Tag: climate

Exoplanet Kepler-186f: Earth-Size World Could Support Oceans And Life (Infographic)

Astronomers have discovered a planet about the size of Earth, orbiting its star in the zone where oceans of liquid water would be possible.

A study of the newly-found planet indicates it could have an Earth-like atmosphere and water at its surface. The planet Kepler-186f is the fifth planet of the star Kepler-186, 490 light-years away.




The planet has 1.11 times the Earth’s mass. Its radius is 1.1 times that of Earth. Kepler-186f orbits at 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers) from its parent star. Its year is 130 Earth days.

The planet orbits Kepler-186, an M-type dwarf star less than half as massive as the sun.

Because the star is cooler than the sun, the planet receives solar energy less intense than that received by Mars in our solar system, despite the fact that Kepler-186f orbits much closer to its star.

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What If The Moon Disappeared Tomorrow?

Ah, yes, the moon. To it, over it, shooting for it. Blue, green. Pies, faces, shines, lighting. And I haven’t even gotten to all the Luna-based concepts. Earth’s moon plays a significant role in our culture, language and thoughts.

But does it … you know … matter? If it disappeared in the blink of an eye tomorrow (and for discussion’s sake let’s assume it does so nonviolently), would we even notice? Would we even care?

Well, it depends ….

Do you like tides?

Gravity — at least the Newtonian kind — is pretty straightforward: The closer you are to something, the stronger its pull of gravity.

So stuff that’s closer to the moon gets a stronger gravitational tug, and stuff that’s farther away gets a weaker one. Easy-peasey.

When looking at the effects of the moon on the Earth, you can essentially boil it down to three parts: The Earth itself, the ocean-close-to-the-moon and the ocean-far-from-the-moon.

On any given day, the ocean closest to the moon gets a bonus gravitational pull, so it rises up slightly, reaching out in watery embrace to what it can never reach.




And since the ocean is so big, all the water from one horizon pushes up against water from the other, resulting in a fantastic tidal bulge.

OK, tide on one side of our planet, done. But what about the other?

The solid rocky bits of the Earth are closer to the moon than the ocean on the far side, so the Earth too gets a little more snuggly with the moon, leaving the far-side ocean behind.

Result? Tides on the far side. From the perspective of someone standing on Earth, it looks like that ocean is rising up, but really it just doesn’t get to join the party. And there you have it: two tides on opposite sides of the Earth.

If the moon disappeared, we wouldn’t be totally out of tidal luck; the sun also stretches and squeezes the Earth, so our surfing opportunities wouldn’t be completely eliminated.

Do you like 24 hours in a day?

The Earth used to spin on its axis faster than it does today. As in, way faster. After the hypothetical giant impact that led to the formation of the moon, the Earth’s day was as short as 6 hours. How did it get to a leisurely 24?

That’s right, it was the moon! The moon makes some pretty nice tides, but the Earth is also spinning on its axis. That spinning physically drags the tidal bulges around the planet.

So instead of the tides appearing directly beneath the moon, they’re slightly ahead of it, orbitally speaking.

So you’ve got a big lump of extra ocean water in a place where it’s not supposed to be. Since gravity is a two-way street, that lump pulls on the moon.

Like tugging a reluctant dog on a leash, that tidal bulge yanks on the moon bit by bit, accelerating it into ever-higher orbits.

By the way, the moon is slowly getting farther away from Earth.

And that energy to accelerate the moon has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the Earth itself: Day by day, millennium by millennium, the Earth slows down, converting its rotational energy into the moon’s orbital energy.

If you took away the moon, itꞌs not like this process would reverse, but it wouldn’t keep going. That might or might not be a good thing, depending on how much you like the length of your workday.

Do you like seasons?

The Earth’s axis is tilted, and that tilt can change with time. No biggie, all the planets do it; it’s fun. But what’snot fun is when the tilt changes rapidly.

What would happen if Antarctica pointed straight at the sun for 24 hours a day, plunging North America and Europe into permanent darkness?

And then a few hundred thousand years later it flipped over? We take the long-term regularity of our seasons for granted, and we might have the moon to thank for it.

Those kinds of crazy wild swings in the axial tilt are due to resonances, or unlucky interactions with distant objects in the solar system.

For instance, letꞌs say that one day in its orbit the Earth’s axis just happens to point away from the sun, and Jupiter is hanging out in that direction at the same time.

