News & Chair’s Blog

Thank You!

April 24, 2021

Dear Colleagues, 

Starting July 1st, I will no longer be chair. No more coffee and donuts and no more blog posts (this is my 57th blog post dating back to September 4, 2015). During these past six years I’ve been able to do a bit of what I truly enjoy. I’ve had the fortune to supervise outstanding graduate students like Zoe and Tyler but working as chair has been my most important job. It has been an honor to serve the department in this capacity. I was successful with some things and not so much in others. Regardless of the outcomes, I thank you for allowing me the privilege to give space to the young faculty as well as entrusting me with the responsibility to trouble the old guard. With regards to the latter I believe, as Stephen Mulkey notes, that the mission of higher education is to maintain and renew civilization. I want to especially thank those that have provided me with council especially Adam, Allison, and Sarah. Much work remains but I remain committed to using my privilege and proximity to power to create a more diverse, more inclusive, and more welcoming department. 

Gratefully and respectfully, 


Climate Change Education

March 3, 2021

As chair of geography and someone who studies the impact of climate change on stormy weather, it is clear to me that education is key in the fight against climate change. Knowledge helps young folks find solutions and encourages them to modify their behavior. It also helps them process the growing emergency.

As Jonathan Foley from Project Drawdown notes: to solve the climate crises we need to use all the pieces, we need to employ multiple strategies, and we need to have a synoptic view of the entire chess board. Young people are eager to make the opening move. They are excited about the cross-disciplinary connections and the broad systems approach to solving problems.

A graduate program focused on climate solutions staffed with a diverse faculty will foster a well-trained workforce with strong adaptive capacity.

The FSU/FAMU connection is well positioned to make this happen. A climate solutions program aligns with the strategic goal of encouraging and incentivizing high-impact, interdisciplinary and between-college initiatives that address pressing societal concerns.

Our proposal calls for a two-year interdisciplinary Master of Science program in climate solutions with a partnership by the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The program will admit students across a range of fields and will lend itself to graduates of environmental and engineering majors. The curriculum will introduce students to new research technologies that combat climate change and equip them with practical knowledge, methods, and experience to achieve solutions in reducing greenhouse gases. A studio group project will anchor a curriculum that partners students with companies, NGOs, and government agencies that face practical climate-based challenges.

And there will be broader impacts. A recent study published in PLoS One reported individual reductions in carbon emissions of 3 tons of CO2 per year for students completing just a single year course focused on climate change.

We look forward to working with folks here and elsewhere to launch what we believe will be a flagship program and a model for graduate teaching and research collaboration in Tallahassee.

Swarming tornadoes

January 4, 2021

The violent winds of tornadoes are one of the most dangerous natural hazards on Earth. While relatively rare in any one location they often occur in swarms. I’ve been working with graduate student Zoe Schroder to answer the question of whether or not climate change is making tornado swarms worse, and if so, how.

Tornadoes can occur any where in the United States but they are most common east of the Rocky Mountains (see Figure above). They form from giant thunderstorms primarily during the months of March through May. These giant thunderstorms are capable of producing very destructive long lasting tornadoes. These long-lasting thunderstorms are different than the summertime thunderstorms here in Tallahassee, which usually rain themselves out in less than an hour or so.

Swarms of tornadoes are also most likely during the spring when warm, moist air originating over the Gulf of Mexico collides with the still cool air across the Rockies. This occurs over a large swath of real estate from Kansas to Alabama and sets the stage for giant thunderstorms. The juxtaposition of two air masses with different temperature and humidity characteristics produces an environment that is unstable in the presence of wind shear. The largest tornado swarm in recent memory occurred on April 27, 2011. It produced 173 tornadoes that killed 316 people and led to millions of dollars in property damage across a wide swath of the Southeast. Our research shows that tornado swarms are responsible for a large percentage of all tornado-related fatalities. Our statistical models show that tornado swarms have about 10% more tornadoes and 50% more casualties when the instability increases by a 1000 J/kg and when the shear increases by 10 m/s.

Our models quantify the influence the environmental factors have on the probability of casualties (deaths and injuries) as modulated by the number of people in harms way. The probability of a large number of casualties increases with increasing wind shear and increasing instability and those increases depending on population. They also quantify the decline in the number of casualties per year and indicate that swarms have a larger impacts in the Southeast than elsewhere after controlling for population and geographic area.

While we know the ingredients needed for tornado swarms, we are still trying to determine how these ingredients might be different as the planet continues to warm. Future work will quantify changes in tornado swarm environments using climate change variables such as global sea surface temperatures and arctic sea ice. Through these models we should be able to better understand how climate change is influencing the risk of life and property from killer tornadoes.


October 5, 2020

Months of revelation. Systemic anti-black racism, acute heath care inequalities, a democracy in free fall, damaged science. A horrible six months that will likely get worse before it gets better. I can’t offer anything by way of new insights, wisdom, or consolation. Everything has been said. But we must not give up hope. I will continue to fight. These things are too important. My family, my friends, my colleagues, my university, my country, my world. Let the audacity of hope turn to the resolute of love and determination. Vote!

Storms & Pandemics

March 17, 2020

We face a challenging and difficult time ahead. Unlike a category five hurricane our houses, trees, and gardens will survive, but what about our homes and our community? This time there are no evacuation routes, no higher grounds, no storm clouds. We will need to pull together (minimize social distance) even as we stay apart (maximize physical distance). And we will need to do this with wisdom, generosity, and compassion; a deep and wide sense of community like that which follows a devastating tornado. But unlike after a hurricane or tornado, there will be no clear moment when we know it is safe for recovery to begin. We will get through this, but we need to be at our best.


Climate Change Solutions

March 1, 2020

Climate change is an apex issue for Generation Z and Millennials. When surveyed, they cite it as the biggest problem facing their generation^1. It drives their consumer behavior through the popularity of plant-based meat and spurning of car ownership, to cite just two examples. The labor market is undersupplied with graduates who have the proficiency to work across civil-society organizations to develop/accelerate solutions.

In response I’ve been working with Matt Carter over the past several months on a proposal to explore a new MS program in climate change solutions. The goal is for the program to distinguish itself as the degree of choice for students who wish to elevate their awareness of climate change into pragmatic action. The program will be open to graduate students from all disciplines drawing together FSU’s STEM capabilities to make climate change solutions.

The core curriculum will include classes in the science of CO2 climate change, applied statistics, geographic information systems, and an open-source programming language. The elective courses will be selected based on a student-chosen climate change solution and the keystone course will be a supervised implementation of that solution. We hope to have the program up and running by Fall 2021 but there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make it happen.


Science gets validated through predictions. Using satellite derived wind speed estimates from tropical cyclones Elsner, Kossin, and Jagger (2008) showed that the strongest hurricanes were getting stronger in the period 1981-2006. In particular, they found that 15% (85th quantile) of all named storms across the North Atlantic had wind speeds exceeding 48.9 m/s (Table 1) with an upward trend of .63 m/s/yr in this quantile wind speed. They related this increase to a corresponding rise in ocean temperatures consistent with theory (K. A. Emanuel 1988). The oceans have continued to warm since that paper was published so we would predict that the upward trend in the intensity of the strongest hurricanes has continued.

To check this, consider all North Atlantic named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes) over the 13-year period 2007–2019 [data taken from Wikipedia]. NS and MH are the annual number of named storms and major hurricanes respectively.

