GeoLog
Olivia Trani

Olivia Trani

Olivia Trani is the Communications Officer at the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the management of the Union's social media presence and the EGU blogs, where she writes regularly for the EGU's official blog, GeoLog. She is also the point of contact for early career scientists (ECS) at the EGU Office. Olivia has a MS in Science Journalism from Boston University and her work has appeared on WBUR-FM, Inside Science News Service, and the American Geophysical Union. Olivia tweets at @oliviatrani.

Geosciences Column: How erupting African volcanoes impact the Amazon’s atmosphere

Geosciences Column: How erupting African volcanoes impact the Amazon’s atmosphere

When volcanoes erupt, they can release into the atmosphere a number of different gases initially stored in their magma, such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide. These kinds of gases can have a big influence on Earth’s atmosphere, even at distances hundreds to thousands of kilometres away.

A team of researchers have found evidence that sulfur emissions from volcanic eruptions in Africa can be observed as far as South America, even creating an impact on the Amazon rainforest’s atmosphere. The results of their study were published last year in the EGU journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Amazon Tall Tower Observatory based in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil (Credit: Jsaturno via Wikimedia Commons)

In September 2014, the Amazon rainforest’s atmosphere experienced an unusually sharp spike in the concentration of sulfate aerosols. During this period, the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) based in Brazil reported levels of sulfate never recorded before in the Amazon Basin.

Sulfate aerosols are particles that take form naturally from sulfur dioxide compounds in the atmosphere. When sulfate aerosols spread throughout the atmosphere, the particles often get in the way of the sun’s rays, reflecting the sunlight’s energy back to space. These aerosols can also help clouds take shape. Through these processes, the particles can create a cooling effect on Earth’s climate. Sulfate aerosols can also facilitate chemical reactions that degrade Earth’s ozone layer.

Fossil fuel and biomass burning have been known cause an increase in atmospheric sulfate, but researchers involved in the study found that neither human activity increased the level of sulfate in the atmosphere significantly. Instead, they examined whether a volcanic eruption could be responsible.

Scientists have suggested for some time that sulfur emissions in the Amazon could come from African volcanoes, but until now they’ve lacked proof to properly justify this idea.

Edited Landsat 8 image of the volcanoes Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo in Congo near the city of Goma. (Credit: Stuart Rankin via flickr, NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

However, in this study the research team involved caught volcanic pair in the act. By analysing satellite images and aerosol measurements, the researchers found evidence that in 2014, emissions from the neighboring Nyiragongo-Nyamuragira volcano complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, central Africa, increased the level of sulfate particles in the Amazon rainforest’s atmosphere.

Satellite observations revealed that volcanoes experienced two explosive events in September 2014, releasing sulfur emissions into the atmosphere. During that year, the volcanic complex was reportedly subject to frequent eruptive events, sending on average 14,400 tonnes of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere a day during such occasions. This amount of gas would weigh more than London’s supertall Shard skyscraper.

Map of SO2 plumes with VCD > 2.5 × 1014 molecules cm−2 color-coded by date of observation. The 15-day forward trajectories started at 4 km (above mean sea level, a.m.s.l.) at four locations within the plume detected on 13 September 2014 (light blue) are indicated by black lines with markers at 24 h intervals. (Credit: Jorge Saturno et al.)

The images further show that these emissions were transported across the South Atlantic Ocean to South America. The sulfate particles created from the emissions were then eventually picked up by an airborne atmospheric survey campaign and the ATTO in the Amazon.

The researchers of the study suggest that these observations indicate that African volcanoes can have an effect on the Amazon Basin’s atmosphere, though more research is needed to understand the full extent of this impact.

By Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

References and further reading

Volcanic gases can be harmful to health, vegetation and infrastructure. Volcano Hazards Program. USGS.

Aerosols and Incoming Sunlight (Direct Effects). NASA Earth Observatory

Saturno, J., Ditas, F., Penning de Vries, M., Holanda, B. A., Pöhlker, M. L., Carbone, S., Walter, D., Bobrowski, N., Brito, J., Chi, X., Gutmann, A., Hrabe de Angelis, I., Machado, L. A. T., Moran-Zuloaga, D., Rüdiger, J., Schneider, J., Schulz, C., Wang, Q., Wendisch, M., Artaxo, P., Wagner, T., Pöschl, U., Andreae, M. O. and Pöhlker, C.: African volcanic emissions influencing atmospheric aerosols over the Amazon rain forest, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 18(14), 10391–10405, doi:10.5194/acp-18-10391-2018, 2018.

