Media Advisory 4: 2009 Joint Assembly

21 May 2009

Joint Release

24–27 May
Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Final press conference schedule, Call-in instructions

Contents of this message:

  1. Press Conference Schedule
  2. Press-conference visuals available to call-ins
  3. Who’s Coming

Note: For links to previous media advisories about the 2009 Joint Assembly, please go to theNews Media page.

1. Press Conferences

The following schedule of press conferences is subject to change, before or during Joint Assembly. Press conferences may be added or dropped, their titles and emphases may change, and participants may change. This schedule and all updates to it will be available in the Press Room (MTCC, South Building, Level 700, Room 709) and posted online. Press conferences take place in the Press Conference Room (Room 712), which is across the hall.

Times for press conferences are Eastern Daylight Time. Session numbers at the end of each press conference listing may show only the first in a series of related sessions on the topic.

Giant atmospheric waves roll into view

Sunday, 24 May

Researchers studying the polar atmosphere have recently caught sight of high-flying waves of air that span up to several hundred kilometers, move as fast as hundreds of kilometers per hour, and transport energy between atmospheric layers with important, but little-understood consequences. Although scientists had previously detected traces of these waves, new observations clearly reveal their motions in three dimensions and may enable researchers soon to trace the waves back to their causes such as specific thunderstorms or winds striking mountains. The comprehensive picture now emerging of the waves should improve atmospheric models used to understand Earth’s climate, atmospheric chemistry, and other processes, the wave observers say. Providing these unprecedented portraits of the waves is a new type of radar aided by the aurora. In polar regions, such as Alaska and Canada, the aurora acts like a “flashlight” that illuminates the regions where the waves from the mountains break like ocean waves hitting the shore.


Craig Heinselman
AMISR Principal Investigator, SRI International, Menlo Park, California, USA

Michael Nicolls
Research Scientist, SRI International, Menlo Park, California, USA Sharon Vadas
Research Scientist, Northwest Research Associates, CoRA Division, Boulder, Colorado, USAEric DonovanAssociate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sessions: SA73A, SA74A

Completing the Plate Tectonic Revolution: Reconstructing Ancient Continents Using the Large Igneous Province (LIP) Record

Sunday, 24 May

Preliminary snapshots of ancient Earth are emerging from a project to determine arrangements of Earth’s continents as far back as billions of years ago, long before the supercontinent Pangea. With improvements in recovering and analyzing small grains of rare minerals with radioactive clocks, it is possible for the first time for scientists to routinely and precisely age-date short duration, huge volume, volcanic events, known as Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs), and to correlate components of those volcanic ‘plumbing systems’ across pieces of fragmented continents. In proof-of-concept tests, researchers find that about 2.7 billion to 2.0 billion years ago: eastern Quebec was bordered by Zimbabwe (with rich ore deposits traceable between the two regions), southern Ontario and Quebec were bordered by northern Europe, and northern Quebec and Labrador were linked to southern Greenland. Mining and oil companies are sponsoring the new, 5–year, industry-government-university project with the expectation of a competitive advantage in the search for new resources.


Richard E. Ernst (project coordinator and co-leader)
CAMIRO Research Fellow in Large Igneous Provinces, Dept. of Earth Sciences, U. of Otttawa, Ottawa, Canada

Wouter Bleeker (project co-leader)
Research Scientist, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Michael A. Hamilton (geochronology co-leader)
Asst. Professor of Geology, and Director of the Jack Satterly Geochronology Lab, Department of Geology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Sessions: GA73C, GA74A, GA11A, GA13A

Sunday, 24 May

Recent radar observations are revealing surprising links between parts of the atmosphere and may lead to more understanding of conditions in the outermost layer known as both the thermosphere and the ionosphere (the ionosphere is the electrically charged portion of the layer). Daily variations in properties of the thermosphere/ionosphere influence navigation and communication of satellite-based systems. Scientists have long known of disturbances in wind and temperature patterns of a lower atmospheric layer, the stratosphere, which in turn can affect conditions near Earth’s surface. Now researchers are finding that disturbances in the stratosphere at the poles have simultaneous and puzzling correlations with large changes in thermospheric/ionospheric conditions in far-distant parts of the globe. For instance, the most startling observations show that the thermosphere/ionosphere several hundred kilometers above the equator undergoes large changes in close correlation with the polar stratosphere disturbances. The unusually quiet solar minimum, which has reduced atmospheric influence by the sun, is helping researchers detect these unforeseen connections.