And let’s say that happens again … and again … and again. Every time Earth’s axis and Jupiter line up, it gets a super-tiny gravitational pull. At first it’s nothing.

But over millions of years it can add up. Before you know it, the accumulation of tugs has flipped the Earth over like a pancake.

What might stabilize this is the moon: it’s really, really big, and orbits us pretty fast. All that angular momentum prevents the other planets from playing any axial shenanigans.

Or not. The moon may actually be hurting us in the long term, since it’s slowing us down, which makes us more susceptible to the intrigues of the outer planets.

But that’s a billion-year problem anyway, and if the moon disappeared tomorrow, our seasons would still be seasonal for a really long time.

So, besides the tides, would we notice a disappeared moon? Well, yes, because it’s really big and bright, and there’d be nothing to howl at anymore. But would it affect us? Not really. So as for the moon … I’m over it!

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Parts Of The Arctic Spiked To 45 Degrees Above Normal

In December, a team of U.S. government scientists released a “report card” on the Arctic. Their top conclusion was pithy, comprehensive, and bleak. The Arctic, they said, “shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region of recent past decades.”

Now, it’s almost like the environment is trying to prove them right.

Though the sun hasn’t shone on the central Arctic for more than four months, the region is currently gripped by historic, record-breaking warmth.




On Sunday, the temperature at the North Pole rose to about the melting point, and parts of the Arctic were more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.

A handful of Arctic scientists spent the weekend on Twitter, trying to put the episode into context:

To understand how strange the recent Arctic weather is, it’s worth looking at a place called Cape Morris Jesup.

Cape Morris Jesup is a barren and uninhabited promontory above the Arctic Ocean. Just 450 miles from the North Pole, it is Greenland’s northernmost point.

The sun hasn’t shone on Cape Morris Jesup since October 11. These should be among the coldest weeks of the year for the cape.

But over the weekend, the weather station there recorded an air temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, more than 50 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The weird warmth was not limited to that one spot. Station Nord, a scientific research station in Greenland nearly 200 miles to the southeast, recorded temperatures of about 36.5 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend.

The Climate Reanalyzer, a tool from the University of Maine, uses data from the U.S. weather model to show how far temperatures have deviated from historic norms. On February 26, 2018, the Arctic was almost 5.4 degrees Celsius (about 10 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal, while much of Europe was almost 10 degrees Celsius colder than normal.

These kinds of on-the-ground observations aren’t available for the North Pole.

But by combing satellite observations and other temperature data, the top U.S. forecast model estimated that temperatures at the North Pole rose as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this time of year, sea ice should still be growing and expanding. But recent satellite observations have shown that two large gaps have somehow opened up in the ice. The first is in the Chukchi Sea, near Russia.

How rare is this kind of Arctic warmth? Climate scientists say they have seen events similar to this one happen before, but that the size and intensity of the warmth made it really notable.

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What Would Happen If Earth Became 2 Degrees Warmer?

In 2015, the Paris Agreement declared that the world should try to keep Earth’s warming trend to well below 2°C by 2100. Here’s what would happen if temperatures did increase by 2° C.

Sea levels will likely rise by 1.6 feet. Flooding coastlines worldwide.

While the amount of fresh water may increase for high latitudes, East Africa, and parts of India and Sahel, subtropical regions may lose nearly one-third of its fresh water.

Making matters worse, heat waves could intensify. Tropical regions may experience heat waves for up to 3 months which will affect the growth of certain staple crops.




These areas will likely produce less wheat and corn but slightly more soy and rice.Which could affect overall diets worldwide.

Likewise, North Asia may see a boost in soy crops. Growing up to a quarter more soy each year.

For sea life, the situation is more dire. Warmer oceans will do irreversible damage to 99% of coral reefs. As the reefs die off, it will disrupt ecosystems for up to 9 million different species.

This scenario was forecasted by the European Geosciences Union in 2016. In 2017, another team of scientists estimated there’s a 95% chance Earth will warm more than 2 ºC by 2100.

Bleak forecasts may not be enough to stop humans from warming Earth. But at least they’re a guide on how to prepare for a frightening future.

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Ice Chunks Are Fascinating To Look At, But Can Cause Serious Flooding

Mohawk River ice jam: Giant chunks of ice washed up on the shore of the Mohawk River.

The weather has been all over the spectrum in the last few weeks.