We’re hiring! New job opportunities at the EGU Executive Office

We’re hiring! New job opportunities at the EGU Executive Office

The EGU is hiring for two job vacancies at its Executive Office in Munich, Germany. The deadline for applications is fast approaching (14 July 2019) so send your submission soon!

Chief Strategy & Finance Officer
The EGU has recently launched a new strategy to set a direction for the Union and to guide the work of its Council, committees and staff until 2025. This is an exciting time in the development of the EGU and we have created a new position of Chief Strategy & Finance Officer to lead the development and implementation of the Union’s strategic plan and vision, with particular responsibility for the financial security of the Union going forward. This role will be part of the EGU leadership team and will report directly to the EGU Executive Board.

The full job vacancy, including key responsibilities, person specification and how to apply, is available at https://www.egu.eu/jobs/2428/egu-chief-strategy-finance-officer/. Informal enquiries about this position can be made to the EGU Executive Secretary Philippe Courtial (executive-secretary@egu.eu).

Head of Media, Communications & Outreach
We are also seeking to appoint a Head of Media, Communications & Outreach to manage EGU press and communication activities and lead the media, communications and outreach team. This position will replace the current Media and Communications Manager role. Responsibilities include managing press releases and other news, organising press conferences and running the press centre at the EGU General Assembly, as well as overseeing all aspects of EGU communications and developing a forward-looking vision for communicating the work of the EGU.

The full job vacancy, including key responsibilities, person specification and how to apply, is available at https://www.egu.eu/jobs/2427/egu-head-of-media-communications-outreach/. Informal enquiries about this position can be made to the EGU Media and Communications Manager Bárbara Ferreira (media@egu.eu).

Imaggeo on Mondays: Recreating monster waves in art and science

Imaggeo on Mondays: Recreating monster waves in art and science

Featured in this blog post is a collection of images that gives a picture-perfect example of life imitating art.

The photos in the left column are three consecutive still frames of a breaking wave that scientists generated in a lab environment at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. The pictures in the centre and right columns show the same wave images, but now superimposed with the famous 19th century Japanese woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

While the images were produced on opposite sides of the Earth with a few hundreds of years between their creation, the curves and edges of the waves are very similarly positioned.

“Completely coincidentally, in a strange twist of fate, the wave we created bears striking resemblance to The Great Wave off Kanagawa, painted many years ago by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai,” said Mark McAllister, a researcher at the University of Oxford in the UK. He is part of a team of scientists working to better understand the dynamics of freak waves – waves that are unexpectedly large in comparison to the waves that surround it.

The images also highlight the similarities between artists and scientists that often are overlooked: while art and science are different in many ways, both involve observing and trying to interpret their surroundings. The wave simulation photos and the woodblock print both visualise a common endeavor: recreating nature to better understand it.

Simulating monster waves

The photographs in the left column feature the recreation of a very particular wave that took form in 1995 in the North Sea, known as the Draupner freak wave. This particular surface wave was one of the first confirmed observations of a freak wave at sea. The Draupner Oil Platform had taken measurements of the event, reporting that the wave was 26 metres tall (more than twice as tall as the surrounding waves). Rogue waves as high as 30 metres had been reported by sailors and scientists for many years, but until the 20th century there was wide disbelief from the scientific community that such waves were more than myth.

“The measurement of the Draupner wave in 1995 was a seminal observation initiating many years of research into the physics of freak waves and shifting their standing from mere folklore to a credible real-world phenomenon,” said McAllister in a recent press release.

Such rogue waves are capable of causing heavy damage to large ships, and by recreating the Draupner freak wave, McAllister and his colleagues are trying to better understand how this marine phenomenon occurs.

Experiments were carried out in the FloWave Ocean Energy Research facility at the University of Edinburgh. The facility has a circular basin equipped with wavemakers around the entire circumference, allowing scientists to generate waves from any direction and recreate complex wave conditions.

