#365climateimpacts: Snow, ice, flooding, and football (February 1-15)

In January, I launched the #365climateimpacts project, in which I’ll spend a year tweeting stories of the many ways climate change is impacting people, ecosystems, and the earth; ideas for how to communicate about climate change more effectively; and analyses of technologies and policy proposals that show promise for combatting climate change. Here’s what I’ve shared in the last two weeks.

February 1:
The Climate Feedback project looks like an awesome way to see how scientists read climate change news.

The most recent analysis on the site is of an article called "The big melt: global sea ice at a record low", published by USA Today.

The most recent analysis on the site is of an article called “The big melt: global sea ice at a record low”, published by USA Today.

February 2 (Groundhog Day):
Climate Change versus Groundhogs: Even Common Species Will Suffer. (Not pictured: the groundhog who is digging up by back garden.)

February 3:
Melting glaciers affect water supply in Andes of Peru & scientists are on it. Video by @LaurenDSomers.

February 4:
Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 4.01.04 PM

I see a trend – and my eyes don’t deceive. Great Lakes annual average ice cover declined 71% from 1973-2010.

February 5 (Superbowl Sunday):
Is Climate Change Making Temperatures Too Hot for High School Football? Will it get too hot for football in the South? State rules aim to prevent heat deaths.

February 6:
Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 2.55.54 PM
What does a graph like this mean? It means ocean is taking up heat that CO2 emissions would otherwise add to atmosphere.

February 7:
I got a bit gif happy with today’s #365climateimpacts tweetstream, so you should really head over to twitter to enjoy the thread. I like snow. I like to sled, build snowmen, snowshoe, and how pretty snow is. Loss of snow is one reason I care about climate change. Today it is 57 F and raining steadily here in NE Ohio. I keep thinking about how we’d have a foot of snow if it were cold enough. Instead, I spent an hour in my class talking about the fun ways hydrologists have of measuring snow. With bare ground outside.

The average US snow season shortened by 2 weeks since 1972. Snow covered area is decreasing. The figure below is from the US EPA’s great Climate Change Indicators site, under the heading “Snow Cover.

This figure shows the timing of each year’s snow cover season in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska, based on an average of all parts of the country that receive snow every year. The shaded band spans from the first date of snow cover until the last date of snow cover.

This figure shows the timing of each year’s snow cover season in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska, based on an average of all parts of the country that receive snow every year. The shaded band spans from the first date of snow cover until the last date of snow cover.

Climate normals say that my area averages 45″ of snow per winter, but I haven’t seen anywhere near that most of the 5 years I’ve lived here. Of course, 5 years isn’t long enough to identify any trend (I’m not arguing it is), but my experience fits in the pattern of less snowy winters that are being observed across the United States. Here’s some data stretching 60 years. The figure below is from the US EPA’s great Climate Change Indicators site, under the heading “Snowfall.” Red is less snow, more rain.

This figure shows the average rate of change in total snowfall from 1930 to 2007 at 419 weather stations in the contiguous 48 states. Blue circles represent increased snowfall; red circles represent a decrease.

This figure shows the average rate of change in total snowfall from 1930 to 2007 at 419 weather stations in the contiguous 48 states. Blue circles represent increased snowfall; red circles represent a decrease.


(PDF versions of the Snow Cover and Snowfall pages)

February 8 (National Kite Flying Day):
Good morning, Twitter. It’s National Kite Flying Day! Do you think I can tie that to climate change?
President Obama has been appreciating kite flying, recently.
Back in the day, it wasn’t just surfboards powered by wind. It was big ships. Admittedly, with sails, not kites, but I’m doing the best I can to tie to #nationalkiteflyingday.
Modern shipping produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and wind is a renewable, carbon-free energy source.
One idea is to attach big kites to ships to provide free & CO2-free energy.

February 9:
It’s the middle of winter & something is seriously wrong with Arctic sea ice. Sea ice hit record low extents in November, December, and January. Nice reporting at Mashable by Andrew Freedman.
seaice

February 10 (National Umbrella Day):I
Climate change intensifies the water cycle, increasing heavy rainfall events. The figure below is from the US EPA’s great Climate Change Indicators site, under the heading “Heavy Precipitation”.

This figure shows the percentage of the land area of the contiguous 48 states where a much greater than normal portion of total annual precipitation has come from extreme single-day precipitation events. The bars represent individual years, while the line is a nine-year weighted average.

This figure shows the percentage of the land area of the contiguous 48 states where a much greater than normal portion of total annual precipitation has come from extreme single-day precipitation events. The bars represent individual years, while the line is a nine-year weighted average.


