boundary layer meteorology, deposition, chemistry, global transport, and climate.

Several talks in the session were related to emissions evaluations, as how can we hope to understand anything if we’re putting the wrong amount of stuff into the atmosphere? Any by “stuff”, I mean NOx (the sum of NO and NO2, which are pollutants emitted from both anthropogenic and natural sources, and can react to produce ozone, which has adverse health effects) and particulates (the shorthand for particulate matter is PM2.5/PM10 for those with a radius less than 2.5/10 microns, also bad for health), as these were the main topics in the session.

Generating emissions inventories is no trivial task, as is evidenced by the continual work going in to this area. In his talk, S Sahu described the development of an emissions inventory for Delhi and the surrounding areas, which is home to a staggering 30 million people in an area of 70 km x 65 km. For 6 months, an army of 250 students surveyed the residents and businesses to determine a sample of the emission-generating activity in the region. They combined this new data with the existing literature and government statistics to develop a GIS-based emissions inventory. Their results showed that there are 5.7 million vehicles on the roads, and 1.5 million living in slums and cooking with wood, kerosene or LPG (in order of decreasing precedence). The PM2.5 emissions total was 68.1 Gg/year, the largest portion of which was from transport at 30.25 Gg/year. Wind-blown dust and residential emissions were also large contributors. The inventory was used to forecast for the Commonwealth games in 2010 and is currently available for both science and policy uses.

Policy issues were the driver behind R Friedrich’s talk, which directly addressed questions of whether air quality policies could result in the desired policy outcome – surely an important factor in decision-making. As part of the EU MEGAPOLI project, his work took a “full chain approach”, whereby the scenario with and without the policy measure was modeled to determine the effectiveness of a policy. The reference scenario assumes the current EU energy and climate package was taken forward. Then each policy was added to the model, and the difference can be described in monetary terms or by DALYs (disability adjusted life years).

The study generated some surprising results. Twenty four policy measures were ranked in terms of avoided DALYs for Paris, and the best measure by this metric was to change to efficient combustion of gaseous fuels (which generate less PM than wood), followed by biomass fuels. However, different metrics paint a different picture. Calculating the efficiency of each measure in monetary terms put coke dry quenching (as opposed to wet quenching which generates PM) in the top spot, followed by use of biofuels, use of district-wide heating networks, an aviation kerosene tax and a switch to electric vehicles. The least efficient measure was a passenger car toll (which, for example, London has had since 2003). Interestingly, the implementation of a low emissions zone was shown to have a negative or neutral effect. On the other hand, the speaker recommended the improvement of traffic management as an efficient measure.

Another EU project, CityZEN, also linked the science with policy needs by producing some 2 page policy briefs on ozone, PM, observations and the East Mediterranean air pollution hotspot, and was discussed by several speakers. Other talks and poster covered the links between meteorology and chemistry, observations and models, but I’m afraid this is all I have time for… See you next time, on the GeoLog.

By Michelle Cain, University of Cambridge

Imaggeo on Mondays: A rock and a hard place

23 Apr

'My way' by Amirhossein Mojtahedzadeh, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons license

Rocks within the Earth are constantly being subjected to forces that bend, twist, and fracture them, causing them to change shape and size. This process is known as deformation. Polyphase deformation occurs over time when rocks are affected, or stressed, by more than one phase of deformation.

Geomorphologist Amirhossein Mojtahedzadeh captured this stunning scene whilst on field work. “This photo was taken near Qom in central Iran. These formations are contained by sedimentary rocks, which underwent polyphase deformation and metamorphism – clearly visible in areas at this location,” he says.

Iran covers an area of 1 648 000 square kilometres. The central plateau, located between the bounding mountain ranges, is a major feature of the country’s diverse morphology.

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: Reflecting mountains in Sørfjorden, Norway

12 Mar

A sunny morning in Sørfjorden by Martin Mergili, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Located just southeast of Bergen on the Norwegian Atlantic coast, Hardangerfjorden is the third longest fjord in the world, measuring more than 170 km from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. Its longest branch, Sørfjorden, cuts 50 km from the main fjord and ends at Odda.

