Mainstream Media Ignores Connection Between Climate Change and Severe Weather, Again
By Jill Fitzsimmons and Shauna Theel
The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that man-made climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.
Less Than Three Percent Of Midwest Flood Stories Mention Climate Change
ABC, NBC And CNN Entirely Ignore Climate Connection
ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN devoted 74 full segments to flooding in the Midwest, but only one—on CBS Evening News—alluded to the fact that heavy downpours have increased (one percent of coverage). That segment did not explain that scientists have attributed this to climate change, and did not feature any scientists. MSNBC and Fox News were not included in this analysis because transcripts of their daytime coverage are not available in Nexis. [CBS News, 5/2/13]
USA TODAY Only National Print Outlet To Mention Climate Context Of Floods
USA TODAY, which recently launched a year-long series on the impacts of climate change, was the only national print outlet in our study that mentioned climate change in its reporting on Midwestern floods. The Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal never mentioned climate change in a total of 35 articles on the floods. The Washington Post did not cover the flooding independently. In total, only three percent of national print coverage mentioned climate change. [USA TODAY, 4/22/13] [Media Matters, 3/1/13]
Local Media Largely Ignore Climate Context Of Floods
Less than four percent of local newspaper articles on flooding in the Midwest mentioned climate change—only four of 107 articles. The Kansas City Star, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Indianapolis Star never made that connection. Flooding in the area has nearly surpassed records, leading to four deaths, delays in planting agriculture, disruptions in transportation and potential health impacts. [The Atlantic Wire, 4/25/13] [Union of Concerned Scientists, 4/30/13] [Climate Central, 4/26/13]
No Coverage Of Flooding Contribution To The Gulf "Dead Zone"
Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia told Media Matters in an email that "most media coverage is missing an important aspect of such flooding. These massive spring flooding events push an enormous amount of agricultural pollution down the Mississippi system and into the Gulf of Mexico. That flux will most certainly create a large dead zone."
Scavia added that conservation policies for farmers "may no longer be adequate" as flooding risks increase from climate change. Indeed, our study found that aside from one article in the Des Moines Register, the media overlooked that flooding increases fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms into the Gulf of Mexico, further contributing to the "dead zone" there. [United Press International, 4/10/13]
Evidence Suggests Climate Change Worsens Flood Risks In Midwest
Warming Leads To More Overall Precipitation
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained, basic physics indicates that warming leads to more evaporation and thus more precipitation overall:
As average temperatures at the Earth's surface rise (see the U.S. and Global Temperature indicator), more evaporation occurs, which, in turn, increases overall precipitation. Therefore, a warming climate is expected to increase precipitation in many areas. However, just as precipitation patterns vary across the world, so will the effects of climate change. By shifting the wind patterns and ocean currents that drive the world's climate system, climate change will also cause some areas to experience decreased precipitation. In addition, higher temperatures lead to more evaporation, so increased precipitation will not necessarily increase the amount of water available for drinking, irrigation and industry."
The EPA created this map, based on 2012 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showing that precipitation in most areas of the U.S. including the Midwest has increased over the last century:
[Environmental Protection Agency, accessed 5/1/13]
Frequency Of Large Rain Storms Has Increased In The Midwest
An analysis by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) found that the "frequencies of all large storms, especially the largest, jumped in recent years" in the Midwest:
Since 1961, the Midwest has had an increasing number of large storms. The largest of storms, those of three inches or more of precipitation in a single day, increased the most, with their annual frequency having more than doubled over the last 51 years. The frequencies of all large storms, especially the largest, jumped the most in recent years.
These are the central conclusions of a new analysis by the RMCO of precipitation in the eight midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The data are from 218 weather stations in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), the nation's most reliable weather stations.
The analysis included the following chart:
[Rocky Mountain Climate Organization in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, May 2012]
Increase In Worldwide Precipitation Has Been Attributed To Human Influences
The New York Times reported in 2011:
An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
Scientists have long been reluctant to attribute any specific weather event to global warming, but a handful of papers that do so are beginning to appear in the scientific literature. One such installment is being published on Thursday in Nature as a companion piece to the broader paper. It finds that severe rains that flooded England and Wales in 2000, the wettest autumn since record-keeping began there in 1766, were made substantially more likely by the greenhouse gases released by human activity. [New York Times, 2/16/11]
Climate Models Indicate That Heavy Downpours Will Increase In Midwest
The 2009 National Climate Assessment stated that climate models have projected that the heaviest downpours will increase in North America, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast:
Climate models project continued increases in the heaviest downpours during this century, while the lightest precipitation is projected to decrease. Heavy downpours that are now 1-in-20-year occurrences are projected to occur about every 4 to 15 years by the end of this century, depending on location and the intensity of heavy downpours is also expected to increase. The 1-in-20-year heavy downpour is expected to be between 10 and 25 percent heavier by the end of the century than it is now.
[T]he Midwest and Northeast, where total precipitation is expected to increase the most, would also experience the largest increases in heavy precipitation events.
