China’s First Space Station gets to flame out this year

❝ China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, is expected to fall to Earth sometime in late 2017. We’ve known for several months that the orbital demise of the 8-metric ton space station was only a matter of time. But Chinese space agency officials recently confirmed that they have lost telemetry with the space station and can no longer control its orbit. This means its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere will be uncontrolled.

Despite sensational headlines…the risk is quite low that people on Earth will be in danger. Any remaining debris that doesn’t burn up in the atmosphere has a high chance of falling into an ocean, since two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by water…

❝ …throughout the entire history of the space age, there have been no reports of anybody in the world being injured or struck by any re-entering debris. Something of this size re-enters the atmosphere every few years, and many are uncontrolled entries…

Wu Ping, deputy director of China’s Manned Space Engineering office, said at a press conference before the launch of the Tiangong-2 space station last week that based on their calculations and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during its fall through the atmosphere. She added that China has always highly valued the management of space debris, and will continue to monitor Tiangong-1, and will release a forecast of its falling and report it internationally…

❝ “Although Tiangong-1 is no longer functioning, keeping track of where it is not a problem,” said Chris Peat, who developed and maintains Heavens-Above.com, a site that provides orbital information to help people observe and track satellites orbiting the Earth.

Should curiosity get the best of you – and you have moderately capable optics handy – I’d suggest staying in touch with Chris Peat’s Heavens-Above.com site and keep an eye on the critter yourself.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

National Weather Service offers up radar images of migrating butterflies

Seen lots of butterflies lately? Radars have, too, and their behavior isn’t exactly typical.

The National Weather Service out of Boulder posted two radar images on their Twitter Tuesday showing a giant blob of blue and red to the uneducated eye.

But meteorologists could tell that these images showed the migration of what was first believed to be birds, but later determined to likely be butterflies after the agency received several reports about the flying insects…

The flurry of activity started around sunrise Tuesday and continued throughout the day, he said. Migrating birds with their big wings and need to fly together in the same direction as the wind commonly produce a coherent radar signature like the one seen. It’s rare for insects to do that but a high quantity of migrating butterflies could…

Better than watching manmade chaff on the radar screen. Any day. Any night.

Huge Solar Flare Disrupts GPS Satellites Globally


Image: NASA/GSFC/SDO

❝ The Sun’s impact on weather here on Earth is clear: It makes it hot or cold, it powers air currents, it causes water to evaporate making rain, et cetera. But with our increasing reliance on satellites and electronics, you can’t forget its more insidious effects — and some satellites got a taste of those…

Around 5:10 and 8:00AM eastern time, the Sun let out a hiccup and then a loud belch — the largest solar flare in twelve years. These large events are typically harmless to those on the ground, but this one could have potentially disrupted GPS communication yesterday morning.

❝ The flares came from part of the sun called AR 2673…The two flares fell into the X class of most powerful events, one registering an X2.2…and the second registering an X9.3…This second flare was the largest since 2005, and the eighth-largest on record.

These flares come as the Sun is weakening in its 11 year cycle, and X9.3 is especially intense as solar activity approaches its minimum. According to reporting by New Scientist, the storm temporarily disrupted GPS and radio communications…

❝ Space weather isn’t something you necessarily need to worry about, but it’s definitely something engineers and anyone involved with electronics needs to consider…

There’s even an “oops” moment where the article provides a rationale for Trump’s ignorant maundering about vote recording. Not that facts have much to do with his thought processes.

Future Hurricanes Likely To Be Worse Than Harvey

How powerful would Hurricane Harvey have been in 1880? How much stronger might it be in 2100?

❝ A single Hurricane Harvey has been more than anyone can bear. But to better prepare cities for future storms, researchers are preparing to re-watch Harvey thousands of times. They’ve already been studying earlier storms, and their conclusions don’t bode well for the decades to come.

❝ In the months and years after Superstorm Sandy’s 2012 assault on New Jersey and New York, Gary Lackmann, an atmospheric science professor at North Carolina State University, was asked how the event might be understood in light of human-driven global warming. He knew that the question everyone wants answered—did climate change cause the storm—wasn’t the right one. Hurricanes were around long before the industrial revolution. Two questions did, however, resonate:

How does climate change affect the frequency or intensity of huge storms?…

What would the weather pattern that sustained Sandy have spawned in a cooler past or a hotter future?…

RTFA for conclusions.

The body of Lackmann’s study ran before Hurricane Harvey. He’s adding that info to an ongoing evaluation. The more empirical data you have, the better. Especially in the political climate of crap “alternative facts” so loved by today’s conservatives.

Cummins Beats Tesla to Public Launch of Prototype Electric Semi-Truck

❝ Engine maker Cummins has introduced an all-electric heavy duty truck ahead of Tesla.

The 18,000-pound rig with maximum payload of 44,000 pounds was shown…at Cummins’ tech center in Columbus, Ohio. A concept vehicle at this point, the truck was built by Roush with Cummins’ electric drive and is targeted at companies needing local deliveries.

❝ Cummins says its truck, named AEOS after a four-winged horse-driven chariot from Greek mythology, will go 100 miles per charge. It will need an hour to recharge. That will be reduced to 20 minutes by 2020.

Tesla, which will launch its new from the ground up semi next month, has been reported to be preparing it to go 200-300 mile per charge.

❝ Other automakers, including Ford, are said to be conducting research on entering this new regional route electric truck market segment centered around a home charging base.

In June, Cummins announced it will be making electric drivetrains for buses by 2019. For now, that will be a priority over the electric truck.

Whichever way the competition swings, truckers will be the winners…when we’re back to sensible government and a renewed commitment to environmental health. Our whole population, the world will be better off for this kind of competition.

Left & Right Agree — Trump’s infrastructure order is plain stupid


Click to enlargeWhat downtown Houston might look like or worse

No one likes Trump’s new infrastructure order…The 2015 Federal Risk Management Standard update was supported by conservative and liberal groups alike.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a new order that rescinded an Obama-era rule requiring federally-funded infrastructure to follow stricter building standards aimed at reducing flood-related damages. The Obama order also required that federally-funded infrastructure built along the coastline take into account future projections for sea-level rise.

❝ Trump’s order has already prompted swift backlash from across the political spectrum, with everyone from environmental groups to free market think-tanks arguing that there was little upside to rescinding a rule aimed at saving taxpayer money and preventing loss of life in flood-prone areas…

Since the Carter Administration, federal agencies have been required to avoid building in floodplains, but until 2015, there was no requirement that agencies that couldn’t — or wouldn’t — avoid building in flood-prone areas take extra steps to make those buildings resilient…Additionally, federal agencies constructing projects along the coastline were instructed to look at sea-level rise projections for the project’s lifetime, and take those into account when siting and building…

It’s called saving money, saving lives, by reasonable – maybe even smart – construction and siting.

❝ …Flood damage cost Americans more than $260 billion between 1980 and 2013, while federal flood insurance claims averaged nearly $2 billion per year between 2006 and 2015. Since 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent almost $50 billion in public grants to help communities recover from federally-declared flood disasters…

Flood insurance requires all private development projects meet the guidelines just erased by Trump. Many local building codes echo national and international standards meant to save lives and ensure that residential and business structures will survive the disasters we’ve already survived – and will confront again.