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For more information, please contact

Peter Weiss
Phone: +1 202-777-7507
Fax: +1 202-328-0566

Maria-José Viñas
Phone: +1 202-777-7530
Fax: +1 202-328-0566

American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009, USA

Press Conference Schedule

The following schedule of press conferences is subject to change, before or during Fall Meeting. Press conferences may be added or dropped, their titles and emphases may change, and participants may change. All updates to this schedule will be announced in the Press Room (Room 3001A, Moscone West, Level 3, adjacent to the Level 3 lobby). Press conferences take place in the Press Conference Room (Room 3000), diagonally across the hall from the Press Room.

Times for press conferences are Pacific Standard Time. Session numbers at the end of each press conference listing may show only the first in a series of related sessions on the topic.

(Note to Public Information Officers: If you have prepared press releases or other handouts for press conferences listed below, please email electronic copies of the documents to Peter Weiss (pweiss@agu.org) so they can be made available online to reporters calling in from outside the meeting.)

Eruptions from the Far-Side: New Global Views of the Sun

Monday, 13 December

New observations of the Sun indicate that the search for the factors that play a role in the initiation and evolution of eruptive and explosive events, sought after for improved space-weather forecasting, requires knowledge of much, if not all, of the solar surface field. The combination of observations from two NASA missions, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) enable us to view much of the solar surface and atmosphere simultaneously and continuously for the first time. These near-global observations often show long-distance interactions between magnetic areas that exhibit flares, eruptions, and frequent minor forms of activity. These interactions were previously suspected, but have never been observed until now. We analyzed a series of flares, filament eruptions, coronal mass ejections, and related events which occurred on 1–2 August 2010. These events extended over a full hemisphere of the Sun, only two-thirds of which is visible from the Earth's perspective.

Karel Schrijver

Research Scientist, Lockheed Martin, Palo Alto, California, USA;
Alan Title
SDO AIA principal investigator, Professor of Physics, Stanford University and Senior Fellow, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, California, USA.
Madhulika Guhathakurta
SDO program scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington DC, USA;
Rodney Viereck
Chief, Space Weather Services Branch, NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Sessions: SH11B, SH13A

New Views of Urban Heat Islands

Monday, 13 December

Weather watchers have long noted that city centers tend to be warmer than their surrounding environs. These “urban heat islands,” which are produced when pavement and other city infrastructure replaces open land and vegetation, can boost temperatures by a few degrees and in some cases by as much as 11 °Celsius (20 °Fahrenheit) or more. Recent findings, based on satellite data, offer new insight into how heat islands can vary across cities, threaten public health, and increase air conditioning usage in ways that might inadvertently exacerbate dangerous heat waves.

Ping Zhang
Research Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Earth Resource Technology, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
Benedicte Dousset
Researcher, Hawai`i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai`i at Manoa, USA
Cécile De Munck
Scientist, National Centre of Meteorological Research (CNRM), Météo-France, France.

Sessions: B11J, B21E

Press Availabilities: Scientific Leaders Holdren and Lubchenco

Monday, 13 December

Two of the Obama Administration’s top science officers — John P. Holdren and Jane Lubchenco — will be available for a half-hour each to take questions from reporters: Holdren from 2 to 2:30 pm, and Lubchenco from 2:30 to 3 pm. Dr. Holdren is the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He will have just given AGU’s inaugural Science and Policy Union Lecture, entitled Scientists, Science Advice, and Science Policy in the Obama Administration (U12B, 12:30-1:30 pm). Dr. Lubchenco is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She will be giving a talk later on Monday afternoon entitled NOAA Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill — Protecting Oceans, Coasts and Fisheries (U14A-03, 4:48 pm).

John P. Holdren
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C., USA;
Jane Lubchenco
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., USA.

