AGU 2005 – #1

The size of the AGU convention is really daunting. Up to Thursday, there were 11,903 attendees. But that doesn’t really portray the size of the presentation effort. Most of those attendees are also presenters. I didn’t see a total of the number of oral and poster presentations, although it would be readily available from AGU. But there were probably over 10,000 oral and poster presentations during the week.

At any given time, there are 22 large presentation rooms at the Moscone Center and 8 at the Marriott, thus up to 30 in action at any one time. Most presentation rooms host 1 presentation every 15 minutes from 8 am to 10 am, from 1020 to 1220 and then from 1340 to 1540, then from 1600 to 1800 — up to 32 presentations per room per day, and seemingly most venues were in use. With a little allowance for less than 100% usage, there were probably over 700 oral presentations per day — i.e. over 3,000 for the week.

Added to this were poster sessions, which were nominally different each morning and afternoon. The poster slots are numbered sequentially and the numbers went up to about 1600. It looked like most posters were up the whole day, so that this would yield about 8,000 posters for the week. Added to the oral presentations, this would yield about 11,000 presentations — about the same number as attendees.

The program for the conference was 541 pages long. The listings for Tuesday covered 76 pages. A sample page had 30 presentation listings i.e. about 2,250 presentations for the day. This would also yield an estimate of about 11,000 presentations for the week. So within a couple of thousand, 10,000 is probably not too bad an estimate.

There were about 10 named lectures in large forums by famous scientists. For example, the cautiously named lecture “Anticipating the Big Impacts of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Increases” by Jonathan Overpeck drew an overflow and lionizing audience of over 1000 people.
It was not easy to decide what to attend and people spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to go. The problem was not the program, which was well-designed, but the smorgasbord of choices. For example, Crowley and Kerry Emanuel spoke at the same time. I decided to go see Emanuel. It’s easy to miss things of interest — James Hansen gave a presentation, which I would have been interested in, but didn’t notice.

I’ll report on some of the presentations that interested me. I was exhausted at the end of each day. Actually, later in the week, I got tired earlier and earlier in the day and by Friday, could barely get past the title of any given presentation. Maybe people that are younger than me do better, but most people seemed to tire and almost overload under the bombardment of information.

I spent time with each of Eduardo Zorita, Hugo Beltrami, Fidel Gonzalez-Raucen, Peter Huybers, Roger Pielke, Richard Muller, Bob Carter and Caspar Ammann, which I won’t report on, but which was nearly always cordial – in one case, some of the time would probably be characterized as civil rather than cordial, but was constructive.

As for my presentation, I was very small beer in the scheme of things. There were about 50-60 people for my presentation on Friday morning. There were a number of concurrent climate presentations which didn’t help, but probably didn’t make too much difference. However, many key interested people were at the session: Zorita and Ammann both presented as well; Henry Pollack presented a joint paper with Crowley and Hegerl. Somewhat surprisingly, this was my first oral presentation to an academic audience. My timing was accurate. I think that it went decently. Since no one knew me personally, I think that there was some curiosity as to whether I was either the ogre or the complete fool portrayed at realclimate and, since I’m neither, it was not too hard to exceed those expectations.


  1. Jean S
    Posted Dec 11, 2005 at 9:32 AM | Permalink

    Nice that everything went fine, and you had a chance to talk some of the “big names” 🙂
    I checked the abstract of the (invited) paper by Pollack et al. (results have been apparently submitted to Nature). Can you give any more details of their results/comment the paper? Especially, what does the last sentence “suggest an equilibrium sensitivity to independently reconstructed forcings of about 2.5 K” mean? Also, what is the warmest period in this new reconstruction, is it the mid-20th century temperatures as the abstract seems to suggest?

  2. JerryB
    Posted Dec 11, 2005 at 9:56 AM | Permalink

    Welcome back!

  3. TCO
    Posted Dec 11, 2005 at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    1. IOW TCO was right.
    2. A bit distressing that 3 years into this thing, you are only now learning enough of the basic lay of the land to realize things like big science meetings are as you described.
    3. You need to publish more…and more discretely.* (Questions, see point 1).


    But good job for pushing ahead. Really.

    *”Discrete” in connotation of “piecewise” rather than in terms of “secret”.

  4. John A
    Posted Dec 11, 2005 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    I don’t suppose Mann was there to defend the Hockey Stick?

  5. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 11, 2005 at 7:59 PM | Permalink

    Mann wasn’t there, but, if one judged by Overpeck’s audience, it would have been a home crowd for him. In any case, the Q-and-A after the meetings would not permit a questioner to get anywhere. The schedules are maintained rigorously. For example, after Ammann’s talk, I asked him what the cross-validation R2 statistic was for his MBH emulation; he talked around the question for about 30 seconds without answering the question. I would have like to make a follow-up comment but the time was done and the chairman called the next speaker. If you spoke to your full 15 minutes, then there would be no questions. Mann would be very experienced on his feet, so it’s idle to think that a gotcha question would cause him to wilt.

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