Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013: (Friday 01/11)
By: Phil Arkin
I am attending the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego, where I was convinced to help organize a special session on environmental mathematics focused on evaluating past climate changes and modeling of future variations. I am a meteorologist by training and a climate scientist by virtue of spending the past 35 years doing research in observing and understanding of climate variability. (This may surprise people from CICS and ESSIC, who know me almost solely as a manager, but I still think of myself as a scientist!) I have been intrigued by the differences between this meeting and the other large national meetings that I generally attend – the Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco and the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, which is always in mid-winter, and in various southern or west coast cities, Austin Texas this year.
AGU is known for quick turnaround talks, generally 15 minutes. AGU was the first of these big meetings to place computers in every room and to manage presentations centrally – authors bring their memory sticks to the speaker ready room, upload the presentations onto servers, check them, and when the time comes for the session everything is ready. AGU also schedules sessions so that cherry picking of interesting talks in different rooms is possible (not easy, but possible). The AMetSoc meetings have adopted the same centralized system for handling presentations, and similar scheduling. The Joint Mathematics Meetings organizers don’t seem to have made that transition just yet, and so the first of our two sessions, held on Thursday morning, was a bit like going back in time – we used the personal MacBook of one of the organizers, with the power cord of one of the others. Each talk was uploaded either before the session began (at 8:00am) or between talks. The most entertaining part was adjusting the size of the projected version of the first speakers talk – he began by living with the outer edges of his slides being cut off, but eventually we needed to solve the issue. As usual, one of the younger audience members was the problem solver – it had something to do with “mirroring” in PowerPoint.
The session went very well, once the technical issues were straightened out. Several presentations dealt with the fine details of how small scale processes are handled in climate models. In most cases, the speakers went into mathematical detail that escaped me, but all were very convincing, and the 30 minute time slots made for a more enjoyable pace in my opinion. I particularly enjoyed the last two talks, which focused on aspects of large-scale climate. Prof. Langford from the University of Guelph in Ontario described a simple model of Hadley Cell variations, relating it both to current events and to the climate of tens of millions of years ago. Prof. Boos from Yale University discussed monsoon circulations and their relationship to nearby desert regions. These two talks were the most interesting to me personally, but all of the presentations would have been well received in either AGU or the other AMS. The second part of our special session will be Saturday morning, also beginning at 8am.