The Earth’s gravity revealed


After just two years in orbit, ESA’s GOCE satellite has gathered enough data to map Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision. Scientists now have access to the most accurate model of the ‘geoid’ ever produced to further our understanding of how Earth works.

The new geoid was unveiled today at the Fourth International GOCE User Workshop hosted at the Technische Universität München in Munich, Germany. Media representatives and scientists from around the world have been treated to the best view yet of global gravity.

The geoid is the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity. It is a crucial reference for measuring ocean circulation, sea-level change and ice dynamics – all affected by climate change.

Prof. Reiner Rummel, former Head of the Institute for Astronomical and Physical Geodesy at the Technische Universität München, said, “We see a continuous stream of excellent GOCE gradiometry data coming in. With each new two-month cycle, our GOCE gravity field model is getting better and better.  

Understanding ocean circulation
To understand ocean circulation

“Now the time has come to use GOCE data for science and applications. I am particularly excited about the first oceanographic results.

“They show that GOCE will give us dynamic topography and circulation patterns of the oceans with unprecedented quality and resolution. I am confident that these results will help improve our understanding of the dynamics of world oceans.”

The two-day workshop provides the science community with the latest information on the performance of the satellite and details about data products and user services.

New GOCE geoid
New GOCE geoid

Participants are also discussing how the GOCE geoid will make advances in ocean and climate studies, and improve our understanding of Earth’s internal structure.

For example, the gravity data from GOCE are helping to develop a deeper knowledge of the processes that cause earthquakes, such as the event that recently devastated Japan.

Since this earthquake was caused by tectonic plate movement under the ocean, the motion cannot be observed directly from space. However, earthquakes create signatures in gravity data, which could be used to understand the processes leading to these natural disasters and ultimately help to predict them.

The GOCE satellite was launched in March 2009 and has now collected more than 12-months of gravity data.

GOCE in orbit
GOCE in orbit

Volker Liebig, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes said, “Benefiting from a period of exceptional low solar activity, GOCE has been able to stay in low orbit and achieve coverage six weeks ahead of schedule.

“This also means that we still have fuel to continue measuring gravity until the end of 2012, thereby doubling the life of the mission and adding even more precision to the GOCE geoid.”

GOCE has achieved many firsts in Earth observation. Its gradiometer – six highly sensitive accelerometers measuring gravity in 3D – is the first in space.

It orbits at the lowest altitude of any observation satellite to gather the best data on Earth’s gravity. The design of this sleek one-tonne satellite is unique.

In addition, GOCE uses an innovative ion engine that generates tiny forces to compensate for any drag the satellite experiences as it orbits through the remnants of Earth’s atmosphere.

Prof. Liebig added, “You could say that, at its early conception, GOCE was more like science fiction. GOCE has now clearly demonstrated that it is a state-of-the-art mission.”

Rune Floberghagen, ESA’s GOCE Mission Manager, noted “This is a highly significant step for the mission. We now look forward to the coming months, when additional data will add to the accuracy of the GOCE geoid, further benefiting our data users.”

 

New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism


NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.
“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”
In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.
The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate.
Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is “not much”). However, the single most important issue in the global warming debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions will indirectly trap far more heat by causing large increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds. Alarmist computer models assume human carbon dioxide emissions indirectly cause substantial increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds (each of which are very effective at trapping heat), but real-world data have long shown that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing as much atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds as the alarmist computer models have predicted.
The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA’s ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.
In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth’s atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.
When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a “huge discrepancy” between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.
James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

Can the Earth’s Wandering Magnetic Poles Cause Deadly Superstorms?


The Earth’s magnetic poles have started moving at an increased rate in recent years. Some fear a catastrophic pole flip. Most scientists don’t seem worried. 

(FOX News)- Will the wandering magnetic North Pole create crazy superstorms?
The eye-popping connection between the planet’s weather and itsmagnetic field has caught hold among scaremongers recently, ever since scientists described the potential of devastating “superstorms” — storms caused, scientists say, by flowing gushers of water in the sky known as atmospheric rivers. Some worriers say that these tubocharged tsunamis will soon be widespread, thanks to the increased movement of the Earth’s magnetic field. 
And that when the field shifts, the story goes, anything can happen. All hell will break loose, they say, arguing that the shift has a greater effect on the world’s weather than even the carbon-based influences scientists have been carefully monitoring.
Poppycock, say the best scientific minds in the Northern Hemisphere.
“Trying to link all of these things together is kind of preposterous,” said Dr. Carol Raymond, principal scientist and a geophysicist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, which operates a fleet of satellites that closely monitor the planet and leads the charge in Earth Science research. Read more here.

