Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AGU 2009, Day Two

There are always a gajillion different things going on at AGU, to the point where it's overwhelming to consider all of it. When I considered the categories that are most likely to relate to my work (Seismology and Tectonophysics, also sometimes Union), Tuesday seemed to be the day that had the least subject matter related to my own work. That made it a logical day to catch up with people and discuss projects and research - not to mention, it was a good day to do my stint as the representative at the UCR booth in the exhibition hall.

The first thing I did was head over to the Southern California Earthquake Center booth to set up a time to discuss a project I've been working on with them. I know I've mentioned this project rather evasively thus far, and while I can't give lots and lots of details yet because it hasn't been released yet, I will say that it's an earthquake awareness comic book called "Faults of California." The illustrations were finished this summer, but we're working on a education module to go with it. We ended up deciding to meet about this on Wednesday, but I stuck around the booth to help set up. This involved a scene of several people jumping up and down while shaking a poster tube, trying to dislodge a bunch of plate tectonics educational posters. Brings new meaning to the idea of "ShakeOut"!

I did go to a late morning session on earthquake early warning systems. Most of them were variations on the theme of using P-wave amplitude to make a guess at eventual magnitude, though they all suggested different ways to implement this. One took the approach of tracking sudden motions by GPS and reporting them that way (though, from talking to people at UCR who work with GPS, I would think this would take a while to process?). Another aimed to estimate the direction and extent of the eventual rupture by looking at wave directivity. This one was particularly interesting to me in that I think it would benefit from some sort of prior including possible rupture paths for faults with complex geometry. I hadn't ever thought that the kind of models I do could help with early warning, but apparently they could! The early warning session also included a talk on the Quake-Catcher Network, which I've blogged about on here before. This network uses the accelerometers built into laptop computers as basic earthquake ground motion sensors, and sends the timing and shaking data to a central network for consideration. When I first installed the software in early 2008, QCN was still in alpha-test mode. It currently has expanded to over a thousand users across the globe. (And I'd encourage you all to check it out and add to the member count!)

I spent the entire afternoon at the UCR booth in the Academic Showcase part of the exhibit hall. Traffic was relatively slow to the booth (and it probably didn't help that we were between Yale and Virginia Tech), but there were a few prospective students who signed the mailing list. I also got a lot of questions more pertinent to the Environmental Sciences department (which is not the same as the Earth Sciences department at UCR), and a lot of inquiries about "Where is Riverside, anyway?" (when I answered that one, it was often followed by, "Wow, is it really hot?"). I assure you, visitors and questioners, that our department is worth another look. Being in the desert and 100+ degree heat does nothing to hinder the good work coming out of UCR.

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