GeoLog

GeoLog

Imaggeo on Mondays: A spectacular view of moss-covered rocks

Imaggeo on Mondays: A spectacular view of moss-covered rocks

Geology has shaped the rugged landscape of the Isle of Skye – the largest island of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides archipelago. From the very old Precambrian rocks (approximately 2.8 billion years old) in the south of the island, through to the mighty glaciers which covered much of Scotland as recently as 14,700 years ago, the modestly-sized island provides a snap-shot through Earth’s dynamic history.

A far cry from its modern cold, foggy and drizzly weather, back in the Jurassic age (250 million years ago, or so), the island was part of hot and dry desert. Over time, the sea encroached the low-lying plain, depositing sands and muds, and later sandstones, as well as thin limestones and shales across the island. The best examples of these rocks are found on the western side of the island, on the Strathaird Peninsula, but they can also be found on northern and eastern coastal stretches too.

Fast-forward to the Tertiary period (approximately 60 million years ago) and the landscape changed dramatically. The calm tropical waters had made way for explosive eruptions, which vented lavas from crack’s in the Earth’s crust. The lavas blanketed large areas of the north of the island, covering the sediments deposited back in the Jurassic.

Long after the surface explosive activity ended, the cracks in the Earth’s crust continued to serves as pathways for molten magma to move below the surface. In the norther part of the island, the lava travelled sideways, pushing its way between the layers of Jurassic sedimentary rocks. The black lavas, layered between the lighter coloured limestones and sandstones (as pictured above), are in stark contrast with the present-day moss-covered cliffs.

The most spectacular examples of this layering of volcanic units atop sedimentary rocks can be seen not far from where this photograph was taken, at Kilt Rocks, in south Staffin. Visitors to the area can also enjoy Mealt waterfall, where water from Mealt Loch (the Scottish word for lake) tumbles spectacularly into the Sound of Raasay.

Marius Ulm, who captured today’s featured image, is a civil/coastal engineer meaning a totally different aspect of the geology captured his attention:

“From a coastal engineering point of view, what is interesting is the missing moss-cover at the cliff’s toe. There is a line which marks the transition where the rocks stop being covered by moss also indicates how high water regularly rises due to tides. It tells us the tidal range (difference between low and high water) reaches up to 5 m in this area.”

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/.

 

GeoPolicy: COP23 – key updates and outcomes

GeoPolicy: COP23 – key updates and outcomes

What is COP23?

Anthropogenic climate change is threatening life on this planet as we know it. It’s a global issue… and not one that is easily solved. The Conference of the Parties (COP) provides world leaders, policy workers, scientists and industry leaders with the space to share ideas and decide on how to tackle climate change and generate global transformative change. COP23 will predominantly focus on increasing involvement from non-state actors (such as cities and businesses), how to minimise the climate impacts on vulnerable countries and the steps that are needed to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Hold on – what’s the Paris Climate Change Agreement…?

You’ve probably heard about the Paris Climate Change Agreement (often shortened to just Paris Agreement) before, but what exactly does it refer to?

During the COP21, held in Paris during 2015, 175 parties (174 countries and the European Union) reached a historic agreement in response to the current climate crisis. This Paris Agreement builds on previous UN frameworks and agreements. It acknowledges climate change as a global threat and that preventing the Earth’s temperature from rising more than 2°C should be a global priority. The only nations not to sign the agreement were Syria, due to their involvement in a civil war and their inability to send a delegation, and Nicaragua, who stated that the agreement was insufficiently ambitious. Both of these countries have since signed the agreement while the US has unfortunately made headlines by leaving it.

The Paris Agreement states that there should be a thorough action plan that details how the Paris Agreement should be implemented by COP24 in 2018. There is still a long way to go before this action plan is finalised but COP23 was able to make a strong headway.

You can learn more about the UN climate frameworks and Paris Climate Change Agreement here or read more about COP21 here.

What did the COP23 achieve?

Today is the last official day of the COP23 and while it is often difficult to determine whether large scale political events are successful until after the dust has settled, there are some positive signs.

1. Making progress on the Paris Agreement action plan

The COP23 has been described as an implementation and ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ kind of COP. While the COP21 resulted in a milestone agreement, the COP23 was about determining what staying below 2°C actually entails – what needs to be done and when. Some of the measures discussed to keep us under 2°C included: halving global CO2 emissions from energy and industry each decade, scrapping the $500 billion per year in global fossil fuel subsidies and scaling up carbon capture and storage technology. Simple, right?

These actions are all feeding into the detailed “rulebook” on how the Paris Agreement should be implemented which will be finalised at COP24.

2. Cities have stepped up to the plate

Mayors from 25 cities around the world have pledged to produce net zero emissions by 2050 through ambitious climate action plans which will be developed with the help of the C40 Cities network. Having tangible examples of what net zero emissions looks like and how it can be achieved will hopefully encourage other cities to follow suit. For this reason “think global, act local” initiatives are also picking up steam.

A new global standard for reporting cities’ greenhouse gas emissions has also been announced by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The system will allow cities to track their contributions and impacts using a quantifiable method. This will not only allow the UNFCCC to track the progress of cities more effectively but it may also result in a friendly competition with cities around the globe. It is also expected that all cities will have a decarbonisation strategy in place by 2020.

3. Phasing out coal by 2030?

19 Countries (ranging from Angola to the UK) have committed to phasing out unabated coal generation by 2030. Unabated coal-powered energy generation refers to the generation of electricity from a coal plant without the use of treatment or carbon capture storage technology (which generally reduces emissions from between 85-90%). With 40% of the world’s electricity currently being generated from coal, this commitment is clearly a huge step in the right direction that will hopefully put pressure on other nations and steer energy investment towards lower-emission sources.