Year <- c(2007, 2007, 2008, 2008, 2008, 2008, 2008, 2009, 2009, 2010, 2010, 2010, 2010, 2010,
          2011, 2011, 2011, 2011, 2012, 2012, 2014, 2014, 2015, 2015, 2016, 2016, 2016, 2016,
          2017, 2017, 2017, 2017, 2017, 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2019, 2019)
Name <- c("Dean", "Felix", "Bertha", "Gustav", "Ike", "Omar", "Paloma", "Bill", "Fred",
          "Danielle", "Earl", "Igor", "Julia", "Karl", "Irene", "Katia", "Ophelia", "Rina",
          "Michael", "Sandy", "Edouard", "Gonzalo", "Danny", "Joaquin", "Gaston", "Matthew",
          "Nicole", "Otto", "Harvey", "Irma", "Jose", "Lee", "Maria", "Ophelia", "Florence",
          "Michael", "Dorian", "Humburto", "Lorenzo")
MPH <- c(175, 175, 125, 150, 145, 130, 140, 130, 120, 130, 145, 155, 140, 125, 120, 140, 140,
         115, 115, 115, 120, 145, 125, 155, 120, 165, 140, 115, 130, 180, 155, 115, 175, 115, 
         150, 160, 185, 125, 160)
LMI.df <- data.frame(Year, Name, MPH, MPS = MPH * .44704)

NS <- c(15, 16, 9, 19, 19, 19, 14, 8, 11, 15, 17, 15, 18)
MH <- c(2, 5, 2, 5, 4, 2, 0, 2, 2, 4, 6, 2, 3)
Year <- 2007:2019

Counts.df <- data.frame(Year, NS, MH)
# sum(MH)/sum(NS) * 100

We note that 20% of them had wind speeds exceeding 48.9 m/s. An increase of 5 percentage points.

LMI.df %>%
##    Year     Name MPH     MPS
## 1  2019   Dorian 185 82.7024
## 2  2017     Irma 180 80.4672
## 3  2007     Dean 175 78.2320
## 4  2007    Felix 175 78.2320
## 5  2017    Maria 175 78.2320
## 6  2016  Matthew 165 73.7616
## 7  2018  Michael 160 71.5264
## 8  2019  Lorenzo 160 71.5264
## 9  2010     Igor 155 69.2912
## 10 2015  Joaquin 155 69.2912
## 11 2017     Jose 155 69.2912
## 12 2008   Gustav 150 67.0560
## 13 2018 Florence 150 67.0560
## 14 2008      Ike 145 64.8208
## 15 2010     Earl 145 64.8208
## 16 2014  Gonzalo 145 64.8208
## 17 2008   Paloma 140 62.5856
## 18 2010    Julia 140 62.5856
## 19 2011    Katia 140 62.5856
## 20 2011  Ophelia 140 62.5856
## 21 2016   Nicole 140 62.5856
## 22 2008     Omar 130 58.1152
## 23 2009     Bill 130 58.1152
## 24 2010 Danielle 130 58.1152
## 25 2017   Harvey 130 58.1152
## 26 2008   Bertha 125 55.8800
## 27 2010     Karl 125 55.8800
## 28 2015    Danny 125 55.8800
## 29 2019 Humburto 125 55.8800
## 30 2009     Fred 120 53.6448
## 31 2011    Irene 120 53.6448
## 32 2014  Edouard 120 53.6448
## 33 2016   Gaston 120 53.6448
## 34 2011     Rina 115 51.4096
## 35 2012  Michael 115 51.4096
## 36 2012    Sandy 115 51.4096
## 37 2016     Otto 115 51.4096
## 38 2017      Lee 115 51.4096
## 39 2017  Ophelia 115 51.4096

Plot as an ordered bar plot.

LMI.df <- LMI.df %>%
  mutate(NAME = paste(Year, Name))


ggplot(data = LMI.df) +
  geom_segment(aes(x = reorder(NAME, MPS), y = 50,
                   xend = reorder(NAME, MPS), yend = MPS, 
                   color = MPS), size = 2.5) +
  coord_flip() + 
  scale_y_continuous(position = 'right') +
  xlab("") + ylab("Lifetime Highest Intensity (m/s)") +
  theme_minimal() +
  theme(panel.grid.major = element_blank(), 
        panel.grid.minor = element_blank(),
        legend.position = "none")


percentile <- (cumsum(table(LMI.df$MPS)) + (sum(NS) - sum(MH)))/sum(NS)
percentile.df <-
percentile.df$MPS <- as.numeric(rownames(percentile.df))

p85ws <- round(approx(x = percentile.df$percentile, y = percentile.df$MPS, xout = .85)$y, 1)

Further we note that the 85th quantile wind speed has increased from 48.9 m/s to 53.3 m/s which is an increase of 4.6 m/s and which matches an extrapolation that takes the trend of .63 m/s/yr from Table 1 of Elsner et al. (2008) and multiplies it by 7 (mid point number of years in a 13-year period). [48.9 + .63 * 7 = 53.3 m/s].

p95 <- round(approx(x = percentile.df$MPS, y = percentile.df$percentile, xout = 60.3)$y, 1)
p95ws <- round(approx(x = percentile.df$percentile, y = percentile.df$MPS, xout = .95)$y, 1)

Furthermore we note that 5% of the storms exceeded 60.3 m/s over the earlier period (Table 1, 95th quantile) but has increased to 10% over the later period. The 95th quantile wind speed has increased from 60.3 m/s to 68 m/s, which is somewhat stronger than the extrapolated trend [60.3 + .81 * 7 = 66 m/s].

It is hard to argue against this straightforward post publication analysis and the results raise the question of why Elsner, Kossin, and Jagger (2008) was largely ignored or discounted when writing “state-of-the-knowledge” reports on hurricanes and climate change (e.g., Knutson et al. (2019)).


Elsner, James B., James P. Kossin, and Thomas H. Jagger. 2008. “The Increasing Intensity of the Strongest Tropical Cyclones.” Nature 455 (7209): 92–95. doi:10.1038/nature07234.

Emanuel, Kerry A. 1988. “The Maximum Intensity of Hurricanes.” Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 45 (7): 1143–55.

Knutson, Thomas, Suzana J. Camargo, Johnny C. L. Chan, Kerry Emanuel, Chang-Hoi Ho, James Kossin, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, et al. 2019. “Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Assessment: Part I: Detection and Attribution.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 100 (10). American Meteorological Society: 1987–2007. doi:10.1175/bams-d-18-0189.1.


A few years ago I blogged on the topic of SRAD  (Sponsored Research Administration Distribution). I showed that, on a per faculty basis, Geography was doing quite well relative to the College as a whole. Another way to look at things is to consider the proportion of the college SRAD that comes from Geography. The table below lists the fiscal year and the proportion over the past five years. Note that the 2020 refers to the earning period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

  • 2016   17.3%
  • 2017   22.2%
  • 2018   25.1%
  • 2019   25.7%
  • 2020   31.3%

The upward trend is remarkable. Geography now accounts for almost a third of all SRAD generated by the College! A shout out to Chris Uejio and Sarah Lester who account for a majority of this proportion.


