You are browsing the archive for Erik Hankin, Author at The Bridge: Connecting Science and Policy.

January 12, 2015

Top 5 Science Policy Stories of 2014

From “secret science” and “I’m not a scientist” to executive actions and appropriations, 2014 was packed with a variety of science policy news. In a year chockfull of ups, downs, twists, and turns, AGU Public Affairs combed through the news clippings, emails, and tweets to compile a list of our top five Earth and space science policy stories from 2014.


December 18, 2014

SIPS Ahoy, AGU ReLaunches Focus Group

The Societal Impacts and Policy Sciences (SIPS) Focus Group of AGU is casting off any impediments that may have kept us below the sonar, radar or lidar of the AGU membership at the 2014 Fall Meeting in San Francisco. We invite attendees to participate in a SIPS Lunch and Relaunch Event on Thursday, December 18 to discuss the objectives and activities of SIPS. The group was established in 2008, but has a revised name and an updated webpage, so the Fall Meeting is an opportune time for a meet, greet and critique.


November 21, 2014

Duck Season Now Open. What’s in Congress’ Sights?

The 113th Congress returned to session last week after the mid-term elections. Democrats are seeking to compromise while they still have leadership of the Senate, and Republicans want to tie up loose ends to make room for more ambitious legislation in the 114th Congress when they take control of both chambers. The hope is that the lame duck Congress will be productive in passing fiscal year 2015 (FY15) appropriations, confirming nominees for administrative posts, and selecting party leadership positions for congressional committees.


February 10, 2014

Citizen-Scientists Find a Receptive Climate in Congress

Residing in a state that is about as blue as they come, I had reservations that participating in AGU’s Climate Science Day to visit offices of my Massachusetts congressional delegation would involve little more than preaching to the choir. Although that was mostly true, the staffers we met did sincerely seem to appreciate the visit. Still more rewarding for me, I was paired with a New Hampshire scientist and got to tag along on his visits to a mixed delegation. Well, it is mixed in terms of political parties, but, curiously, all four of NH’s senators and representatives are women. What’s that got to do with climate change science?


January 24, 2014

The Biggest Surprise

The safe confines of my coffee shop and flashing terminal screen became the mainstay during my doctoral studies at Purdue University. As a computational modeler you spend days buried under lines of code trying to find a bug that you think exists somewhere between line 200 and 1000. I loved every minute of it, especially the times when you had a breakthrough, which could be as simple as watching the climate model produce output without crashing. I walked away from this world in August to head to Capitol Hill as a Congressional Science Fellow sponsored by the American Geophysical Union.


January 17, 2014

Top 5 Science Policy Stories from 2013

From extreme partisanship in Congress and a historic typhoon to political climate change battles and the search for habitable planets, 2013 was never short of science policy news. In a year full of ups and downs for the Earth and space science research community, AGU Public Affairs has compiled a list of the top five Earth and space science policy stories from 2013.


January 13, 2014

The Polar Vortex Gets Its 15 Minutes of Fame

Every science has its own language and terms, and meteorology has more than most. It’s strange though how every now and then, a scientific term you’d only hear if you were listening to a group of meteorologists discuss weather gets turned into a water cooler topic. In 2012, it was the term DERECHO (dah-ray show), when one came through the mid-Atlantic (and knocked down a million trees and power lines from Ohio all the way to the Eastern Shore of Maryland).

Now, the polar vortex has gotten its 15 minutes of fame. The cold outbreak at the beginning of the year was certainly one of the more severe chills in a couple of decades, but by no means as bad as what we saw during several winters in the1970’s and 1980’s. In the past few days I’ve seen images on TV news of snow, frozen lakes, and high winds that were labeled as the polar vortex, but they were wrong. The polar vortex is high above the surface and what you were seeing in those news reports was, (wait for it), snow, frozen lakes, and high winds!

While my fellow meteorologists have cringed as the public tries to make sense of this new word in the public’s weather dictionary, I think it’s a wonderful teaching moment. Albert Einstein said that science should be made as simple as possible, but no more so, and I cannot accurately explain the polar vortex in one sentence (or even one paragraph), but I can do it in three or four. So, if you will bear with me, I promise it will be quite interesting and you’ll never look at a TV weather report the same again!


January 8, 2014

The Recent Cold Snap

Over the last weekend, the temperature in the vast middle of U.S. suddenly dropped to a record low. This extreme weather is a result of a nonlinearity in the weather system, specifically a wave breaking event in the upper atmosphere. Usually the air motion in the mid-latitude is moving very rapidly within a narrow band, called the Jet Stream, which predominantly flows west to east but also contains waviness. It …


December 20, 2013

Senator Olympia Snowe Encourages Scientists to Make Their Voices Heard

The large auditorium was standing-room only for former Senator Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) address at AGU’s 2013 Fall Meeting. An ally with a history of standing up for many of AGU’s key issues on and off Capitol Hill, Senator Snowe resigned in January of 2013 over what she saw as an increasingly inept and hyper-partisan atmosphere in Congress. During her time in the Senate, Snowe positioned herself in the middle of …


December 3, 2013

Climate Science Legal Defense Fund: Protecting the Scientific Endeavor

So you are having a great time at the AGU Fall Meeting. You are meeting science colleagues from around the world, you are seeing cutting edge research presented in the scientific program, and you are enjoying the sights and sounds of beautiful San Francisco. Then you check your email and the blood drains from your face. Your institution’s legal counsel explains that a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request has …