The Face of the Earth
Union Symposium US3, Tue, 29 Apr, 15:30–17:00, Room Y1
Like a human face, our planet exhibits a large diversity of intricate shapes and patterns. In the dynamic Earth system, processes continuously create, modify and destroy specific forms while, at the same time, individual forms and larger patterns constrain how processes operate.
The Face of the Earth theme intends to celebrate the diversity of geoscience processes and the great variety of associated forms, across all scales and from the core of the Earth to interplanetary space. This diversity is reflected in the five subtopics of the 2014 meeting: Rocks of the Earth, Waters of the Earth, Life of the Earth, Atmosphere of the Earth, and Space and the Earth.
The theme does not constrain the topics to be presented at the Assembly. Rather, it will add to the conference experience. We look forward to welcoming you in Vienna!
Please also download the Face of the Earth flyer.
The Face of the Earth – a Magnum Opus by Eduard Suess
Eduard Suess (1831−1914) was among those Earth scientists who gave an overview about the Earth system in all aspects. Born in London on 20 August 1831, he spent his childhood in Prague and in Vienna, where he became the first Professor of Palaeontology and in 1862 also the first Professor of Geology at the University of Vienna. He was the "father" of two projects: the Danube Regulation and the Spring Water Main in Vienna, both of which are still in use today. He introduced not only geological terms like "Tethys" (an ocean during the Mesozoic) but also the "biosphere", where we all live.
In 1883 he published the first volume of Das Antlitz der Erde; the second part of the third volume was finally edited in 1909. This book became a milestone in geosciences, and it was translated into English, French and Spanish. He died on 26 April 1914 in Vienna, and 100 years later the "Face of the Earth" became the theme of the EGU2014.
Scanning and OCR-treatment of PDF was done by Nalan Lom (Istanbul).
Rocks of the Earth
Key Note Lecture by Jean Braun, Mon, 28 Apr, 13:30–14:30, Room Y1
Exhibition Spot: Entrance Hall – Ground Floor (Yellow Level)
This is not Planet Earth – This is Planet Rock
Rock makes up more than 99.9% of our planet’s mass, extending from the surface to the centre of the core. Solid rock forms the building blocks of tectonic plates, which are moved by convective currents in the Earth’s mantle below. Where plates collide they deform − thereby creating the spectacular topography that adds character to the face of the Earth: kilometre-high mountain chains poke into the atmosphere and guide our weather systems; kilometre-deep depressions hold the waters of the Earth and direct ocean currents.
At the surface of the Earth, magmatic rocks are broken up both physically and chemically, and transported from higher elevations to sedimentary basins where new rocks are formed. Sedimentary rocks trap traces of surface environments and archive our planet’s history. Processes acting at or near the face of the Earth result in an immense variety of different rock types, build the ground on which we live and create the resources that fuel life on Earth. Since the Stone Age, rocks of the Earth have played an important role in human history, culture, and livelihood − and will continue to do so.
Bring your own Rock
All participants are welcome to bring a stone from their home country to be collected in the entrance hall, placed in a showcase, and their origin will be marked on a world map. This will be a piece of geoscience art created by all participants together and is part of the 2014 theme Face of the Earth. Please catch up on the regulations in your country regarding the export of such a stone. The stone should not be larger than 12 x 12 x 12 cm. The artwork will be donated to an Austrian educational organization. Therefore, your stone will stay in Vienna.
Water of the Earth
Key Note Lecture by Marc F. P. Bierkens, Tue, 29 Apr, 13:30–14:30, Room B10
Exhibition Spot: Foyer D – Basement (Blue Level)
This is not Planet Earth − It’s Planet Water
Waters of the Earth cover 71% of our planet’s surface. Oceans produce a big part of our oxygen and dominate the world's weather systems. Ice sheets have formed the shape of the land surface in much of the world. Extremes in the water cycle play a particularly critical role because of the non-linearity of the dynamic Earth system, contributing to emergent behaviour and tipping points. Water in the landscape affects virtually all physical, chemical and biological processes, be it soil mass movement, weathering, or bacterial growth in the environment. These same processes control the water flow pathways, leading to an intrinsic web of cross-scale feedbacks. Floods and droughts may increase globally in a changing climate and due to human effects such as land use change and river works, so better understanding of their mechanisms will result in enormous social and economic benefits. The waters of the Earth have also shaped human history, culture, and lives − and continue to do so.
Life of the Earth
Key Note Lecture by Andrew J. Watson, Wed, 30 Apr, 13:30–14:30, Room G11
Exhibition Spot: Gallery – First Floor (Green Level)
When Earth was born, between about 4.5 and 4.4 billion years ago, it was extremely hot and molten. There were geologically violent environments, massive volcanic activity accompanied by meteoritic bombardments. When the planet cooled down, the first solid rock was developed. There were no continents − only a global ocean with occasional islands. Volcanism, sedimentation, and meteorite impacts lay the foundation for small protocontinents, which grew for billions of years. As a matter of fact, the map of the Earth in the distant geological past was extremely different to that today.
