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Media at the EGU General Assembly
Vienna, Austria | 22–27 April 2012
Press conferences

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European Geosciences Union

Press conferences

You are viewing the EGU 2012 General Assembly Press Centre page. Click here to see information about media services and activities (e.g. press conferences) at the most recent General Assembly.

List of press conferences

Tuesday, 24 April
Wednesday, 25 April
Thursday, 26 April

PC1 – Geosciences and health

Tuesday, 24 April, 10:00–11:00 (Stream)

It is increasingly clear that environmental phenomena, such as weather patterns or the movement of dust particles in the atmosphere, have direct impact on the health of human populations. By designing complex climate models, researchers are able to predict and likely avoid outbreaks of potentially fatal diseases, such as malaria or dengue fever. Another team used various geophysical data to derive the behaviour of floating radioactive dust particles emitted from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, providing vital environmental data for minimising the risk of radiation exposure in local communities. In the Middle East, other researchers examined the composition of naturally occurring dust and sandstorms, showing they constitute a significant health risk to native inhabitants and Western troops. These interdisciplinary studies are vital as we seek to understand the extent by which the well-being of humanity depends on its rapidly changing environment.


Related scientific sessions: CL2.5, NH8.3, SM3.1/AS4.20

PC2 – Flood disasters: impacts and forecasting

Tuesday, 24 April, 11:00–12:00 (Stream)

It is a paradox of human history that many of the most prosperous civilisations have developed in fertile areas prone to flooding. As a consequence, devastating floods have caused socioeconomic and environmental damage to humanity ever since the very earliest recorded civilisations, including in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Recent interdisciplinary research integrates demographic data on population change with the hydrological sciences, showing that the growth of the human population greatly exacerbates the severity of flood disasters. Other work examines the prospect of developing more efficient flood forecasting systems. Taken together, these researchers look to develop mitigation models of hydrological risk that could save both money and lives as the Earth’s population continues its predicted 21st century growth.


Related scientific sessions: HS2.6, HS4.3/AS1.18/NH1.2

PC3 – Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: renewable energy & CO2 storage

Tuesday, 24 April, 14:15–15:15 (Stream)

Climate change and the demand to reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels, has motivated scientists and policy makers alike to find sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases. In a press conference chaired by Hermann Held, the participants will answer questions on renewable energy and CO2 storage as options to tackle this global challenge. Gerhard Glatzel and Adele Manzella will address queries on biofuels, and deep geothermal resources and energy, respectively. The president of the EGU division on Energy, Resources and the Environment, Michael Kühn, will focus on CO2 storage as a possible solution to minimise climate change.


Related scientific sessions: ERE1.1

PC4 – Uncovering the traces of the Great Tohoku Earthquake

Wednesday, 25 April, 10:00–11:00 (Stream)

In March 2011, the devastating Tohoku earthquake struck off the northeastern shore of Honshu, Japan. In spring 2012, two expeditions have been organised to uncover the traces that the earthquake left behind at the seafloor, and to better understand the very large fault slip that occurred in the shallow part of the subduction zone, respectively. From March 8 to April 6, German and Japanese scientists are investigating the area of the epicenter on board the German research vessel SONNE. From April 1 to May 24, the Japanese drilling vessel CHIKYU is operating in the area of the Japan Trench to drill into the fault zone in ultra-deep water (about 7,000m). This mission is conducted in the framework of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, IODP. During the media conference, scientists will present the first results from the SONNE expedition, and report programme updates and plans on CHIKYU drilling operations.


Related scientific sessions: CL1.3, CL5.11, GM8.4/OS3.6/TS4.10, TM4

PC5 – Glaciers and ice caps: contributions to sea-level rise

Wednesday, 25 April, 11:00–12:00 (Stream)

Global sea level is rising as glaciers and ice sheets melt as a result of Earth’s warming climate. Using detailed historical data sets from a representative sample of glaciers and ice caps worldwide, researchers estimated the predicted loss in global ice mass based on recent climate data. Likewise, an EU-funded ice2sea study used a three-dimensional Greenland ice sheet model to project sea level rise over the next century. Related research, also in the ice2sea framework, monitored the speed of glacier flow and the dynamics of iceberg calving in Svalbard, predicting their potential contribution to sea level rise. By increasing the risk of flooding and even threatening to entirely eliminate low-lying island nations, rising sea levels are set to have a widespread and potentially fatal impact on human communities worldwide.


Related scientific sessions: CR1.40/CL2.11, CR5.10

PC6 – Soils and greenhouse gas emissions

Wednesday, 25 April, 12:00–13:00 (Stream)

Estimates indicate that, in regions above latitude 50°N, permafrost soil holds about twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. As temperatures increase, permafrost degrades, releasing part of its stored carbon to the atmosphere as CO2 or methane, further increasing global warming. However, the recovery of ecosystems after permafrost thaw has mostly been neglected in assessing soils’ greenhouse gas emissions. New research indicates that this factor may indeed counteract carbon loss in areas of northeastern Siberia. In Europe, another team has been inspired by the potential of Amazonian ‘terra preta’, a carbon-rich soil altered by human activity, to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Terra preta’s properties are due to its large amounts of biochar – organic matter produced under conditions of intense heat. Scientists are now interested in adding biochar to other types of soil to enhance their quality and ability to sequester carbon.