(pdf version of the Heavy Precipitation Climate Change Indicators page)

February 11:
The first year’s results from NASA Project OMG (Oceans Melting Greenland) reveal that Greenland’s thick glaciers in deep water are most affected by warmer ocean waters. Follow the project lead scientist Josh Willis @omgnasa on Twitter.

February 12:
Suburbs are increasingly threatened by wildfires due to climate change. The wildland-urban ecotone is where warmer winters longer droughts & climate change consequences flare up.

February 13:
With lots of attention focused on the massive rainfall, flooding, and dam and levee safety issues in California, it seemed like a good time to find out how climate change is expected to alter rainfall patterns in the state. Sure enough, “pineapple express” storms (that bring lots of rain to high elevation areas where it normally snows) are expected to increase as the climate warms.

Satellite image showing narrow band of clouds stretching from Hawaii to California

A “pineapple express” atmospheric river takes aim at California in December 2014. (NOAA/NASA GOES image)

February 14:
Minnesota Public Radio ran a fantastic feature on how climate change is affecting ice cover on Lake Superior between Bayfield and Madeling Island, Wisconsin. For 250 year-round residents of the island, winter offers an ice road and the freedom to move back and forth without being tied to the ferry schedule. Except that, for two years running, the ice hasn’t been thick enough to drive on and the ferry has run all winter. This story is personal for me, because my family has owned land on Madeline Island for 4 generations, and I remember the thrill and terror of driving the ice road on winter visits.

The view from our family's land on Madeline Island, February 3rd, 2017. Photo courtesy of J. Jarvis.

The view from our family’s land on Madeline Island, February 3rd, 2017. Photo courtesy of J. Jarvis.

February 15:
The New York Times highlights a rare Republican call to climate action, in which the “elder statesmen” of the Climate Leadership Council calls for a carbon tax. A report out earlier this month from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, shows that 62% of Trump voters support either taxation or regulation of greenhouse gases. The question is: Will Republican politicians listen to the elders or the voters, or will they continue to deny climate change and obstruct meaningful actions to slow its course.

A year of climate change impacts, one day at a time

Our changing climate is already affecting lives in a multitude of ways, and the impacts of climate change will only increase as the world continues to heat up. But because climate operates in the background, it’s easy to ignore the magnitude of the changes happening around us, as we are caught up in a daily news cycle and the rhythms of our own lives. 2017 seems fated to be an eventful – and exhausting – year and it would be all too easy to put climate change on the back burner, while facing seemingly more urgent crises. But, the longer we avoid tackling climate change head on, the more dramatic the impacts we are going to be facing.

I quietly launched a new personal project in January, and now that I’m a month in, I’m ready to tell you about it. I’m tweeting one climate change story per day for each day in 2017, with the tag #365climateimpacts. I’m aiming to tweet timely news stories or compelling visualizations across a wide range of climate change impacted arenas, from oceans to ice, from food to energy, from policy to theology, and more. While I’ve tagged the tweets with the word impacts, I’ll cover climate science and climate solutions as well as the impacts of past, present, and future climate change.

My goals for this project are three-fold:

  1. For those of us who are climate concerned, my goal is to keep climate change on the front burner of our collective agenda with daily reminders of the pervasiveness and magnitude of climate change implications and the hope that individual choice and policy and technological solutions have to offer.
  2. For those who are climate cautious or disengaged, I hope that the in the diversity of topics I tweet at least one will make it across your timeline and resonate with you and the things you care about. We know that just piling on facts doesn’t change people’s minds, but finding a genuine connection is a first step towards a real dialogue. As much as a one-to-many, 140-character limited platform lets me do, I hope I connect with you at some point this year.
  3. For those who are engaging with the climate doubtful and dismissive, I hope to equip with you new resources for those important conversations, give you ideas for how to avoid the deficit model of science communication, and encourage you in the work you are doing.

Without further ado, here’s an archive of January’s #365climateimpacts stories:

January 1:
I started the year with this entrancing visualization of 2016 in atmospheric precipitable water by James Warner:

January 2:

January 3:

January 4:
I tweeted this piece by Andrew Thaler multiple times in January – and I’m likely to keep tweeting it, because it’s just so perfect. “When I talk about climate change, I don’t talk about science.

The term “Climate Change” is now loaded with so much political baggage that it becomes almost impossible to hold a discussion across political lines. In stakeholder interviews, people generally understand and acknowledge the impacts of climate change on local and regional scales, as long as you don’t call it “Climate Change”. This has been my experience working in rural coastal communities, which tend to be strongly conservative and intimately connected to the changing ocean.