Jorge Luis Chau
Director, Jicamarca Radio Observatory, Geophysical Institute of Peru, Lima, Peru

Larisa Goncharenko
Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Haystack Observatory, Westford, Massachusetts, USA
Hanli Liu
Scientist, High Altitude Observatory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USASessions: SA73A, SA74A, SA11A

New insights from Canadian meteorites

Sunday, 24 May

Meteorites, being rocks from space, are solid samples of places in the Solar System to which we cannot easily go. The study of their physical and mineralogical characteristics provides insights into the diversity of processes involved in their origin. Likewise, the conditions under which they fall to Earth provide links to their asteroid or planetary parent bodies. Speakers will discuss new results regarding detection of organic molecules important for life in the unique Tagish Lake, B.C. meteorite (Herd), special conditions of formation of the 1000-year old Whitecourt, Alberta impact crater (Kofman), and the spectacular November 20, 2008 fireball that resulted in the fall of the Buzzard Coulee, Saskatchewan meteorite (Hildebrand).


Alan Hildebrand
Canada Research Chair in Planetary Science, Coordinator of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Randolf Kofman
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Christopher Herd
Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Sessions: MA11B, MA12A, MA13A, MA13C

NEW! How the Sun influences the Earth’s Climate and the Near-Earth Environment

Sunday, 24 May

Scientists have mostly observed the energetic connection between our Sun and planets at times of high solar activity. Now, during one of the deepest solar minima on record, solar, magnetosphere, and atmospheric physicists are working together to better understand the Sun’s influence on climate. The current weakening of both solar-wind pressure and intensity of the interplanetary magnetic field have affected the whole heliosphere configuration. Earth’s magnetosphere and radiation belts are at a low-level state not seen before in the modern era. Exploiting this unique opportunity, researchers are investigating how neutral and ionized components of planetary atmospheres behave. At the same time, new atmospheric models that couple all layers of the atmosphere allow scientists to investigate how solar effects at high altitudes influence the lower atmosphere.


Joanna Haigh
Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Space and Atmospheric Physics Research Group, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom

Christopher RussellProfessor of Geophysics and Space Physics, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
Scott M. BaileyAssociate Professor, Center for Space Science and Engineering, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USASessions: U11A, U12A

Pinpointing the Epicentre of Space Storms

Monday, 25 May

New studies reveal that magnetic blast waves pinpoint and predict the location, at the edge of space, where space storms dissipate their energy. This epicentre marks the location where the energy equivalent to 50 billion watts of power, or the output of 10 of the world’s largest power stations, is dumped into the atmosphere. Waves from bursts of energy released in explosions in space, known as substorms, impact the atmosphere right at the edge of space. The discovery of the magnetic epicentre provides scientists with a new magnetic seismic locator for the impact.

The epicentre locates and provides several minutes advance warning of the area from which the most beautiful auroral displays occur. Much like in an earthquake, these magnetic tremors start at a specific location and propagate away from the epicentre in all directions across continent scales at speeds of around 150,000 kilometers per hour (93,205 miles per hour). The magneto-seismology of space offers scientists a new tool for understanding the expansion rate of the blast wave, aiding the scientific understanding of space weather, and ultimately the prediction of severe impacts on communication and strategic satellites.


I. Jonathan Rae
Research Associate, Study Leader, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Ian R. Mann
Canada Research Chair in Space Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

David KendallDirector General of Space Science, Canadian Space Agency, Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada
Sessions: SM71A, SM72A, SM73A, SM12A, SM21A, SM22A, SM22B, SM23A, SM23B, SM31A, SM31B, SM33A

Regional Climate Change – Detection, Attribution, Prediction.

