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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

June 2012

Photo by Wendy Cawthorne

Patrick Keiller, The Robinson Institute

Geoscientist 22.05 June 2012

In The Robinson Institute, Patrick Keiller invites us to walk the length and breadth of Tate Britain’s airy Duveen Gallery to recreate a journey through Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire undertaken by Robinson, a fictitious ‘scholar of landscape’. In this meditation on British landscape we encounter history, politics, economics and science in a gripping diversity of material: paintings, photographs, sculpture, film footage, archival documents, books and much more. The artefacts are not curated with a straightforward narrative or argument; the logic behind their arrangement is hard to discern. But as you meander through the gallery connections start to appear.

Some of these connections are remarkable. Two bronze boulders, sculpted by Lucio Fontana and Hubert Dalwood, sit on the floor next to the actual Wold Cottage meteorite of 1795. A mammoth photograph of the Bahrain Formula 1 racing course, slick black tracks interwoven with the yellow desert, is perhaps too obviously set beside a classic Jackson Pollock, but later makes a stunning juxtaposition with an aerial photograph of English field patterns.

There is uneasiness everywhere, a foreboding of almost apocalyptic doom, and it is our own commoditisation of landscape that is leading to this annihilation. Oil pipeline markers sprout from verdant fields, a piece of fabric sways ghoulishly by a motorway, a photograph is snapped of the ‘No Photography’ sign at the atomic weapons plant at Aldermaston.

When confronted with William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales, on loan from the Geological Society, one cannot help but shiver at the earlier images of oil and gas pipelines criss-crossing Britain and wonder at how rapidly the business of geology has changed. Don’t miss the chance to see Smith’s map as it is exhibited here: the vibrancy of the colours and the intricacies of his work become crystal-clear under the gallery’s lights and it is hung at such a height that you can really get up close to parts of the country that are a bit of a neck-stretch in Burlington House.

The connections throughout the exhibition are there to be made or not made: making your own connections is the point. It is also great fun: I recommend putting on the headphones to be serenaded by Ray Charles (full name Ray Charles Robinson) as you watch the other travellers wend their way through the gallery, their faces quizzical and pleased, perhaps exasperated, most often deeply absorbed in the artefact before them.

Reviewed by Michael McKimm

Tate Britain, London: 27 March – 14 October
Admission Free


The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

Most geologists have spent precious little time on palaeoclimate studies since undergraduate days. In the absence of knowledge, prejudice often seeps in to the empty space, exacerbated by articles in the media or in the blogosphere. Michael Mann is one of the key people trying to fill that void with knowledge.

Many geologists recall that Britain’s eminent climatologist, H.H. Lamb, documented a European medieval climatic optimum in which temperatures between 400 and 1200 AD were warmer than those of the 1960s to 1980’s. What they fail to recall is that Lamb also showed that China and Japan missed this warm phase (Climate, History and the Modern World, 1995, p. 171).

Michael Mann has inherited Lamb’s mantle. Mann uses proxy measurements of northern hemisphere climate extracted from tree rings, ice cores, corals and sediment cores to identify natural variations in the climate system (e.g. Nature 378, 1995, 266-270). By 1999, Mann and his team discovered from palaeoclimate analyses that the extent of medieval warming was likely about the same as it was in the mid 20th century, and much less than that since 1970. The data followed a curve reminiscent of a ‘hockey stick’. If Lamb had added his Chinese data to his UK data he might have got a similar result.

The ‘hockey stick’ was anathema to those who wanted ardently to believe that late 20th century warming was not anomalous and had nothing to do with our emissions of CO2. Controversy followed from the global warming nay-saying community, not least through A W Montford’s 2010 attack on Mann in The Hockey Stick Illusion. In the meantime, several peer-reviewed scientific studies by different authors have confirmed Mann’s original ‘hockey stick’ as being in the right ballpark, strongly suggesting that grounds for his impeachment are non-existent. Indeed, he was cleared of any wrongdoing by in-depth studies of his work by expert panels from the National Academy of Sciences (North, G.R., et al., 2006, Surface temperature reconstructions for the past 2000 years; National Academies Press, Washington DC), from his own university - Penn State, and from the US National Science Foundation. Like it or not, Mann remains a pioneer in analysing proxy records of climate change covering the past 1000 years, and one of the foremost young palaeoclimatologists of our time.

I heartily recommend this book for an unusually clear view of the action on the front line of climate science from one of its principle palaeoclimate protagonists.

Reviewed by Colin Summerhayes

THE HOCKEY STICK AND THE CLIMATE WARS – DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES. MICHAEL MANN. Published by Columbia Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-231-15254-9. 395 pp. List price £19.95.