Dept. of Geography News & Events this Week - 11/4/14

November 11, 2014

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While flying over the border between Mexico and the United States, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed these sister cities on the Rio Grande. The image shows the second largest metropolitan area (population 2.7 million people) on the Mexico–U.S. border. The centers of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez (image top right) lie close together on opposite sides of the Rio Grande, and large residential areas cover the arid slopes in the rest of the scene. The river crosses the entire image as a prominent line and acts as the international border. (Note that north is to the left in this image.) A large, elliptical race track appears on the far left.


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Coffee Hour November 14: Matthew W. Wilson “Geography, Harvard, and Digital Mapping”

The origin stories that surround geographic information systems focus in on the 1960s, as a period of intense advancements in computer-supported cartography. In this presentation, I examine one site of such innovation: the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics (and Spatial Analysis), founded by Howard Fisher in 1965. By examining the growing interest and expansion of computational methods in the analysis and representation of spatial data, I reconsider and rescale what we might mean by innovations in digital mapping.

  • 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour To Go

November 28: No Coffee Hour

December 5: Gabeba Baderoon "Slavery, Islam, and the Making of a South African Landscape"


IPCC Climate Change 2014 Fifth Assessment (AR5) Synthesis Report released

Petra Tschakert, a Coordinating Lead Author, recently participated in the 6-day approval session with the national delegates in Copenhagen. The report concludes:

  • Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.
  • Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.
  • Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term, and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development.
  • Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales, and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link adaptation and mitigation with other societal objectives.

The full report is available:


Penn State to join international celebration of geographic information systems

GIS Day, the annual, worldwide salute to geospatial technology and its power to transform and better lives, is coming to Penn State on Wednesday, Nov. 19, during Geography Awareness Week, Nov. 16 to 22. The University Libraries and the Department of Geography are co-sponsoring the event to raise awareness of geospatial information, the many possibilities and opportunities of geographic information systems (GIS) and activities related to GIS at University Park.


World’s wetlands play key role as carbon sinks

Researchers in the US propose yet another way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time prevent soil subsidence − by preserving and even restoring the world’s wetlands.

Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, a geographer at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, US, reports in the journal Global Change Biology that she and colleagues from Californian universities measured carbon dioxide and methane from a pasture, a cornfield and a flooded rice paddy, all in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta in California, which was drained more than a century ago and was settled for agriculture and human habitation.