Summer is here and it’s hot. I love it. I loved summer in Milwaukee as a kid but it was always way too short. Not here. Summer starts in May and runs through most of September. Perfect. But things are changing. It’s getting hotter. By hotter I don’t mean more extreme heat. I mean more hot days and hot nights. We define a hot day as one during which the high temperature reaches or exceeds 100° F (37.8° C). A hot night is defined as one during which the low temperature fails to drop below 77° F (25° C). The official record from the Tallahassee airport shows an upward trend in the number of hot days at a rate of 2% per year and a more pronounced upward trend in the number of hot nights at a rate of 4.5% per year. Increasingly frequent hot days and nights result from more and longer hot events (consecutive hot days/nights). Read more about our research at EarthArXiv ( I’ll be talking about this at the College of Social Science and Public Policy “Policy Pub” on September 17, 2019 at 5:30p at the Backwoods Bistro.

Tornadoes are devastating events capable of destroying entire communities in a matter of minutes. Annually in the United States tornadoes cause upward of 1000 casualties, on average, with many of these deaths and injuries occurring in the rural South. Factors that contribute to the number of casualties range from the strength of the winds to socioeconomic conditions. However, there remains a large gap in our understanding of community vulnerability and resiliency to tornadoes. For example, after controlling for the strength of the tornado, why do some communities suffer a far greater number of fatalities than others? We believe this question can be answered best through the systematic study of place.

Catalyzed by the Disaster Resiliency Collaborative Collision, the research will be conducted by a new interdisciplinary team at Florida State University using a mixed-method iterative approach. Communities across the rural South that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts from tornadoes will be identified by training a statistical model on data from tornadoes since 2001. Attention will focus on communities in the rural South that were recently affected and those that have repeatedly suffered disproportionate impacts. Communities in the path of a recent violent tornado that hit southeast Alabama on March 3, 2019 will be visited. Visits will be done in two phases. The initial field visits will take place during weekdays, with a focus on meeting with community leaders and public officials. The second field visit will be targeted participant observation and interviews. The statistical modeling and ethnographic components of this pilot project will inform one another in a cyclical, iterative process.

By investigating individual communities impacted by unusually devastating tornadoes and by making sense of the complex place-based vulnerabilities and resiliencies that exist in them, it may be possible to not only identify causes of tornado casualties—beyond what is already known—but to develop mitigating strategies and other intervention practices to reduce the number of future casualties. Findings can be applied to other natural hazards impacting the rural South, including hurricanes.

Professional and compassionate staff are integral to a well run department. In this regard Geography is fortunate. Adam Ware leads a staff that is competent, dependable, efficient, and punctual; attentive to detail and sympathetic in their approach. They are great at resolving conflicts and handling tough situations with patience and tact. They bring joy to the office. Our new tidy look is the reflection of this joy. Thank you Adam, Allison, and Lucy!

Graduate Mentoring

February 4, 2019

Graduate student training is essential to the mission of Florida State University. It has been my passion since I arrived on campus in 1990. My approach is simple; be respectful, be available, and demand excellence.

Be respectful:

I am respectful at all times. There is no substitute for a healthy relationship between myself and my graduate students. A healthy relationship begins and ends with respect. I take an active interest in my students and in their future. I try to be organized so I can provide them with bespoke training giving them opportunities specific to their individual goals. This means I train for both academia and industry. Kelsey Ellis (Scheitlin) is now an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Holly Widen is now a research associate at Risk Management Solutions (the world’s leading catastrophe risk modeling company).

Be available:

I provide a supportive environment for research and scholarship through a consistent open line of communication. I’m available electronically even when I’m away from my office. I listen. Listening sends the message that I value them as individuals and take their ideas seriously. I let them know where they stand and what the strengths and weaknesses of their work are. I give immediate and honest feedback. Persistence and inspiring support can overcome what I might initially interpret as a lack of ability or motivation. I provide opportunities to present research at national conferences and opportunities to collaborate with other scholars outside the university. I spend time with my students outside the classroom. I chase tornadoes with them and take them on damage surveys.

Demand excellence:

I demand excellence. I teach them how to be careful readers, clear writers, clean coders, and compelling communicators. I show them by example. I challenge them toward professionalism. I emphasize that a computer code that solves a problem is the start. The code must be understandable to others and to them a few years hence. I teach them that if a careful analysis is to be convincing, the trail from the data to the final output must be made clearly available. A scientific paper is an advertisement for a specific claim but proof is the procedure that produced the result. Thus I teach them how to be methodical and meticulous with the visual display of information. The reward is the deep and lasting satisfaction that comes with knowing I’ve made a difference in their lives.

The 2018 hurricane season will be long remembered by us in North Florida. Back in May I predicted an average season with a high likelihood of at least one hurricane seriously impacting the United States (see earlier blog), though I had little idea it would strike with such ferocity so close to home. As it turned out fifteen tropical storms formed with eight of them going on to become hurricanes. The two most devastating–Florence and Michael–reached major hurricane intensity. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina dumping historic amounts of rain. Hurricane Michael reached the coast as the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Panhandle, packing winds to nearly category five status. Residents from Panama City to St. George Island and inland to Marianna are still cleaning up. Memorable indeed.

Based on records kept at the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States in terms of pressure, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969. It was the strongest Atlantic hurricane to form in the month of October since Hurricane Wilma back in 2005. It was also the strongest storm in terms of maximum sustained wind speed to strike the contiguous United States since Andrew in 1992. It was also the fourth-strongest landfalling hurricane, in terms of wind speed. According to official records, Hurricane Michael caused at least 60 deaths including 45 in the United States and 15 in Central America. Michael also caused upward of $14 billion in damages and an unspecified amount of damage to the infrastructure at Tyndall Air Force Base. According to the reinsurance industry, property insurance claims in the United States will likely exceed $5 billion and losses to agriculture and timber could exceed $6 billion.

There isn’t one best way to measure the strength of a hurricane season but folks at the National Hurricane Center use accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, which considers not only how fast the winds are blowing but for how long they blow. Stronger storms like Florence and Michael that last long contribute much more to ACE than weaker, shorter lived storms like Alberto (which also made landfall in the eastern Panhandle during May). The hurricane season finished with an above-average value for ACE. My research shows that the strongest hurricanes like Michael are getting stronger as the ocean warms (see earlier blog) but most storms encounter conditions that limit opportunities for growth. Michael went through a prolonged period of intensification and we anticipate that these periods of intensification will get longer as the warmest waters expand in coverage due to anthropogenic climate change. Let’s all hope for better luck next season, but I won’t bet on it.

Staff Pay

November 13, 2018

Like all departments Geography relies heavily on professional staff. We have two full-time positions a budget manager and an academic specialist. These staff positions are critical to a smooth running department with 200 majors, 67 graduate students, 10 adjuncts, and 15 faculty. From ensuring everyone is paid on time to advising students on what courses they need to graduate, the staff work load is substantial and the stress can be high. We’ve been lucky with some excellent recruits, including our new budget manager Adam Ware, but as evidenced by the recent departure of Alex Cohn, staff salary appears to be insufficient for the amount of work these folks do for us. The university has made a significant effort to improve faculty salaries but it’s time they make a similar investment in staff salaries. This investment will help FSU reach it’s goal of becoming one of the country’s Top 25 public universities by giving faculty and students reliable, efficient, and consistent staff support.

