Math of Planet Earth 2013 Set to Debut at JMM

October 19, 2012

Polar melt ponds, April 2012. The launch of Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 is slated for January at the Joint Math Meetings in San Diego, where a highlight of the scheduled events is the Porter Public Lecture by Ken Golden of the University of Utah. Golden has been to Antarctica seven times and the Arctic eight times in pursuit of career-long scientific interest in sea ice; among his other research interests are climate change, composite materials, phase transitions, and inverse problems. He will devote the Porter lecture in part to a discussion of "how mathematical models of composite materials and statistical physics are being used to study key sea ice processes, such as freezing and melting." A better understanding of such processes, he says, is needed "to improve projections of the fate of Earth's sea ice packs, and the response of polar ecosystems."
Named a SIAM Fellow in 2009 "for extraordinary interdisciplinary work on sea ice," Golden sent SIAM a selection of photos from some of his recent expeditions, including the one shown here. Another, showing him at work in the field, appears below, along with a brief introduction to MPE2013.

Math of Planet Earth 2013

You have probably heard that 2013 is the year of Mathematics of Planet Earth, but do you know what that means?

MPE2013 began as an initiative of North American math institutes, a way of highlighting contributions of the mathematical sciences to understanding our planet and biosphere. In the short time since MPE2013 was founded, more than 100 organizations in the mathematical sciences, including SIAM, have become partners in this worldwide effort to promote the contributions of mathematics to areas of the geosciences, biology, climate, and related fields.

The U.S. kickoff for MPE2013 will occur in January at the Joint Math Meetings in San Diego. Among the many MPE2013-related sessions on the program is the Porter Public Lecture, a joint project of the AMS, MAA, and SIAM that was chosen to fit the MPE2013 theme. Ken Golden (who in 2009 gave the SIAM invited lecture at the JMM) will speak about his team's work in Antarctica, including the study of sea ice and its role in climate modeling. Many additional special sessions at the Joint Math Meetings will be related to MPE2013.

Events scheduled for the year include sponsored public lectures, workshops, and summer schools on MPE2013-related themes. In addition, many conferences in the mathematical sciences have elected to make Math of Planet Earth a major theme; among them are the 2013 SIAM Annual Meeting (San Diego, July 812) and the SIAM Conference on Geosciences (June 1720 in Padova, Italy).
The organizers hope that MPE2013 will attract the attention of the media and, with plans for a daily blog, hope to enlist people from the community to serve as bloggers (go to to volunteer).

An example of an activity scheduled for MPE2013 is a series of public lectures to be given around the world. Held in traditional lecture format in a public hall, each of the lectures will be streamed live to viewers around the world. Topics include biodiversity ("Motility: Molecules, Mechanics, Mathematics and Machines," by L. Mahadevan), epidemiology ("Puzzles in the Pattern of Plagues," by David Earn), and climate ("Using Mathematics to Combat Climate Change," by Ron Dembo).

Stay tuned. You may see MPE2103 featured on public television in the U.S. or highlighted in the media. We hope that readers will seek ways to participate and help show the contributions that our community makes to understanding our world and the living things around us.---JMC

A recent request from Jim Crowley for details about the 2013 Porter lecture brought the following reply: "Ken Golden is on an Australian icebreaker in Antarctica until November 5. . . ." Shown here coring ice during an earlier polar expedition, Golden is clearly a hands-on applied mathematician. The Porter lecture promises to be both visually spectacular (with video from recent Antarctic expeditions to be shown) and completely up to date!

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