Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods – our planet in all its moods

Earth Science (IUGG), Media bulletins

From tomorrow, for nearly two weeks Australia is hosting a huge meeting of earth scientists – many of them flying directly from their work at recent hot spots.

They will be providing the most up-to-date information on the Japanese tsunami, the safety of nuclear installations, the Christchurch earthquake, Cyclone Yasi, the ash clouds and more. They will also be putting all of this in context and reveal the bigger picture about our planet in all its moods.

The conference is Earth on the Edge, the 25th General Assembly of the International Union of Geophysics and Geodesy (IUGG), and it has attracted almost 4,000 delegates from around 100 countries.

The conference kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday evening). On 4 and 5 July the Australian Science Media Centre will run a series of briefings on some of the most interesting speakers.
Here are some of the highlights. We’ll bring more highlights each day this week.

Conference opening: tomorrow evening 4.30pm, Tuesday, 28 June

The conference will be opened by

  • the first Australian to be elected President of the IUGG, CSIRO’s Dr Tom Beer, will highlight the importance of the conference and some of the key issues that need to be discussed as well as provide an overview of the associations that make up the IUGG and highlight some of the key speakers for the conference.
  • Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Secretary-General of the IUGG, and Professor at the Geophysical Institute at the Carlsruhe Institute of Technology.
    Professor Ismail-Zadeh is leading discussions on extreme natural hazards and how science and society have to partner to cope with natural hazards by integrating natural and social sciences, engineering, economic and industrial activities, public administration and policy making.
  • Trevor McDougall, from CSIRO, who is ‘selling seawater to ocean scientists’. Trevor has redefined seawater for ocean and climate science, and is at the IUGG conference to accept the Prince Albert I Medal for his fundamental advances in ocean mixing processes. He is the first Australian to receive the medal, which will be awarded on Friday.
  • Thomas H. Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, who has helped redefine plate tectonics and how our continents ‘sail’ across the surface of the Earth. On 3 July he will talk about the recent earthquake sequences in Italy, New Zealand, and Japan. He will focus on the final report (now in press) of the International Commission of Earthquake Forecasting, and is available for interviews from 30 June to 5 July.
  • David Vaughan from the British Antarctic Survey who is leading the efforts to measure ice fields and deliver global sea-level rise projections for the next 200 years.
  • John Turner from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. He can talk about:
    • the rapid warming on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula where melting land-based sea ice could increase the sea levels by meters
    • the Antarctic ozone hole and its recovery
    • Antarctic climate change
    • contrasting climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic.
  • Demetris Koutsoyiannis, a hydrologist at the National Technical University of Athens. His work in modelling water resources is challenging the assumptions behind global climate change models. He has also written on the history of water resource development during antiquity. Who invented the bathroom and when?
  • Daniel Baker leads the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He is working to access data from the nuclear explosion detectors that are built into every GPS satellite and which could reveal much about powerful lightning strikes, space hazards like meteoroids and man-made debris, and severe solar and space weather events;
  • James Goff, Co-director of the Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre, who says that we don’t know much about tsunamis in the Pacific. That matters because in prehistoric times Australia has been hit by large tsunamis.
  • Stephen Self, from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who has published widely on the impact of large-scale volcanic eruptions on the environment and society. On 3 July he will talk about volcanic and seismic relating to settlements, infrastructure, and siting of nuclear facilities.  He is available for interviews from 30 June to 5 July.
  • S Khan will outline what happened during the recent floods in Pakistan and how they are enhancing social resilience through participatory integrated floods and droughts management. If you think the floods in Australia were bad, imagine a flood that affects 20 million people and destroys a million houses. He is speaking on Wednesday 29 June.
  • Brian Kennett, Chair of the Australian Academy of Science Committee on Earth Science, has conducted a systematic study of the seismic properties across our continent.
  • Anny Cazenave from the French space agency CNES whose work on ocean topography suggests that sea levels are rising faster than predicted.
  • Kevin E. Trenberth, a New Zealander working at America’s National Center for Atmospheric Research who will be talking about ‘missing energy’ from the Sun, the Russian heat wave and other recent climate extremes.

Speakers available for interview include

Other topics and issues include:

  • mitigation of natural hazards;
  • environmental preservation;
  • mineral resources;
  • climate and atmosphere; water resources;
  • oceans; polar regions; volcanoes;
  • solar storms;
  • earthquakes;
  • avalanches; and
  • landslides and tsunamis.

Here are the conference details and media contacts.

Media are invited to attend:

What: IUGG 25th General Assembly – Earth on the Edge: Science for a Sustainable Planet

When: 28 June to 7 July 2011

Where: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Conference program available at:

Follow the IUGG conference on twitter – #IUGG2011

Media Assistance:

Simon Torok, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, 0409 844-302,

AJ Epstein, Science in Public, 0433 339-141,