NASA finds August 2016 tied July 2016 for hottest month ever recorded

Click to enlarge

❝ August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies…

❝ Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded…

“Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We stress that the long-term trends are the most important for understanding the ongoing changes that are affecting our planet.”

The record warm August continued a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set new monthly high-temperature records.

❝ The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations. The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet.

Nothing like having a clear idea of how human beings are screwing up the planet.

Well, actually a small number of human beings. Like 1%.

A strange thing happened in the stratosphere — and no one knows (yet) what’s going on

Republican meteorology

“The quasi-biennial oscillation is the stratosphere’s Old Faithful,” said Paul Newman, Chief Scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center…“If Old Faithful stopped for a day, you’d begin to wonder about what was happening under the ground.”

❝ Winds in the tropical stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends from about 10 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface, circulate the planet in alternating easterly and westerly directions over roughly a two-year period. Westerly winds develop at the top of the stratosphere, and gradually descend to the bottom, about 10 miles above the surface while at the same time being replaced by a layer of easterly winds above them. In turn, the easterlies descend and are replaced by westerlies.

This pattern repeats every 28 months. In the 1960s scientists coined it the “quasi-biennial oscillation.” The record of these measurements, made by weather balloons released in the tropics at various points around the globe, dates to 1953.

The pattern never changed — until late 2015. As the year came to a close, winds from the west neared the end of their typical descent. The regular pattern held that weaker easterly winds would soon replace them. But then the westerlies appeared to move upwards and block the downward movement of the easterlies. This new pattern held for nearly half a year, and by July 2016 the old regime seemed to resume.

❝ The quasi-biennial oscillation has a wide influence on stratospheric conditions. The amount of ozone at the equator changes by 10 percent between the peaks of the easterly and westerly phases, while the oscillation also has an impact on levels of polar ozone depletion.

❝ With this disruption now documented, Newman and colleagues are currently focused on studying both its causes and potential implications. They have two hypotheses for what could have triggered it — the particularly strong El Niño in 2015-16 or the long-term trend of rising global temperatures. Newman said the scientists are conducting further research now to figure out if the event was a “black swan,” a once-in-a-generation event, or a “canary in the coal mine,” a shift with unforeseen circumstances, caused by climate change.

Of course, if it’s the latter, you can be certain the usual pimps for the fossil fuel industry will line up to deny [a] that anything really happened and [b] if it happened it’s not important.

June set another global temperature record – in case you didn’t notice

This June has joined every other month of this year so far in setting an all-time monthly record for global temperatures, according to two separate federal science agencies — though the globe was not as extremely warm last month as it was earlier in the year.

“Warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions dominated across much of the globe’s surface, resulting in the highest temperature departure for June since global temperature records began in 1880,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Globally averaged temperatures in June were 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.62 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average across the 20th century, according to NOAA. That slightly surpassed temperatures measured in the prior record June of last year…

Overall, the data suggest the fading strength of the dramatic 2015-2016 El Niño event is slowly taming the record-breaking spike in global temperatures. Current Pacific Ocean conditions are neutral, with a shift into La Niña conditions expected later this year, according to NOAA…

Nonetheless, it has been a staggering run for the planet of late. “This was also the 14th consecutive month the monthly global temperature record has been broken — the longest such streak in NOAA’s 137 years of recordkeeping,” NOAA reported. Both NOAA and NASA have rated every month this year so far as a record-breaker…

Right now, 2016 is running far ahead of the prior record year, 2015, for temperatures. In a press conference Tuesday, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who directs the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, provided a temperature analysis not just for June of 2016, but for the first six months of this so-far record warm year.

“This is the first time that we’re doing an analysis mid-year, mainly because the average temperatures for the first half of this year are so in excess of any first part of the year that we’ve seen,” Schmidt said.

Increases in temperature are Yuuge – except where Republicans and other Know-Nothings control the media, perception of reality for folks who don’t read beyond sports scores.

Juno voyage to Jupiter — arrival live on TV tonight

The NASA Channel on DirecTV and most other cable and satellite channels will carry the orbit insertion tonight starting at 8:30 MDT, 10:30 EDT.

