There is a great earthquake belt that stretches from the Mediterranean through the Middle East into central Asia, where people are funnelled away from mountaintops and inhospitable deserts, towards settlements at the feet of mountain ranges. These villages, with access to water and trade routes, are sprouting into megacities—with the potential for a massive loss of life as tectonic plates shift. James Jackson, who heads Cambridge University’s Earth Sciences department, will spell out the possibility of a future catastrophe at a 16th October seminar run by the university’s Centre for Science and Policy.
In 2010, the coalition government recommended that British scientists should dream up at least three new space missions, to start by 2030. On 12th October, the Royal Astronomical Society will thrash out what those missions should be. Scientists from the University of Leicester, along with researchers from private companies such as Surrey Satellite Technology, are among those contributing. The game plan is for the UK, which is rather good at building space technology, to corner 10 per cent of the world space market; it currently has 6 per cent.
Environmental scientists are bracing themselves for bad news when the final extent of Arctic melt is revealed later this month. In late August, the amount of ice in the region hit a record summer low of 4.1m square kilometres; melting season hadn’t even finished. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, which will release the figures, says the surviving ice is getting thinner year on year.
A sunny outlook for Buckinghamshire on 4th October, as the Royal Society begins a two-day international conference on how to handle uncertainty in weather and climate prediction. One highlight: a discussion of whether listeners can handle probabilistic forecasts. A coincidence that the meeting takes place 25 years to the month after the Great Hurricane of 1987? Liz Howell, head of BBC Weather, is among those fishing for wisdom.