December 15, 2011, by Claire

Sarah Metcalfe goes Stateside

I’ve just returned from nearly two months based at the US Geological Survey (USGS) at Menlo Park, south of San Francisco.  I was there to work with Dr. John Barron on the history of the Mexican, or North American, Monsoon which is key to bringing summer rain to much of Mexico and the states of Arizona, New Mexico and parts of California and Texas in the USA.  We were looking at changes in its strength (effectively how wet summers are) and what might drive these changes over timescales from 1,000 to 70,000 years.  The monsoon is the focus of a great deal of interest as a number of climate change projections suggest that it will weaken in future, with major water resource implications.  The trip was funded by the Royal Society.  As well as working at the Survey, I went to the University of California Berkeley (giving a talk to the Anthropologists and visiting Geography) and the University of Arizona at Tucson.

University of Arizona at Tucson

In Tucson I visited Geography (naturally), Atmospheric Sciences (to talk to climate modellers), Geosciences, another part of the USGS and the famous Laboratory of Tree Ring Research.  The LTTR is housed in under the stadium of the University of Arizona and although I didn’t ask if they got free tickets, I was told that going to work on match days wasn’t advisable….

American Geophysical Union (AGU)

My visit was rounded off by attending the ‘fall’ meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), just me and 20,999 others.  Undoubtedly the largest conference I have ever attended.  I gave an invited talk on the first day, so I could enjoy the rest of the meeting without any worry about what was to come. 

The famous ‘painted ladies’ in San Francisco

There was, of course, some time to enjoy the City of San Francisco with its famous ‘painted ladies’ in such contrast to the high rises of the city centre and the celebration of Christmas in Union Square.  I admit that all the Christmas decorations felt more than a little odd with weather like early October, but I quite like palm trees with Christmas lights.

Christmas in Union Square

 Overall, a very worthwhile visit with a real chance to build the School’s international research profile.

Sarah Metcalfe

December 14 2011

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