An unremarkable year – seismically, anyway.

A post by Chris RowanPolitical pundits seem fond of geological metaphors such as ‘earthquake’, ‘seismic shift’, ‘tectonic shift’ and ‘tsunami’ – and they’ve certainly had plenty of reasons to use such metaphors in the past 12 months, as both my birth country and my country of residence decided to flirt with the fact-free side. But what of the planet itself? The Earth’s lithospheric plates continued to jostle against each other in their stately wanderings over the Earth’s surface, producing 1,666 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater:

Global Map of 2016 earthquakes, according to the USGS database.

Global Map of 2016 earthquakes, according to the USGS database.

Of these, 16 – about 1% – were between magnitude 7 and 8; 129 – about 8% – were between magnitude 6 and 7; and the remaining 1521 were between magnitude 5 and 6. There were no earthquakes larger than a magnitude 8 – the largest earthquake in 2016 was a magnitude 7.9 near Papua New Guinea on the 17th December.

Number of earthquakes in different magnitude ranges in 2016

Number of earthquakes in different magnitude ranges in 2016, compared to longer term averages.

Based on our instrumental record of seismic activity since the mid 20th century, in an average year we expect around 1500 magnitude 5-6 earthquakes, around 130 magnitude 6-7 earthquakes, and around 13 magnitude magnitude 7-8 earthquakes. 2016 pretty much hits the average long-term behaviour for M5-6 and M6-7 events on the nose, with a few more M7-8 than the long term average. Even the lack of events larger than magnitude 8 is not particularly unexpected, since there has been less than one of these events a year on average since 1950. That said, it is the first year since 2008, and only the third year since 2000, where we haven’t had an M8 or greater. This relative glut of the largest earthquakes is also reflected in the slightly higher frequency of smaller events averaged over the last six years, since these bigger quakes trigger bursts of (relatively) smaller aftershocks.

Global seismic record since 1950

2016 earthquake frequency compared to the instrumental record since 1950 (although M5 events are largely missing from the catalogue prior to the 1970s).

Of course, this is not the whole story. It is a long-running theme of my writing about earthquakes that magnitude is not the only thing that matters. Proximity to people, and the kinds of buildings those people live in, can make huge differences in the impact an earthquake has. In 2016, we’ve also seen these factors play out, with large earthquakes that killed a lot of people, just-as-large earthquakes that killed almost nobody (whilst still causing many longer-term problems for people in NZ), and smaller earthquakes that killed a lot of people.

As for 2017, the generalised predictions are easy enough. Around 1500 magnitude 5-6 earthquakes; around 130-150 magnitude 6-7 earthquakes; around 13-15 magnitude 7-8 earthquakes; and possibly one or two magnitude 8 or 9 earthquakes. But again, location matters. Knowing where the biggest earthquakes will occur, and whether those locations will coincide with large numbers of vulnerable people, is currently beyond our capabilities.

Categories: earthquakes, geology, tectonics

Where is Anne at AGU?

A post by Anne JeffersonI’ve abandoned my family for the week and flown to San Francisco to join ~26,000 geoscientists at this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting. It’s a big, spectacular, and exciting meeting, and I might have gotten a little too excited about attending after a few years absence. As a result, I said yes to a few things…. and that has given me a pretty busy schedule over the next few days.

Monday

I’m giving a talk in the session on Water, Energy, and Urban Systems II (H12E) in Moscone West 3016 from 10:50-11:05. My talk is on “A Neighborhood-Scale Green Infrastructure Retrofit: Experimental Results, Model Simulations, and Resident Perspectives” and represents an attempt to summarize three papers worth of work into a 12 minute talk. It’ll be great, and this work is the main reason I was desperate to come to AGU this year.

From 1-2 pm, I’ll be participating in the Sharing Science mentoring meet-up (Moscone West 2001A), where I am paired with a super-awesome PhD student interested in science communication and public engagement. I think I’m supposed to mentor her, but I’m blown away by the great work she’s already doing.

From 4-6 pm, I’m part of the Social Dimensions of Geoscience Pop-ups (Moscone West 2001A), which are a fantastic series of 5 minute presentations, which will be video recorded in case you want to watch later. Mine is at 5:17 pm and is on “Social Media for Community Building Among Geoscientists from Under-represented Groups.”