Thermogeddon: When the Earth gets too hot for humans


Thermogeddon: When the Earth gets too hot for humans.

According to a recent study, parts of the Earth could start to become uninhabitable within a century. Surely it cannot be true?

IT IS the late 23rd century. Houston, Tel Aviv, Shanghai and many other once-bustling cities are ghost towns. No one lives in Louisiana or Florida anymore, and vast swathes of Africa, China, Brazil, India and Australia are no-go zones, too. That’s because in all of these places it gets hot and humid enough to kill anyone who cannot find an air-conditioned shelter.

NASA and Mary J. Blige partnership


Mary J. Blige is partnering with NASA with the objective to encourage girls and women of all ages to take up careers in science. Cited in a recent article.

NASA released two public service announcements featuring Blige and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin this week on NASA TV online. In addition, Blige, who cofounded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now in 2008, has made several television appearances in the last week to talk about the program.

The goal of the collaboration is to gather attention for NASA’s Summer of Innovation, a multiweek, intensive STEM program for middle school teachers and students during summer 2010. Coordinators hope the program, which is in support of the US President Barack Obama’s Educate to Innovate Campaign, will counter the “summer slide” (loss of academic skills over the summer) and other issues facing students who are underrepresented, underserved, and underperforming in STEM. SOI programs will take place in several states in the US including Idaho, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Wyoming, and students will learn about and develop projects involving wind turbines, weather stations, engineering in suborbital space, robotics, astrophysics, and space exploration. This, oneday should be made a global initiative!

The are a few things parents, teachers and society can do to encourage girls to pursue an interest in science.

Expose them to female role models. Find other women in science who can tell  them, what they did in science when they were young girls.

Use role models who can demonstrate that you can be attractive, wear nice clothes, have children, and get married–all while being successful in science. “That may sound a little bit sexist, but it turns out this is what little girls think about early on, and even the young girls you meet today in schools across the world [think you can’t be involved in science and still be feminine],” Quote “If you can expose them to role models who have these characteristics, it is positive reinforcement for them.”

Relate science to activities that girls, in particular, will understand. Tell and teach them about the chemistry involved in cosmetology or the scientific processes involved in cooking. There is an entire discipline of science devoted to food science. Show them that bread is made from yeast rising, that pickles are made as a result of the fermentation process, and explain to them the role of microorganisms in yogurt and cheeses. “Explain science so that children can see how it is used in their everyday experiences. Then it will help them to be more engaged and empower them.”

Build their math skills early. “Make sure they have a good foundation in math because math is fundamental to science,” If they have a good background in math, science will come easy.”

Committee on Earth Observation building GEOSS


IEEE Committee on Earth Observation Standards Working Group (ISWG) is recruiting volunteers to build GEOSS

Image of ICEO logoImagine a world where adoption of uniform standards for all manner of Earth observation systems and services made universal interoperability the rule, not the exception.

That world is one of the major goals of the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation Standards Working Group (ISWG), which is helping the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observation (GEO) to build GEOSS, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.

The IEEE, represented by the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO), is a member of GEO and contributes to many of its committees and tasks.

Dr. Siri Jodha Khalsa, the co-chair of the GEO Standards and Interoperability Forum, puts it this way: “The success of GEOSS will be measured by two things: improved access to the world’s Earth observation resources and the ability to combine, verify and analyze the data coming from those resources. Both critically depend on the adoption of open, international standards and best practices.”

To accomplish this goal, the international community of volunteers who comprise ISWG has been meeting regularly since May 2005, and in recent years through bi-weekly conference calls that last about an hour. The volunteers take on tasks as their schedules allow. ICEO recently issued a report on its accomplishments. As it moves forward, ICEO has a call for volunteers to participate as a team of experts to establish best practices for the taxonomies and ontologism of Earth Observation.