Which is why, when I talk about Climate Change, I don’t talk about science.

When I talk about Climate Change, I talk about Fishing.

January 5:
A warmer atmosphere can hold more water, so it’s not too surprising that the hottest year on record also had the most precipitable water in the atmosphere. Still it’s nice to see the physics theory borne out in the data.

January 6:
You are reading one of my #ClimateResolutions right now.

January 7:
The crack in this Antarctic ice shelf just grew by 11 miles. A dramatic break could be imminent.

January 8:
Scientists confirmed (again) that global warming never slowed down. (It looks like Yale’s E360 redesign has killed this story, but here’s a webcached version that works as of 22 January.)

January 9:
Hope Jahren Sure Can Write. What I say when people tell me they feel hopeless about climate change.

Scientists like me study carbon emissions, deforestation, ocean acidification, desertification, sea-level rise, glacial melting, landscape degradation, groundwater salination, invasive species, global warming and more. There is very little good news to share. Today’s environmental problems are easily big enough to eclipse our inadequate solutions. When people tell me that climate change makes them feel hopeless, I breathe deep, and then I respond. I don’t answer them because I have a good response, but because we all deserve at least a bad response. Here is what I say.

January 10:
The way I personally counter the despair that reading the latest climate change news can bring is by thinking about all of the technologies and solutions we already have in hand, and how the economics are steadily working ever more in their favor. President Obama makes a strong case for “The irreversible momentum of clean energy” in a policy forum article in Science magazine. I have a feeling Obama (2017) is going to be a highly cited paper over the next few years.

The mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow.

January 15:
Days before handing over power to a Republican administration, the EPA managed to complete a mid-term review of greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars – more than a year ahead of schedule. Wired has the story:

By 2025, cars would have to nearly double their average fuel efficiency (a kind of measure of emissions) and deliver, on average, more than 50 miles per gallon (which, for arcane reasons, equates to a real world figure of 36 mpg). The auto industry caved and agreed, with the caveat that by April 2018, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration do a thorough review of the rules, and adjust them if they proved unduly expensive or just plain unworkable.

By completing the review early – and finding the standards appropriate – the EPA just made it harder for the next administration to take a step backwards on car emissions.

January 16:

There’s some debate over whether we should really be lumping the Arctic and Antarctic onto the same plot, but there’s no denying that this is a pretty stunning departure from recorded history of sea ice.

January 18:
We knew it was coming, but January 18th is when NOAA and NASA confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record, beating out its immediate predecessor.

January 20:
In honor of Penguin Awareness Day (surely, everyone is aware of them already, right?), I posted a link to this scientific article on how changes in sea ice extent during warm and cold periods over the last 50 years affect Emperor penguin survival and chick hatching. From the abstract:

We show that over the past 50 years, the population of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) in Terre Adélie has declined by 50% because of a decrease in adult survival during the late 1970s. At this time there was a prolonged abnormally warm period with reduced sea-ice extent. Mortality rates increased when warm sea-surface temperatures occurred in the foraging area and when annual sea-ice extent was reduced, and were higher for males than for females. In contrast with survival, emperor penguins hatched fewer eggs when winter sea-ice was extended. These results indicate strong and contrasting effects of large-scale oceanographic processes and sea-ice extent on the demography of emperor penguins, and their potential high susceptibility to climate change.

January 21:
A stunning visualization of the trends in global temperature over the last 150 years in this temperature spiral, posted by Climate Central.

Global temperature spiral, updated to include 2016 data. Created by Ed Hawkins.

Global temperature spiral, updated to include 2016 data. Created by Ed Hawkins.

January 22:
An informative and nicely illustrated blogpost on climate.gov explaining the role of a strong El Niño in driving the record global temperatures we’ve experienced for the last three years. The takeaway is that while the El Niño has faded, climate change is still going strong and while we might expect a break from the record heat while we’re in La Niña mode, the next El Nino is likely to be even hotter. (If the climate.gov article disappears from the web, here’s a pdf archived version.)

NOAA graph of global temperature anomalies from 1880-2016, with key years noted.

NOAA graph of global temperature anomalies from 1880-2016, with key years noted.

January 23:
This is a stunning visual story of the places from which the first climate refugees are coming. 1000s of people are already being displaced by rising sea levels, increased flooding, and water scarcity, and millions more people are likely to be on the move in the coming decades. (Thanks to ESRI for creating this and to Dawn Wright for sharing it.)
Climate Migrants Story Map by ESRI

January 24:
Flood disasters have more than doubled in Europe, which is in line with what we’d expect given climate change, according to a new report by insurer Munich Re.

