ACDC summer school in Yosemite National Park

photo by John Christian

photo by Erin Dougherty

For two intense weeks (22 Sept-4 Oct 2019), 25 students and 9 lecturers from around the world gathered in the small town of Wawona, in the wild forest of Yosemite National Park to discuss climate science as part of the ACDC summer school. The topic this year was “The Anthropocene”, and the human imprint in the geological record.
The first week started with core lectures given by experts in their field. The topics of the lectures covered different aspects of the climate system, from ice to ocean, from land and vegetation to atmosphere, and from proxies to observations and future model projections. Inspired by the environment around us we also learned about challenges regarding wildfire risk and management, drought and water shortages and temperature extremes in the California region. However, at ACDC the lectures are not like ordinary lectures, here you can stop and ask questions whenever you want! This leads to many great and informative discussions along the way. Each morning started with a summary of yesterday’s lectures by a group of students leasing a discussion on the key challenges raised in the lecture the day before.
Before starting the second week we packed our cars for two nights camping and hiking in the wilderness. After driving through the breathtaking scenery of Yosemite National Park we reached June Lake, where we spent the first night. The evening was spent socializing around the bonfire with delicious food prepared by the ACDC chef Kristian. Before going to sleep in our tents, we safely stowed away all food and toiletries in case of visiting bears during the night. Luckily no bears appeared (as far as we know…). The second day we explored the Bristlecone pine tree forest, where we learned about dendrochronology (tree-rings) and we got to see the oldest living tree in the world, named Methuselah, which is almost 5000 years old! We also made our way to Patriarch grove about 3300 meters above sea level, to investigate temperature limited  bristlecone pine trees. There we witnessed that the treeline is slowly creeping upwards due to the current global warming. The following day, before driving home, we
stopped by Mono Lake. Mono Lake is at least 760 000 years old and for climate scientists maybe best known for giving the name to the “Mono Lake magnetic excursion”, really exciting!!
The second week was mostly dedicated to work with our group projects on different Anthropocene related topics, which we presented to each other on the last day. The first results were promising, and perhaps some of the groups will continue the work and write up the results in a paper! Even though the second week was busy with work, we took advantage of our surroundings in Yosemite and had one of the lectures outside at Glacier Point, no slides needed!
As ACDC has come to an end, we look back at an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience, where we got to know many brilliant scientists as colleagues but also as friends. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend ACDC summer school yet, we encourage you to apply next year!

Text by Sunniva Rutledal and Karita Kajanto
feature photo by Sunniva Rutledal