Monday, 25 May

From heat waves and floods to hurricanes, a string of damaging weather events have devastated lives and made headlines over the past few years. These events have raised a question among insurers over whether the events are part of a long term trend. Likewise, the public would like to know if human emissions of greenhouse gases are in part to blame for specific events. To answer these questions, researchers have been developing new modeling and analysis techniques. These include regional climate models with higher spatial resolution, large samples of model simulations, and new means to sort out cause and effect in extreme weather phenomena.


Noah Diffenbaugh
Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; also Interim Director, Purdue Climate Change Research Center; Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Dáithí Stone
Postdoctoral fellow, Climate Systems Analysis Group, University of Cape Town, South Africa and Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, University of Oxford, UK

Gabriel VecchiResearch Oceanographer, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, NOAA, Princeton, New Jersey, USASessions: GC21A, GC22A, GC23A

Peering beneath North America

Wednesday, 27 May

Extraordinary views beneath Earth’s surface indicate that the so-called “stable” part of central and eastern North America is in fact an extremely complex system. What’s more, the easternmost part of the continent may one day evolve into an active plate boundary, with a system of subduction like that currently in process beneath the West Coast. The combined Earthscope and POLARIS projects are allowing scientists to image the Earth’s structure beneath North America at an unprecedented level of detail. Using techniques similar to medical imaging, the projects are providing new information on the evolution of the continent and on present-day geologic processes. Having already generated a remarkable set of images of subsurface structure in the western US, the dense “USArray” seismograph network will progress into central and eastern regions.


Suzan van der LeeAssistant professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Science; Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA

Yingjie Yang
Research associate, Center of Imaging the Earth’s Interior, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Robert WoodwardUSArray Director, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), Washington, D.C., USASession: S34A

2. Press-conference visuals available to call-ins

Call-ins by reporters to the press conferences are welcome. Below are phone numbers and the access code for doing so. We will also webcast in real time to off-site journalists the audio and visuals (slides, video, animations) of press-conference presentations (but there will be no video of the speakers themselves). Details of how to access those presentations are also below.

How to call in:

From USA and Canada, call toll-free: +1 888-481-3032

When prompted, enter this code: 115139

(Code is same for all press conferences, but you must place a separate call for each one, even in consecutive hours.)

(From other countries, to find toll-free access numbers, go to BT Conferencing, and click on the “Information Center” tab. Under “User Guides”, click on “Global Access Numbers for BTMeetMe”, and then click on “Click here to view the global access numbers for your region”. Then click on our 888-481-3032 U.S./Canada access number to get the list of other countries’ access #s.) From anywhere else not included in toll-free service above: 1-617-801-9600 (toll call) If you have problems calling in, try BT Conferencing Help Desk: +1 866 766 8777(US), +1 617 801 6700 (Global).

Instructions for accessing press conferences online

    • If you don’t have it already, download into your computer the Adobe Flash player (It’s a quick download), available for free from Adobe.
    • At the time of the press conference of interest, access the Web address below with your browser. Reporters must register at this site for access to the webcast, so you are encouraged to register in advance.
    • Supplementary materials, such as scientific papers or press releases, will be available for downloading at the bottom of the press conference web page. Right click on the item of interest and then select “Download”.
    • Audio of the press conference will be available to you simultaneously via your telephone and via the Web (i.e. your computer). However, because PowerPoint images will arrive at your computer delayed relative to the speakers’ voices on the phone, we recommend that during presentations you both watch the PowerPoints and listen to the speakers via your computer only. Please then switch back to your phone during the Q&A. (Please ask questions of press conference speakers by phone. If you wish to reach AGU’s press officers—for instance, to report technical difficulties—please use the email link at the bottom of the press conference web page.)

PLEASE NOTE: AGU does not archive the audio or visuals from press conferences. They are only available online during the time of the actual press conference.

3. Who’s Coming

The online list of journalists who have preregistered for the meeting is available.