Climate, Culture, and the Cauca River in Santa Fe, Colombia

Those of you carrying around an image of Colombia as a lush tropical haven are not far off when it comes to many parts of the country, I’m sure. But in a country with so many mountains, you’re bound to have a rain shadow somewhere. That would be where you would find the pueblo of Santa Fe. Resting in a topographic pocket between two cordilleras of the Andes, this place sees little rain. Surrounded by wilted vegetation and crispy golden grasses, I could almost imagine I was in California.

Santa Fe's landmark church in the Central Plaza.

Santa Fe’s landmark church in the Central Plaza.

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Medellin, Colombia – The ‘Berlin’ of South America?

Standing in the middle of Plaza de Cisneros in central Medellín makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to a futuristic sci-fi novel. The plaza contains a forest of concrete pillars more than 50 feet tall that light up concrete waterways and a small (real) forest of bamboo at night. The artist who proposed the design in 2002 called it an ‘urban poem.’ It reminded me of something I’d see in Europe. And that’s when it occurred to me the Medellín is on it’s way to becoming a major destination in South America. In fact, I was originally going to title this post the ‘Paris of South America’ – but then I realized that Buenos Aires already holds that title. I think Berlin is a better fit. So, what else is it about Medellín that reminded me of Berlin?

Pillars of Light, in Plaza Cisneros, Medellín

Pillars of Light, in Plaza de Cisneros, Medellín

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An Introduction to South American Climate

Another title for this post: What It Is That Scientists Do at Those Meetings, Anyway?

Last winter, in the midst of a deep freeze, and up to my neck in class work, I came across an announcement for a meeting on South American climate change. Specifically, the focus of the conference was climate change and human interactions with climate over the last 2000 years (for more info see Lotred-SA Symposium). I had explicitly stated in my sabbatical proposal that I would attend a conference focusing on my new research direction in order to meet people and get a feel for what type of work is going on in the field. This was perfect. It combined my interest in pursuing research on South American climate change, with my experience studying paleoclimate. The meeting was in Medellín, Colombia – some place warm and tropical, and not far from where I will stay during my Fulbright (after all, Ecuador is just across the border) – the perfect sabbatical kick-off. Continue reading