The research team was able to simulate this wave on a smaller scale by crossing two different wave groups at a large angle. They found that when the two wave groups hit each other at 120 degrees, this allowed the freak wave to take shape.

Typically, wave breaking in the ocean limits the maximum height of waves. But when waves cross each other at large angles, wave breaking behaviour changes, removing typical height limitations.

Monster wave immortalised in print

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, one of Hokusai’s most famous prints, depicts three crewed boats at sea, seemingly seconds away from crashing into a monstrous wave, with Japan’s Mount Fugi sitting in the distance. The work is often interpreted to symbolize the eternity and formidable force of nature compared to the frailty of humans.

While the print is often considered to be an artistic representation of a tsunami, one study argues that the features and conditions are more similar to a freak wave event. By using the boats and the mountains as reference points, the researchers involved in the study estimate that the great wave is approximately 10-12 metres in height.

While many artists distort reality to enhance and highlight certain aspects of their work, the researchers point out that Hokusai’s work is likely to be representative of nature, noting that he strove for years to understand the structure of his surroundings and draw them accurately in his art. In the afterward of his 1834 collection of prints containing The Great Wave of Kanagawa, Hokusai writes:

“Since the age of six, I had a habit of sketching from life. From fifty onwards I began producing a fair amount of art work, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow.

If only I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I hope I may have a divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and ten I may have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May men of great age and virtue see that I am not hoping for too much!”

By Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

A behind-the-scenes look at EGU’s new office

A behind-the-scenes look at EGU’s new office

Earlier this month, the EGU has entered a new chapter in its development by officially relocating its Executive Office – here’s your chance to take a virtual tour of the new space!

The EGU Executive Office, currently staffed by seven employees (and growing!), serves as the Union’s headquarters. The office works year-round assisting the EGU membership, implementing media, communications and policy initiatives, and managing various EGU-related websites, among other activities.

Previously, the EGU staff occupied a small office space within a Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität building in central Munich, but now the EGU team is settling into larger and more modern premises in Munich’s Berg am Laim area.

This move plays a part in the EGU’s new strategy, which was launched concurrently with the Executive Office’s relocation. This new strategy will set a direction for the Union and guide the work of its Council, committees and staff until 2025. By moving to a larger space, the Executive Office will be able to expand and provide the support needed to implement the EGU’s goals for the coming years.

“The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität hosted the EGU Executive Office after its establishment in Munich in the summer 2010,” explains EGU Executive Secretary Philippe Courtial. “The move to new premises marks a milestone in the young EGU history and offers a great, new working environment and new perspectives to the EGU Office staff, and it will allow us to reach our strategic growth ambitions as well.”

The EGU staff is still unpacking and organizing the new space, but here’s a sneak peek into where our team works to support the Union’s goals!

Welcome to Kastenbauerstraße 2 (K2), home of the new EGU Executive Office!

(Credit: B. Ferreira/EGU)

The new EGU Executive Office is located on the second floor of one of the wings of the K2 office building in Berg am Laim, Munich. The image above shows the outside entrance to the wing where the office spaces are located.

 

Credit: Olivia Trani

One of the first rooms you’ll find is the office common area. Here we have a small kitchen, equipped with some office essentials (coffee and cookies), and a table where our staff members often meet for lunch.

 

Across from the kitchen is the office’s meeting room, which can hold up the 17 people. With this amount of space, the Executive Office aims to host meetings and workshops for EGU committees.

 

Four of the rooms are occupied by the office staff. This is where most of the EGU team’s day-to-day activities take place! You can learn more about the Executive Office team members and our activities through the EGU’s website.

 

The new space also has four empty rooms which will support the office as our team expands both in the near future and in the coming years. At the moment the EGU is looking to fill two job vacancies: Head of Media, Communications & Outreach and Chief Strategy & Finance Officer. If interested in joining the EGU team, you can learn more about the positions on the EGU website.

 

(Credit: B. Ferreira/EGU)

On the ground floor you’ll find the building cafeteria where all employees from companies based at K2 can order some lunch, grab a coffee, or munch on a Bavarian classic, a Butter Brezel 😊

 

We’ll end our tour with a photo of the building’s courtyard connecting to the cafeteria, which features nice art installations and tables for employees to enjoy a break outside.

Thanks for joining us on this tour!

By Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer