Paleoclimate: Digging into the Past to Chart our Future

Paleoclimate: Digging into the Past to Chart our Future
Warner Brothers Theater at the American History Museum
 Man in snowy Arctic with painting of green ancient ecosystem
Image credit: ©Ira Block

FREE ticketed event

As human activities drive Earth’s rapidly changing climate, there is an urgent need to build better models that help us predict and prepare for our future. These models need robust data that stretch far back in time. Enter: the fossil record—a storehouse of climate evidence that paleontologists are getting better and better at deciphering. Join us for an evening with two renowned researchers—Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and an Associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State, and Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies—as they talk about their exciting work weaving together paleoclimate data and computer models to understand the future. Following their talks, Rachel Gross, a science editor at, will moderate a discussion and audience Q&A.

This program is part of the National Museum of Natural History’s Earth’s Temperature History & Future Symposium* on March 29-31, 2018.

Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Time: 6:45 PM – 8:15 PM
National Museum of American History
14th St. and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20013-7012
United States

If you’d like to attend this event you can register for free tickets online.


February meeting of the Paleontological Society of Washington

The Paleontological Society of Washington

7:00 pm, Wednesday, February 21

National Museum of Natural History, Constitution Ave. entrance

Tracing Human Origins, Migration, and Settlement using Modern and Ancient DNA

Dr. Miguel G. Vilar

Senior Program Officer and Lead Scientist for National Geographic’s Genographic Project

The availability of DNA technology has given anthropologists a new way to test hypotheses and push the boundaries of our understanding of where we came from and how we populated the globe. Since 2005, National Geographic’s Genographic project has been in the forefront in the field of Archaeogenetics, bringing together anthropologists, archaeologists, DNA specialists, bioinformaticians, and citizens around the globe in a quest to erase boundaries, and better understand our shared common heritage. Come learn how DNA changed our understanding of human evolution, human diversity, and human history.

Non-Smithsonian visitors will be escorted from the Constitution Ave. entrance of the NMNH to the Q?rius auditorium at 6:50 and 6:55 p.m. Society members will host the speaker for dinner at the Elephant & Castle (1201 Pennsylvania Ave.) prior to the meeting. Members may meet at the restaurant or inside the Constitution Ave. entrance of the NMNH at 5:00 and walk to the restaurant as a group. Parking is available in the west side parking lot of the NMNH.

AEG: Meinert on terroir

Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists

D.C. – Maryland – Virginia Chapter (

Thursday, February 22, 2018, from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at ECS Mid-Atlantic office in Chantilly, VA.

AEG Members $40, Non-members $45 (includes dinner; student and retiree discounts available). Please register by Monday, February 19, via online payment (

Title:  Wine and Terroir – the science of good taste

A lecture and guided winetasting by Larry Meinert

Mounds of grape seeds in prehistoric caves testify that early people had more than a passing acquaintance with wine. Grapes naturally ripen to high sugar levels and, left on the vine, they will begin to ferment from the action of native yeasts on the skins. Perhaps our early ancestors plucked such fermenting fruit and with a smile, plucked a few more. Or maybe they observed the erratic flight of birds that had feasted a bit too much and wondered, as scientists are wont to do, about cause and effect.  Regardless of how people came to appreciate the joys of the grape, there is ample evidence in the earliest written documents that they were making and enjoying wine. The records of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks also contain observations that certain regions seemed to produce better wine than others. This observation carries through to modern times where the question is brought into sharp focus by the rather simple occurrence of two vineyards, side by side, that share most obvious aspects of climate, slope and viticulture, yet produce crops that are vastly different. Examples abound but perhaps the most spectacular are the vineyards of Burgundy, France, where the wines of Romanee-Conti have been highly valued for centuries (some bottles sell for thousands of dollars), while nearby vineyards produce wine that is sold as vin ordinare for less than a dollar a bottle. The simple question is, “Why?”  This special lecture and winetasting will address that question and many others, using examples from the vineyards of France and the United States. The lecture will be illustrated with a comparative tasting of wines from some of the regions described.

Larry Meinert’s interest in wine dates from growing up in an Ohio household where his father imported fine wine from Germany. He first became interested in the California wine country during his doctoral geological studies at Stanford University. Perhaps it is coincidence that his PhD advisor was not only a respected geologist but also owned part of the family winery in the famous Barolo area of northern Italy. After Stanford, he joined the faculty at Washington State University and Smith College and in addition to teaching geology for 30 years, operated a small home winery, specializing in a barrel-fermented Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Malbec. He currently lives in Washington, DC and works for the U.S. Geological Survey. His teaching and research covers a wide range of fields from exploring for gold mines to liquid gold in bottled form – fine wine. He has published research on the physical factors (terroir) affecting vineyard siting and performance in several appellations of the U.S. and also Argentina, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Please refer to our meeting announcement for full details (

PGS: Veith on Consistent Earthquake Magnitude Estimates

Please join us for the February 15, 2018 meeting of the Potomac Geophysical Society at 7:00 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton McLean Tysons, 1960 Chain Bridge Road, 22102.  This location is within one-half mile of the Tysons Corner Metro station, near I-495, and has free parking available.  Our private meeting room is located in the back of the Orchard Cafe restaurant on the second floor of the hotel.  The optional dinner cost will be discounted to $30 for members in good standing (have paid dues) and students, and $40 for non-members, and is inclusive of iced tea, coffee, tax and gratuity.  Members and guests may attend the presentation after dinner for no charge; we estimate that the presentation will begin at 8:15 p.m.  For attendees who arrive early, social time will be held in O’Malley’s Pub on the first floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.  Drinks may also be purchased in the private meeting room on a cash basis.

