Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Journey out

[Taking advantage of my new laptop, this post was written on the move]

Off to the Met Office in Exeter today to deliver a short presentation on biophysical considerations pertinent to the “next generation” of climate / weather models. Not exactly my specialist topic (despite my job title), but I’m stepping in for EKP as she’s off moving house. As it happens, I’m sure that I owe her anyway – she seems to have been to a lot more meetings this year than I have. Anyway, I’ve slides about light, mixed layer depth and some about the future shift of modelling away from ocean-only to fully-coupled modes. I imagine that in a couple of years the idea that using ocean-only models is OK will be looked on in amazement. But, then, in a couple of years, the climate will be far more obviously changing and therefore needing fully-coupled models. So long as the climate was largely similar to its “stable”, interglacial state, ocean-only modelling was perfectly fine. Anyhow, it’ll be interesting to hear what everyone else at the meeting is suggesting for their parts of our models in the future. Assuming I get to Exeter at some point – this train seems to have experienced a series of setbacks on its journey so far …

I don’t know if it only happens to me, but I find that travelling invokes a strange, reflective state in me. Maybe it’s seeing a swathe of the world pass by the window. Maybe it’s the iPod-driven musical accompaniment that I use to pass the time. Maybe it’s just being solo and having nothing better to do. Either way, I invariably go off on strange trains (appropriately enough today) of thought. Sometimes I think about the wild things I see outside and wonder what they make of what we’ve done to the world around them. Do they just completely accept it unthinkingly, or do they have some primordial inkling at the back of their minds that this isn’t the way things are meant to be? Or has evolution already marched them on such that the world we’ve shaped to our ends meshes with their internal model of it? Do deer now see fields as completely natural, or do the curves of rivers and forest edges still seem, inexplicably, more “natural”?

Anyway, that’s the kind of nonsense I think about when travelling. I also think that I should listen to my music more often. Being a slave to Radio 4 these days, I often forget how much I used to like spending hours and hours listening to my CDs and, latterly, MP3s. Actually, come to think of it, listening to music also seems to put me into a more reflective mode. Perhaps it’s the mild disconnection that both travel and personal stereos introduce with my immediate environment?

[In passing, we’ve just gone past some derelict factory by the side of the railway. It gave me flashbacks to my (many) hours in City 17. Hardly a ringing endorsement for easy, rural living in the southwest. Actually, the scenery has now changed to a rather swollen waterway off to the side of the rail track.]

I also often go on “deep time” digressions, wondering what the landscape I’m flashing past looked like before we got our hands on it, thousands of years ago. And then what it’ll look like in thousands of years time when we’re gone. That line of thought usually diverges onto whether our extinction will be accompanied by that of everything around us, or whether they’ll get to wordlessly spectate as we, and our “exosomatic manifestations”, disappear from the world. And then what they’ll make of the ruins they find themselves among. Of course, closing a previous random thread, perhaps they’ll have evolved to the point where our world is natural and the fragmented wilderness that follows it is alien.

Anyway, I should be getting into Exeter soon, so I’ll stop for now. I wonder what the meeting will be like?

No comments: