The State of Washington and the Province of BC are in a state of emergency following days of severe wind, rain, and flooding. The situation began when an “atmospheric river” (a plume of moisture) extended over the Pacific Northwest, triggering severe rainfall that caused already-rising rivers to overflow. This led to blocked roads, mudslides, fallen bridges, and thousands of animals drowning in farmland areas.
This extensive damage was photographed from space by Earth observation satellites, one of which was the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel mission and the International Space Station (ISS). These images captured the extent of the floods in the Nooksack and Fraser River valleys this week, which both spilled over their banks this week, leading to washed-out roads and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.
Continue reading “The Severe Pacific Northwest Flooding Seen From Space”
Science fiction author Frank Herbert is renowned for the richly-detailed worlds he created. None of his work is more well-known than “Dune,” which took him six years to complete. Like his other work, Dune is full of detail, including the description of planet Dune, or as the Fremen call it, Arrakis.
Dune is an unforgiving desert world that suffers powerful dust storms and has no rainfall. Scientists who specialize in modelling climates set out to see how realistic Dune is compared to exoplanets. Their conclusion?
Frank Herbert did a great job, considering he created Dune in the 1960s.
Continue reading “Scientists Simulate the Climate of Arrakis. It Turns Out Dune is a Pretty Realistic Exoplanet”
Like Earth, Mars experiences climatic variations during the course of a year because of the obliquity of its rotational axis. This leads to the annual deposition/sublimation of the CO2 ice/snow, which results in the formation of the seasonal polar caps. Similarly, these variations in temperature result in interaction between the atmosphere and the polar ice caps, which has a seasonal effect on surface features.
On Mars, however, things work a little differently. In addition to water ice, a significant percentage of the Martian polar ice caps are made up of frozen carbon dioxide (“dry ice”). Recently, an international team of scientists used data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission to measure how the planet’s polar ice caps grow and recede annually. Their results could provide new insights into how the Martian climate varies due to seasonal change.
Continue reading “How Much Carbon Dioxide Snow Falls Every Winter on Mars?”
Remember when engineers proposed one-way trips to Mars, because round trips are just too expensive to bring people back to Earth again?
Getting people home from Mars can only happen in two ways. One is to lug all the return fuel with you when you launch from Earth, which is prohibitively difficult and expensive. The second way is to make the return fuel in-situ from Martian resources. But how?
A group of researchers from the University of Cincinnati propose using a type of reactor that was used from 2010-2017 aboard the International Space Station, which scrubbed the carbon dioxide from air the astronauts breathe and generated water to drink, with methane as a biproduct. On Mars, this reactor, called a Sabatier reactor, could take carbon dioxide from Mars’ atmosphere and create methane for fuel.
Continue reading “This is the Reactor That Could Make it Possible to Return From Mars”
How bad is the drought in the western United States? A stunning depiction of the record dry spell comes in images of Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. NASA satellite images, below, from Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 show the difference in lake levels between August 2000 and August 2021.
Continue reading “Here’s Lake Mead’s Record Low Water Levels Seen From Space”
In 2014, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). As with previous reports, AR5 contained the latest findings of Climate Change experts from all relevant disciplines, as well as projections about the near future. In short, the AR5 and its predecessors were assessments of the impact anthropogenic Climate Change was having on the planet and how we could avoid worst-case scenarios.
On Aug. 9th, 2021, the IPCC released a report titled Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. Combining the latest advances in climate science and multiple lines of evidence, this first report paints a rather bleak picture of the remainder of the 21st century. At the same time, it presents a call to action and shows how mitigation strategies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will ensure a better future for all.
Continue reading “A new Assessment of the World’s Climate is out. The News Isn’t Good”
Planet Earth is currently experiencing an unprecedented warming trend. Average global temperatures are rising at an accelerated rate in response to greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity. These rising temperatures, in turn, result in the release of additional greenhouse gases (like methane), leading to positive feedback loops that threaten to compound the problem further.
This scientific consensus is based on multiple lines of evidence, all of which indicate the need for swift action. According to new research led by members of the NASA Sea Level Change Science Team (N-SLCT) at the University of Hawaii at Manao (UHM), a new Lunar cycle that will begin by the mid-2030s will amplify sea levels already rising due to climate change. This will mean even more coastal flooding during high tides and coastal storms in the near future.
Continue reading “The Moon has Been Mildly Preventing Coastal Erosion, in the 2030s, That Protection Ends”
These days it seems you can’t walk through a bookstore without bumping into a book or magazine pointing out the negative consequences of climate change. Everything from the hottest years on record to ruining astronomy can be tied to climate change. Now some new science lays another potential problem at climate change’s feet – the Earth is retaining more than twice as much heat annually as it was 15 years ago.
Continue reading “The Earth’s Atmosphere is Storing Energy Twice as Quickly as it did 15 Years ago”
Every day, there are more indications that show how anthropogenic factors are causing uncomfortable changes in our climate. Here in beautiful British Columbia, this means that wildfires are once again threatening countless acres of forests, communities, and wildlife. By the end of June 2021, more than 40 wildfires were raging across the province, including a rather substantial cluster around the town of Lytton.
Located just 150 km (about 93 mi) northeast of the city of Vancouver, Lytton, had to be evacuated on June 30th after an extreme heatwave led to wildfire sweeping through the area. These wildfires and the impact they were having at the time was being monitored by some of NASA’s Earth Observatory satellites. In a series of images recently shared on their website, they show the fires that were raging near Lytton just hours before the evacuation.
Continue reading “After British Columbia’s Record-Breaking Heatwave, Here Come the Wildfires”
Glaciologists have been closely monitoring ice shelves in Antarctica for signs of cracks and chasms that indicate breakups. The loss of ice around the Earth’s polar regions is one of many consequences of climate change, which is leading to rising ocean levels and various feedback mechanisms. Recently, the ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite witnessed a giant iceberg breaking off from Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf on February 26th.
The Copernicus Sentinel mission consists of two polar-orbiting satellites that rely on C-band synthetic aperture radar imaging to conduct Earth observations in all weather conditions. In recent years, it has been monitoring the Brunt Ice Shelf for signs of cracks and chasms. According to the images it recently captured, an iceberg larger than New York City broke free and began floating out to sea.
Continue reading “Another Big Iceberg Just Broke off from Antarctica”