In summary:

Social Time: 6:00-7:00 p.m. O’Malley’s Pub, first floor DoubleTree by Hilton

Dinner: 7:00-8:15 p.m. Orchard Cafe, second floor DoubleTree by Hilton

Meeting & Presentation: 8:15-9:30 p.m. Peachtree Room in the Orchard Cafe, second floor DoubleTree by Hilton

Note: This month we are again offering a special rate of $10 for student dinners when they present their current student ID cards.  We encourage you to attend to network with these students, and to spread the word about our meeting to the students that you work with.  As always, guests are definitely welcomed. We hope to see you there!

This month’s talk and speaker:

Toward Consistent Earthquake Magnitude Estimates – From all Seismic Phases

by Karl F. Veith, PhD, Consultant

Magnitudes were intended to be a measure of seismic event energy. But M b , M s , M L etc. do not necessarily give us the same value for ‘energy’. These magnitude values can vary by as much as 1 – 1.5 mu. To resolve this differential the relative energy levels for the various phases are estimated, relative magnitudes computed and the results compared for both strike-slip and thrust/normal faulting. Amplitude data from the International Seismological Centre bulletins for earthquakes from the western United States, Iran and Europe are analyzed for their relative energy content and the effects of source mechanisms on their ‘magnitude’ estimates for Pg, Lg, Pn, Sn, P, S, P’, and Rayleigh waves. Reliability estimates and the effects of station corrections are also evaluated.

Dr. Veith received a BS and MS in Geophysics from the University of Minnesota and a PhD in Geophysics from Southern Methodist University. He has over fifty years of experience, primarily in the field of arms control verification research.

We hope to see you next Thursday!

UMD: Boehnke on geochemical models through time

2018 University of Maryland Geology Colloquium Series

Friday, February 9th 2018 at 3:00 pm
in PLS 1140, UMD College Park

Patrick Boehnke
University of Chicago

Getting more out of geochemical data: Models for the Hadean to the Pleistocene

GSW 1527: Locatelli, Wesson, Bensi: fossilization, Darwin, hazards

The 1527th meeting of the Society will be on
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
featuring :

Emma Locatelli, U.S. State Department (formerly Yale)
It’s not just rust: biofilm-mediated clays help preserve fossil leaves

Robert Wesson, USGS (retired)
Darwin’s First Theory: Darwin and tectonics? Who knew?

Shelby Bensi, University of Maryland
Working across disciplines to improve resilience to natural hazards

Meeting flyer – Consider printing this out & posting it at your institution.

Beverages and socializing commence at 7:30pm.
The formal program starts at 8:00pm.
Meetings are open to the public; please join us!

We meet in the John Wesley Powell Auditorium of the Cosmos Club,
2170 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008.

Entrance is through the club gate, the first right-hand entrance on Florida Avenue north of the intersection with Massachusetts Avenue NW. The auditorium entrance is to the left of the gate. The Powell Auditorium is within walking distance of the DuPont Circle Metro stop (Q Street exit), the Connecticut Avenue bus routes (L2, L4), and the Massachusetts Avenue bus routes (N2, N4).

USGS: Wesson on Darwin the geologist

Scientist Emeritus Lecture Series
Darwin’s First Theory: Exploring Darwin’s Quest to Find a Theory of the Earth
Rob Wesson, USGS Scientist Emeritus
1:00 P.M., February 6, 2018
Most people know about Charles Darwin as the father of evolution, but what they don’t know is that his assignment on the HMS Beagle was as expedition geologist, to examine and interpret Earth features, not to study flora and fauna. Darwin’s seminal role in explaining the ups and downs of the Earth’s crust is the story told in Rob Wesson’s book, Darwin’s First Theory, and it is the fascinating story he will share with us in this lecture. Rob retraced Darwin’s steps in South America, Scotland, and Wales, and tackled the same questions about geologic processes that Darwin did. Rob explores the way Darwin conceived his theory of subsidence and uplift and how the concepts of the vastness of time, enormous impact of extremely slow change, and constant change in the environment all coalesced to form the foundation for Darwin’s subsequent discoveries in evolution.
Rob is an earth scientist, who as a kid, and an adult, has always loved a good story. His USGS career spanned four decades, and he continues geologic research as Scientist Emeritus. He is currently working with a team exploring the large earthquakes, tsunamis, and associated tectonics of Chile.