At the Assembly: Friday highlights

At the Assembly: Friday highlights

The conference is coming to a close and there’s still an abundance of great sessions to attend! Here’s our guide to getting the most out of the conference on its final day. Boost this information with features from EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly – pick up a paper copy at the ACV entrance or download it here.

The final day of the conference kicks off with the last Union Session (US3) dedicated to discuss possible avenues of progress towards a commonly applicable framework for model building and application. Talks begin at 08:30 in Room B.

If you’ve been inspired to take a more active role in the organisation of the conference, why not head to the short course: How to convene a session at EGU 2017, starting at 10:30 in Room -2.85

Be sure to attend today’s Alexander von Humboldt Medal Lecture by Jean W.A. Poesen, who will be questioning whether research on soil erosion hazard and mitigation in the Global South is still needed (ML1: 12:15–13:15 / Room E1).

The final Great Debate of the week will address on of the biggest questions in the geosciences: Did plate tectonics start in the PaleoArchean? With conflicting schools of thought, it promises to be a lively and informative debate. Be sure to go along and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #EGU16GDB! (GDB5: 13:30 -15:00 /Room G1)

It’s your last chance to make the most of the networking opportunities at the General Assembly, so get on down to the poster halls and strike up a conversation. If you’re in the queue for coffee, find out what the person ahead is investigating – you never know when you might start building the next exciting collaboration! Here are some of today’s scientific highlights:

 'Mirror Mirror in the sea...' . Credit: Mario Hoppmann (distributed via A polar bear is testing the strength of thin sea ice. Polar bears and their interaction with the cryosphere are a prime example of how the biosphere is able to adapt to an "Active Planet". They are also a prime example of how the anthropogenic influence on Earth's climate system endangers other lifeforms.

‘Mirror Mirror in the sea…’ . Credit: Mario Hoppmann (distributed via A polar bear is testing the strength of thin sea ice. Polar bears and their interaction with the cryosphere are a prime example of how the biosphere is able to adapt to an “Active Planet”. They are also a prime example of how the anthropogenic influence on Earth’s climate system endangers other lifeforms.

Today we also announce the results of the EGU Photo Contest and the Communicate Your Science Video Competition. Head over to the EGU Booth at 12:15 to find out who the winners are.

What have you thought of the Assembly this week? Let us know at and help make EGU 2017 even better.

We hope you’ve had a wonderful week and look forward to seeing you in 2017! Join us on this adventure in Vienna next year, 23-28 April 2017!

At the Assembly: Wednesday highlights

At the Assembly: Wednesday highlights

We’re halfway through the General Assembly already! Once again there is lots on offer at EGU 2016 and this is just a taster – be sure to complement this information with EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly, available both in paper and for download here.

The day kicks off with the second of our Great Debates. Head to room K1 from 08:30 to 10:00 to share your thoughts on whether global economic growth is compatible with habitable climate. Themes of energy consumption, decarbonisation and global economic growth provide the backdrop for this Great Debate (GDB4: 08:30 – 10:100 / Room K1). You can follow the discussion on Twitter with #EGU16GDB, and, if you’re not attending, tune in with the conference live stream.

The educational and outreach symposia (EOS) feature sessions on geoscience education, science communication, public engagement and related topics. This year there are a large number of EOS sessions on offer. Today’s highlight has to be a talk by Matt Taylor, Project Scientists for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission. The talk forms part of the GIFT workshop and will focus on the space mission to coment 67P/Churyumov – Gerasimenko.  To attend the talk, head to room B, it starts at 10:30. Make sure to check the EOS programme to see if anything else catches your fancy.

Also taking place this morning is the Union-session on the interplays between the solid Earth and the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere (US1: 08:30 – 12:00/ Room E1). Presentations in the session will focus on the multidisciplinary approaches that aim at quantify the biotic and tectonic responses to tectonics.