Sessions: U12B, U14A

Voyage to the Sulawesi Sea: Exotic Life, Volcanic Discoveries

Monday, 13 December

With live video from the seafloor to U.S. and Indonesian scientists ashore, a recent, major expedition has uncovered a deep-ocean trove of potentially new species in the Sulawesi Sea (also known as the Celebes Sea). Exploiting the use of “telepresence” technology to aid discovery, expedition scientists and fellow experts at far-flung locations used powerful telecommunications links — extraordinary for a marine expedition — to connect to each other and to cameras scanning the ocean depths in real time. In their explorations, the researchers discovered and mapped submarine volcanoes, revealing a large hydrothermally active volcano with towering mineralized chimneys and a thriving, exotic-animal ecosystem. Also emerging from the expedition are measurements of the “Indonesian Throughflow,” which plays an important role in global distribution of heat by ocean currents.

Dave Butterfield
Senior Research Scientist, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and University of Washington Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Oceans, Seattle, Washington, USA;
Stephen R. Hammond (moderator)
Chief Scientist, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Newport, Oregon, USA;
Santiago Herrera
Graduate Student, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;
Wahyu Pandoe
Senior Research Scientist, Indonesia Agency for the Assessment & Application of Technology (BPPT), Jakarta, Indonesia;
Sugiarta Wirasantosa
Senior Research Scientist, Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Sessions: OS11D, OS13C

City Lights Affect Air Pollution

Monday, 13 December

New measurements taken from aircraft over the Los Angeles, California region indicate that human-made lighting is influencing chemical reactions in the atmosphere, altering nighttime compositions and concentrations of some airborne pollutants. A check on the relative influence of moonlight on such reactions (based on ground-level measurements made in Boulder, Colorado) finds that human-made lighting is much more of a factor in atmospheric chemistry than is natural nocturnal light. These findings could indicate increasing shifts in air-pollution’s distinctive night-versus-day chemical profiles.

Harald Stark
Research Scientist, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, USA, and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Sessions: A21C

Forest tipping points and climate change in the Southwestern United States and globally

Monday, 13 December

Historic patterns of vegetation change, fire activity, and runoff and erosion show that landscapes often respond gradually to incremental changes in climate and land-use stressors until a threshold is reached. Once past that tipping point, big, fast landscape changes may result, such as tree die-off or episodes of broad-scale fire or erosion. The stressors that contribute to tree mortality tipping points can develop over landscape and even sub-continental scales. The forests and woodlands of the southwestern United States demonstrated this from the late 1990s to the present, a period that has included severe drought and unusual warmth, in their history of forest die-offs due to drought stress, bark beetles, and severe fire activity across millions of hectares. The researchers also measured how tree growth within each population is related to climate variability by comparing tree-ring growth records from more than 1,000 tree populations across the United States with historical climate data. They conclude that Southwestern forests are particularly sensitive to drought and warmth, which will likely limit their growth and result in further forest die-offs in this century. Similarly, a recent global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality, led by one of the researchers, reveals emerging climate change risks for the world's forests.

Craig Allen
Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Jemez Mountain Field Station, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA;
Park Williams
Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, USA.

Sessions: B32A, GC53A

Ice Volcanoes and Hot Plasma Explosions

Tuesday, 14 December

This briefing will present two new results from NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn with never-before-seen videos. One finding is a potential ice volcano — or cryovolcano — on Saturn's moon Titan. Scientists have been debating for years whether cryovolcanoes exist on ice-rich moons and if they do, what characteristics they have. The panelists will discuss why this area appears to be a particularly convincing example of a cryovolcano. Secondly, they note periodic explosions of plasma, or hot ionized gas, with mysterious, periodic magnetic field and radio signals that were detected from Saturn. Cassini has been able to reveal hot plasma clouds that are typically invisible to the human eye, enabling scientists to make a major breakthrough in understanding Saturn's behavior.

Randolph Kirk
Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA;
Jeffrey Kargel
Planetary Scientist, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA;
Pontus Brandt
Senior Staff Scientist, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, USA;
Marcia Burton
Cassini Fields and Particles Investigation Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA.

