Oh Vienna redux

It’s April, so it must be EGU time again! No Vienna marathon this time – the race was the same date as Manchester this year, a week too early for our trip – so we went purely for the science. Well, the science and the schnitzel. The plan was to go over on the Friday before the conference started, with the intention of enjoying a weekend of sightseeing and relaxing in the sun, but both jules and I contrived to come down with flu again after the Manchester outing, so instead we spent the weekend mostly lying in bed and coughing our lungs up, failing even to attend the Vienna Phil for which we had (cheap standing room) tickets on Sunday morning.

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Monday morning started with jules’ paleo modelling-and-data session, including talks on the effects of changing ocean tides, the green Sahara problem, state dependence of climate sensitivity and other things. After a lunch meeting we were both pretty much wiped out for the day and sidled off home without staying for the evening posters. Tuesday had a session on some minor revisions to the the 19th/20th century record, and then climate prediction including my talk on model independence. As jules keeps telling me, it’s time that was written up. In the afternoon we went to one of these funny debate things (nominally about resource depletion), where a bunch of people said how awful everything was, and one token panellist played Devil’s Advocate and argued that we could technologise our way out of it all. He almost managed some decent points, but unfortunately was more of a journalist/writer than scientist so didn’t really have anything much to back up his rhetoric. As expected, he was ritually disembowelled both by the other participants and the questioners from the floor, so all went away happy that indeed we really are all going to die. Can’t help thinking it was a bit of a missed opportunity for a real debate though. A further session that afternoon on open access publishing was cancelled, so I didn’t hang around for the medal lecture later on that evening. Unfortunately this is also not one of the handful of streamed talks – I think the EGU could do better with this.

Wednesday was data assimilation day, as usual a mix of highly technical and irrelevant stuff, interspersed with a handful of interesting and useful details. Sadly the medal lecture this year was all about turbulence which isn’t really my thing, but overall the session was worthwhile. Finally managed to stay long enough for a beer in the posters, though there were not many relevant ones to look at. On Thursday I decided to expend my horizons with sessions on renewable energy (good idea, but some limitations) and tsunami,  which was interesting. Somehow missed the debate on open access publishing, which I have now played on the webstream, and it wasn’t really that exciting. Lots of standard comments (including the usual crop of irrelevancies) and fairly smug “but it works” replies. The Hansen paper got a lot of discussion, but whatever you think about how that was handled, one example out of thousands of papers does not amount to much really. I’m sure we can all point to stuff that shouldn’t have happened in any journal we care to mention (though of course in many cases it’s hidden away). There was another publishing party in the evening, it seems that they manage an excuse for a celebration just about every year!

By Friday people were starting to drift off home as always. However jules had been roped into talking about models in the geosciences (another streamed session), so I thought I ought to turn up and show support. Probably the most interesting talk for me was the last one by Charlotte Werndl, on “double-counting” data for both tuning and validation. It is rare to find a philosopher with enough of a mathematical background to be able to back up their rhetoric. By the afternoon I was pretty much wiped out, we did manage to attend the convenors’ party but didn’t stay long.

Overall, I didn’t find the EGU quite as exciting as usual, though can probably put that down to being ill for most of it, as I definitely picked up some useful bits and pieces. The days are really long when you are not feeling 100%, running from 8:30am potentially to 8pm then with dinner to follow. Needless to say, we didn’t do many of them this time. In fact we barely went out in the evenings and my first and only schnitzel was on the last Saturday night just before flying home.

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Next year, the Vienna Marathon is scheduled for the Sunday immediately prior to the EGU again. Watch this space…

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