Report on the 2015 Early Career Scientists Symposium

IUGG has always supported Early Career Scientists as it believes that they have an extremely important role to play in the current and future development and advancement of Earth and space sciences in general, and of the IUGG in particular. Following the tradition, it dedicated Union Symposium U11 to them at the 26th General Assembly in 2015 in Prague, organized and convened by Vice-President Michael G. Sideris (now President). At this Union Symposium, twelve Early Career Scientists from all IUGG Associations were invited to share their experiences, successes, expectations, suggestions and/or concerns on the future of geosciences. In fact ten of these scientists were the winners of the IUGG Early Career Scientist Award.

The presentations, which were made in two morning and two afternoon sessions on Saturday, June 27, 2015, addressed all major topics of IUGG science and applications, and emphasized their societal impacts. Ben Marzeion (Austria, Climatology) and Matthias Huss (Switzerland, Glaciology) talked about the causes, processes and global impacts of the melting of the glaciers. Ben present strong evidence that most of the glacier mass loss of the past few decades is caused by human activities, and showed the impact that anthropogenic glacier mass loss has had on seasonal water availability. Matthias discussed future changes in global sea level due to glacier melt and highlighted current uncertainties and gaps in cryospheric research, which point to the need to transition from the ice-flow models developed for single glaciers to ones with global application. Ben Kravitz (USA, Atmospheric Sciences) concentrated on human influences on climate and in particular on ways to represent climate-society feedbacks in climate model simulations of geoengineering, and their use in further advancing climate science and assessing the impacts of human-induced climate change. Ilona Riipinen (Sweden, Meteorology) presented an overview of the interactions of atmospheric organic particles with inorganic aerosol constituents and cloud water, and highlighted the understanding of interactions between natural sources and human activities, which is very important for the development of policies related to, e.g., land-use change, urban air quality, or agricultural emissions. Gregory Foltz’s (USA, Oceanography) talk was on the challenges and successes in ocean-atmosphere research over the past decade. Presented topics of particular value to society were the importance of the ocean's near-surface temperature and salinity structure for tropical cyclone intensification; the interaction of natural aerosols, such as African dust, with weather and climate; and the need for continuous measurements of the upper ocean and atmosphere, from which climate variability and trends can be diagnosed. Markus Hrachowitz (The Netherlands, Hydrology) presented hydrology as a discipline at the interface of atmosphere, ecosphere, pedosphere and hydrosphere, and illustrated the need and the challenge of increasing its predictive power through working with a more holistic and robust system approach rather than just researching a specific aspect in just one or a few catchments. Andreas Fichtner (Switzerland, Seismology) presented the power of seismic tomography for imaging the Earth’s interior over a wide range of scales, and pointed out the need for improving the quantitative and qualitative aspects of computational seismology in order to better serve societal needs such as earthquake early warning systems, hazard mitigation, mineral and hydrocarbon exploration, and the monitoring of fault zones, volcanoes and geothermal reservoirs. A complementary talk to Andreas’s talk was the one by Mathis Blossfeld (Germany, Geodesy), who presented the contribution of space geodetic Earth observing systems to the monitoring the changes of the Earth’s surface, rotation and gravity field, and the mass transport phenomena associated with the dynamic processes of global change. Futoshi Takahashi (Japan, Geomagnetism) talked about dynamo modeling as a very powerful tool to understand the dynamo action and core dynamics of the planets as well as in-situ observation of the magnetic field, and showed recent results from lunar magnetic field observations by the Kaguya spacecraft that were used to examine the ancient lunar core dynamo. Johanna Salminen (Finland, Paleomagnetism) explained how the use of paleomagnetism coupled with geochronology are the only quantitative methods for providing insights into the paleogeography of tectonic plates (secular rate changes, polar wander), and in particular for the proterozoic supercontinent Nuna. This very multidisciplinary symposium concluded very fittingly with the talk of Adelina Geyer (Spain, Volcanology) on the current trend towards multidisciplinary and open-access Earth and Space sciences. Adelina passionately promoted not only the need for scientists from different fields to work collaboratively to address complex societal problems but also the need to secure the open–access of data, databases, results, software, etc., which will enable the participation of scientists from any country around the world.

The colleagues who attended this symposium were impressed by the breadth, depth and maturity of treatment of the topics that these early career scientists presented. It is fair to say that Earth and space sciences and IUGG are in very good hands and have a bright future indeed. There is no doubt that the Early Career Scientists Union Symposium with be again one of the highlight of the 2019 General Assembly in Montreal, just as it was for the 26th General Assembly in 2015 in Prague.

Note: There was one more invited Early Career Scientist, Ruiqiang Ding (China, Meteorology), who was scheduled to talk on “the nonlinear local Lyapunov exponent method and its applications in predictability and ensemble prediction” but, unfortunately, had to cancel at the last moment his participation to the General Assembly.