Related scientific sessions: BG7.1, SSS1.1

PC7 – Mitigating tsunami risk with early warning systems

Wednesday, 25 April, 15:00–16:00 (Stream)

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan highlighted the need to further improve the efficiency and accuracy of local tsunami warning systems. Effective tsunami alerts must be issued as early as 5 to 10 minutes after an earthquake but, within this time limit, current seismic methods tend to underestimate the magnitude of an earthquake, and the size of the resulting giant wave. Recent research shows that we are working towards faster and more reliable tsunami early warning systems but many challenges persist in communicating and managing crises as they happen.


Related scientific sessions: NH5.1, NH5.7/ESSI1.7

PC8 – Dawn’s closest look at Vesta

Wednesday, 25 April, 16:00–17:00 (Stream)

NASA’s Dawn mission recently revealed a diversity of geologic features and unexpected details on the surface of Vesta, providing clues on the history of this giant asteroid and on the beginning of the Solar System. The spacecraft is now in its closest orbit around Vesta, the low-altitude mapping orbit. In this late-April press conference, researchers will present the results of the low-altitude phase of science observations, including new high-resolution data from the Italian Visible and Infrared Spectrometer and the German Framing Camera. The panel will discuss, for the first time, the findings from these instruments and will also present results on the relation between gravity and topography for Vesta.


Related scientific sessions: PS4.2

PC9 – Space weather effects and forecasting

Thursday, 26 April, 09:00–10:00 (Stream)

The dynamic environmental conditions in space, more commonly known as space weather, may have important consequences on our dependence on satellite technology (e.g. satellite communications and global navigation satellite systems), health and safety of astronauts, as well as on the potential habitability of other planets within and beyond the Solar System. Geomagnetic storms, ionospheric disturbances, solar energetic particle events are some of the phenomena that can have unwanted effects on technical and biological systems. In an attempt to increase their understanding of the dynamic space environment, researchers are developing near real-time tracking strategies that provide timely updates on changing space weather patterns. Together, this important and growing body of work reflects the increasing awareness that monitoring and mitigating against space weather is vital for modern society and life across the planet and, in future, on humans as they continue to venture into the uncharted regions of space.


Related scientific sessions: ST5.1/NH1.10/PS5.5

PC10 – Habitable worlds in the Solar System

Thursday, 26 April, 10:00–11:00 (Stream)

Is Earth alone in the Solar System in its ability to harbour life? Recent work has identified Jupiter’s system as comprising potentially habitable worlds, including on one of its moons, Europa, which contains ‘shallow lakes’ and other physical features analogous to areas on Earth, in addition to its global ocean. In fact, a mission to the Jupiter system, which will characterise the conditions that may have led to the emergence of habitable environments among the Jovian icy satellites, is under study. It pays special emphasis on the three ocean-bearing worlds, Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto. Another team has found that some microorganisms on Earth may be able to survive in the harsh conditions of open space or possibly even in environments similar to the Martian surface. In the Saturn system, evidence is mounting for a liquid water ocean in the deep interior of Titan, in addition to its surface seas of liquid methane and ethane. Coupled with additional discoveries by the Cassini spacecraft, which strengthen the case for liquid water in Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the argument for life elsewhere in the Solar System seems all the more compelling.


Related scientific sessions: PS3.1, PS3.3, PS8.1

PC11 – Climate change and the problem of climate sensitivity

Thursday, 26 April, 13:00–14:00 (Stream)

How much will the planet warm over the coming century? Recent estimates still differ by a few degrees, and depend on what is referred to as the climate sensitivity – the increase in global average temperature following a doubling of CO2 concentration, likely to be between 2 and 4.5°C. While low sensitivity is good news, a value at the high end of this range would mean considerable warming, even from modest increases in CO2. Hence, to understand climate change, researchers must tackle the problem of climate sensitivity. Why don’t we have a definite value for this parameter? And how can we better estimate it? Three world-renowned climate scientists will address this and other questions in this press conference.


Related scientific sessions: ML1, ML7, NP2.4/CL5.5

PC12 – How critical are strategic mineral resources?

Thursday, 26 April, 14:00–15:00 (Stream)

Non-energy raw materials are vital to modern technology and profoundly important in the context of the world economy. However, their natural distribution is limited, meaning that certain countries, such as the EU Member States, are by default dependent on acquiring them through imports. In response to Europe’s disproportionately low natural production of these critical substances, the European network (ERA-NET) on non-energy raw materials provides a framework for EU countries to communicate, coordinate, and plan for predicted shortages. General concerns for every mining development are water, energy, and the social acceptance of this activity, factors required to ensure the continued acquisition of these rare materials. Researchers recognise the crucial importance of rare metals for the development of low-carbon energy technologies, have identified the most critical elements, and are formulating strategies for dealing with their potentially reduced supply. The panel includes experts from research and government organizations, and the Q&A session will be chaired by Nicholas Arndt, president of the EGU division on Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Petrology & Volcanology.


Related scientific sessions: GMPV1.4/ERE3.5