Feature: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

December 9-13, 2013 | San Francisco

At AGU, Earth Institute’s Columbia Water Center Adds to the Abundance of Scientific Riches

by | 12.22.2010 at 12:32pm
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The annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting is an all-you-can-eat buffet of the most current scientific knowledge available on the planet.  Name your pleasure: space, climate change, geomagnetism, nonlinear geophysics, volcanology, biogeosciences, etc.  You have to be careful to indulge in moderation over the five-day event, or risk unseemly bloating.

The Columbia Water Center contributed its own tasty dishes to the feast, mostly under the hydrology section of the menu. (but enough of the food analogies)

Several CWC scientists and affiliated researchers gave talks at this year’s event, December 13 – 17, in San Francisco, and several more had posters representing their work on display.  The CWC contribution drew heavily on our research projects in India, but also explored other water issues.  Detailed slideshows and posters, along with videos (some filmed in dark presentation rooms) are available on a web page devoted to CWC at AGU 2010.

Upmanu Lall started the week with a presentation called ‘Why is it Flooding Everywhere this Year?  Coincidence or a Predictable Climate Phenomenon, and How Can We Respond?’  Without going into the technical material here, Lall concluded that a project on understanding and predicting global flood and drought patterns could facilitate flood risk management and climate change adaptation activities.  These would benefit local, state and national planners, and also corporations and financial industries such as insurance.

Diagram on Managing Climate Risk from Upmanu Lall's presentation.

Shama Perveen and Naresh Devineni are working on a project to develop an in-depth assessment of the growing water shortages in India, as discussed in an earlier post by Perveen.  At AGU she spoke about ‘Quantifying the Dimensions of Water Crisis in India: Spatial Water Deficits and Storage Requirements’.  Preveen showed a series of diagrams that demonstrated the rapidly falling Indian groundwater levels, population pressure and agricultural demands.  Devineni followed up with a look at the water storage capacity in different parts of India, relating them to crop water requirements.  This work will help Indian policy makers decide which crops can be grown in each geographic region to maximize food production while minimizing water use.

PhD student Ram Fishman addressed ‘How Low Can It Go? – Scenarios for the Future of Water Tables and Groundwater Irrigated Agriculture in India’, which looked at the relationship between energy use, water use and agricultural production, and their combined effect on the water table.  He also presented a poster, ‘Does Irrigation Buffer Agriculture from Climatic Variability – Evidence from India’, which further elaborates on this research.

Ram Fishman explains his poster to other interested researchers.

Tobias Siegfried offered five posters, which ranged from water stress and conflict in Central Asia to groundwater sustainability in India, to climate change impacts in the western US.

Chandra Krishnamurthy, Christina Karamperidou and visiting professor Francesco Cioffi also used posters to explain their research projects, and IRI’s Paul Block gave a presentation on ‘Statistical Dynamical Climate Predictions to Guide Water Resources in Ethiopia’.

Lall then finished up the week with two more presentations.  One, ‘Will Hydrologists Learn from the World Around Them?’, was a critique of climate research that doesn’t adequately address the issues of bias in modeling.

In the other, ‘Exploring Oceanic Source Regions and Moisture Transport of Extreme Floods over Large Basins in the Contiguous United States’, Lall talked about the statistical analysis of atmospheric moisture circulation patterns, which may be able to help predict large flooding events in specific geographical regions.

An illustration of atmospheric moisture transport trends from the presentation by Upmanu Lall.

As a group, the work presented was a significant contribution to the AGU meeting, which gave all the researchers the opportunity to interact with scientists in related fields, and keep increasing our collective knowledge and understanding of critical global climate and water issues.

Next year’s AGU feast may be even more lavish….

Columbia Water Center AGU 2010 resources page here.

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