Sessions: P22A, SM31C

Catching lightning in the act

Tuesday, 14 December

How lightning works is still largely a mystery, even 250 years after Ben Franklin's famous kite-and-key experiment. But researchers have made some progress in understanding exactly how lightning travels from a cloud to the ground, where it can strike buildings, trees and people. Within the past decade, researchers discovered that lightning emits x-rays. Now, they have created the world's first x-ray images of lightning, capturing the lightning just before it strikes. Using a special x-ray camera, a hot lightning channel can be seen approaching the ground at almost 1/10 the speed of light. The fastest-ever recorded video of a natural lightning strike (at 300,000 frames/sec) was also taken during the summer of 2010. The images show how lightning creates ionized channels and spreads toward the ground, providing new insights into how its energy is released.

Joseph Dwyer
Professor, Physics and Space Sciences Department, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida, USA;
Dustin Hill
Graduate Student, International Center for Lightning Research & Testing Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA;
Meagan Schaal
Graduate Student, Physics and Space Sciences Department, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida, USA.

Sessions: AE13A, AE23A

Carbon Consumption and Earth's Carrying Capacity: Challenges Ahead

Tuesday, 14 December

New research details that we are, at an increasing rate, consuming more of the Earth's annual output of plant material for food, clothing, paper, packaging and biofuels. This consumption has increased starkly even since 1995, when scientists at NASA first made this benchmark global measurement. The increased consumption is being driven both by sheer population growth but also higher per capita consumption across the globe. Great discrepancies remain, for instance, between the average North American's and the average Southeast Asian's consumption. As economies modernize and population continues to surge, scientists say the percentage of annual plant production consumed could rise significantly in coming decades. The trend raises questions about pushing Earth's carrying capacity, depleting biodiversity, transitioning toward more monoculture and managed landscapes, creating greater regional imbalances between production and consumption, and leaving societies vulnerable to climate change.

Marc Imhoff
Terra Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA;
Rama Nemani
Senior Research Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, USA;
Jennifer Harden
Project Chief, United States Geological Survey Soil Carbon Research at Menlo Park, Menlo Park, California, USA.

Sessions: B31H, B33I, B41I

Reducing a major climate-warming agent from the atmosphere: Exciting progress on two fronts

Tuesday, 14 December

Only in recent years has black carbon, a form of particulate pollution associated with biomass burning and vehicle emissions, been recognized as a major contributor to global warming. V. Ramanathan’s team at Scripps Institution of Oceanography will discuss the latest results from the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) monitoring network, which show encouraging signs from two decades of California clean air laws. Nithya Ramanathan of UC Los Angeles will present a novel household technology that her research team transformed into a scientific monitoring tool for soot and other forms of black carbon in developing countries.

V. Ramanathan
Distinguished Professor of Climate and Atmospheric Science, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of San Diego, San Diego, California, USA;
Nithya Ramanathan
Assistant Research Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Sessions: A32C, ED11A

Glory and Aquarius--New Climate Sentinels: Workshop for Science Writers

Tuesday, 14 December

The launching of two new spacecraft in 2011 should expand our understanding of Earth’s climate. Glory, a NASA mission set to launch no earlier than February, will study the roles of two critical elements of Earth’s climate system: the sun’s total solar irradiance and atmospheric airborne particles called aerosols. Both solar irradiance and aerosols have significant direct and indirect effects on Earth’s climate, and the two instruments on Glory will provide new insights into these complex processes. Then in June, NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina, Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE), will jointly launch the Aquarius/Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas (SAC)-D mission to make space-based measurements of how the concentration of dissolved salt varies across Earth’s ocean surface. This information will offer new insights into ocean circulation, the global water cycle and climate. During this science reporter/writers' workshop, scientists from both missions will help reporters better understand the fundamental processes both spacecraft will study and how they are linked to Earth’s climate. They will also provide helpful background on the individual mission concepts, instruments and measurement approaches.

Michael Mishchenko
Glory Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York, USA;
Greg Kopp
Glory Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) Instrument Scientist, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado, USA;
Gary Lagerloef
Aquarius Principal Investigator, Earth & Space Research, Seattle, Washington, USA;
Yi Chao
Aquarius Project Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA.

Sessions: A11E, A21J, A31B, GC21B, GC33C, OS54B, OS53E

Unstable Antarctica: What's Driving Ice Loss?

