It is 2019 and it is spring time in Vienna again. The night train from Hamburg to Vienna was as always a great experience and so the conference was set up for a good start. The sun is giving everybody a big smile (at least for the start) and so and eventful week lies ahead of us.
The first day was fully covered for me by sea level science. The sea level session covered as always a wide range of topics. From reconstructions over land movements, from GIA to the political site of the problem. Unfortunately, my favorite topic, the palaeo-reconstructions were only covered by a very small number of talks (probably just one).
I have also to get used to the new schedule of seven talks per session, but I will certainly write about it more later this week. I also went to a poster session, which are now in parallel to the talk-sessions. So a lot of changes, which all need some adaptions.
During the week I will have a talk and a poster, but both will happen towards the end. I am looking forward for many interesting topics, talks and posters and of course the most important part of a conference: meeting other scientists.
After the new paper got out the question remain what the future of palaeo sea-level and ice-sheet databases will look like. As this can be a wide-ranging topic, I would like to start with what I think will be the next developments, before talking about possible long-term aspirations.
In the current situation, the best we hope for is that new site specific databases are getting better and better. Steps to this might be small, but new papers making use of databases will demonstrate that a better understanding of the data is necessary. To understand the data better, it is required to create more detailed databases, which consequently include uncertainty estimates and the limits of the data generation. One of these papers, written by me, is already accepted and will be out in the next days. Further ones by me and others will follow and demonstrate the need for these well prepared databases.
Coming from this we can think about the future of general databases. So is it possible to create one access point for all available palaeo sea-level/ice-sheet data for a given time period? My answer is yes. It is possible, but many obstacles are still in the way. The most important one is long-term financing. To fulfil the ATTAC^3 guidelines it is essential that it can be guaranteed that data will be available in the long-term. The next step would be the setup of a trusted group of experts, which have the background to scientifically back decisions, which are required within the creation of large databases. Only when these two corner stones would exist starting of the technical development would be reasonable.
Nevertheless, many critical points will come up. Is everybody allowed to contribute, or is only data published in journals suitable for such a database? What will be the data formats for exchange? How will the technical implementation guarantee the future suitability of such a database? And how can trust be built up? There are many problems in creating such a database and so I do not think that we will be there in the upcoming five years. Basically the funding problem is too problematic and will suppress possible advance in the field even longer. Up to then the combination of many different data sources will remain an issue and will hopefully not lead to too many wrong scientific results caused by bad raw data interpretation.
At the end of last week the NOC in Liverpool invited the UK communities around sea level science to a meeting to honour Phil Woodworth’s retirement. After the 80th-birthday of the PSMSL two years ago, this was the second time in quick succession to get the people together and discuss the current developments in the field. Sea level itself is a highly diverse topic, which was well represented at that meeting.
It started with some talks on the impact of sea level change and storm surges. A focus therein was the translation of the science to the actions on the ground. After the first poster session the past sea-level, especially during the Holocene got their attention. In this part the connection between geodesy, geology and oceanography gives the field a very interesting interdisciplinary touch. All communities have to work together and understand each other to gain further ground in the research on this topic. A big point is therein the uncertainty of models and observations, which was widely presented and discussed in the talks and the posters.
My poster at the meeting
The presentations ended with an overview over the observational techniques, mainly coastal measurements with the satellites. In these fields large steps forward were made in the past years, which brings hope to the development of better opportunities to compare satellite measurements with the readings of tide gauges. Some remarks from the host and a nice conference dinner with many discussions lead to the end the first day.
The second day kicked of with the main source of sea level change, the ice. The focus was especially set on the ice sheets on Antarctica and their monitoring with satellite altimetry. Ocean dynamics and their influence on sea level followed next. The speakers showed that the influence of this part has still many potentials for future research. The final topic was the projections of future sea level change. This controversial topic with its two main approaches, the classical modeling and the semi-empirical methods, lead to many discussions.
All in all it was a great meeting, which brought a good overview on the many different facets of the field. The great discussions around the meeting helped to broaden the understanding for everyone within this interdisciplinary community. Certainly the field will still allow for huge advances in the future, which will require the introduction of new techniques, great ideas and especially the work across the traditional boarders of the research fields.