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Posts Tagged ‘JPL

Climate change may bring qualitative ecosystem changes

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By 2100, global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost half of Earth’s land surface and will drive the conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type – such as forest, grassland or tundra – toward another, according to a new NASA and university computer modeling study.

Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., investigated how Earth’s plant life is likely to react over the next three centuries as Earth’s climate changes in response to rising levels of human-produced greenhouse gases…

The model projections paint a portrait of increasing ecological change and stress in Earth’s biosphere, with many plant and animal species facing increasing competition for survival, as well as significant species turnover, as some species invade areas occupied by other species. Most of Earth’s land that is not covered by ice or desert is projected to undergo at least a 30 percent change in plant cover – changes that will require humans and animals to adapt and often relocate.

In addition to altering plant communities, the study predicts climate change will disrupt the ecological balance between interdependent and often endangered plant and animal species, reduce biodiversity and adversely affect Earth’s water, energy, carbon and other element cycles…

When faced with climate change, plant species often must “migrate” over multiple generations, as they can only survive, compete and reproduce within the range of climates to which they are evolutionarily and physiologically adapted. While Earth’s plants and animals have evolved to migrate in response to seasonal environmental changes and to even larger transitions, such as the end of the last ice age, they often are not equipped to keep up with the rapidity of modern climate changes that are currently taking place. Human activities, such as agriculture and urbanization, are increasingly destroying Earth’s natural habitats, and frequently block plants and animals from successfully migrating.

RTFA to learn more about how these scientists developed the software and models to produce this analysis. That it all is understandable is another topic. That doesn’t mean it makes sense to screw up the environment, of course.

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Dying star surrounded by fluorescing gas, unusual rings

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A new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer shows what looks like a glowing jellyfish floating at the bottom of a dark, speckled sea. In reality, this critter belongs to the cosmos — it’s a dying star surrounded by fluorescing gas and two very unusual rings.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Earth, Science

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Celebrate Hubble’s 20th with space image – Mystic Mountain

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This new gem rivals what may be Hubble’s most famous image, a shot of the Pillars of Creation taken in 1995. The shot above is of a star-forming region in the Carina Nebula. The enormous pillar of gas and dust is 3 light-years tall. The seam in the middle is the result of new stars forming and emitting powerful gas jets that are ripping the pillar apart.

Hubble’s capabilities are all the more impressive considering the rocky start the telescope suffered through when a defect was discovered in its primary mirror after it had been launched and began returning images that weren’t in focus. Scientists and engineers were able to fix the problem, and today Hubble is more capable than ever with its new Wide Field Camera 3, installed last year.

Check out this interactive timeline of Hubble’s history and RTFA for links to more beautiful images.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 24, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Nasa sky survey probe blasts off

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A Nasa satellite designed to uncover hidden cosmic objects has blasted off from California.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta II rocket just after 1409 GMT…

The probe is expected to uncover objects that have never seen before, including some of the coolest stars and the most luminous galaxies. The $320m mission will do this by scanning the entire sky in infrared light with a sensitivity hundreds of times greater than ever before.

The satellite will also have a role in planetary protection: WISE will be able to detect some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets.

This would help efforts to determine whether any of these objects could strike Earth in the near future…

Wise joins two other infrared missions in space: Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory.

Bravo!

Written by Ed Campbell

December 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Science, Technology

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IBEX finds ribbon-like structure at edge of heliosphere

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2 independent sensors detecting the same structure

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spacecraft has made it possible for scientists to construct the first comprehensive sky map of our solar system and its location in the Milky Way galaxy. The new view will change the way researchers view and study the interaction between our galaxy and sun.

The sky map was produced with data that two detectors on the spacecraft collected during six months of observations. The detectors measured and counted particles scientists refer to as energetic neutral atoms.

The energetic neutral atoms are created in an area of our solar system known as the interstellar boundary region. This region is where charged particles from the sun, called the solar wind, flow outward far beyond the orbits of the planets and collide with material between stars. The energetic neutral atoms travel inward toward the sun from interstellar space at velocities ranging from 100,000 mph to more than 2.4 million mph. This interstellar boundary emits no light that can be collected by conventional telescopes.

The new map reveals the region that separates the nearest reaches of our galaxy, called the local interstellar medium, from our heliosphere — a protective bubble that shields and protects our solar system from most of the dangerous cosmic radiation traveling through space.

For the first time, we’re sticking our heads out of the sun’s atmosphere and beginning to really understand our place in the galaxy,” said David J. McComas, IBEX principal investigator… “The IBEX results are truly remarkable, with a narrow ribbon of bright details or emissions not resembling any of the current theoretical models of this region.”

RTFA. Follow the links. Dream of exploring among the stars.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 16, 2009 at 2:00 am

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