Wednesday, 15 December

New results based on data from airborne and satellite missions show a clear picture of mechanisms driving ice loss in West Antarctica. Scientists have previously shown that West Antarctica is losing ice, but how that ice is lost remained unclear. Now, using data from a range of NASA's Earth observing satellites and from the ongoing Operation IceBridge airborne mission, scientists have pinpointed ice loss culprits above and below the ice. Continued monitoring of Antarctica's rapidly changing areas is expected to improve predictions of sea level rise.

Ted Scambos
Glaciologist, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA;
Bob Bindschadler
Glaciologist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA;
Michael Studinger
Operation IceBridge Project Scientist, Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA.

Sessions: C22B, C13D, C11A, C44A

New Developments in Submarine Exploration: Workshop for Science Writers

Wednesday, 15 December

Scientists will discuss two craft, each about to bring something new and noteworthy to underwater scientific research. Not since the 1970s has the venerable Alvin—a deep submergence vehicle that once located a lost hydrogen bomb and surveyed the wreck of  the Titanic—undergone the kind of major overhaul that awaits it next year. The $40 million renovation will include a new titanium sphere (where the crew rides)– with more windows, a thicker shell, and the ability to dive 2,000 meters deeper than before – plus gobs of improved sensors and  instruments. Meanwhile, next year will mark the first field tests (in Lake Tahoe in March) of an extraordinary unmanned submarine 8-plus meters long (28 feet) and weighing more than a ton that collapses into a cigar-shaped rod less than 60 centimeters (2 feet) in diameter, in order to be lowered a half mile down through a borehole in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, so it can be used to study melting of the ice from below. The meeting’s exhibit hall will display the entire sub and a mockup of Alvin’s new sphere.


Ross Powell
Professor, Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA;
Reed Scherer
Professor, Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA;
Susan Humprhis
Senior Scientist, Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;
Peter Girguis
Assistant Professor of Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Sessions: OS13C

Ash and aviation: Developing better forecasts, monitoring and standards

Wednesday, 15 December

Following the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Iceland, the global aviation community focused attention on the issue of safe air operations in airspace affected by volcanic ash. The enormous global disruption to air traffic in the weeks after the eruption has placed added emphasis for the global air traffic management system as well as on the equipment manufacturers to reevaluate air operations in ash-affected airspace. Under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Meteorological Organization, efforts are being made to address modifications of international procedures for air traffic management, a new assessment of equipment vulnerability, and efforts to detect and to more precisely forecast the distribution and concentration of volcanic ash are underway. While technical and policy changes will help improve flight safety, there continues to be a role for earth scientists to work with the aviation community to improve monitoring of volcanoes, especially in remote regions, and in understanding of explosive volcanic processes.

Tom Casadevall
Geologist Emeritus, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado, USA;
Marianne Guffanti
Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, USA.

Sessions: V44C

Mummified Arctic Forest Provides Clues of Dramatic Climate Change

Thursday, 16 December

No trees grow on windswept Ellesmere Island in the northernmost reaches of Canada. But Ohio State University researchers have just discovered signs that things were different millions of years ago in the mummified remains of a forest uprooted in an avalanche. Melting snow cascading off the side of a glacier uncovered broken tree trunks, branches, and even leaves perfectly preserved with their DNA intact. These remains constitute the northernmost mummified plant material ever found in the Canadian Archipelago. They harken back to a time when the Arctic was far warmer than today and offer clues as to how an ancient ecosystem responded to dramatic climate change.

Joel Barker
Research Scientist, School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Sessions: PP51A

The last Arctic sea-ice refuge?

Thursday, 16 December

With summer sea ice projected to disappear from much of the Arctic within decades, researchers are investigating whether ice may persist year-round somewhere, and thus provide a last stand for polar bears, seals and other creatures that cannot survive without it. Studies of ice-formation patterns, currents, winds, and the habitat requirements of arctic biota suggest there may be such a place. The researchers have zeroed in on the now heavily ice-clogged region just north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland.

