AGU reports that NASA and NOAA independently assessed that the planet’s average surface temperature jumped to a new high in 2015, except for a cool spot in the North Atlantic. Based on about 6300 stations, ships and buoys, both agencies found the average global temperature had increased compared to 2014 – which had also been a record year. NASA found the average was 0.87°C higher than the average temperature over 1951 – 1980, where NOAA found a 0.90°C increase compared to the average over 1901 – 2000. The below image, courtesy of the Scientific Visualization Studio at Goddard Space Flight Center, shows the 2015 change from the longterm average temperature, with hottest areas on Earth in red and the coldest in blue.
Compliments to Cody Sullivan, AGU Intern, for the excellent article in EOS this past week!
NOAA and several commercial vendors have developed spherical displays of geoscience and mathematics that are both beautiful and thought provoking, allowing us to see phenomena like ocean currents, trade, climate, and geology evolving over time without the distortions of a 2-D projection. Examples in the video include (starting at 6:25) an animation of pollutants crossing the North Pole and (starting at 7:45) a depiction of continental drift from Pangea to present day. If you want to explore the datasets on your home computer, NOAA provides KML files for display using GoogleEarth.
German archeologists have unearthed 7,000-year-old water wells in eastern Germany, revealing a treasure trove of information regarding early farming societies. The wells would have been hand-dug down to the watertable, then cased (lined) with interlocked timbers to keep the shafts from collapsing. The archeologists’ article in the journal PLuS ONE concludes that the craftsmanship used to construct the wells indicates “…the first farmers were also the first carpenters, contradicting the common belief that the invention of metal woodworking tools more than a thousand years later was imperative for complex timber constructions.” Not as deep as Woodingdean or as big as The Big Well, but pretty impressive for 7,000 years ago.
Thanks to the National Groundwater Association and Sci-News.com for the tip!
The Photopic Sky Survey is a highly detailed photographic map of the Earth’s sky created by Nick Risinger, who travelled around the globe to capture 37,440 exposures of the night sky and stitched them together into a single 5,000 megapixel photograph. You can download, scan, and zoom through this incredible image online courtesy of SkySurvey.org (click on the info “i” icon at bottom left of the display to reveal the annotations).
Even more amazing is the Sky Survey app ($2.99 for iPad/iPhone) based on Risinger’s map which orients the displayed star field to match your current latitude, longitude, time, and the iPad’s orientation. In essence, it turns your iOS device into a planisphere and it is nearly magical to use, as if your iOS device has opened a hole into the wall or ceiling – or floor – to reveal the stars:
Aurora Borealis above Chatanika, Alaska, January 22, 2012
Today, January 22, a blob of superhot particles ejected by the sun began glancing off the North Pole, kicking off a minor geomagnetic storm that is predicted to peak tomorrow. This space weather event has lit the Alaskan sky tonight and has given the newspapers something to write about besides the Presidential primaries, but is considered a minor G1 storm (may cause small fluctuations in power grids). Much more severe G5 storms (extreme, causing power grids and communications to fail) are possible and could be disastrous, causing extensive economic damage.
This particular coronal mass ejection (CME, a burst of superhot particles, or plasma, erupting from a sunspot) is occurring as the 11-year solar cycle approaches its maximum in 2013. While this increasing activity does increase the risk of geomagnetic storms and the attendant damage, it does have some benefits in addition to the Northern Lights: the charged particles increase the density of the upper atmosphere, dragging space debris out of orbit (see p4). To the delight of amateur radio operators, these particles also increase the reflectivity of the atmosphere, allowing high frequency radios to reach greater distances.
On September 13, the governing council of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) published its newly adopted position statement in support of free and open communication of scientific findings. In this statement, AGU, a professional society of over 50,000 earth scientists from more than 135 countries, exhorted scientists, policy makers, and supporting institutions to guard and promote unfettered communication of scientific data, debates, and findings as a component of scientific expression. Although this statement and others like it are in response to the heated debate over global climate change and subsequent harassment of climatologists, attacking scientists for honest research that led to unpopular conclusions is not new.
The statement also notes that scientists have a responsibility to :
…communicate their findings in ways that portray their results and the results of others, objectively, professionally, and without sensationalizing or politicizing the associated impacts.
and to this I would add my belief that we scientists have a duty to communicate our results clearly to the society that supports our work.