On Writing

October 8, 2018

I’ve had a productive research career. I learned early on how to ask interesting questions and how to answer them. Learning to write took me much longer. I struggled. I assumed the reader knew too much and I was in a hurry to get to the conclusions. With practice it eventually clicked. By the time I was promoted to associate professor I was publishing four to five papers a year and I had regular success with research proposals. Increasingly my focus is on teaching students how to write. My advice: practice. Write everyday. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Read good writing.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Edit relentlessly.
  • Ask questions that interest you, not ones other people think are most important.
  • Learn to write in short time intervals (e.g., half hour). Often that is all you get.
  • Transcribe word for word a well-written paper. Maybe one from your advisor.

Welcome Back!

August 24, 2018

I trust you had an enjoyable summer. I got to play Ultimate (frisbee) with the Bulgarian team!

We’ve been busy remodeling the front office. Thanks to the hard work of Adam and Petya it looks great. Once again you’ll be able to enjoy daily coffee (and the occasional doughnut).

This year the department will have 15 full time tenured or tenure-earning faculty. This is a peak that was reached only once previously (briefly in 2008).

We welcome seven new doctoral students, one new master student, and 17 MSGIS students.

We have a great lineup of speakers for our colloquium series this semester. Please check the website for updates.

Petya is on a short leave and will return September 18th.

I wish you all the best this academic year.

Get Git'ing

August 13, 2018

I do lots of coding. Mostly for analysis and modeling of climate data. This requires keeping track of many files. Data files, code files, figures, reports, presentations, etc. Even for a single project the number of files tends to be 20 or more. And the files change as the project evolves. Tools like Google docs and Dropbox help me work from wherever I am but they don’t help me manage the project. This is important especially when working with my students and other collaborators. Distributed version control is the answer. Git is a popular version control software and GitHub is a widely used solution for it’s distribution. Unlike an app for your phone, getting Git/GitHub to work can be challenging especially if you have well-worn tracks in how you get things done. Fortunately there are folks writing great tutorials on how to overcome the initial challenges. I highly recommend the tutorials by Jennifer Bryan a software engineer at RStudio and a professor of statistics at the University of British Columbia. She has done a fabulous job of providing guidance to help you get started. Links:, Get Git’ing.

So Sofia

July 26, 2018

Getting around Sofia is easy. No car, no problem. Hop on one of the many buses, trolleys, trams, trains (metro); Sofia has them all. The network is vast. Signs tell you how long you will need to wait (generally less than 10 minutes). When getting from point A to B, trip apps like Moovit tell you exact what line to take (and when). It’s also affordable — a single metro ride costs about $0.84, buses, trolleys, and trams are even cheaper. I paid $36 dollars for a 30-day card good on all lines and transferrable to friends or family. I rode them all. It’s standing room only during commute time but most of the buses are now air conditioned. A bus ride (604) from Hotel Pliska to the Palace of Culture, a stroll down Vitosha street to Serdika, a metro train back. Easy, safe, friendly. So Sofia.

Frisbee Fun: If It Spins It Wins

June 11, 2018 8a Tom Brown Park and FSU Rec SportsPlex

I’m the tournament director for the U.S. Open Overall Frisbee Tournament to be held next week here in Tallahassee. The tournament combines seven frisbee events (accuracy, distance, golf, etc) to determine who is the best frisbee master. There are divisions for open, women, and juniors. There are over 20 players from all over the U.S. competing. The tournament is sponsored by Visit Tallahassee. Finals will be Saturday, June 16th starting at 10a at Tom Brown Park (near the dog park). All the details are available on this cheat sheet. Come out and watch!

Weather forecasts give us a good idea on whether a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico will come our way and how strong it might be when it gets here but they can’t tell us what kind of season lies ahead. For this we must rely on past patterns. One pattern is called ENSO; short for El Nino-Southern Oscillation. When ENSO is in its cold phase (colder than average ocean temperatures across the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean) like it was last year, the environment over the Atlantic Ocean is favorable for hurricanes to form. Another pattern is the warming ocean associated with increased greenhouse gases. While a warm ocean does not a hurricane make, given a hurricane over sufficiently warm waters it is likely to get stronger. A third pattern is related to the steering currents. While not important for the number of hurricanes as a whole, they do tell us the chances one (or more) will visit Florida.

So what about this year? ENSO will be in between a cold and warm phase so I predict an average number of hurricanes (6 or 7). While ocean temperatures continue to increase in the longterm, this year they are not likely to be particularly hot (like they were last year) so I expect 2 or 3 major hurricanes (category 3 or above). Finally, the steering currents appear to be somewhat favorable for hurricanes (outside the Gulf of Mexico) to curve away from Florida. While this might seem like good news, the level of predictability using these patterns is modest at best. In fact, the statistical models that I’ve developed [in collaboration with Carl Schmertmann (Economics)] show us that the forecast skill is limited to about 30% of the year-to-year variation. Bottom line: Pay attention to the weather forecasts and have a plan if one approaches.

Mapping the Past

May 4, 2018

Adjunct professor of geography Dr. George Coles uses LiDAR technology to map the past. He mapped features of the paleo-channels of the nearby Aucilla and Econfina Rivers and identified a mound along the Econfina channel that is “very close” to a Native American shell midden, a pile of the shell and bone remains of prehistoric dinners. This story about Dr. Coles research is featured in the May/June 2018 issue of the Tallahassee Magazine. Read all about it here.

AAG 2018: New Orleans

March 23, 2018

The American Association of Geographers will be holding their annual meeting next month in New Orleans. The breadth of topics at this annual event is always impressive. This year’s themes include Black Geographies, Hazards and GIScience, and Public Engagement; areas of emphasis at FSU. Our department will be well represented with many of our faculty and students attending and giving talks. It promises to be a great meeting. I hope to see you there!

March 22 is Ms. Audrey Nichols last day as the Department’s Office Manager. She will take time off from work to spend with her son Walter and her new baby daughter (Audrey June). Audrey served the faculty, students, and staff of Geography with skill, resourcefulness and attention to detail since the Summer of 2014. I am extremely grateful for her service. She will be missed. I wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her and her new baby soon!

Geography Student Demographics

February 26, 2018

Last month I asked our Academic Specialist Alex Cohn to pull some demographic data on our students. In particular I’m interested in trends in diversity of our student body both undergraduates and graduates. There is much to digest but here are graphs showing the percentage of non-whites (self identified) for graduate and undergraduates and for graduate students only. The picture is optimistic but we can do better. I talked with Drs. Mesev and Horner about steps forward (diversity plan) and we agreed that offering courses that will attract a broader range of students and advertising to our current students the existing diversity of our faculty across race, gender, and scholarly interests will help us keep these trends going upward.


More Collaborative Research

February 7, 2018

Last week my faculty let the Dean know what they think about my performance as chair. The assessment was generally positive and constructive. Overall they think I’m doing well. That makes me feel good. I believe in my faculty and in what we are doing. Moving forward I’m committed to giving them the resources to be successful academics and to model the way for them to become the leaders of tomorrow at Florida State University and beyond.

When I started as chair three years ago, my goal was for the department to become more diverse and inclusive. Today we have a wonderful group of energetic young faculty (with three more on the way next year!) and graduate students with a range of backgrounds and experiences. So it’s a pleasure to come to work every day and spend time working to promote and improve what we do as a diverse and inclusive department.

