Thursday, December 17, 2009

AGU 2009, Day Three

The entire afternoon on Wednesday was filled with talks directly related to the type of problems I look at and the type of modeling I do - a pretty sharp contrast with Tuesday! The morning, however, was fortunately open for such things as practicing my talk one more time for my adviser, and for meeting with SCEC's education and outreach team about "Faults of Calfornia."

The practice run went smoothly. I presented preliminary results of the same work at the SCEC meeting in September (and then I had to do all the models over because we switched finite element codes), and I did a couple of practices of the talk at UCR over the past few weeks. My biggest concern was timing, since my first practice clocked in at 13.5 minutes without questions, but my second practice went at Mach 1, taking only 9 minutes. Yesterday's practice was a clean 12 minutes, and I haven't had any more coffee than usual this morning, so my timing should remain spot-on.

The meeting with SCEC was also productive. Our main goal right now, since the illustrations on "Faults of California" are all done, is to figure out the best way to get it into schools. We don't want to just hand it to teachers without any structure, since that's not the best way to integrate into anyone's lesson plans. We came up with a few ideas; my holiday reading is likely going to involve reading some of the California Education Standards, and it looks like there will be some drives to USC in early 2010.

As some of you reading this surely already know (since I assume at least some of you were there), there was a planned lunch for geobloggers at AGU yesterday afternoon. I'd say there were about 25 of us in all. The first half was more informal conversation - it was nice, as with the Tweetup on Monday, to put faces to names and blogs. (And, in the case of those of you I'd met before, it was great to see you all again!) The second half of the lunch involved everyone getting up and introducing themselves and their blogs, then sharing their particular thoughts on the state of the geoblogosphere. I'll repeat a thought I had at the time: I think it's wonderful that so many of us started blogging because we just plain like discussing our field and research, and that this network of blogs has turned into a real and more formal way to exchange information and dialogue in the sciences.

I had to duck out of the blogger lunch a bit early because I didn't want to miss the set of talks on earthquake source modeling. Occasionally, I have a moment of worry that someone will scoop the particular things I want to research/model - because there can't be that many people modeling fault dynamics, right? - but sessions like this make me realize that I'm being dumb for worrying so much. There's a huge diversity of topics, methods, specific problems, and ways to interpret within the definition of "earthquake source modeling," and even in four hours of talks, there's still tons and tons more that hasn't been covered or done yet. One of the main themes in this session was the idea that multiple faults can be involved in a single earthquake. This has been known at least since the M7.3 Landers earthquake in 1992, which surface ruptured its way through parts of six faults, but many of yesterday's talks discussed the possibility of there being subsidiary faults in quakes not known to have involved more than one fault, or the possible contribution of smaller faults to a quake on a much larger one. With all these discussions, I feel like I've come into looking at the problem of fault geometries and interactions at just the right time, and that makes me all the more excited to keep on modeling things.

My talk is also a complex fault geometry talk, though in this case, I'm looking into geometrical effects on ground motion, rather than just on rupture behavior. It's this morning (Thursday, 17 December) at 11:05 AM in Moscone West room 2005. I hope to see some of you there!

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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AGU 2009, Day One

So! I'm going to attempt what, given my past history with regular updating, may seem like a futile effort. That is, I'm going to try and blog every day of this year's American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (in San Francisco, as usual) separately. This is just as much a way to not gloss over things as it is a way to try and practice general better blogging habits. This meeting has already stressed the importance of blogs for communication, and the possibilities of using Twitter both for spreading and collecting information about various geological/enviromental/hazard/etc. events. I've certainly been tweeting a lot lately, but my blog is now saying, "Don't leave me for that biiiird!" And so, daily entries for the conference. Yes.
(I'll also be dumping a day-by-day of the class trip to Kīlauea in here soon - possibly later today, if the UCR booth in the exhibitor hall has low traffic.)

The very first talk of the very first Tectonophysics section yesterday was one I really wanted to go to. It involved the formation of the San Andreas Fault, with comparisons to the transform boundary in New Zealand. Alarm clock failure (in that, it did not go off) prevented me from attending, but I was able to get going quickly enough that I made it in to the middle of the second talk of the session (about a possible shift of the North American-Pacific plate boundary to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada). The whole morning in the Tectonophysics group was devoted to continental transform boundaries, in fact. Most of these talks were focused on characterizing these boundaries, whether by classical mapping, looking at seismicity or paleoseismic data, or studying (very very shiny awesome) LiDAR images. There was a definite focus on geometry at several scales - map, or fault surface roughness, or shape of the damage zone. There was not, however, much talk of earthquake behavior on these systems, but thatʻs the divide between this group and the Seismology one, I suppose! I opted to listen to as many of the continental transform talks as I could, since my work is all about looking at rupture dynamics and ground motion on faults with geometrical complexities, and thereʻs a good chance that Iʻll be looking at the constraints on fault structure and geometry that researchers in the Tectonophysics group in constructing dynamic models sometime in the future.
(I was, however, slightly disappointed, that the Garlock talk basically led to the conclusion that "everyone still has completely different ideas of how much this thing is slipping." Ah well!)

After lunch (and after inflicting Hawaiʻi photos on a friend from Berkeley), I headed into the poster hall to get a look at as many more things about geometrically-complex strike-slip faults as I could. I got in some skimming before coming to a poster about segmentation and postseismic stress state in the Landers earthquake. I ended up getting into a great and detailed conversation with the poster-presenter, and before I knew it, it was time to go to another session.

The last session I went to was completely out of my area of more than scant knowledge, but at the same time, it was something that has interested me since I was ten years old. The session in question was a planetary science one, discussing this summerʻs Jupiter impact. The session was under embargo, so I wonʻt go into anything about what was actually said (other than the fact that Jupiter is apparently, quote, "insidious" about not showing features under certain filters), but it sent me back to that place of ten-year-old wonder when Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into Jupiter in 1994. That impact entirely captivated me, to the point where I was making an attempt to understand NASA press releases, contacting discoverers of the comet by email (seriously), and making my parents take me to a Smithsonian press conference about the impact. Iʻm not really sure I know much more about comets now than I did at the peak of my astronomy obsession, and Iʻm sure I was more timid about asking questions yesterday than I would have been in 1995, but I still thoroughly enjoyed hearing everything that the presenters had to share about this new impact.

The evening was occupied by a meetup of Geonerds On Twitter at 21st Amendment on 2nd Street. I had no idea what to expect in terms of attendance or formality of discussion, but there was a huge turnout and a very fun casual air about the whole thing. It was absolutely great to put faces to the names Iʻve been interacting with online for so long, and it was just as awesome to get to have incredibly unabashedly nerdy conversations with people that didnʻt end up getting bored with said unabashed nerdiness. Topics included the difference between astrophysics and planetary geology, when the best time to visit the Mojave is, how close we all live to various active faults, fuzzy animals, beer, and the usefulness of Twitter and blogs in conveying geogeekery across the internet and world. Iʻm hoping thereʻll be events like this one at future conferences! (Or, if thereʻs another one in San Francisco not during a conference, it gives me another excuse to come up here again...)

Thereʻs a luncheon for geobloggers on Wednesday. How many of you will be there?