“Many of the issues faced by society are global or multinational, whether climate change or water availability or others. This requires information to be accessible and understandable beyond national boundaries. A key to true global collaboration is having common definitions and developing information in a consistent manner through best practices,” says Dr. Jay Pearlman, Chair of ICEO. “Having broad volunteer participation from all the regions of the world to develop a common “dictionary” is a high priority for creating the societal impacts envisioned for GEOSS.”

Steve Holt, a volunteer member of the ISWG, notes that further information about the tasks and accomplishments of ISWG is contained in “The IEEE Committee on Earth Observation Standards Working Group (ISWG) Quarterly Report.” [linked here] or available online at: https://www.ieeecommunities.org/iswg. You can then register for an IEEE web account to gain access to the ISWG site.

Space tourism could have big impact on climate


Space tourism could have big impact on climate

Space tourism could have major consequences for Earth’s climate. New computer simulations suggest soot emitted by the rockets could raise temperatures at the poles, significantly reducing seasonal ice cover there.

In the next few years, space tourism companies hope to start routinely flying passengers on suborbital space flights. Now, Martin Ross of the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California, and colleagues have performed the first detailed simulations of the flights’ effects on Earth’s climate.

They assumed a flight rate of 1000 suborbital trips per year, the number put forward in business plans for suborbital space tourism in 2020, and estimated the emissions from a rubber-burning engine like that planned for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The researchers found that the effect of soot, which is incompletely burned fuel, would dwarf that of the carbon dioxide emissions from the launches. Soot readily absorbs sunlight, warming the atmosphere where it is abundant.

Above the weather

The 1000 annual launches would belch out about 600 tonnes of soot, or black carbon – less than today’s output from airplanes and other sources. But plane soot occurs at low enough altitudes for rain to wash it out of the atmosphere in just days or weeks. Rockets expel the stuff at altitudes three times as high – in the stratosphere more than 40 kilometres above sea level. There, well above the weather, it can remain for up to 10 years.

To study the effects of black carbon emissions, Ross’s team used a 3D simulation of Earth’s climate. They assumed that all the black carbon is emitted over Spaceport AmericaMovie Camera, a space tourism hub being constructed in New Mexico, US.

The researchers found that the black carbon caused temperatures to rise at the north and south poles. The increase was about 0.2 °C for most of the year, but peaked at around 1 °C during each hemisphere’s winter. The extra warmth caused sea ice at each pole to melt, especially in Antarctica, where the area covered by ice shrank by as much as 18 per cent in the summer.

Ozone connection

Team member Michael Mills of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the team is still trying to understand exactly why the black carbon emissions would cause warming at the poles.

But the soot should warm air in the stratosphere, and this could strengthen currents there that carry air from the equator to the poles.

That would reduce the amount of ozone over the tropics and increase it over the poles – an effect seen in the simulation. That increase in polar ozone might be responsible for the polar warming, Mills says, pointing out that the converse has been observed on Earth – polar cooling is associated with decreases in ozone over Antarctica. The connection is probably due to the way ozone interacts with radiation, he adds, though researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanism.

“It’s not a pretty picture for the Arctic or Antarctic,” says Charles Zender of the University of California, Irvine, who says the new study was “very carefully done”.

Educated guess

Mills admits there is still uncertainty about the study’s findings. He notes in particular that the team lacked data on how much black carbon would be emitted per flight by space tourism vehicles. The team assumed that Virgin Galactic’s rubber-burning engine would emit 60 grams of black carbon per kilogram of fuel burned.

However, the team did not have access to measurements of black carbon emissions from Virgin Galactic’s engines, or those of other space tourism companies, which plan to burn other types of fuel, such as kerosene.

Kerosene-burning rocket engines not associated with space tourism emit 20 to 40 grams of black carbon per kilogram. Rubber is expected to burn less cleanly, but it is not clear by how much – the 60 grams is just an educated guess.

Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace, based in Mojave, California, which is developing a suborbital tourism vehicle called the Lynx, says his company’s engines emit far less unburned carbon than previous rockets, like those used to launch the Apollo moon missions. “We burn the fuel with very high efficiency in the chamber,” he says.

Ouachita Mountains, Oklahoma


Ouachita Mountains, Oklahoma.

Prairies stretch across much of Oklahoma, but the state also holds mountain ranges, including the Ouachita Mountains in the southeastern corner. Formed over 300 million years ago, these mountains are a highly eroded remnant of a much larger range, one that may have stretched from Texas into southeastern Canada.