Excerpt from the Guardian article.  Click to read the whole article at the Guardian.

Excerpt from the Guardian article. Click to read the whole article at the Guardian.

January 25:
US solar power employs more people than power generation from oil, gas, and coal combined. (Though not for all uses of these fossil fuels as the headline misleadingly implies.) Renewable energies are the future.

January 26:
Climate change is already affecting Ohio. Find out how climate change affects your state, on this fantastic climate impacts site (produced by the Federal Government): https://statesummaries.ncics.org/ (Note: If this site disappears, I have copies of the info for the states where I’ve lived: OH, NC, OR, MN).

One of three key messages on climate change impacts being experienced by Ohio. The others focus on increasing temperature (and risks for urban areas) and increasing drought risks. What are the key messages for your state?

One of three key messages on climate change impacts being experienced by Ohio. The others focus on increasing temperature (and risks for urban areas) and increasing drought risks. What are the key messages for your state?

January 27:
Unsure how things like volcanic eruptions and air pollution play into the climate change we are experiencing? This data visualization from Bloomberg does a nice job showing how we can’t explain historical temperature trends without CO2 emissions, and what roles other factors have been playing in the temperature record.

January 28:
Peatlands are natural storehouse of carbon from the atmosphere — unless they are destroyed. Then, all the carbon goes back up into the atmosphere. Scientists have recently mapped a huge peatland in the Congo basin. It’s estimated to store the equivalent of 20 years worth of fossil fuel emissions from the United States, over an area the size of New York state. Let’s work to make sure it stays protected and the carbon stays in the ground.

January 29:
Are you watching Katherine Hayhoe’s Global Weirding series of videos yet? You should. One thing I love about Dr. Hayhoe is how clearly she explains why a “just the facts” approach won’t work to convince people skeptical of climate change’s reality. That’s the focus of the latest episode of her series.

January 30:

Following on the news that Europe’s flood disasters have doubled in the past few decades, here’s a new study showing that if global temperatures rise by 4°C, the flood risk in countries representing more than 70% of the global population will increase by more than 500%. (Thanks to Richard Betts for bringing this to my attention.)

Average change in population affected per country given 4?C global warming. Hatching indicates countries where the confidence level of the average change is less than 90%. Figure copyright EU, used in spirit of fair use.

Average change in population affected per country given 4?C global warming. Hatching indicates countries where the confidence level of the average change is less than 90%.
Figure copyright EU, used in spirit of fair use.

January 31:
In a month filled with signs that the new US administration will roll back federal comittments to combatting climate change, California is a beacon of light. The state of California, one of the world’s largest economies in it’s own right, is continuing forward with its efforts to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions. As California knows, once the groundwork for a low carbon future is laid, the economics of going backward don’t make sense.

“There’s a whole ecosystem built to reduce emissions,” said Jon Costantino, an environmental policy advisor who previously worked at the California Air Resources Board. “There’s investors, there’s businesses, there’s consultants.”

He added, “To pull the rug out from under that would have a dramatic impact.”

Anne’s top papers of 2016 + 3 she co-wrote

Yesterday, I posted an epic analysis of my scientific reading habits in 2016, but I didn’t tell you about the papers I read last year that made my heart sing. And I didn’t take much time to brag about my own contributions to the scientific literature. So I’m going to rectify that omission today.

My top 3 papers of 2016 are (in no particular order):

Of rocks and social justice. (unsigned editorial) Nature Geoscience 9, 797 (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2836

The whole thing is absolutely worth reading (and it’s not behind a paywall) but here’s where it really starts to hit home:

Two main challenges stand in the way of achieving a diverse geoscience workforce representative of society: we need to attract more people who have not been wearing checkered shirts, walking boots and rucksacks since secondary school, and we need to retain them.

Waters, C. N., Zalasiewicz, J., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A. D., Poirier, C., Ga?uszka, A., … & Jeandel, C. (2016). The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science, 351(6269), aad2622.

Want an up-to-date, data-rich, and condensed summary of why many scientists think it is time for a new geologic epoch? This is the paper to read.

Wu, Q., Zhao, Z., Liu, L., Granger, D. E., Wang, H., Cohen, D. J., … & Zhang, J. (2016). Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty. Science, 353(6299), 579-582.