From 6-8 pm, I’m going to relax and see friends at the Earth Science Women’s Network Reception at The Children’s Creativity Museum Imagination Lab, if I can figure out where that is. Will I see you there?

I promise you that no other day is quite as crazy as Monday.

Tuesday

In the morning, I’m helping present a poster (but all credit goes to Mika McKinnon for doing every single bit of work on it) in the session on Progress toward an Inclusive and Welcoming Geoscience Community: Addressing Harassment and Improving Workplace Climate Posters (ED21D) in the Moscone South Poster Hall. Our poster is on “Staying Safe While Doing Science in Public: Emerging Best Practices for Social Media” and is ED21D-0796.

Over the lunch hour, I’m giving a 1-slide, 3 minute lightning talk as part of the Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) Program Town Hall from 12:30 – 1:30pm in Moscone West – 3022. I’ll be making the case for why the future of CZOs must include urban areas.

In the afternoon, I’m going to take a deep breath, maybe go to a few talks, and probably prep for the second half of my week.

Wednesday

I’ll be just an ordinary conference attendee in the morning, but in the afternoon I’m excited to moderate an Earth Science Women’s Network panel and discussion on Success in Scientific Publishing and Outreach from 2-4 pm in San Francisco Marriott Marquis – Golden Gate A.

Thursday

In the morning, I’m convening one of several groundwater-surface water sessions, but mine is the bright and early one: “H41H: Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions: Identifying and Integrating Physical, Biological, and Chemical Processes across Scales I” from 8:00-10:00 in Moscone West 3020.

Friday

I’ll wrap up my week with a talk about hydrology education in ED52A: Tools and Methods for Data Driven Education in the Water Sciences II. My talk “Data-driven Approaches to Teaching Stable Isotopes in Hydrology and Environmental Geochemistry” (ED52A-07) will discuss work we’ve done to develop curriculum and assess the effects of teaching format on student outcomes. You can find me talking from 11:50-12:05 in Moscone South 309.

After my talk I’ll be taking a redeye back to Ohio, hopefully getting a few hours of much needed sleep and then performing in a piano recital on Sunday afternoon. I think that’s called work-life balance.

I hope you’ll follow along on Twitter as I broadcast morsels of AGU science and my madcap adventures in over-commitment as the Moscone wi-fi and my phone battery allow.

Categories: by Anne, conferences

Stormwater management is all around you. Can you #SpotTheSCM?

realscientistsFor a week in October 2016, I had over 38,000 twitter followers as I took a turn hosting the @realscientists account. Of course, I spent a bunch of my time preaching the gospel of stormwater management. Here are tweets over two days synopsizing its history in 140 character bites. (Please note that the account is hosted by a different scientist each week. The image attached to these tweets is that of the current @realscientists host, not a crazy makeover of Anne.)

On Thursday of @highlyanne’s week @realscientists, she was putting finishing touches on a research proposal to do new, cool science on stormwater managment. She also wanted to get people to realize that stormwater managment is already happening in their neighborhoods, so #SpotTheSCM was born.

Categories: by Anne, hydrology, public science

What is stormwater? And how did we get to where we are today?

realscientists

For a week in October 2016, I had over 38,000 twitter followers as I took a turn hosting the @realscientists account. Of course, I spent a bunch of my time preaching the gospel of stormwater management. Here are tweets over two days synopsizing its history in 140 character bites.(Please note that the account is hosted by a different scientist each week. The image attached to these tweets is that of the current @realscientists host, not a crazy makeover of Anne.)

Categories: by Anne, hydrology

Kent State University’s Water and Land Symposium

A major focus for Anne’s Watershed Hydrology lab this fall has been preparing for the Kent State University Water and Land Symposium. She was the symposium co-chair (with lots of help from Biology’s Chris Blackwood), and all of the lab members were involved in some way.The symposium had about 400 attendees from universities, agencies, cities, non-profits, and the general public from throughout northeast Ohio. The symposium was a major piece of engagement for Anne’s stint as a AAAS Leshner Leadership Public Engagement Fellow. If you missed the event live or on twitter, here’s how it went down.

This year’s symposium occurred on October 5-6, 2016, and featured the theme of “Sustainability and Resilience on the Land-Water Continuum.”

Categories: academic life, by Anne, environment, hydrology, public science, society