04 November 2013

Visiting the Dee Estuary

The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level is 80 years old. That asks for a celebration! What is the PSMSL? It's 3.5 people associated with the National Oceanography Centre, who check tide gauge data, make them available, try to make sure more tidal data is recorded, answer questions from the general public, and several other things. It's a valuable institute for everybody who works with, or wants to know about, sea level. I use their data a lot! And I thought a meeting in Liverpool would be nice. So I registered for the PSMSL 80 workshop, and while I was at it I included the field trip that it started with.

We would gather at the Liverpool waterfront. Phil Woodworth of NOC and PSMSL (who has an MBE!) showed us how the waterfront had developed, where the old dock had been, where the old tide gauges were, where the father of tide measurements; William Hutchinson, had lived, and showed us a series of his tide measurements that had been chiseled into the pavement. Very exciting! It's always good to trace what you're doing back into the past.But after that it was time to go into the field. Not too far, though; this was not supposed to be a proper mud-everywhere-fieldwork. So we drove to a pub next to a salt marsh, where Andy Plater told us about the marsh in question. It was very new, and had come into existence due to human interference with the tidal channel that brought the river Dee all the way to Chester. And he talked for at least fifteen minutes before we retreated to the pub for a lunch of over 1.5 hours. One can take a leasurely approach to fieldwork from time to time!

 Phil seems to be pointing out Guy W√∂ppelmann to everybody in what I think was Canning Dock, while Andy Plater takes a picture

During lunch I was lucky to share a table with illuminati of various career stage; at the head of the table (of course!) was David Pugh, one of the big names in British sea level research (and another decorated man). We also had NOC's Mark Tamisiea, and we had our very own Tasha, and a man who looked more at ease in the blustery English autumn than one might have expected from his nationality; Saudi Yasser Abualnaj, and an almost-finished PhD in tidal modelling; Mark Pickering. It was a stellar configuration!

After lunch, though, we were expected to do at least something to deserve our lunch. Andy and his PhD student Tim Shaw took a core from the marsh, just to show those unfamiliar with such activity what is involved with such things. Non-geographers can ask rather useful questions! Fortunately we were able to answer all in a satisfying way - or at least that was my impression. I would think that, wouldn't I?

 Andy and Tim have taken a rather beautiful core; Phil seems satisfied, but Svetlana Jevrejeva is clearly not convinced yet. Who would have thought!

The last venue was the village of West Kirby, which is in need om some solid sea defenses, and of which Andy pointed out the more and less successful interpretations. And under a nice pink evening sky we climbed back into the coach, and headed back to Liverpool. It hadn't been a very trying field day, but it had sure been enjoyable!

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