16 December 2010

AGU, day 3

Posted by Callan Bentley

I took a break yesterday morning from nonstop AGU meeting stuff, and got out into the city a bit. A former student of mine, Alan P., lives in San Francisco these days, and works at a local bike shop. So Alan scored us a couple of bicycles and we went for a ride from North Beach past the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge to several beaches exposed between the eroded bluffs west of the bridge. I’ll have a lot more to share of these outcrops when I get back home to my own computer and can process the photos, but for now, here’s a taste of what we saw there:

That’s serpentinite, exposed gorgeously at Marshall Beach. We also saw graywacke turbidites at Baker Beach.

Alan and I rode back to the bike shop, then I took the Muni back to Market Street, caught a quick shower at my hotel, and then went to the geoblogger’s lunch that AGU’s Maria-Jose Viñas organized to recognize the work of bloggers in the geosciences. It was a nice event, and 4/7ths of the AGU Blogosphere was seated at one table. We were joined by a bunch of other science bloggers, some I was familiar with and others that were new to me. We discussed the technological state of the meeting and what AGU might do for bloggers in the future.

After lunch, I caught some posters and then a discussion with the authors of a bunch of popular press books about climate change, which included questions (and lengthy statements) from the audience. Greg Craven stood out as one of the most outspoken individuals, while I was more impressed with the steady tone and measured reasonableness of Mike Oppenheimer. Naomi Oreskes chose her comments carefully, and was pointedly terse in answering some questions. There were several impassioned members of the audience who went on way too long with their “questions,” in a shrill and alarmed tone of voice, and I found it interesting that neither of them were scientists. Scientists are, it would seem, by temperament more measured and considered in their speech. You could tell everyone in the room was getting uncomfortable with it.

When that was over, I hit a few more posters and again ran into colleagues old and new in the giant poster hall, then went to see Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State talk about his work drilling ice cores in the mountain glaciers of the non-polar regions (Peru, Tanzania, Indonesia, and China). Isotope stratigraphy reveals that these glaciers are losing ice mass from the top down, erasing the historical record of recent times first, and then chewing backwards through time.

I’ve been starting to feel run down, and my throat was feeling itchy, so I swung by the press room for some tea with honey and lemon, and that revived me enough to start grading some final exams which had been administered Tuesday back in NOVA. I did this in the vestibule of Chevy’s Fresh Tex-Mex adjacent to the Moscone Center, where a half-hour later I was joined by a bunch of folks from the two-year-college scene, and we talked about the growing prominence of our institutions in groups like AGU. While we still have a long way to go, we were all pleased with the momentum that seems to have developed in paying attention to community colleges in recent years.

At this point, my throat was really bugging me (even though somewhat assuaged by margaritas), and I headed back to the hotel to conk out. Up now to finish with my exam grading, hack out this quick blog post, respond to the Facebook troll who thinks the planet is cooling, and then stumble back down to the meeting. It’s my last day at AGU, as tomorrow morning at this exact time, I’ll be tens of thousands of feet above the Basin & Range, heading east.