A goal for next term is to foster more collaborative research. Faculty and students alike will benefit from working with scholars across the physical and human sides of the discipline. My own research on the tornado hazard will link the physics of casualties with the narratives of people in place. To paraphrase Gary Morson & Morton Schapiro (Cents & Sensibility), I believe geography can supplement the quantitative rigor, the focus on policy, and the logics of the environment, economy and health with the empathy, judgement and wisdom that defines the humanities at their best. We have the right people at the right time. Let’s make it happen.

Five Year Trends

January 5, 2018

Over the holidays I took a look at how we’ve been doing as a department over the past five years. There are many ways to do this but I thought it would be instructive to quantify our productivity relative to the 100 or so geography departments in the country.

The central message is that, although we are a relatively small department, we are writing lots of papers and these papers are receiving good attention. Happy New Year and keep up the great work.

The procedure I used and the output are explained through the following R code.

Download FullData.csv from

User name: JElsner@73 Password (case sensitive): xxxxxx

## ── Attaching packages ────────────────────────────────── tidyverse 1.2.1 ──
## ✔ ggplot2 2.2.1     ✔ purrr   0.2.4
## ✔ tibble  1.3.4     ✔ dplyr   0.7.4
## ✔ tidyr   0.7.2     ✔ stringr 1.2.0
## ✔ readr   1.1.1     ✔ forcats 0.2.0
## ── Conflicts ───────────────────────────────────── tidyverse_conflicts() ──
## ✖ dplyr::filter() masks stats::filter()
## ✖ dplyr::lag()    masks stats::lag()

Input data from latest release.

df2016 = read.csv(file = "FullData2016.csv")

AAD2016.01.814 Release Date: 11/21/2017 Weighting: AAD2016 Faculty: Academic Year 2016 – 2017 Journal Articles: 2013 – 2016 Awards: No Limit Books: 2007 – 2016 Citations: 2012 – 2016 Conference Proceedings: 2013 – 2016 Grants: 2012 – 2016

Sort queries for last academic year.

results = df2016 %>%
  select(institutionname, numfac, totpubs, totcits) %>%
  mutate(pubspfac = totpubs/numfac,
         citspfac = totcits/numfac,
         rank = rank(desc(citspfac), ties.method = "min")) %>%
results$rank[results$institutionname == "Florida State University"]
## [1] 12

Input data from earlier years.

df2015 = read.csv(file = "FullData2015.csv")
df2014 = read.csv(file = "FullData2014.csv")
df2013 = read.csv(file = "FullData2013.csv")
df2012 = read.csv(file = "FullData2012.csv")

df2016$Year = rep("2016-2017", dim(df2016)[1])
df2015$Year = rep("2015-2016", dim(df2015)[1])
df2014$Year = rep("2014-2015", dim(df2014)[1])
df2013$Year = rep("2013-2014", dim(df2013)[1])
df2012$Year = rep("2012-2013", dim(df2012)[1])

dfAll = rbind(df2016, df2015, df2014, df2013, df2012)

Five-year trends

results = dfAll %>%
  select(Year, institutionname, numfac, totpubs, totcits, ranknumfac) %>%
  group_by(Year) %>%
  mutate(nInst = n(),
         pubspfac = totpubs/numfac,
         citspfac = totcits/numfac,
         rankCits = rank(desc(citspfac), ties.method = "min"),
         rankPubs = rank(desc(pubspfac), ties.method = "min")) %>%
  filter(institutionname == "Florida State University") %>%
  select(Year, ranknumfac, rankCits, rankPubs, numfac, citspfac, pubspfac, nInst)


Number of faculty

ggplot(results, aes(x = Year, y = numfac)) +
  geom_bar(stat = "identity", fill = "gray", color = "gray") +
  geom_text(aes(label = paste0(ranknumfac, "/", nInst)), vjust = 1.5, size = 3) +
  scale_y_continuous(breaks = seq(0, 18, 2), limits = c(0, 18)) +
  xlab("Academic Year") +
  ylab("Number of Faculty") +
  ggtitle("Department of Geography, Florida State University", subtitle = "Numbers are Rank/Number of Geography Departments (U.S. only)") +

Citations per faculty

ggplot(results, aes(x = Year, y = citspfac)) +
  geom_bar(stat = "identity", fill = "gray", color = "gray") +
  geom_text(aes(label = paste0(rankCits, "/", nInst)), vjust = 1.5, size = 3) +
  xlab("Academic Year") +
  ylab("Citations Per Faculty [5-yr period]") +
  ggtitle("Department of Geography, Florida State University", subtitle = "Numbers are Rank/Number of Geography Departments (U.S. only)") +

Publications per faculty

ggplot(results, aes(x = Year, y = pubspfac)) +
  geom_bar(stat = "identity", fill = "gray", color = "gray") +
  geom_text(aes(label = paste0(rankPubs, "/", nInst)), vjust = 1.5, size = 3) +
  xlab("Academic Year") +
  ylab("Publications Per Faculty [4-yr period]") +
  ggtitle("Department of Geography, Florida State University", subtitle = "Numbers are Rank/Number of Geography Departments (U.S. only)") +


While no evidence exists that there will be more (or fewer) hurricanes or more hurricanes hitting our coasts, there is theoretical and statistical evidence that the strongest hurricanes are getting stronger as the oceans heat up due to global warming from the emission of greenhouse gases. The Atlantic ocean was very warm this year contributing to the duration and extent of storm intensification of the strongest hurricanes. The strength and position of the Bermuda High steered the hurricanes toward the United States.


What might happen to hurricanes in the future as the climate warms continues to be an active area of research. Over the past decade, however, scientists have begun to uncover clues as to the kinds of changes that are already occurring.

The theory of maximum potential intensity, which relates intensity to ocean heat, refers to a theoretical upper limit of hurricane strength given the proper environment [Emanuel 1988]. The upward trend is clearly seen by relating the wind speed inside a hurricane to a measure of the underlying ocean temperature.

This relationship using hurricanes that have occurred across the Atlantic ocean [Elsner, Trepanier, Strazzo, and Jagger 2012] is shown in Figure 1. Across regions where the ocean is colder, the fastest winds (limiting intensity) are weaker. In contrast, in regions where the ocean is warmer the fastest winds are much stronger. This relationship (sensitivity of limiting hurricane intensity to ocean warmth) is quantified as the slope of the best-fit line, which amounts to 8 (+/-1.2) m/s/K. Current climate models fail to reproduce this sensitivity indicating results from them about what hurricanes might be like in the future are unreliable [Strazzo, Elsner, Trepanier, and Emanuel 2013].

Figure 1

Figure 1. Scatter plot of the fastest hurricane winds versus ocean temperature. The fastest winds are based on a limiting intensity model for the peak strength of hurricanes occurring over twenty grid cells across the North Atlantic. The best-fit regression line is shown in blue and the 95% uncertainty band about the line is shown in gray. Vertical bars contain the 80% of the estimates based on a bootstrap re-sampling algorithm [From Elsner et al. 2012].

The sensitivity of hurricane intensity to ocean temperature suggests that stronger hurricanes are likely as the ocean warms. This is indeed happening. For each hurricane we record its lifetime highest wind speed, then look at the relationship between these fastest winds and ocean temperature [Elsner, Kossin, and Jagger 2008].