Another promising event set for today is the EGU Award Ceremony, where the achievements of many outstanding scientists will be recognised in an excellent evening event from 17:30–19:00 in Room E1. Here are some of the lectures being given by these award-winning scientists:

The EGU Early Career Scientists’ Forum (12:15–13:15 in L7) is the best place to find out more about the Union and how to get involved. Because the EGU is a bottom up organisation, we are keen to hear your suggestions on how to make ECS related activities even better. There will be plenty of opportunities during the Forum for you to provide feedback.  It’s over lunch, so you’ll find a buffet of sandwiches and soft drinks when you arrive too!

Early morning tram travel in the city. (Credit: Julian Turner)

Early morning tram travel in the city. (Credit: Julian Turner)

Now on to short courses! Today offers the opportunity to learn some tips for teaching in the field of hydrology (SC31/HS11.43: 08:30 – 12:00 /Room -2.85). Wanting to learn more about open access publishing but unsure where to start? Then the workshop on the ins and outs of open access publishing is just the ticket (SC3: 13:30-15:00 / Room -2.85). Maybe you thinking your research might be interesting to the media and wider public. Come along to the short course on pitching your research to a journalist or editor, to find out what steps to follow to make your science hit the headlines (SC45: 15:30 -17:00 / Room -2.61)! In the afternoon, the Cryosphere Division is hosting a climate workshop for early career scientists, (SC48: 17:30 – 19:00 / Room 0.31).

And check out some of today’s stimulating scientific sessions:

Finally, remember to take the opportunity to meet your division’s representatives in the day’s Meet EGU sessions and, if you’ve had enough of the formalities, head on over to GeoCinema, where you’ll find some great Earth science films, including the finalists of EGU’s Communicate Your Science Video Competition. Make sure to vote on your favourite entries by ‘liking’ the videos on the EGU YouTube channel.

Have an excellent day!

Imaggeo on Mondays: Colourful hydrovolcanism

Imaggeo on Mondays:  Colourful hydrovolcanism

Like in a beautiful painting, layers of colour adorn the flanks of this volcano. In this week’s Imaggeo on Monday’s post, Stephanie Flude describes how these colourful layers came to be and gives an insight into why she became a geologist. What inspired you? Share your reasons for becoming a geoscientist with us in the comment section or via twitter using the hashtag #WhyGeo!

“Why do you want to study rocks??! They are just dull and grey and boring”. That is a comment I hear remarkably often when I tell people I’m a geologist. For me, the locality of this photograph is a reminder that they could not be more wrong. The rocks of the cliff are a mixture of shades of black red and orange. The sand on the beach appears black, but look closely and you find thousands of brilliant green olivine crystals. The lagoon between the beach and the cliff is also a vibrant green due to algae.

This photo shows a cliff exposing the inner stratigraphy of the El Golfo tuff cone, on Lanzarote. I first visited this location whilst on holiday in 2010 as part of a guided tour of the western part of the island. When the tour guide found out I was a geologist he offered to tell me all of the “scientific details” of the local geology and enthusiastically described how a large whirlpool was generated in the centre of cone during El Golfo’s eruption and it eroded away part of the cone(!) I smiled and nodded politely. Thankfully, since that visit, scientific work describing and interpreting the stratigraphy of the tuff cone has been published by Pedrazzi et al (2013), so it is now possible for me to more fully appreciate the geological history of this location.

Hydrovolcanism, where heat from magma can cause water to flash to steam, expanding rapidly, driving gas-rich, explosive, phreatic or phreatomagmatic eruptions, can result in many different types of volcanic eruption and associated deposits. Hydrovolcanism is not always explosive – pillow lavas form by chilling of effusive basalt lava beneath water. But adding water to a volcanic eruption can result in very violent explosions – in the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, early eruptive activity caused sea water to flow into the magma chamber, culminating in the massive explosion that Krakatoa is so famous for. Less dramatic, but equally relevant for the modern world, hydrovolcanism is one of the reasons the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull was so disruptive to air travel; part of the eruption took place beneath a glacier, and mixing of the lava with glacial meltwater increased the violence of the eruption, sending the eruption column higher and producing finer grained material that stays in the atmosphere for longer.