Record-breaking frigid temperatures and wind chills kicked off 2018, followed by temperatures into the 50s and 60s last week.

Temperatures plummeted to start off this week, and central Pennsylvania woke up Wednesday to a few inches of fresh snowfall.




A gradual warmup is expected into this weekend, with highs in the 50s predicted. The upcoming warmup has meteorologists keeping an eye on what the warmer weather could mean for ice jams in rivers and streams.

It’s something we’re going to have to keep an eye on,” said Craig Evanego, a meteorologist with National Weather Service.

Evanego explained the warmer temperatures could enable ice jams to break free and move down rivers and streams.

He added that some areas in the northern part of the state are already experiencing ice jam issues on localized streams thanks to elevated water levels.

Frozen river ice: Frozen river ice melts in layers as chunks wash up on shore.

With the gradual warmup, we’ll see if things will begin to thaw and move down the (Susquehanna) river,” Evanego said.

Senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski with AccuWeather said that thanks to the persistent cold, pretty thick layers of ice have been able to form.

Along with fluctuating temperatures, Sosnowski said river levels are a little higher, adding that another rain event is expected from Monday to Wednesday next week.

Mohawk River ice jam: Jams can cause floods, which threaten buildings near the banks.

Sosnowski explained a major risk with ice jams is that when they break free, they send a surge of water down the river, which can cause flooding in unprotected areas.

Sosnowski expected that levee systems should be able to protect against any flooding caused by ice packs, and said unprotected areas are at the most risk for flooding.

Sosnowski encouraged those who want to go out and observe ice packs to do so carefully, as they can break away and begin drifting downstream at any time.

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Sky Watching Tips And Tricks For Cold Northern Nights

For much of the contiguous United States this winter has been marked by perpetual ice, snow as well as the now infamous polar vortex.

Such conditions might make even the most committed stargazer think twice before venturing outdoors.

Stepping outside to enjoy a view of the constellation Orion, Jupiter or even just the waxing moon these frosty nights takes only a minute or two, but if you plan to stay outside longer, remember that enjoying the starry winter sky requires protection against the cold temperatures.




The best garments are a hooded ski parka and ski pants, both of which are lightweight and provide excellent insulation. And remember your feet.

Two pairs of warm socks in loose-fitting shoes are quite adequate; for protracted observing on bitter-cold nights wear insulated boots.

Reach for the binoculars

In weather like this, one quickly will realize the advantage of using a pair of good binoculars over a telescope.

A person who attempts to set even a so-called “portable” scope up in bitter temperatures or blustery winds might give up even before he or she got started.

But binoculars can be hand-held and will produce some quickly magnified images of celestial objects before rushing back inside to escape the frigidity.

Transparency

In their handy observing guide, “The Stars” (Golden Press, N.Y.), authors Herbert Zim and Robert Baker write that “the sky is never clearer than on cold, sparkling winter nights.

“It is at these times that the fainter stars are seen in great profusion. Then the careful observer can pick out dim borderline stars and nebulae that cannot be seen when the sky is less clear.

What Zim and Baker were referring to is sky transparency, which is always at its best during the winter season. That’s because Earth’s atmosphere is not as hazy because it is less moisture laden.

Cold air has less capacity to hold moisture, therefore the air is drier and thus much clearer as opposed to the summer months when the sky appears hazier.

But this clarity can also come at a price.

Seeing through the twinkles

If you step outside on one of those “cold, sparkling nights” you might notice the stars twinkling vibrantly.

This is referred to as scintillation, and to the casual observer looking skyward, they might think of such a backdrop as the perfect night for an astronomer, but it isn’t.

This is because when looking skyward, skywatchers are trying to see the sky through various layers of a turbulent atmosphere.

Were we to train a telescope on a star, or a bright planet like Mars, what we would end up with is a distorted image that either seems to shake or quiver or simply “boils” to the extent that you really can’t see very much in terms of any detail.

Forecasting sky conditions

If you own a telescope, you don’t need to wait for balmy summer nights to get good views. Usually, a few days after a big storm or frontal passage, the center of a dome of high pressure will build in to bring clear skies and less wind.

And while the sky might not seem quite as “crisp” or “pristine” as it was a few days earlier, the calming effect of less winds will afford you a view of less turbulent and clearer images through your telescope.

More comfortable nights ahead

If you plan on heading out on a cold winter’s night — and if you’re doing it while under a dome of high pressure — the fact that there is less wind means not only potentially good seeing, but also more comfort viewing conditions.

