James Cameron, Mars, And Climate Change Form The Bulk Of AGU’s 2012 Conference

By Nick Venable | Published

Pop culture fanatics have Comic-Con and SXSW. Geo-scientists have the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The conference, which runs from Dec. 3-7, is being held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, and is bound to be a reference point for numerous news stories in the days to follow. Do you have Curiosity about what one could be? I’ll admit that wasn’t smooth.

Monday’s events start with something that has probably already happened by the time anyone reads this. NASA will be holding a briefing about what the Mars rover Curiosity has been finding, which almost certainly isn’t extraterrestrial genome charts. Climate gets the bulk of today’s spotlight, as climate change’s role on the rise and fall of past civilizations is discussed. Scientists will present the effects and implications of the oddball 2011-2012 winter experienced in the Rocky Mountains, with six-week-early snows disrupting plant and animal life. Round out the day with “Black Swan cyclones” and “Pineapple Expresses,” and how ecologists are working to study and form prevention methods against both.

For Tuesday, the deep recesses of space and the ocean take center stage. Gorgeous images and fascinating information gleaned from the Van Allen probes will be shared. There will be a briefing on the Mars rover Opportunity’s investigation of “Matijevic Hill,” on the rim of the Endeavour Crater, covering the possible presence of clay materials. James Cameron name-drop. His DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition gets its due, as the designers and crew, along with Cameron himself, will go in-depth about all details of the vehicle, and Cameron’s lone journey to Earth’s deepest point. Enjoy the light-hearted comedy associated with discovering clandestine nuclear-bomb-testing areas, and how climate change has affected our nation’s rampant wildfires.

Wednesday’s subjects appear drab in comparison, but are no less important. The GRAIL moon gravity mapping mission of spacecraft Ebb and Flow will give us the most high-def images of any celestial body ever. An updated, cloud-free Earth at Night photo will be revealed, as well as other photos from moonless nights, when only “airglow” and starlight are visible light sources. The Arctic’s decline in snow and rise in melting ice, without fluctuating temperatures, will be discussed, as will earthquakes occurring outside of faultlines and the amount of carbon caught up in the atmosphere above much of the western U.S.

Thursday only has two panels, and both are introspective. Should the Age of Man actually be an Age of Man? The definition and process of defining an epoch will be reviewed, as will considerations for the possible beginnings to our current era. Finally, scientists will look at the effects from the guilty verdicts of the Italian scientists involved in the L’Aquila Earthquake case, and they will discuss a change in thought over the responsibilities of those involved with natural hazards studies.

Stay tuned for more on those topics as the days go by.