The NASA app is available for most mobile devices. I have it on my iPad. And the new tvOS app for AppleTV works fine, as well. No doubt NASA has an app available for most platforms. I’ve just been checking what I have for tonight and everything seems ready to go.

There’s a live streaming channel at YouTube, active and rolling right now.

The video up top is the original trailer for the expedition and there’s a terrific piece on the solar power system over here.


NASA study displays Arctic greening

Click to enlargeNASA/Cindy Starr

The northern reaches of North America are getting greener, according to a NASA study that provides the most detailed look yet at plant life across Alaska and Canada. In a changing climate, almost a third of the land cover – much of it Arctic tundra – is looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems.

With 87,000 images taken from Landsat satellites, converted into data that reflects the amount of healthy vegetation on the ground, the researchers found that western Alaska, Quebec and other regions became greener between 1984 and 2012. The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America…

“It shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes,” said Jeffrey Masek, a researcher who worked on the study and the Landsat 9 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center…Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils. Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser – changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles

With the higher resolution Landsat data, the researchers also found a lot of differences within areas – one pixel would be brown, and its neighbors green, noted Ju. “It’s very localized,” he said. “The vegetation is responding to the microclimates. That’s the benefit of using Landsat data, is that we can reveal this spatial variation over very short distances.”

With the large map complete, researchers will focus on these short distances – looking at the smaller scale to see what might control the greening patterns, whether it’s local topography, nearby water sources, or particular types of habitat. They also plan to investigate forested areas, particularly in the greening Quebec.

❝ “One of the big questions is, ‘Will forest biomes migrate with warming climate?’ There hasn’t been much evidence of it to date,” Masek said. “But we can zoom in and see if it’s changing.”

At this point you really can’t predict gains or losses. The dramatic changes only point out how quickly climate change is affecting some regions unchanged for tens of thousands of years.

RTFA for technical details how NASA scientists did the observational work.

40 years of continuity, LAGEOS still aids studies of Earth

NASA Press release video from 1975

LAGEOS – short for Laser Geodynamic Satellite – was the first NASA orbiter dedicated to the precision measurement technique called laser ranging. With it, scientists have measured the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates, detected irregularities in the rotation of the planet, weighed it, and tracked small shifts in its center of mass.

Small deviations in the satellite’s orbit were used to develop early models of Earth’s gravitational field. Further perturbations in the orbit helped explain how sunlight heating small objects can affect their orbits, including near-Earth asteroids.

Built to last, the 900-pound (about 400 kilograms) satellite is passive, with no on-board sensors or electronics and no moving parts. Its brass core is covered by an aluminum shell that is dotted with 426 retroreflectors, making the satellite look like a giant golf ball.

❝ “LAGEOS is elegantly simple – a ball covered with reflecting prisms,” said Stephen Merkowitz, manager of NASA’s Space Geodesy Project at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But it set a new standard for laser ranging and has provided 40 years of continuity for these measurements.”

Read the tale of this simple, long-lasting project. The satellite is still providing the functions it was designed for and more.

Yes, I think it is worth fighting for a vision of science that surpasses the view of Congressional conservatives and beancounters – know-nothings and short-sighted political hacks.

Greenland ice is melting faster than ever — affecting Earth’s axial rotation

Click to enlargeReuters/Bob Strong

Researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute had to double-check their instruments to make sure they were working properly. It was hard to believe that 12% of the Greenland ice sheet was melting this early in the year; the previous record was set in 2010 when 10% of the ice sheet was melting in May.

The Earth’s two ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and the ice that covers the Arctic sea routinely melt and freeze again each year with the seasons. In the latter years of the 20th century, this ice has been receding more than re-freezing in the cooler months.

Climate scientists are already worried about the melting ice’s contribution to sea level rise. New research from NASA…suggests that the melting ice is also redistributing water enough to affect changes in the Earth’s axial rotation…

The poles have been shifting over time; it’s called the axial “wobble,” and it’s been happening since scientists first recorded data in 1899. In 2000, researchers noticed that the North pole was shifting eastward — toward London, as opposed to Canada, which they attributed to the ice loss in Greenland. As the ice melted, the north pole shifted toward the area with less ice.