The end of winter is in sight though. The Northern Hemisphere is officially halfway through the winter season and milder, more comfortable nights are within reach.

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This City In Alaska Is Warming So Fast, Algorithms Removed The Data Because It Seemed Unreal

Last week, scientists were pulling together the latest data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly report on the climate when they noticed something strange: One of their key climate monitoring stations had fallen off the map.

All of the data for Barrow, Alaska — the northernmost city in the United States — was missing.

No, Barrow hadn’t literally been vanquished by the pounding waves of the Arctic Sea (although it does sit precipitously close).




The missing station was just the result of rapid, man-made climate change, with a runaway effect on the Arctic.

The temperature in Barrow had been warming so fast this year, the data was automatically flagged as unreal and removed from the climate database.

It was done by algorithms that were put in place to ensure that only the best data gets included in NOAA’s reports.

They’re handy to keep the data sets clean, but this kind of quality-control algorithm is good only in “average” situations, with no outliers. The situation in Barrow, however, is anything but average.

If climate change is a fiery coal-mine disaster, then Barrow is our canary. The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth, and Barrow is in the thick of it.

With less and less sea ice to reflect sunlight, the temperature around the North Pole is speeding upward.

The missing data obviously confused meteorologists and researchers, since it’s a record they’ve been watching closely, according to Deke Arndt, the chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch.

He described it as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic.

Just this week, scientists reported that the Arctic had its second-warmest year — behind 2016 — with the lowest sea ice ever recorded.

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and the report is topped with an alarming headline: “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.

Changes in the Arctic extend beyond sea ice. Vast expanses of former permafrost have been reduced to mud. Nonnative species of plants, types that grow only in warmer climates, are spreading into what used to be the tundra.

Nowhere is this greening of the Arctic happening faster than the North Slope of Alaska, observable with high-resolution clarity on NOAA satellite imagery.

The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that,” the NOAA report says.

At no place is this more blatantly obvious than Barrow itself, which recently changed its name to the traditional native Alaskan name Utqiagvik.

In just the 17 years since 2000, the average October temperature in Barrow has climbed 7.8 degrees. The November temperature is up 6.9 degrees.

The December average has warmed 4.7 degrees. No wonder the data was flagged.

The Barrow temperatures are now safely back in the climate-monitoring data sets. Statisticians will have to come up with a new algorithm to prevent legitimate temperatures from being removed in the future.

New algorithms for a new normal.

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This Behemoth Of A Scientific Instrument Was Launched Into Orbit So It Could Look Down On Earth To Monitor Its Climate

NCEI’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Climate Raw Data Record (C-RDR) is an intermediary product between the Raw Data Record (RDR) product and the many Sensor Data Record (SDR) products for the VIIRS instrument.

The VIIRS instrument is a key element of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, which was launched in October 2011.

VIIRS collects data in 22 spectral channels, from visible to longwave infrared, at two different spatial resolutions: 375 m and 750 m at nadir.

The VIIRS C-RDR contains all the raw measurements from the VIIRS RDR collected into time series variables. This simplifies access to the data for reprocessing using alternative calibration and geolocation methods.

The VIIRS C-RDR also provides the coefficients and tables used by the NESDIS Interface Data Processing Segment (IDPS) to convert the raw measurements to science units and calibrate them.




These data are all written to files using the Network Common Data Form 4 (netCDF-4) format, which is platform-independent, binary, hierarchical, and self-describing.

Each variable within a VIIRS C-RDR file is annotated with a description of the measurement, information about the source, and specifications of valid limits and fill values.

Each VIIRS C-RDR file also contains file-level metadata conforming to the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata conventions, the Attribute Convention for Dataset Discovery (ACDD), and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) standards for Suomi NPP data products.

Metadata elements, such as granule IDs, which are found in Suomi NPP data product files, are also present in C-RDR files as an aid to understanding the provenance and processing history of the VIIRS C-RDR files.

A number of existing software applications (IDL, MATLAB, etc.) can easily read the variables contained within VIIRS C-RDR files.

Users can also easily access the file contents in their own applications by employing netCDF libraries that are available for FORTRAN, C, C++, Java, or Python.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How Do We Know That Global Warming Is Real?

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history.

Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era and of human civilization.

Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.




Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale.

This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.

Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA.

There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels.

Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks.This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

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Pass it on: New Scientist