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Posts Tagged ‘NOAA

El Niño monitoring system in the eastern Pacific is failing

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Nearly half of the buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean array have failed

An ocean-monitoring system that extends across the tropical Pacific is collapsing, depriving scientists of data on a region that influences global weather and climate trends.

Nearly half of the moored buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array have failed in the last two years, crippling an early-warning system for the warming and cooling events in the eastern equatorial Pacific, known respectively as El Niño and La Niña. Scientists are now collecting data from just 40% of the array.

It’s the most important climate phenomenon on the planet, and we have blinded ourselves to it by not maintaining this array,” says Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at…NOAA. McPhaden headed the TAO project before it was transferred out of NOAA’s research arm and into the agency’s National Weather Service in 2005.

…Researchers from around the world will meet next week at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, to discuss possible solutions. NOAA has indicated that the agency will put additional resources into the program this coming year, but few expect that this will be enough to fully restore the array.

Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change if we repopulated Congress, the White House and relevant agencies with science-literate folks to a point where projects like this received adequate funding as readily as, say, subsidies for tobacco farmers or Exxon-Mobil?

I doubt if even a virtual sperm whale would be capable of holding its breath long enough to live to see that happen.

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Written by Ed Campbell

January 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Southwest Airlines planes gathering weather data for NOAA

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Every 12 hours, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launches weather balloons from approximately 70 locations across the US. While these do provide valuable data, a lot can change between those intervals and those locations. That’s why a new project is taking advantage of something that’s already going up in the sky on a much more frequent basis and in a higher number of locations – Southwest Airlines jets…

So far, 87 of the airline’s Boeing 737s have been fitted with Water Vapor Sensing Systems (WVSS-II) made by SpectraSensors. These are the same sensors already used on balloons, to measure moisture distribution throughout the atmosphere. By observing how that distribution changes over time, aviation weather forecasters are able to make predictions regarding things like “location and timing of fog, cloud formation and dissipation, and altitudes of cloud ceilings.”

The newly-deployed sensors will make measurements hundreds of times in one flight, as each aircraft ascends and descends through the atmosphere during take-off and landing. Readings will be automatically transmitted to the headquarters of Aeronautical Radio Incorporated, then processed and relayed to the US National Weather Service (part of NOAA) for use in weather forecasts and warnings.

The project seems to be doing well enough that it will be expanded throughout more of the Southwest fleet as part of NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation initiative.

Bravo!

Written by Ed Campbell

December 20, 2013 at 2:00 am

Signs of “new normal” in Earth’s climate apparent in hot 2012

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Last year was one of the 10 hottest on record, with sea levels at record highs, Arctic ice at historic lows and extreme weather in various corners of the globe signaling a “new normal,” scientists said Tuesday in the 2012 State of the Climate report.

Meant to be a guide for policymakers, the report did not attribute the changes in climate to any one factor, but made note of continued increases in heat-trapping greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide…

The report’s data indicate “new normal” conditions that can inform planning decisions, instead of relying on models that “count on the future being statistically a lot like the past,” Kathryn Sullivan said at a news briefing.

Global surface temperatures – land and water – were the eighth or ninth warmest, depending on which data set was used, since recordkeeping began in the late 1800s, the report found.

However, in the decade leading up to 2012, global temperatures actually declined by .05 degree C, according to Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Karl said the 50-year trend indicates global temperatures have consistently increased about .15 degree C per decade.

The recent decrease in temperatures has been noted by climate change skeptics who question the impact of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide, on climate.

However, other changes detailed in the report paint a more complex picture:

- Sea levels reached a record high, after a sharp decrease in 2011 possibly linked to the Pacific Ocean phenomenon La Nina, which can have a cooling effect;

- Arctic sea ice shrank to its smallest summer minimum since satellite records began 34 years ago, while Antarctic sea ice reached a record high;

- More than 97 percent of the ice sheet covering Greenland melted at least a bit in the summer of 2012, four times greater than the 1981-2010 average;

- Average sea surface temperatures rose, but not much, making 2012 among the 11th warmest years on record;

- Ocean heat was near record high levels in the upper half-mile of the water, and temperatures also increased in the deep ocean.

The State of the Climate report is being published as a supplement to the August Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available online.

I suggest reading the whole report. Something in there for everyone, amateur or professional, scientist or advocate for science.

It will bore the crap out of “skeptics” who normally rely on ideologues who tell them what to believe.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Greenhouse gases hit threshold unseen in 3,000,000 years

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Republican answer to every climate question

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time since measurements began, breaching a threshold not seen for 3 million years.

The main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming averaged 400.03 parts per million at a monitoring station on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano yesterday, according to data published today on the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. The administration’s data stretches back to 1958.

The reading is considered a landmark by scientists and environmentalists, who say carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels are warming the planet and must be reined in before they cause irreversible changes to weather, sea levels and Arctic ice cover.