4. There is the will to change… and the funding is there too!

One of the key features of the Paris Agreement was the amount of financial aid committed, 100 billion USD annually by 2020, from developed countries to support developing states mitigate their emissions. While this level of funding is still far from being reached, the aim to jointly mobilise 100 billion USD annually by 2020 was reiterated.

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, also announced that Europe will fill the funding gap in the IPCC budget that was left by the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

 

The Green Climate Fund booth at the COP23 exhibition area. Credit: Jonathan Bamber

 

Other outcomes

Not only do COPs generally result in solid outcomes and agreements being made but they also go a long way to strengthen global unity and the belief that we are able to tackle climate change despite it being a huge and often daunting problem. This was also highlighted by Jonathan Bamber, the EGU President, who attended the event, “It was so impressive to see politicians, policy makers and scientists all striving hard to ensure that the world’s economies achieve the goals laid out in COP21 in Paris. There was a lot of energy for change and action and much less cynicism than I have witnessed at previous COP events. I really hope it helps steer us towards a more sustainable future“.

While these are just a few of the immediately obvious results from the COP23, I am sure that there will be more agreements and outcomes announced within the next few days. Keep tuned to the GeoPolicy Blog for more updates!

Further reading

 

What’s new for the 2018 General Assembly?

What’s new for the 2018 General Assembly?

Along with our conference organisers, Copernicus, we aim to improve the experience of General Assembly attendees year on year. Following feedback from participants in 2017, we’ll introduce some changes we hope will make the 2018 edition of our meeting even better! This post highlights a few of the changes that returning participants will notice at next year’s conference.

An ever-growing number of participants means making way for more presentations, posters and PICOs, so in 2017 we created an extended Yellow Level. Not only were you able to register there, it also accommodated extra space for posters and two PICO spots. As we expect 2018 to be another bumper year in terms of participation, the extra space at the front of the conference center is set to return.

We also wanted to make the experience of presenting a poster a more comfortable one; at the 2018 conference we will introduce all new poster boards. They’ll be made of a robust wooden frame, which will be filled with more padding, making them a lot more stable and able to absorb more noise from the busy poster halls. And with more presenters wanting to use their laptops or tablets to expand on their presentations, the new boards will also incorporate a larger table to facilitate discussion. Plus, they will be fitted with handy storage for poster tubes and backpacks.

The scheduling of the conference programme will also see some changes at the upcoming General Assembly. Oral blocks will be limited to 90 minutes, meaning there will be no 7th presentations anymore. In addition, while in the past solicited talks could be up to 30 minutes long, from 2018 onward they will be no longer than 15 minutes and limited to one per session. And finally, so that those presenting posters in the afternoon are not in competition with short courses, no workshops will take place during time block 5, but instead some will be scheduled from 19:00 onward.

And, in 2018 there is more reason than ever to become an EGU member. If you register to attend the conference before 1 March 2018 and you are an EGU member, your weekly ticket will cost €390. A similar early-bird discount is available to non-members, but weekly ticket costs are significantly higher: €530.  A similar pricing structure is in place for PhD students who are EGU members. Those registering after 1 March will no longer enjoy early registration discounts, regardless of their membership and career status.

Finally, we are taking steps to make the General Assembly greener. Not all the details are confirmed just yet, so stay tuned to the blog for details of our green initiatives for EGU 2018.

So, now that you’ve heard about what’s new for EGU 2018, don’t miss the deadline (10 January 2018) to submit your abstract! Especially if you intend to apply for Roland Schlich travel support, the closing date for applications is right around the corner: 1 December!

We look forward to seeing you in Vienna!

EGU 2018 will take place from 08 to 13 April 2017 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2018 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU18 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Bird’s eye view of Trebecchi Lakes

Imaggeo on Mondays: Bird’s eye view of Trebecchi Lakes

Among many other environmental impacts, human activities have introduced a range of animal and plant species to areas where they do not naturally belong. The introduction of alien species, as these translocated taxa are known, has wide ranging implications for native biota, ecosystem functioning, human health and the economy. Research published earlier this year found that during the last 200 years, the number of new established alien species has grown continuously worldwide, with 37% of all first introductions reported between 1970 and 2014. And their geographic reach is staggering too… you’ll even find them in the high peaks of the Italian Alps, as described in today’s post.

Above the tree line, small lakes punctuate the vegetated, rocky landscape of the Nivolet high plain in the Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy, at an altitude of about 2600 meters above sea level.

Geologically, this area is composed mainly of gneiss (a high-grade metamorphic rock), with relevant emergences of carbonatic rocks and extended cover of glacial deposits.

In several lakes, an alien fish (brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis) was introduced in the sixties and seventies, drastically changing the lake ecosystems. A recent EU Life project on active ecosystem management succeeded in eradicating the alien fish in an ensemble of test lakes, restoring the original conditions. The Nivolet is now one of the pilot sites of the European H2020 Project ECOPOTENTIAL, devoted to assessing the state and changes of ecosystems and geosphere-biosphere interactions  in Protected Areas by Remote Sensing, in-situ measurements and conceptual modelling. In particular, the Nivolet watershed has now been established as an Earth Critical Zone and Ecosystem Observatory.

By, Antonello Provenzale, researcher at the Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources in Pisa, Italy, and collaborator of the Gran Paradiso National Park.

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/.