24 May 2009

2009 AGU Joint Assembly in Toronto: Day 1

Posted by Jessica Ball

After a long drive up to Toronto from Buffalo, encounters with surly border guards and confusing elevator mechanisms, and a really wonderful dinner at an Indian Restaurant on Jarvis Street, I’m finally diving into my first AGU. It doesn’t seem like there are a lot of people here, which is nice – not too overwhelming. The conference organizers decided to put together a mostly useless session guide that doesn’t actually tell you what talks are going on in each session, although we can still waste paper by visiting one of the printing stations and getting copies of all the talk titles.

Talks started early for me today; my advisor was running the 8AM volcanology session, in which the audience was mostly the speakers and a few of their students. But it was all about pyroclastic flows, a subject I consider worth an early start.

  • Mike Manga from UC Berkeley compared the transport capacity of pyroclastic flows over water and solid substrates, and concluded that large particles in overland flows are transported farther when the flows are concentrated and there is momentum transfer from the fines to the larger particles.
  • Sylvain Charbonnier of Keele University showed two different mass flow model results (TITAN2D and VOLCFLOW) as applied to block-and-ash flows on Merapi, and also talked about using ground-penetrating radar to map flow deposits internally.
  • Joe Dufek from Georgia Tech talked about ash production in eruptive flows, and how friction and collisional fragmentation help create fines.
  • Elke Hanenkamp from the University of Canterbury described decoupling processes in block-and-ash flows.
  • Eliza Calder from the University at Buffalo described a mathematical shortcut for reducing the number of “runs” needed to produce good mass flow models of pyroclastic flows.
  • Mike Sheridan (also from Buffalo) talked about modifications being made to TITAN2D to better represent multi-phase debris flows.

The meeting itself is in the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, which is right next to the CN Tower and is actually a very nice setting. The rooms are a bit bigger than the audiences in most cases, but it’s nice to not be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people attending the meeting, as I heard was the case at the past Fall AGU. I’m finding it a bit hard to pop in and out of any talks that don’t involve volcanology, since many of them are very over my head (or concern things that I haven’t worked with for a few years), but it’s a good chance for me to brush up on my mineralogy (for example).

So far I’ve also discovered that, at least at the convention center, the universe is trying to keep me from spending money. Not only do the ATMs not accept VISA cards, the food stands don’t accept any cards. Since I’d have to walk a block just to get out of the building to the street, and the street is full of unaffordable, high-end steakhouses, it looks like I’m living off of gum until dinnertime. Usually stress over an upcoming presentation makes me lose weight, but I may manage to do that without presenting anything at this meeting.

UPDATE: After about five ATMs, I finally managed to find one in the back of a convenience store that would take my card. I also went to dinner with my group at a really great Thai fusion place, and took care of the food concerns by ordering a fried rice dish that was served in half a pineapple. The food situation is definitely improving.