We are in the process of creating a prehistoric climate that humans have no evolutionary experience of,” Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment…

The last time CO2 levels were this high was at least 3 million years ago, he said. Then, “temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times, the polar ice caps were much smaller, and sea levels were about 20 meters higher than today,” he said…

Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for as much as a century, so levels now may cause warming for decades. The concentration has now increased by more than 40 percent from the pre-industrial mark of 280 parts per million…

The United Nations in 2007 said stabilizing the gas at 400 ppm to 440 ppm may lead to a temperature gain of as much as 2.8 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s at odds with the goal set out by climate treaty negotiators from more than 190 nations, who have agreed to shoot for limiting the temperature increase to 2 degrees. The global average has already risen by about 0.8 of a degree since pre-industrial times.

As usual, conservative politicians in the United States and their peers in the Flat Earth community pay no attention to landmarks like this – other than to pat themselves on the back for ignoring science. Pimps for the fossil fuel industries, their only notice of ongoing scientific research is to complain that it occurs at all.

In a parallel effect, we have already reached and surpassed the critical mass for stupidity, egregious politics and short-sighted incompetence in the Congress of the United States.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Sea surface temperatures reach highest level in 150 years on Northeast continental shelf

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Sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2012 were the highest recorded in 150 years, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). These high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century…

Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The temperature increase in 2012 was the highest jump in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times temperature has changed by more than 1 C…

“Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature,” Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC Ecosystem Assessment Program, said. He noted that the contrast between years with, and without, a fall bloom is emerging as an important driver of the shelf’s ecology. “The size of the spring plankton bloom was so large that the annual chlorophyll concentration remained high in 2012 despite low fall activity. These changes will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem.”

Michael Fogarty, who heads the Ecosystem Assessment Program, says the abundance of fish and shellfish is controlled by a complex set of factors, and that increasing temperatures in the ecosystem make it essential to monitor the distribution of many species, some of them migratory and others not…”We now have information on the ecosystem from a variety of sources collected over a long period of time, and are adding more data to clarify specific details. The data clearly show a relationship between all of these factors.”

“What these latest findings mean for the Northeast Shelf ecosystem and its marine life is unknown,” Fogarty said. “What is known is that the ecosystem is changing, and we need to continue monitoring and adapting to these changes.”

What is also known is that the average political hack in Congress doesn’t care a tinker’s damn about these changes – or how they may result. So, a comprehensive political response to build understanding and education, policy and best practices among those who earn their livelihood from the Northeast seas – ain’t about to happen.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 29, 2013 at 8:00 am

Arctic will be nearly free of summer sea ice this century

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For scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic, it’s not a question of “if” there will be nearly ice-free summers, but “when.” And two scientists say that “when” is sooner than many thought — before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two.

James Overland of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Muyin Wang of the NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, looked at three methods of predicting when the Arctic will be nearly ice free in the summer. The work was published recently online in the American Geophysical Union publication Geophysical Research Letters.

“Rapid Arctic sea ice loss is probably the most visible indicator of global climate change; it leads to shifts in ecosystems and economic access, and potentially impacts weather throughout the northern hemisphere,” said Overland. “Increased physical understanding of rapid Arctic climate shifts and improved models are needed that give a more detailed picture and timing of what to expect so we can better prepare and adapt to such changes. Early loss of Arctic sea ice gives immediacy to the issue of climate change.”

“There is no one perfect way to predict summer sea ice loss in the Arctic,” said Wang. “So we looked at three approaches that result in widely different dates, but all three suggest nearly sea ice-free summers in the Arctic before the middle of this century…”

The “trendsetters” approach uses observed sea ice trends. These data show that the total amount of sea ice decreased rapidly over the previous decade. Using those trends, this approach extrapolates to a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by 2020.

The “stochasters” approach is based on assuming future multiple, but random in time, large sea ice loss events such as those that occurred in 2007 and 2012. This method estimates it would take several more events to reach a nearly sea ice-free state in the summer. Using the likelihood of such events, this approach suggests a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by about 2030 but with large uncertainty in timing.

The “modelers” approach is based on using the large collection of global climate model results to predict atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea ice conditions over time. These models show the earliest possible loss of sea ice to be around 2040 as greenhouse gas concentrations increase and the Arctic warms. But the median timing of sea ice loss in these models is closer to 2060. There are several reasons to consider that this median timing of sea ice loss in these models may be too slow.

Taken together, the range among the multiple approaches still suggests that it is very likely that the timing for future sea ice loss will be within the first half of the 21st century, with a possibility of major loss within a decade or two.

Predictive conservatism obviously limits how far these folks are willing to stick out their necks. If you’re thoughtful about material reality, science and computational analysis, you will pay attention to the news from NOAA.