Geormorphologist Martin Mergili visited the area in 2008, following the 33rd International Geological Congress in Oslo. “The photo was taken from the small town of Odda at the southernmost tip of the Sørfjord, a southern branch of the Hardangerfjord. The western slopes of the deeply incised fjord, which are shown on the photograph, lead up to the Folgefonna, one of the major ice fields of Norway. Partly glacierised highlands and deeply incised fjords are characteristic landforms of western Norway, formed during the Pleistocene. The picture was shot on a sunny and calm morning,” he recollects.

Fjords are formed by abrasion, when a retreating glacier cuts a U-shaped valley into the surrounding bedrock. They are primarily located in mountainous regions, against prevailing westerly marine winds that are orthogonally lifted over the mountains resulting in abundant snowfall to feed the glaciers. Coasts featuring the most pronounced fjords can be found in western Norway, northwestern North America, and southwestern New Zealand.

To view more from Martin Mergili’s collection of photos, many of which have geoscientific relevance, please visit: www.mergili.at/worldimages.

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: Open pit in Mirny, Siberia

5 Mar

Mirny open pit mine by Jean-Daniel Paris, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

This former open-pit diamond mine is currently the second largest excavated hole in the world. After diamond was discovered in there in 1955, the area became the first and largest diamond mine in the Soviet Union, producing up to 2,000 kg of diamond per year during the 1960s. Its surface operations continued until 2001 and the mine was permanently shut in 2011.

This photo was taken on 22 July 2008 by climatologist Jean-Daniel Paris on a trip with the YAK-AEROSIB project (https://yak-aerosib.lsce.ipsl.fr), which sought to measure the trophospheric composition of greenhouse gases and pollutants over Siberia.

“The scientific flight itinerary from Novosibirsk to Yakutsk and back is completed in about five days. Along the way, we overnighted at a handful of towns, including Mirny. We spent a few hours around the town waiting for the refueling and visited this old diamond mine pit. Despite emissions from its scattered industrial and extraction activities, Siberia remains close enough to a pristine continental tropospheric laboratory,” commented Paris.

Diamond is formed when carbon bearing material is exposed to high pressure within the Earth’s lithospheric mantle or at the site of a meteor strike. Annually, approximately 26,000 kg of natural diamond is mined worldwide, a harvest worth almost €7 billion. Roughly half the planet’s mines are located in Central and Southern Africa, but others can be found in Canada, Brazil, Australia, India, and Russia. Another 100,000 kg is also produced synthetically each year and is mainly used for industrial purposes.

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: El Tatio geyser field

23 Jan

El Tatio Geyser Field by Simon Gascoin, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Excursions following scientific conferences often give researchers a chance to observe geosciences phenomena in remote areas. That was the case for Simon Gascoin, from the Centre d’Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphère in Toulouse, France who got to photograph geysers in a Chilean desert after the EGU Alexander von Humboldt conference in Santiago de Chile in late 2008.

“The picture shows the El Tatio geyser field, located at 4,200 metres above sea level, in the hyperarid Atacama desert. Steam columns and boiling water are caused by the high geothermal fluxes in this volcanic region, which heat the groundwater,” Gascoin explained.

The El Tatio geyser field is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere with no less than 80 active geysers. Eruptions of groundwater heated by magma at El Tatio have an average height of 75 centimetres, but the record steam and water jet reached some six metres above ground.

The Chilean Government declared the field a protected area in 2010.

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: Forest Fires

5 Dec

Forest Fires. Image by Sandro Makowski, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Slash and burn activity in Southern Ecuador. The photo was the taken during field work at the San Francisco valley, a microcatchment in the province of Zamora, south-east of Ecuador. The valley is the study area of the DFG research unit FOR 816 “Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of a Megadiverse Tropical Mountain Ecosystem”.

The picture shows firemen trying to fight a forest fire which went out of control soon after its ignition by local farmers. As usual, every year thousands of hectares of forests are burned in the Amazon during the dry season. This burn event took place in November 2010, which was a particularly dry year in the Amazon.

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.