Figure 2 shows this relationship as regression trends that increase with increasingly strong hurricanes. Since El Nino also plays a role in modulating Atlantic hurricanes, a variable that tracks its monthly changes is included in the regression [Elsner and Jagger 2013]. At lower quantiles (weaker winds) the trend line is near zero but at higher quantiles (stronger winds) there is an upward trend (greater sensitivity of intensity to ocean heat). Hurricanes are not always in ideal environments for strengthening, but when the strongest ones are they are sensitive to warming oceans as dictated by theory.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Trends in life time fastest winds. Coefficient of the sea-surface temperature term of a quantile regression of life time maximum wind speed for Atlantic hurricanes controlling for El Ni~no through the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) [From Elsner and Jagger 2013].

The theory is silent about the number of hurricanes and indeed there is no significant upward or downward trend in Atlantic hurricane frequency since accurate record keeping has been in place. So metrics that are influenced by the hurricane frequency, like Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) used widely by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are problematic for examining climate change effects.

Some scientists have suggested that this upward trend in hurricane energy is part of the natural variability in the Atlantic known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) rather than global warming [Goldenberg et al. 2001]. A test of these two competing hypothesis suggests that global warming causes the AMO since it is found that preceding values of global temperature predict the AMO and not conversely [Elsner 2007].

Others have noted hurricane property losses have not gone up recently and the numbers of hurricanes hitting the United States have declined over the past century and a half. Historically, however, when a hurricane hits the coast the best predictor of the magnitude of property loss is ocean temperature with warmer oceans leading to greater loss amounts [Jagger, Elsner, and Burch 2011].

Citations and Additional Reading

Elsner, J. B. (2007). “Granger causality and Atlantic hurricanes”. In: Tellus A 59.4, pp. 476-485. URL:

Elsner, J. B, J. P. Kossin and T. H. Jagger (2008). “The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones”. In: Nature 455.7209, pp. 92-95. URL:

Elsner, J. B. and T. H. Jagger (2006). “Prediction models for annual US hurricane counts”. In: Journal of Climate 19.12, pp. 2935-2952. URL:

Elsner, J. B, J. C. Trepanier, S. E. Strazzo and T. H. Jagger (2012). “Sensitivity of limiting hurricane intensity to ocean warmth”. In: Geophysical Research Letters 39.17. ISSN: 1944-8007. URL:

Elsner, J. B. and T. H. Jagger (2013). “Hurricane Climatology: A Modern Statistical Guide Using R”. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN: 9780199827633. URL:

Emanuel, K. A. (1988). “The maximum intensity of hurricanes”. In: Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 45.7, pp. 1143-1155.

Goldenberg, S. B., C. W. Landsea, A. M. Mestas-Nunez and W. M. Gray (2001) “The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications”. In: Science, 293, pp. 474-479.

Jagger, T. H, J. B. Elsner and R. K. Burch (2011). “Climate and solar signals in property damage losses from hurricanes affecting the United States”. In: Natural Hazards 58.1, pp. 541-557. URL:

Strazzo, S, J. B. Elsner, J. C. Trepanier and K. A. Emanuel (2013). “Frequency, intensity, and sensitivity to sea surface temperature of North Atlantic tropical cyclones in best-track and simulated data”. In: Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 5.3, pp. 500-509. URL:

A central tenet of mine is that with greater diversity comes greater creativity so I applaud the efforts of Drs. Tyler McCreary and Sarah Lester to develop a project plan to enhance and support diversity and inclusion in the department. The project will include an independent external evaluation of current practices and offer specific recommendations regarding how to create a more inclusive environment for teaching, learning, and research. Towards these efforts I would like to ask that everyone play a role in the assessment if/when asked. We hope that a rigorous evaluation of current practices with concrete suggestions for improvements will lead to transformational changes in the department in alignment with FSU’s Strategic Plan to increase the diversity of the student body, faculty, and staff. A diverse workforce in the department will lead to a competitive advantage, greater innovation, and new experiences for dealing with the complex problems of today’s world.


August 15, 2017

I’m excited to be back. Of the all the things I did this summer—conference in Greece, touring in Sofia, tornado chasing in Oklahoma—the most rewarding was a two-day NSF program called GEO Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity (GOLD): Hearts of GOLD. Geography is more diverse than the Geosciences but there remains plenty of room to broaden participation. Inclusion begins at home. Agree to respect others. Honor others’ experiences, regardless of opinion or perspective. Take responsibility for and accept the consequences of your words and actions. Respect the foundational belief that equality pertains to all people with no exceptions. Acknowledge that social inequalities exist of which you may be unaware. Unfortunately, as made painfully clear by recent white supremacists violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s racist response, much work needs to be done.

The faculty and staff of Geography send out congratulations to our Spring 2017 graduating class. Well done!


Shoumik Rahman

Olivia Williams

Brittany Wood


Masters Geography

Joshua Merced

Karissa Moffett


Masters GIScience

Alexander Bluteau

Kerri Brinegar

Garrett Evans

Jared Raff

A Month of Mays

April 13, 2017

May is my favorite. A lifetime on the rhythm of school gives May a special place in my psyche. No more grading and classes to prep. A time to reflect on the past and dream about the future. What should I study next? Seemingly endless time to write a paper, finish a grant proposal, start a book. The potential is unbounded, like the weather across the Great Plains ready to explode. So there is where you’ll find me in May reflecting, writing, coding, and watching for the sky to erupt and the year to begin anew.

Welcoming Spring

March 1, 2017

In Bulgaria March 1st is Baba Marta (Grandma March) Day. To welcome the arrival of spring, martenitsi are worn until the wearer first sees a stork or blossoming tree. The red (life and passion) and white (purity) woven threads symbolize the wish for good health. The woven colors also symbolize the need for balance in life. According to Wikipedia there is a similar tradition in Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Romania, and Moldova related to the ancient pagan history of the Balkans and to all agricultural cults of nature.

College Bayesians

February 20, 2017

Assign a chance that what you assert is true rather than a chance that your data could be more extreme. The department is hosting a workshop on Bayesian regression models in R this week (Friday). It is a chance to start a conversation with folks in the college interested in Bayesian methods. The workshop will focus on introductory material to get started with the new Stan engine for modeling.


January 29, 2017

The Department of Geography is enriched by the diversity of cultures represented by its students and faculty so I’m deeply concerned about the well-being of those who may be impacted by the policies that have been put in place because of the so-called “Muslim Ban”. The ban is antithetical to all that is America and an affront to all we cherish as a university community. We must resist.

Stormy Start

January 21, 2017

It’s been a busy & hectic start to the spring semester: faculty recruitment, overflowing classrooms, and summer budget cuts. And preparation continues on hosting the first Workshop on Bayesian Models in R. We are capacity with 20 registered participants. The workshop will take place Friday, February 24th. Emeritus professor Mort Winsberg has been in and out of the hospital since December. He is resting comfortably at home with care but the prospects of his early return to the department are dim at this time. Please keep him in your thoughts. Finally, keep your eyes on the skies this weekend as severe weather in and around Tallahassee is likely from a powerful storm system moving across the South.

In this season of giving why not consider a gift to the Department of Geography? With flat annual budgets coming from the lawmakers downtown, it’s difficult for me to expand our excellent programs without support from our alumni and friends. A new opportunity that I’m excited about for geography (and the college) is undergraduate training in coding (UTC). The goal is to provide analytical tools that will last students a lifetime. Flexible, open-source computer software (R, Python, Stan, etc), now widely available, makes this possible. We need to go beyond ready-made knowledge and create the conditions for creativity. Coding does that. Students who code have a tremendous competitive advantage in the job markets of tomorrow. Your contribution will help by allowing me to hire adjuncts and recruit students who will teach and mentor the first generation of coders in the social sciences. Support this initiative with a year-end gift. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you!

Letters of Reference

November 14, 2016

November is the time of year when students apply for academic jobs. Which means we as faculty are asked to write reference letters. Despite the time it takes to write a good letter the effort can be enjoyable especially when the student has excelled. Not all letters are the same nor should they be. Unfortunately there can be gender bias. According the the Commission on the Status of Women from the University of Arizona, letters of reference for men are four times more likely to mention publications and twice as likely to have multiple references to research. Be aware of this potential bias, and be aware it’s not only a male problem. Make sure you put critical accomplishments in every letter. Emphasize accomplishments, not effort. Use adjectives emphasizing skills rather than those describing effort. Keep it professional and steer away from stereotypes. Adjectives to avoid: caring, compassionate, hard-working, dependable, diligent, dedicated, warm, helpful. Instead include: successful, excellent, accomplished, outstanding, skilled, knowledgeable, insightful, resourceful, confident, ambitious, independent, intellectual.

No Sexual Harassment

October 10, 2016

Sexual harassment can occur anywhere. But the special conditions inside the academy can increase the risk. Karen James (@kejames) list these conditions as:

* Power structures (senior vs junior faculty, student/advisee)
* Field work
* Lack of formal management & accountability structures
* Tenure
* Small subfields making it difficult to escape toxic people
* Conference travel

Sexual harassment is real and pervasive. It traumatizes the victim and reduces the intellectual vitality of the department. Let’s work to make the Geography Department a civil and welcoming place for all.

Geography Budget 2016

September 15, 2016

Let’s look back on how the department spent its money during my first year as chair. The data for Fiscal Year 2016 were tabulated by Audrey Nichols our Office Manager and Financial Assistant. She asked me to illustrate the categories using a graph. I decided comparisons are easiest to make using an ordered bar graph.

The largest expenditures are faculty and graduate student salaries accounting for nearly two thirds of our budget. Note that the categories of AP, USPS, and OPS are for our staff (Audrey, Alex, and Krystal). I think the university needs to pay its quality staff much better. This is a point of emphasis for me this year.

Here is the R code I used to make the graph.


Cat = c(
"Faculty Salary",
"Faculty Fringe",
"AP Salary",
"AP Separation Payout",
"AP Fringe",
"USPS Salary",
"USPS Separation Payout",
"USPS Fringe",
"Graduate Assistants Salary",
"OPS Faculty",
"OPS Staff",
"OPS Fringe",
"Graduate Fringe",
"Workers Compensation",
"Matriculation Fees",
"Contracts & Grants Overhead",
"ODL Fees"

Perc = c(

df = data.frame(Category = factor(Cat), 
                Percentage = Perc)



ggplot(df, aes(x = reorder(Category, -Percentage), y = Percentage)) +
  geom_bar(stat = "identity") +
  geom_text(aes(label = paste(Percentage, "%", sep = "")), vjust = -.5, size = 2) +
  xlab("") + ylab("Percentage of Total Budget\n 2016 Geography Department") +
  theme(axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 45, hjust = 1))

Chair: Jim Elsner
Executive Committee: Victor Mesev, Mark Horner
Graduate Program Director: Victor Mesev
Graduate Committee: Victor Mesev, Stephanie Pau, Chris Uejio
Undergraduate Program Director: Victor Mesev
Undergraduate Internship Coordinator: Victor Mesev
Department Representative to Faculty Senate: Mark Horner
Colloquium Coordinator: Sarah Lester
Webmaster: David Folch
College Promotion & Tenure Representatives: Jim Elsner, Mark Horner
College Policy and Academic Affairs Committee: Jim Elsner, Victor Mesev
College Reviewer for Liberal Studies Courses: Tinting Zhao
Sabbatical: Xiaojun Yang

Welcome Back

August 8, 2016


I got interested in hurricanes after coming to FSU. It made sense. Snowstorms were fun in Milwaukee as a kid, but I couldn’t expect students from Florida to have much interest in them. Hurricanes are the rage. In fact it was one of my first graduate students who suggested we try to improve Bill Gray’s forecasts. I made a career putting hurricane prediction on firm statistical grounds. But it wasn’t until I moved to geography that I learned how to leverage space to predict hurricane behavior. While meteorologists ponder the behavior of weather systems as they evolve over time (since this relates directly to dynamics), geographers think spatially. Spatial thinking allowed me to quantify the sensitivity of hurricane intensity to ocean heat, an important physical constraint that can’t be estimated from short time records. Read more…


Like most geographers I like maps. I remember collecting them as a kid. Not the ones that fell out of my father’s National Geographic magazines but the ones I’d find inside gas stations. Each company would print their own series and it would be fun to try to get as many states as possible. In the early 1970’s they were free; usually arranged in a wire rack near the counter. I grew up in Milwaukee near a busy three-way intersection (Capitol Drive, Fond Du Lac Avenue, 51st Street) with several gas stations in the area. My brothers and I would walk around the neighborhood collecting the latest maps. The Standard Oil maps were my favorite; the red, white and blue banner on the cover with a stamp showing the season and year. I learned about cartography as some maps were easier to read and about scale as I tried to fit adjacent state maps together. And the multi-state regional maps came in handy when I started traveling to frisbee tournaments like the annual “Throw for the Roses” tournament in Iroquois Park, Louisville.

With the help of Krystal Vester and Victor Mesev, I’ve taken Mort Winsberg’s chronology of faculty in the department since 1925 and updated it to the present. According to Mort “Geography first appeared in the 1925-26 catalog of the Florida State College for Women, having been taught in the 1924-25 academic year.” Four courses in geography were offered in the Department of History and Geography. The first person with a geography degree in that department was Martha Stolfus.