OTOH, if you’re ideologically driven and silly enough to rely on cynics paid to call themselves skeptics – Good Luck!

Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2013 at 2:00 am

Sea snails begin to show impact of more acidic ocean

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Wing foot pteropod

The shells of some marine snails in the seas around Antarctica are dissolving as the water becomes more acidic, threatening the food chain, said a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience…

Oceans soak up about a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year and as CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase from burning fossil fuels, so do ocean levels, making seas more acidic.

Ocean acidification is one of the effects of climate change and threatens coral reefs, marine ecosystems and wildlife.

The shell of the pteropod sea snail in the Southern Ocean was severely dissolved by more acidic surface water, the researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research…NOAA and other institutions found.

And although the snails did not necessarily die, it increased their vulnerability to predators and infection which could affect other parts of the food chain.

“The corrosive properties of the water caused shells of live animals to be severely dissolved and this demonstrates how vulnerable pteropods are,” said lead author Nina Bednaršek, from the NOAA.

…Until now, there has been little evidence of the impact of ocean acidification on such live organisms in their natural environment and the study supports predictions that acidification could have a significant effect on marine ecosystems…

Climate models forecast more intense winds in the Southern Ocean this century if CO2 continues to increase, which will make the mixing of deep water with more acidic surface waters more frequent, the study said.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by 30 percent, according to NOAA research.

The authors of the study predict surface waters could be 150 % more acidic by the end of this century.

Keep messing with my scungilli and I’m getting really pissed off!

Written by Ed Campbell

December 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never lived on a planet that experienced a colder-than-average month

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Looking backwards…and then forwards

Nowhere on the surface of the planet have we seen any record cold temperatures over the course of the year so far. Every land surface in the world saw warmer-than-average temperatures except Alaska and the eastern tip of Russia. The continental United States has been blanketed with record warmth — and the seas just off the East Coast have been much warmer than average, for which Sandy sends her thanks.

The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.

If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That’s beyond astonishing…

Sandy is probably not even the deadliest or most expensive weather disaster this year in the United States — Sandy’s damages of perhaps $50 billion will likely be overshadowed by the huge costs of the great drought of 2012. While it will be several months before the costs of America’s worst drought since 1954 are known, the 2012 drought is expected to cut America’s GDP by 0.5 – 1 percentage points…

While Sandy’s death toll of 113 in the U.S. is the second highest death toll from a U.S. hurricane since 1972, it is likely to be exceeded by the death toll from the heat waves that accompanied this year’s drought. The heat waves associated with the U.S. droughts of 1980 and 1988 had death tolls of 10,000 and 7,500 respectively, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, and the heat wave associated with the $12 billion 2011 Texas drought killed 95 Americans.

Our politicians think long-range considerations mean a 4-year election cycle. Perish the thought they look at the growing sum of weather-related costs from climate change.

I’ve blogged previously on that portion of the equation. It is contemptible that so many of the elected officials we’re allowed – couldn’t care less about looking at the whole picture, the whole cost in lives, homes and dollars of climate change. Taking a few bucks away from whichever corporation funds their favorite lobbyist scares their timid butt more than the death of elderly voters or the destruction of arable land.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

National Archive and NOAA look to old Arctic ship logs for climate change history

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A project to help track Arctic climate change using volunteers to transcribe U.S. ship logs online was launched on Wednesday by the National Archives and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Using citizen scientists to transcribe thousands of pages of logbooks from Navy, Coast Guard and other ships from 1850 to World War Two will fill a big data gap, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said.

Scientists in recent decades have gotten weather data from satellites and ground observations, and such tools as ice samples show ancient patterns, she said. But the archived logs could establish a baseline of historical weather data

Project organizers, which include science web portal Zooniverse, hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to transcribe scanned pages from logbooks. The pages will be loaded onto Old Weather, an online weather data project (www.oldweather.org)…Navy logs carried weather observations 24 times a day.

Mark Mollan, a reference archivist and a project organizer, said the National Archives had 1,000 boxes of Arctic ship logs. Each page put online will be transcribed three times to eliminate errors, he said…

Four bulky logbooks, all with Arctic observations in neat 19th century handwriting, were displayed at the news conference.

The logs included one from the doomed 1879 Arctic voyage of the Jeannette, a U.S. Navy ship that sank after being trapped in ice off Russia. The commander starved to death and 18 other expedition members died.

New like this drives me up a tree. I would love to become un-retired and start all over again with a geek career in computational analysis. Just imagine what can be done with these transcriptions? Converted to digitized text they can become a searchable database for the world of research that was never envisioned by the original record-keepers.

Not only will we be able examine and determine a baseline for Arctic weather; but, ship’s logs typically record both the ordinary and the unusual. What a delight to data-mine.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 29, 2012 at 12:00 am

Smartass Trekkie meteorologist

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Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

September 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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