Stephanie L. Pfirman
Hirschorn Professor and Department Chair, Department of Environmental Science, Barnard College/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York City, New York, USA;
Robert Newton
Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York, USA;
Bruno Tremblay
Assistant Professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Brendan P. Kelly
National Marine Laboratory, NOAA, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Sessions: C43E, U13C

Opportunity Rover Headed for Something Different on Mars, with Help from Orbit

Thursday, 16 December

As the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity gets closer to its next long-term destination, orbital observations from orbit are adding to the destination area's allure. Opportunity's science team chose to begin driving the robotic field geologist toward the 22-kilometer-wide Endeavour Crater in 2008, after four productive years studying other sites in what was initially planned as a three-month mission. Even if the rover couldn't complete the hazard-avoiding route of nearly 20 kilometers to the closest part of Endeavour's rim, Opportunity would find interesting things to study along the way, the team reckoned.

Researchers using the CRISM mineral-mapping spectrometer (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during the first half of Opportunity's trek indentified exposures of clay minerals in the rim of Endeavour. Endeavour is an ancient crater that formed before the sulfate-rich, layered sedimentary rocks that Opportunity has been examining thus far. The presence of clay minerals on its rim suggests an earlier and less-acidic wet environment than the wet environment indicated by evidence Opportunity has found so far. This fall, researchers are using CRISM in an enhanced-resolution mode to help choose a specific destination on the rim for Opportunity. Also, orbital observations suggest mineral exposures much closer to the rover that could be a type that Opportunity has not yet investigated.

Ray Arvidson
Mars Exploration Rover deputy principal investigator and CRISM team member, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA;
Janice Bishop
CRISM team member, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and SETI Institute, Mountain View, California, USA;
John Callas
Mars Exploration Rover project manager, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA.

Sessions: P51F, P54A

Reporting on Cutting-Edge Science: The Intriguing Case of 'Arsenic and Odd Life'

Thursday, 16 December

Earlier this month researchers published in SCIENCE the discovery of microbes that use arsenic in the absence of phosphorus, an element thought to be essential to life. Possibly one of the biggest biology stories of the year, the news has sparked an intense debate on media hype, suitable venues for scientific dialogue, and what constitutes scientific authority. This panel discussion will look at the challenges in reporting on controversial research in the era of instant news and the ramifications of conducting follow-up scientific debate in the blogosphere.

Ron Oremland
Senior Research Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, USA; co-author of Science paper
Robert Irion
Director, Science Communication Program, University of California at Santa Cruz; former contributing correspondent, Science
Charles Petit
Lead Writer, Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Berkeley, California, USA.
Andrew Steele
Senior Staff Scientist, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Geophysical Laboratory, Washington, D.C., USA (via telephone)

David Harris
Freelance science communicator, Blogger at http://www.theenlightenedpio.com/

The April 2010 M7.2 Baja, Calif. Quake: Observations and Implications for Southern California

Thursday, 16 December

On April 4, 2010, a long-locked segment of the boundary between the massive Pacific and North American tectonic plates ruptured violently just south of California's border with Mexico. While not "The Big One" that Southern Californians have long feared, the resulting magnitude 7.2 earthquake--the region's largest in nearly 120 years--was nonetheless an important earthquake. Felt throughout northern Baja California and a broad region of the American Southwest, the quake killed two, injured hundreds and caused substantial damage. But beyond its obvious physical effects, the quake has proven to be one of the most complex ever documented along the Pacific/North American tectonic plate margin, providing scientists a unique opportunity to better understand earthquake processes along this volatile plate boundary. New techniques of remote sensing and image analysis developed by NASA and other agencies have revealed numerous surprises about the quake and have greatly aided field geologists in mapping and understanding the rupture. In this briefing, observations of the quake and its aftermath by scientists at NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, California Geological Survey and the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada, Baja, Calif., will be detailed, along with results of new data analyses that show how this quake has increased the potential for additional large earthquakes throughout Southern California.     

Eric Fielding
Geophysicist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA;
John Fletcher
Professor, Geology Department, Earth Sciences Division, Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada, Baja California (CICESE), Mexico;
Jay Parker
Software Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA;
Jerry Treiman
Geologist, California Geological Survey, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Sessions: T51E, T53B