El Golfo is a basaltic tuff cone that formed on the west coast of Lanzarote, next to the Timanfaya National Park, as part of a NEE-SWW oriented volcanic chain. The edifice was formed by a series of explosions driven by magma interacting with water. The dune structures visible in the lower part of the cliff in this photo are indicative of pyroclastic surge deposits that are common in hydrovolcanism. The orange / red colour shows areas of the cone that have been altered to palagonite by the still-hot basaltic glass reacting with water. Pedrazzi et al suggested that the water and steam driving the hydrovolcanism became trapped within the pyroclastic deposits and was the source of water for the palagonitization. They used the distribution of palagonite to infer that the entire cone was deposited quickly – fast enough that the upper strata were deposited before the steam had time to escape from the lower strata.

So, not quite a whirlpool in the middle of a volcano, but exciting nonetheless.

By Stephanie Flude, School of Geosciences, The University of Edinburgh


Pedrazzi, D., Marti, J., and Geyer, A. : Stratigraphy, sedimentology and eruptive mechanisms in the tuff cone of El Golfo (Lanzarote, Canary Islands), Bulletin of Volcanology, 75, 740, DOI: 10.1007/s00445-013-0740-3, 2013.

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

Drinkable rocks!

Drinkable rocks!

When water is scarce, you’ve gotta save it, or come up with an ingenious way to get more. Some Spanish shrubs do just that, quenching their thirst with water from rocks. Sara Mynott explains where they source it…

Often, in areas where water is sparse, plants use a suite of techniques to harness what limited resources are available in their environment, from hairs that trap moisture in the air to deep roots that tap into water sources deep underground. Some, though, use a rather unusual strategy.

While presenting at the EGU General Assembly last week, Sara Palacio showed that some Spanish shrubs can get water from straight from minerals in the soil. Gypsum is a mineral containing 20% water and in parts of northern Spain the soil’s gypsum content can be as high as 85%, providing ample water for the plants – if they can get to it.

Quite how they do this remains a bit of a mystery. Many plants use fungi to help them meet their nutrient needs, so the plants could have a partner to help them snatch up the extra water. Alternatively, they could alter the soil’s pH or even utilise molecules that aid water uptake. This is something that only additional research can answer, says Palacio.

These shrubs, also known as rock rose, have exceedingly shallow roots – some 20 centimetres long – meaning that they can only stretch into the parched topsoil during periods of drought. What’s more, they don’t appear to have any clear means of gathering water from their surroundings, at least at first sight. Intrigued, Palacio set out to find what made these shrubs so special.

Rock rose (aka Helianthamum squamatum). Credit: Wikimedia Commons User Ghislain118.

Rock rose (aka Helianthamum squamatum). Credit: Wikimedia Commons User Ghislain118.

By comparing the stable isotope signatures of water in the soil, the minerals, and the plant’s plumbing system, Palacio and her colleagues were able to work out how these shrubs sated their thirst. The isotope signatures of the water contained in the minerals and of the plant’s water were a match!

During  a wet spring, the shrubs use both free water in the soil and water they’ve obtained from gypsum crystals, but in summer the minerals can meet up to 90% of the plant’s water needs, helping them make it through a summer drought.

By Sara Mynott, PhD Student, University of Exeter




Palacio, S., Azorín, J., Montserrat-Martí, G. and Ferrio, J. P.: Drinkable rocks: plants can use crystallization water from gypsum. Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, EGU2015-9011-1, 2015


Palacio, S., Azorín, J., Montserrat-Martí, G. and Ferrio, J. P.: The crystallization water of gypsum rocks is a relevant water source for plants. Nature Communications, 5, 2014