I am a sucker for a good mega-paleo-flood story, and this one ticks all of the right boxes. An earthquake generates a landslide, which dams a river, and then fails, resulting in one of the largest floods of the last 10,000 years and alters the course of Chinese history. Geology, archaeology, and history combine in this compelling story.

Plus, a bonus paper, that was definitely one of the best papers I read in 2016.

Shields, C., and C. Tague (2015), Ecohydrology in semiarid urban ecosystems: Modeling the relationship between connected impervious area and ecosystem productivity, Water Resour. Res., 51, 302–319, doi:10.1002/2014WR016108.

I’m cheating a little bit here, because this paper came out in 2015. But I read this paper in 2015, and then I read it twice more in 2016. That’s how much I like it. Why? Because it’s a really nice illustration of how physically-based models can reveal the complex and unexpected ways that ecosystems and watersheds respond to urban environments. In a semi-arid environment, deep rooted vegetation can take advantage of the bonus water that gets delivered from rooftop downspouts that drain out onto the land. The additional water use boosts net primary productivity, potentially enough to offset the loss of productivity that occurred when parts of the landscape were paved and built upon. But while deep rooted vegetation, native to the semi-arid landscape, can take advantage of the bonus water, grass can’t. It’s a cool story, with implications for the way we develop and manage urban landscapes – and the way we model them. (This paper is open access as of January 1, 2017!)

I was thrilled to be able to contribute to 3 papers in 2016. 

Turner, V.K., Jarden, K.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Resident perspectives on green infrastructure in an experimental suburban stormwater management programCities and the Environment, 9(1): art. 4.

In 2015, my team published a paper showing how the installation of bioretention cells, rain gardens, and rain barrels on a residential street in the Cleveland area substantially decreased stormwater runoff. This paper represents the other side of the story – the side that is, just as important (if not more so) – how the people on the street responded to the addition of this green infrastructure. In short, getting residents on board with stormwater management is a big challenge that we’re going to face as we scale-up from demonstration projects to widespread deployment of these technologies. (This paper is open access and free to all.)

Bell, C.D., McMillan, S.K., Clinton, S.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Hydrologic response to stormwater control measures in urban watershedsJournal of Hydrology. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.08.049.

Bell, C.D., McMillan, S.K., Clinton, S.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Characterizing the Effects of Stormwater Mitigation on Nutrient Export and Stream ConcentrationsEnvironmental Management. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0801-4

I’m thrilled that first author Colin Bell completed his doctorate in 2016 and got two papers out to boot. These papers are the culmination of 5 years of research in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the Journal of Hydrology, we try to disentangle the effects of stormwater management from the overall signal of urbanization across 16 watersheds. It turns out that for the level of stormwater management we see in the real world, it’s not enough to counter-act the effects of impervious surfaces (pavement and rooftops) as a driver of the hydrologic behavior of urban streams. In Environmental Management, we aim to understand the influence of stormwater ponds and wetlands on water quality in the receiving streams. This turns out to be quite tricky, because the placement of stormwater management structures spatially correlates with changes in land use, but based on differences in concentration between stormwater structure outflow and the stream, we show that it should be possible. This echoes the findings from our 2015 paper using water isotopes to understand stormwater management influences at one of the same sites. Colin will have another paper or two coming out of his modeling work in the next year or so, and we’re still analyzing more data from this project, so keep your eyes out for more work along these lines.

Teaching graduate seminars is good for an academic’s reading habits (Anne’s 2016 #365papers in review)

1. Introduction

As a scientist, one of my big challenges is to keep on top of the vast and ever-growing body of scientific knowledge about my research and teaching subjects. I’m not the only one who apparently struggles with this task, or wishes she could do more. on January 1st, 2015, Jacquelyn Gill proposed the #365papers idea, which challenged us up the ante on our reading habits. I choose to interpret the 365 part not as a mandate to read a paper every day, or 365 papers in a year, but simply to record what I’ve read over the course of a year. I tweeted each paper I read, faithfully using the #365papers hashtag, and at the end of 2015, I looked back on what I’d read and did some fairly simple analyses. However, 2015 was an exceptional year for me personally because of the birth of my son, and I wasn’t sure how my results would look in a more “normal” year. Hence, like a good scientist, I decided to collect some more data. I hypothesized that I would read and review more papers when back at work full-time, but I thought that there was some potential that my 2 courses per semester teaching load would decrease my reading during the climax of each term.

2. Methods

Based on what a pain-in-the-neck it was to compile all of the metrics that I wanted to analyze at the end of 2015, I decided to alter my methods from the previous experiment. I created a Google spreadsheet to track my reading, including date read, journal, open access, gender and nationality of first author, and more. I began the year by tweeting and storifying the papers I read, as in 2015, but I abandoned the storify mid-year and ended up being a bit haphazard with the tweeting. I only counted papers that I read fully through the results and discussion sections, so there are quite a few papers that I read large chunks of but didn’t make the list because I didn’t finish. I also counted textbook chapters, government publications, and defense-ready dissertation chapters that I read fully, as well as papers and proposals that I reviewed. I didn’t count the many many pages of student writing for class or thesis proposals or the hundreds of great articles I read from Internet publications, magazines or newspapers. I also didn’t count “popular science” or other fiction and non-fiction books I read.

3. Results and Discussion

The data from 2016 support my hypothesis that having an infant depresses my reading rate, but the effects of my teaching load are the most unexpected result of this year’s analysis. In 2016, my list contained 132 items, which is a 70% increase over the 78 items I read in 2015.

3.1 What types of things did I read?

  • 95 journal articles, including 3 that I co-authored that appeared in press in 2016
  • 16 grant proposals as a reviewer
  • 9 manuscripts as a reviewer
  • 4 academic book chapters
  • 4 dissertation chapters
  • 2 government publications
  • 2 GSA special publications

In every category, I read more than in 2015. I read 169% of the number of journal articles I read the previous year. I more than tripled the number of manuscript reviews I did, but this gibes pretty well with my long-term rate of reviewing. In 2015, I had liberally turned down review requests while on maternity leave. Even though I reviewed more in 2016, the ratio of published articles to reviews increased from 3.3 to 3.8 articles per review. This is good, because one of the things I had worried about in 2015 was that my reviewer service (particularly for proposals) was taking away from keeping up with the published literature.

3.2 When did i read?

Graph showing day of year on x axis and % of papers read on the y-axis. Data are reasonably linear.

Figure 1. Cumulative distribution function of my reading in 2016. Spring semester ended around day 135, and fall semester began around day 240. (This graph may be the nerdiest thing I have ever done. I am so proud of myself.)

I passed my 50% mark on June 21st, so I read at a ever so slightly greater rate in the first half of the year than the second. But my biggest reading gap also occurred early in the year, after which I made up for it in a hurry. I honestly can’t quite remember what was going on there.

I had hypothesized that teaching would depress my reading rate, but in fact the opposite phenomenon is observed, as my least literary months were during the summer. I think part of the explanation is that I was teaching a graduate level class each semester, and in these classes I like to focus a lot on getting the students engaged with the primary literature. The end result of that is that I read a lot too. More on that effect in a bit.

Comparison of 2016 to 2015 is provocative. As in 2015, I traveled a lot in June, so that was a good reason for my reading rate to be low. In 2015, I’d suggested that my reading rate went down in the summer because of a more mobile baby, but it appears to be a broader pattern. Maybe something about working for 3 months for free was a disincentive to doubling-down on the reading?

Line graph of reading rate per month for 2 years.

Figure 2. In order to compare 2016 data to 2015, I aggregated my reading into monthly bins.

 

3.3 Why did I read what I did?

New for 2016, I kept track of why I read each paper. Things tagged “general” are those that I read to keep up with a field, while things tagged “research” were those I read in pursuit of a particular paper or proposal. (Or at least that was the intent, I’m not 100% sure I remembered that distinction each and every time.)

Pie graph showing a big blue slice for teaching (48%), ~1/4 each for general and research, and tiny slivers for public engagement and service.

Figure 3. The primary reason I read each paper in 2016. Yes, I know pie graphs are bad, but I like how colorful it is.

I’m really surprised by what a big chunk of my reading budget was occupied by papers read for teaching in 2016. I knew this fall that the only way I was reliably getting reading done was for class, but I didn’t expect it to be nearly half of my total reading this year.

This may go a long way to explaining why my reading rates were higher during the academic year when I was teaching than not. Maybe I’m actually a slacker about reading for research? But it is also important to note that this excludes all forms of reviews and dissertation chapters, which were 22% of my total reading load this year. So maybe I just need a different pie graph next year that factors those reviews and chapters in.

3.4 Who wrote the things I read?

I read 31 articles with women first authors in 2016, and 71 articles with men first authors. (This count excludes the reviews, dissertation chapters and an unsigned editorial.)  That gives me a rate of 30%, which is almost identical to what I reported in 2015. As I said then, this rate “is actually better than the 20% of US earth science faculty positions filled by women, though lower than the 40+% of geoscience PhDs awarded to women.” Of the 102 items where I can reveal authorship, 93 unique author names appeared, so I didn’t tend to read the oeuvre of any particular scientist this year. (Or if I did, that scientist doesn’t always publish as first author.) My rate of unique first authors was similar for women and men.

I also analyzed the country of affiliation for the first authors I read, and the results surprised me. 79% of the articles I read had a US first author, and the only other countries from which I read more than a couple of first-authored papers were Canada, the UK, and Australia. In some ways, I can see, given my area of research, why there would be a US bias in my reading habits, as I need to particularly pay attention to things that inform my understanding of my field research areas, but I didn’t expect the bias to be that substantial. I might make more of a concerted effort this next year to read papers coming out of Europe and non-Western countries, because there’s a lot to be learned outside of the US bubble. (I didn’t record nationality in 2015.)

3.5 How did I get access to the things I read?

18% of the published articles I read were open access (available through the publisher website). That’s lower than what I reported at the end of 2015, but I also discussed how holding a baby and reading on an iPad made me favor open access articles that year. In general, I think open access publishing is clearly the dominant direction that scientific publishing is moving over the next decade, so I’d be surprised if 18% weren’t a decadal minimum for me. I suspect that the number of articles I read in one particular paywalled journal is what is depressing my rate for 2016.

While officially open access articles are still very much a minority of my reading diet, 45% of the articles I read were freely available on the web in some form, either via the publisher, or on an author website, ResearchGate, or “in the wild” via someone’s existing upload (not counting SciHub), often as part of a course webpage. Of those routes to access, those “in the wild” uploads were the ones I most commonly found, though my sense is that ResearchGate is becoming a major player in the sharing of scientific papers.

I’m also happy that one of the three papers I coauthored this year is available from the open access journal that published it. Want to know what homeowners thought about a project to install rain gardens and bioretention cells into their neighborhood? You can read about what we found in Cities and the Environment with no paywall to stand in your way.  I’d like to move to a far higher percentage of open access publishing over the next few years.

3.6 When were the papers written?

Figure 3. Date of publication of papers read in 2016. Note that the very last paper I read in 2016 had a 2017 publication date to it. The oldest paper I read was published in 1953.

Figure 4. Date of publication of papers read in 2016. Note that the very last paper I read in 2016 had a 2017 publication date to it. The oldest paper I read was published in 1953.

 

The results for 2016 are pretty consistent with 2015, and as I said at the time, they are about what I expect to see for someone “keeping up with the field.” I read the most papers that were published in 2016, and the half life of my reading habits is 2 years (so 50% of the publications I read were published in 2014 or thereafter). That’s the same median publication date I reported for 2015, but, interestingly the weighted average of my reading actually moved backwards in time. In 2016, the weighted average publication date was 2006, which is 4 years older than it was in 2015. This is a function of the heavier tale on my distribution as I revisited classic papers for teaching purposes.

3.7 What were the top 5 journals I read?

  1.  Science (19 articles)
  2. Geomorphology (7 articles)
  3. Nature (6 articles)
  4. Water Resources Research (5 articles)
  5. (tie) Freshwater Science and GSA Bulletin (4 articles)

As the year progressed, I had the sneaking suspicion that I was reading a lot more Science than usual, but the results blow me away.  (Science didn’t even make my top 5 list in 2015.) There are a few factors at work here. First, I joined AAAS, so I could go straight from the e-Table of Contents to a digital version of the journal without the hassle of logging in through my university. Thus, there was a lower barrier to reading articles than in the past. Second, I worked on a proposal focused on science education and discovered that Science has published some pretty heavy hitting articles in that field. Third, since I was teaching Fluvial Geomorphology fall semester and we were reading and discussing multiple articles every week, I was revisiting some heavy hitting papers that had been published in the journal over the last few decades. The elevation of Geomorphology and Nature in the standings this year also is an effect of teaching Fluvial Geomorphology I think. Freshwater Science got a boost from a really nice special issue focused on urban ecosystems early in 2016. Water Resources Research is the only hold-over from 2015 to 2016 on my list. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

3.8 How many journals did I read from in 2016?

49.

Boom.

49. If you were giving me the side-eye for reading only 5 articles from Water Resources Research last year (and fewer than that from other major hydrology journals), please pause and reflect that the number of journals that I read from is more than 50% of the number of papers I read. Working on urban aquatic systems and fluvial geomorphology forces me to read broadly, because I am staying abreast of new knowledge hydrology, engineering, ecology, planning, geography and more. Also, this total doesn’t count the manuscript reviews I did, which were for journals much more in line with my hydrological and geomorphological expertise.

3.9 Where did I find all those articles?

New for 2016, I also kept track of where the articles I read first attracted my gaze. 19% of them were tagged “already known”, which are mostly things I was revisiting for teaching purposes and sometimes for research. 17% came to my attention via e-tables of contents, and 9% were identified as part of my backlog from 2015 and prior. In terms of search, my most common search tool was Google Scholar, generating 17% of my reads, and I really didn’t read much I found on Web of Science or other search tools. My preference for Google Scholar has a lot to do with how easy it is to use without having to log in through our library website, even though I really like some of the snazzy tools that Web of Science provides. Other ways I found papers included Twitter (4), colleagues, students, author websites, other people’s syllabi (teaching papers!), and conference talks. And of course a reviewer suggested a paper that my previous reading had missed. Thanks, reviewer!

3.10 What did I read about?

Every article I read I tagged with a primary topic and an optional secondary topic. The topics were chosen from a semi-controlled vocabulary (i.e., I tried to be consistent but wasn’t always). Once again, the data show the clear influence of my Fluvial Geomorphology teaching on my reading in 2016, with a probable secondary effect of my Urban Hydrology teaching, although that’s more difficult to disentangle from my research reading.

Based on primary topic alone, I read:

  • geomorphology (45)
  • urban hydrology (30)
  • science education (7)
  • hydrology (other than urban) (6)
  • diversity/women in science (5)
  • climate science and climate change (3)
  • public engagement and science communication (3)
  • water quality (2)
  • geology/tectonics (1)
  • social science (1)

If you add in the secondary topics (where only about half of papers had were tagged as having one), climate science and climate change jumps into the 3rd position, which makes a lot of sense as I’d be inclined to read articles that talked about the effects of climate on urban aquatic systems and geomorphic processes. Water quality jumps up to tied with science education, and ecology enters the rankings at that same spot as well. Here again, I think we’re seeing a synergy of hydrology and geomorphology and their interactions with other fields of research. In addition to ecology, a few other topics showed up only as a secondary topic. These included policy, land use, archaeology, modeling, and human impacts, and all of these are certainly cognate topics to my research.

4. Conclusions

The most surprising conclusion of this year’s study was the dramatic effect of teaching on my reading. I am teaching much less in 2017 than I did in 2016 (and I don’t expect an infant to be the reason), so I am profoundly curious what my reading rates, reasons, and patterns will look like over the next year. If I ever finish this blog post, I’ve already got two papers queued up to read (thanks, Twitter!).

I’d like to do a better job in the next year of paying attention to multiple dimensions of diversity in my reading, at least in a qualitative sense. I don’t know what percent of women first-authored papers exist in the geosciences, though a cross-disciplinary analysis found 0.42 papers by women authors for every 1 paper by men for US-based authors, suggesting my 30% is pretty much what you’d expect. There’s also some fascinating work on gender bias in the publication process at AGU journals, in terms of submission, acceptance, and reviewing, that was presented at GSA in 2016 and should be out in article form this year. But gender is the easy diversity axis to pick at, along with nationality of author affiliation (which I noted above that I’m not doing well at), and there are also issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality, affiliation type, professional rank and more that may be subtly affecting what I and others read. Collecting data on these intersecting axes is difficult, and I try to read the science I do because of the subject matter not the author, but I need to be aware of how subconscious bias may be leading me to favor some papers over others.

Finally, a much less surprising conclusion is that given a data set, even of dubious scientific value, the scientific mind will not be able to resist the temptation to dive in, analyze the heck out of it, and then share the results with the world. While my data over 2 or 3 or 10 years will never rise above the level of anecdata, imagine if many scientists started carefully tracking their reading habits. What a valuable dataset that would be, adding an incredible richness to our understanding of how scientific knowledge propagates. If you saw the #365papers hashtag pop up on Twitter or elsewhere on January 1 and thought that you couldn’t possibly reach that goal, so why try, I encourage you to take a different tack and use the concept as a vehicle for reflection through an academic version of life-logging. Or maybe we could even call it research.

5. Acknowledgements

Thanks as ever to Jacquelyn Gill for getting this whole thing started and for being a role model for an engaged academic in so many ways. Thanks to Meghan Duffy and Josh Drew for nerding out about your own stats, and much gratitude to all the #365papers participants in 2015-2017 for solidarity, tweeting your reading to keep me inspired, and for important conversations about work life balance. Finally, a special debt of gratitude to my family for putting up with me and all my nerdery.

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.

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

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.)