Life on Earth began about 4 billion years ago expanding and adapting to almost every environment imaginable − from poles to the Equator, from the deepest ocean to the highest mountains, from ice to over 300 °C hydrothermal vents, from deserts to several kilometres below the Earth’s surface. During its evolutionary history, life experienced climates that no longer exist; it went through five large and many smaller-scale mass extinction events in which it faced a staggering decimation of over 90% of marine and terrestrial species during the Great Dying, which occurred roughly 250 million years ago. This means that today’s life descends from less than 10% of species that survived, the diversity of which is truly astonishing. Humans have been around only the last 200,000 years, witnessing just 0.004% of Earth’s history.
Despite the rough path of Earth’s evolution, all living things, including ancient bacteria, share an amazing similarity – a replicator molecule DNA. This molecule possesses genetic code used in the development and function of all known living organisms. DNA is the key for all life and without it life could not exist.
Our understanding of life on Earth continues to evolve, and how in the beginning of our evolution single-celled bacteria transformed to far more complex organisms remains a mystery. The paradox is that such an evolutionary jump happened only once.
Atmosphere of the Earth
Key Note Lecture by John Burrows, Thu, 01 May, 13:30–14:30, Room R1
Exhibition Spot: Foyer B – Second Floor (Red Level)
A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure centre, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is called a hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, or simply cyclone. They derive their energy from the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately recondenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation. At landfall, hurricanes and typhoons may cause substantial loss of life and property damage in the area of impact. Typhoon Haiyan, which occurred in the Philippines on 8 November 2013, was the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed.
A dust storm, or sandstorm, is a form of storm common in arid and semi-arid regions. Dust storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. Particles are transported by saltation and suspension, a process that moves soil from one place and deposits it in another. Saharan dust storms increased approximately 10-fold during the half-century following the 1950s, causing topsoil loss in Niger, Chad, northern Nigeria, and Burkina Faso.
Smog is a type of air pollution. In the early 20th century, smog referred to what was sometimes known as pea soup fog, a familiar and serious problem in London from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. This kind of smog was comprised of soot particulates from smoke, sulfur dioxide and other components related to coal combustion in the city. Modern smog, as found for example in Los Angeles, is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial emissions that react in the atmosphere under sunlight to form secondary pollutants.
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. Terrestrial cloud formation is the result of air in Earth's atmosphere becoming saturated due to cooling of the air and/or addition of water vapour. Clouds may occur as free-convective upward growth into low or vertical heaps of cumulus. Other forms appear as non-convective layered sheets like low stratus, and as limited-convective rolls or ripples as with stratocumulus. Thin fibrous wisps of cirrus are a physical form found only at high altitudes. Whereas the majority of clouds form in Earth's troposphere, there are occasions when they can be observed at much higher altitudes in the stratosphere and mesosphere.
A tornado is a form of storm, a violently rotating column of air. Tornadoes are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, whose narrow end touches the Earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris and dust. Tornadoes are formed when both high-pressure air and low-pressure air interact. A low internal pressure draws in high-pressure air to form the vortex and subsequently the tornado. The vast majority of tornadoes occur in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, although they can occur nearly anywhere around the world.
Space and the Earth
Key Note Lecture by James W. Head III, Fri, 02 May, 13:30–14:30, Room R1
Exhibition Spot: Foyer C – Second Floor (Red Level)
Solar system planets and their moons are formed at the same time, from the same chemical elements, and by similar processes. However, all have different evolutionary paths following their common origin about 4.6 Gyr ago. The cratered surfaces of the Moon have a record of a period of intense bombardment by solid objects about 3.9 Gyr ago that shaped the inner solar system and have implications for life and habitability. The surface of Venus is younger than the surfaces of the Moon, and it resembles the Earth in the sense that it embodies topographic features that are the result of internal geological activity. Most of the mountains of Venus are volcanoes, its surface features are formed by tectonic processes and its surface is much hotter than that of Earth. In contrast, Mars is a cold and dusty planet with occasional global dust storms. Water presently exists on Mars mainly as ice and vapour in the atmosphere. Some liquid water can occur transiently under certain conditions, but stable liquid water on the surface is currently not possible due to extremely low atmospheric pressure. Traces of past liquid water manifest on Mars in a broad variety of scales and signatures, and their implications for the habitability of early Mars and its atmospheric evolution are the main driving motivation for the ongoing Mars exploration. Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, is the only celestial object other than Earth with stable bodies of surface liquid despite its extremely low temperatures. Titan's methane cycle is an analogue of Earth’s water cycle. Surface features of Titan, similar to those of Earth or of Mars, such as rivers, lakes, deltas and dunes, are believed to vary in time following the changes in seasons and climate.