Name Last Degree Years as Faculty Years as Chair
Martha Stolfus Iowa St. Teachers 1925-1927
Henry F. Becker Chicago 1928-1945 1946-1963
Gladys Fawley Clark 1930-1945
Marguerite Taylor Chicago 1930-1934
Mary Alice Eaton Chicago 1935-1937
Delmar A. Bugelli Chicago 1938-1941
Frances Mae Hanson Chicago 1942-1943
Margaret H. Smith Chicago 1943
Sara C. Larson Chicago 1943
Harry Brubaker Michigan 1946-1966
Benjamin Moulton Indiana 1946
Harrison Chase Michigan 1947-1979
George Rumney Michigan 1947
Robert L. Leathers Chicago 1947-1953
David Christensen Chicago 1948-1961
Luther H. Gulick Chicago 1948-1949
J. Trenton Kostbade Michigan 1949-1950
John H. Mc Murry Michigan 1949-1961
William R. Brueckheimer Michigan 1949-1950, 1972-1990 1964-1971
John O Boynton Duke 1950-1961
Burke Vanderhill Michigan 1950-1994
Ennis L. Chestang Indiana 1962-1964
Paul D. Whippo Indiana 1962-1966
Alfred R. Pannbacker Michigan 1963
Morton D. Winsberg Florida 1965-1996
Rashid A. Malik Indiana 1966-1971
James W. Newton U.N.C. 1966-1967
John J. Baxevanis U.N.C. 1967
Edward A. Femald Michigan State 1967-1998
Thomas J. Gergel Georgia 1967-1969
Terry G. Lewis Florida State 1967
Louis Paganini Florida 1967
Louis Harris Florida 1968-1969
Robert R. Myers Georgia 1968-1970
Donald Patton Harvard 1969-1988
Roland G. Wood UCLA 1969-1974
William A. Rabiega S. Illinois 1970-1974
Harold L. McConnell Iowa 1978-1994 1972-1977
Jordan Louviere Iowa 1973-1974
Delmar A. Dyerson Denver 1973-1979
Earl J. Baker Colorado 1974-2014
Karen P. Walby Ohio State 1974-1975
John A. Kahimbaara Michigan State 1974
Patrick O’Sullivan London S.E. 1994-2015 1978-1993
Richard E. Zeller Ohio State 1980-1986
Janet E. Kodras Ohio State 1982-2009
George F. Hepner Arizona State 1984-1988
John Mark Ellis Indiana 1988-1993
Robert T. Walker Pennsylvania 1989-1998
Fred M. Shelley Iowa 1990-1994
William D. Solecki Rutgers 1990-1996
Barney L. Warf UCLA 1994-2008 1994-2006
Marilyn O. Ruiz Illinois 1994-1998
Jonathan I. Leib Syracuse 1995-2008
Philip E. Steinberg Clark 1997-2013
Basil G. Savitsky Clemson 1998-2003
James B. Elsner UW Milwaukee 1999-2016 2015-present
R. Daniel Jacobson Queen’s Belfast 1999-2003
Jason Hackworth Rutgers 2000-2002
Daniel J. Klooster UCLA 2000-2008
J. Anthony Stallins Georgia 2000-2011
Xiaojun Yang Georgia 2003-2016
Mark W. Horner Ohio State 2004-2016
Victor Mesev Bristol 2004-2016 2006-2015
Lisa M. Jordan Colorado 2006-2011
Tingting Zhao Michigan 2007-2016
Tetsuo Kobayashi Utah 2011-2013
Joseph F. Pierce Clark 2011-2016
Christopher K. Uejio Wisconsin 2012-2016
Stephanie Pau UCLA 2012-2016
David C. Folch Arizona State 2014-2016
Mary Lawhon Clark 2014-2016
Sarah E. Lester UC Santa Barbara 2015-2016
Tyler A. McCreary York-Canada 2016-2016

Spring Escape

April 11, 2016

Last month I organized the 10th annual Tally Rally frisbee tournament featuring top players from around the country including as far away as Wisconsin, Alaska, California, and Virginia. The game is officially called Double Disc Court, but informally we call it `Escape.’ The game is played like doubles tennis except that there are two discs and you and your teammate need to avoid getting caught with both discs at the same time. See for more details.

But the point here is to demonstrate how to create line graphs in R without legends. Starting with an initial seeding of players the tournament proceeds in rounds with players moving up or down in ranking according to how well they perform. A graph of the rank by round provides a rank trajectory through the tournament by player. Perhaps you can use graphs like these? See

Thank you, Audrey!

April 1, 2016

I don’t know what I would do without her. Ms. Audrey Nichols is an exemplary employee providing consistent service excellence as office manager in the department of geography. Since her arrival in 2014 she has shown a continuous attitude of excellence in service. According to the FSU Controller’s office the compliance rates on budgetary manners under Audrey is now averaging above 90% on a monthly basis. In fact for the fiscal year 2015 the geography department’s compliance rate was 99%. This is up from 67% on an annual basis before her arrival. The rate varies by month but it has generally been above that achieved by the college’s administrative unit.

She serves the faculty and staff in the department with a positive attitude and demands excellence from her subordinates. Her attention to detail is deeply appreciated. She shares generously of her time providing an outstanding example of diligence for faculty, staff, and students. Audrey has single-handedly changed the research culture of the department through her efforts in helping faculty with proposals and grant-related matters. Over the past few months she has worked tirelessly with the folks in immigration to secure the needed paperwork for our newest faculty hire from Canada. Thank you!

Culture of Coding

March 18, 2016

A source of pride for me as chair of this department is our culture of coding. We code to analyze data, create maps, and draw inference. As a graduate student in the 80’s I was trained in FORTRAN but statistics were always easier with SPlus. Hassles with annual licensing made it hard to use it for teaching. I tried SPSS for a semester but all the pointing and clicking made it tedious for students. I started coding in R about 15 years ago and I’ve never looked back. It’s better to teach what you use.

R is free and open source. So is Python. Most students I know like this. They learn R in Quantitative Geography and put it to use in Applied Spatial Statistics. I now teach ggplot (R package for plots) in my undergraduate courses, including those online. I’m glad to see that Python is also being taught. Not all geography is quantitative but what is benefits from code.

Sexual Misconduct

February 24, 2016

Since becoming chair of the department I’ve been thinking about sexual harassment a lot. Just like I did nearly 20 years ago. Then a young faculty in my former department was handed a dismissal letter after her first semester on a tenure-earning line. I demanded to know why. The chair, supported by the dean and many of the senior (read: powerful) faculty, eventually claimed she lacked collegiality. I said WTF. She was fired and I left for Geography.

Sexual misconduct is real and pervasive. When it occurs it often involves powerful males and their female students or junior colleagues. It is unethical. It impedes equal opportunity. It traumatizes the victims and reduces the intellectual vitality of the department. Let’s respect the dignity and worth of each individual and work to make our department a civil and welcoming place for all.

The front office has a new mail sorter. Thanks to the hard work of Audrey and Krystal the staff is now set to sort your daily mail more efficiently. The sorter has extra desk space so you can grab a donut (or other sweet) as you pick up your latest copy of the Annals.

Geography Radar

February 10, 2016

According to Academic Analytics (vAAD2013.10.464) the Department of Geography at FSU ranks number one (out 100 geography departments in the country) in percentage of faculty with an article and the percentage of faculty with a citation. It also ranks 7th (94th percentile) in the number of articles per faculty member and 19th (82nd percentile) in the number of citations per faculty member.

SRAD per faculty

January 15, 2016

I’m interested in comparing departments within the college based on metrics of productivity. There are many ways to do this but here I examined the SRAD (Sponsored Research Administration Distribution) per faculty. I obtain the annual numbers from I then ran the following code.

Number of Faculty

Order from left to right is: ECO, PA, PS, SOC, URP, GEO

AllFac = read.csv(file = "FacultyNumbers.csv", header = TRUE)
JunFac = read.csv(file = "JuniorFacultyNumbers.csv", header = TRUE)
SenFac = AllFac - JunFac
SenFac$Year = AllFac$Year
Wide = read.csv(file = "SRADDistribution.csv", header = TRUE)
names(Wide) = c("Year", "Economics", 
                "Public Administration", "Political Science", 
                "Sociology", "Urban and Regional Planning", 
Wide2 = Wide/AllFac[3:10, ]
Wide2$Year = Wide$Year
## Warning: package 'ggplot2' was built under R version 3.2.3
Long2 = gather(Wide2, Department, SRADpF, 2:7)
ggplot(Long2, aes(x = Year, y = SRADpF, color = Department)) +
  geom_line(size = 2) +
  scale_x_continuous(breaks = 2007:2014) +
  scale_y_continuous(labels = dollar) +
  ylab("SRAD Per Faculty") +
  theme_economist() +
  ggtitle("SRAD Distribution Per Faculty") +
  scale_color_few(palette = "medium")