Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

Highlights of CIRES Scientists @ GSA

Highlights of CIRES Scientists @ GSA

Geological Society of America annual meeting in Seattle

This year the annual Geological Society of America meeting will be held October 22 through 25 in beautiful Seattle, Washington. GSA brings together scientists from around the globe: “to advance geoscience research and discovery, service to society, stewardship of Earth, and the geosciences profession.” This year’s annual meeting features several CIRES researchers in diverse fields. See below for a few you don’t want to miss! Please note all times are listed in Pacific time. Follow on social media with the hashtag #GSA2017.


CrowdMag as an introduction to geophysical data collection and analysis by Richard Saltus, Major Nair, and Anjelique Morine

When and Where: Sunday, October 22, 2017, 9am to 5:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, Halls 4EF

Abstract: The NOAA/CIRES CrowdMag app allows citizen scientists to collect magnetic field data using the 3-component magnetometers built into all modern smartphones. The 17K+ worldwide users of the app provide crowd-sourced regional measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field in support of global field models. For example, the NOAA/CIRES geomagnetism team produces the World Magnetic Model (WMM), the official military spec model (degree and order 12) used by the US Government and embedded in virtually every smartphone (to make declination corrections for digital compass orientation).

The CrowdMag app also has great potential as a teaching and learning tool. The app allows users to collect magnetic data values “in the field” – for example, on walking or bicycling traverses. Data are collected at discrete points as selected by the user, then are sent via email to the users as an ASCII CSV file (appropriate for input directly into Microsoft Excel, for example). The user can analyze their own data to learn about signal-to-noise evaluation and about variations in the magnetic field caused by both natural and man-made objects.

One of us (Anjelique) led a “CrowdMag Day” exercise at the University of Colorado Boulder this July as part of a summer internship program. The exercise involved organizing teams of fellow interns to walk a common traverse along bike paths in east Boulder. Analysis of the synchronous records from multiple phones gives insight into the data stability of individual phones (they are noisy at the 500 nT level) and the amplitude and scale of magnetic anomalies associated with some types of urban infrastructure, specifically bridges, overpasses, underpasses and intersections (anomalies of >5000 nT are not unusual).

Additional educational applications of CrowdMag include other types of local magnetic anomaly mapping (indoors, outdoors, traverse or grid), hunting for interesting magnetic features (either natural or man-made), and further signal-to-noise and/or validation experiments. Students can also use the app simply to introduce others to the unseen magnetic world around us.


What does the nearly 50-year record of streamflow on the Onyx River, Antarctica, tell us about recent climate dynamics? By Balaji Rajagopalan

When and Where: Sunday, October 22, 2017, 9:15am to 9:30am, Washington State Convention Center, Room 612

Abstract: The Onyx River is the largest in Antarctica, flowing 32 km from Lake Brownworth to Lake Vanda in Wright Valley for 8-12 weeks per year. The New Zealand Antarctic Programme began gauging the Onyx just upstream of terminus in 1968 (Onyx River @ Vanda). A few years later, a second gauge was installed near its source (Onyx River @ Lower Wright). These ~5 decades of data collection provide a unique opportunity to study the controls on flow generation and seasonal flow dynamics in this system. In most years, more water flows past the Lower Wright gauge than the Vanda gauge indicating substantial evaporative (transmission) loss along its length. This is confirmed by synoptic water sampling for stable isotopes and water chemistry, which indicate an enriching pattern downstream. Flow generation is controlled by surface energy balance on source glaciers. Recent analyses demonstrate that high flow seasons since 2002 are associated with a positive AAO (Antarctic Oscillation), and low flow years over the entire record are coincident with negative AAO. In addition, high flow seasons in the last decade are associated with the regional presence of a strong ozone hole. Lake Vanda is a closed basin lake, and so water level is controlled greatly by the Onyx inflow, the primary source of water to the lake. Since 1972, lake level has risen over 10 m, serving as a ‘long-term memory’ of Onyx River dynamics. The Onyx River flow records are an invaluable resource for studying the recent past climate dynamics in the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica.


Measuring engagement and learning outcomes during a teacher professional development workshop about creative climate communication by Anne Gold, Ariel Morrison, and Jennifer Kay

When and Where: Monday, October 23, 2017, 2:15pm to 2:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, Room 3A

Abstract: Climate science and global climate change are complex topics that require system-level thinking and the application of general science concepts. Identifying effective instructional approaches for learning of climate science is a frontier research area with important broader impacts. Active learning techniques have shown to ensure engagement throughout the learning process and to increase learning outcomes. Conceptual changes that can be measured as lasting learning gains occur when both the cognitive and affective domain are engaged. Direct measurement of engagement and cognitive load can be conducted with galvanic skin sensors, a relatively new technique in science education.

We studied the engagement and learning gains of sixteen teachers throughout a one-day teacher professional development workshop focused on creative strategies to communicate about climate change. The workshop consisted of presentations about climate science, climate communication, storytelling and filmmaking, which were delivered using different pedagogical approaches. Presentations were interspersed with group exercises, clicker questions, videos and discussions. Using a pre-post test design we measure learning gains and attitude changes towards climate change among participating teachers. Teachers wore a hand sensor to measure galvanic skin conductance as a proxy of emotional engagement. We collected self-reflection data on engagement throughout the workshop as well as after the workshop through a reflection survey. Teachers further provided self-reflection on their skin conductance data. The qualitative data provide critical information to aid the interpretation of skin conductance readings. Results indicate that teachers were most engaged during group work, discussions and during video viewing as compared to lecture-style presentations. We discuss the benefits and limitations of using galvanic skin sensors to inform the design of teacher professional development opportunities.


Landslide, earthquake and cryosphere studies using high-resolution digital surface models from commercial imagery and drones by Michael Willis

When and Where: Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 3:35pm to 3:55pm, The Conference Center, Tahoma 4

Abstract: We use very high resolution digital surface models derived from along track stereo satellite commercial imagery and from airborne structure from motion to examine landslides, earthquake fault motion and glacier disintegration. We combine open source software and NSF/NGA/Digital Globe imagery to rapidly respond to landslides such as the one that generated the 2015 Taan Fjord, Alaska Tsunami and the 2017 Karrat Fjord, Greenland Tsunami. We show the value of rapidly combining imagery and numerical models with DSMs to provide estimates of tsunami run up, landslide volume and landslide dynamics. The rapid response to the Greenland event has been combined with Synthetic Aperture Radar studies to provide local authorities with estimates of future inundation risk and regional slope stability. In both studies, volumetric calculations from repeat DSMs match, or refine those made from seismic estimates.


CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.

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