The new data, however, indicates that the ice sheets aren’t the only factor affecting axial wobble. The balance of water held in different continents is also making a difference, researchers said. Erik Ivins, a geophysicist and co-author of the paper, explained to Scientific American that he thinks that a recent lack of rainfall in central Eurasia is also pulling the north pole to the east.

❝ “If we lose mass from the Greenland ice sheet, we are essentially putting mass elsewhere. And as we redistribute the mass, the spin axis tends to find a new direction,” Surendra Adhikari, a researcher with Caltech and NASA and co-author of the study, told the Washington Post. He estimates that about 40% of the shift is due to Greenland ice sheet loss; 25% due to Anarctica ice sheet loss, and 25% due to where water is located in continents.

Watch this space. Ivins hopes to have sufficient data added within the year to determine whether or not climate change is the prime factor.

We just lost a critical climate satellite — to Congress

One of climate change’s most important biographers — a 2,700-pound satellite orbiting 450 miles above the surface of the Earth — just recorded its last data point.

Earlier this month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that, after nine years and five months in orbit, the satellite known as F17 had stopped transmitting sea ice measurements. That’s not unusual — satellites in F17’s series, all named sequentially, are normally expected to last about five years, though some make it much longer. But F17’s failure could preempt the end of the series entirely…

Since 1978, the satellites, each equipped with a set of passive microwave sensors, have been recording conditions on Earth, day in and day out. By measuring the amount of radiation given off by the atomic composition and structure of different substances, like ice or seawater, microwave sensing is a useful tool for pilots and military officers tracking weather conditions. Over time, these measurements can also track cumulative changes in sea ice. As early as 1999, scientists saw that sea ice cover was decreasing more quickly than it had in previous decades — and they’ve been observing similar trends ever since.

Until now, there have always been three or four satellites in the series orbiting at a time, as part of one of the country’s oldest satellite programs, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). Over time, as new satellites were launched and older models went dark, overlapping data have kept the 40-year sea-ice dataset consistent…

❝ “The real problem is that there’s nothing on the horizon,” said Walter Meier, NASA researcher.There’s nothing funded, or planned right now.”

There is one other option — but it’s sitting in a storage room somewhere on Earth. This satellite, F20, was the last of its series to be built, and was tentatively planned to launch in 2018. That plan fell through last June, when the Senate Appropriations Committee revoked funding for the DMSP, even rescinding $50 million that had been specifically designated for launching F20. Without Congressional approval, F20 is grounded.

❝ “It’s sitting there, ready to be launched,” said Meier. He pointed out that the data from the satellite series is also used to study snow cover on land, ocean currents, temperature change, drought detection, and many other natural cycles. “The benefit is beyond my own work on sea ice.”

Even the few conservatives in Congress willing to admit to scientific evidence about climate change gets their knickers bunched over questions of responsibility and reaction. So, they respond to scientific questions the same way they have for recent decades to questions of social need, education, trade, peace – you name it. Their response is Do Nothing. They’re like petulant, ignorant children who shut their eyes and try to shout down the obvious. Hoping it will go away before they’re forced to open their eyes, again.

Help out the rest of the nation with confidence enough in science and human responsibility to fight for action. Start by kicking the deadwood out of elected office. Let them try to get honest jobs for a change.

Aerojet will build ion drive for NASA

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s operation in Redmond, Wash., has won a $67 million contract from NASA to design and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that could power future trips to an asteroid and Mars.

The goal of the 36-month project is to deliver an integrated system that could improve fuel efficiency by a factor of 10 over today’s chemical rocket propulsion systems, and double the thrust capability of current electric propulsion systems.

The work could set the stage for a deep-space demonstration mission by 2020…

Solar electric propulsion already has been used experimentally on several NASA probes, including Deep Space 1 and the Dawn orbiter that’s currently circling the dwarf planet Ceres. Solar arrays on the spacecraft generate electrical power, which is used to produce positively charged ions and accelerate them through an electric field. After acceleration, electrons are injected into the ion beam to maintain a neutral plasma…

Engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio have pioneered electric propulsion, and they’ll be working with Aerojet on the propulsion project. So will engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

RTFA for more details. One of my sci-fi favorites coming to fruition. Hah.

Thanks, Ursarodinia