A more recent draft National Climate Assessment similarly found that in the Midwest "[e]xtreme rainfall events and flooding have increased during the last century and these trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health and infrastructure." That report included the following map showing the heaviest precipitation (top two percent of all rainfalls) is projected to increase by 2041-2070 relative to 1971-2000:
The 2009 report also included the following chart showing that the heavy rainfall is projected to increase compared to 1990s averages, based on climate models used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 assessment report:
The University of Iowa's page on the "impacts of global climate change on the Midwest" cautions that precipitation projections are more complicated than temperature projections:
Precipitation is much more difficult for climate models to simulate [than temperature]. So we have less confidence in the predictions of changes in precipitation due to climate change (more "mediums" and fewer "highs" in the confidence levels). A complicating issue of assessing changes in precipitation in the Midwest is that we are located close to regions of high precipitation gradients. That is, annual precipitation is much less in western Iowa than eastern Iowa and less in northern Iowa than southern Iowa. In Illinois, there is less in the north than the south, but east-west differences are small. So if precipitation patterns shift eastward, for instance, in a future climate, Iowa will be more affected than Illinois, but both will be affected by a northward shift of higher rainfall. [University of Iowa, accessed 5/1/13]
However, Experts Warn It Is "Irresponsible" To Let Uncertainties Delay Adaptation
A report, Flood Management In A Changing Climate, by the World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership warned policymakers and municipal authorities against letting uncertainties delay adaptation:
[T]he scientific knowledge about the climate change and its impacts on the hydro-meteorological extremes such as floods and droughts is far from fully understood thereby making it difficult to assess future risks. Due to this uncertainty; managers can no longer have confidence in single projections of the future. It will also be difficult to detect a clear climate change effect within the next couple of decades, even with an underlying trend. Therefore, use of an adaptive management strategy is essential.
However, it is an irresponsible strategy to wait for less uncertain assessments before implementing adaptation measures, since climate change and its impacts are already taking place. Furthermore, waiting for less uncertain scenarios is a treacherous hope; the results will remain uncertain in future even with increased refinement of scientific methods. [World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership, August 2009]
Experts Urge Journalists To Incorporate Climate Change Into Flood Coverage
Seven Out Of Eight Scientists Agreed It Is Apt To Mention Climate Change In Flood Coverage
Of eight scientists who responded to inquiries from Media Matters, seven agreed that it is "appropriate" or "advisable" for journalists to explain how man-made climate change could worsen flood risks in the Midwestern U.S. One emphasized uncertainty about future precipitation patterns.
Scavia: Media Are "Missing" That This Is The "New Normal"
When told of the preliminary results of our analysis, Scavia, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Michigan and a lead convening author of the Midwest chapter of the draft National Climate Assessment, stated, "I think they're missing an important piece of information and if you don't make the point that these intense storms are occurring more often, each one looks like a one off event."
He said that if you mention the historical trend, "you get a better sense of whether these are just rare and unusual events or a new normal, which is what they really are." Further, he stated that in his view, "it's been actually good to see some of the reporting, such as on The Weather Channel, talk about how these storms are consistent with climate models—in the past, they never made those observations."
Scavia added that this "new normal" "should influence policies associated with building and development", such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood plain maps that affect insurance rates and building codes. [Phone conversation, 5/6/13]
Oppenheimer: It Is "Advisable" For The Press To Mention Climate Change Connection
In a phone conversation with Media Matters, Princeton University climate scientist and IPCC lead author Michael Oppenheimer stated that "if [he] were the press," he would state that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency, the "models suggest this trend will continue," and "heavy precipitation, all other things being equal, will generally lead to more flooding." Oppenheimer concluded that it would be "not only appropriate, but advisable for the press to include such statements."
Oppenheimer cautioned that "it's almost impossible in most situations to connect climate change in a cause and effect way to a particular episode," although some heat waves and other events have been attributed to climate change through modeling. He added that human management practices such as damming have a great influence over whether heavy precipitation leads to flooding. [Phone conversation, 5/1/13]
Trenberth: "Insights As To Why The Flooding Occurs" Are "Welcome"
Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Kevin Trenberth, wrote in an email to Media Matters:
Yes I think any insights as to why the flooding occurs is always welcome. Of course it is easy to say it is "weather," but the weather occurs in a changed environment: one that has more moisture in the atmosphere overall by about four to five precent compared with 30 to 40 years ago and associated with global warming. More moisture means more rain where and when it does rain: and so greater risk of floods. This affects decisions on what to do subsequently: whether to redo whatever damage was done or redo differently to take account of changing risk? Maybe not build in the flood plain? Etc.
In a subsequent email, Trenberth wrote that there is a trend of the media ignoring climate change even when events that have been made more likely by climate change occur, which is "disappointing and even irresponsible":
What I would add is that coverage of this sort has been dwindling. Last year with all the wild fires and exceptional heat there were very few media reports that mentioned the drought and connections to climate change. The coverage was disappointing and even irresponsible. [Email exchanges, 4/30/13]
Fasullo: It's "Certainly Appropriate To Frame" Midwest Floods In The Context Of Climate Change
John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote in an email to Media Matters:
I think it's reasonable to frame the event in the broader context of recent extremes, especially extreme drought transitioning to flooding from 2010 to 2012 across large portions of the U.S. In fact, we currently see simultaneous wide-spread flooding and drought conditions in the central of the country (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu).
Of course the question people are going to reflexively pose is "Is it caused by climate change?" But I think it is much more appropriate to ask whether climate change has influenced these types of events. Clearly the odd behavior we are witnessing, both at the moment and over the past several years, is consistent with the modulating influence of climate change. Quantifying exactly how much of an influence is a complicated task, one that is likely to have considerable uncertainty given the state of current models. I'd await some well-designed targeted studies to address that question (to date I have not seen one) but it is certainly appropriate to frame the topic in the context of climate change's broader influence. [Email exchange, 4/30/13]
Kunkel: Not Understanding How Climate Change Is Impacting Floods May Lead To A "False Sense Of Security" About Infrastructure
When asked whether the press should include statements such as "heavy rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and climate change models suggest this trend will continue," Ken Kunkel, a scientist at NOAA's National Climatic Data center who specializes in extreme events, responded.
"A statement like the one you quote is a reasonable one and does not overstate the scientific understanding about historical trends and possible future changes." He added that we need to understand how climate change is impacting floods so that we do not have a "false sense of security about the adequacy of infrastructure currently being planned and built":
When infrastructure that needs to be resilient to runoff from heavy rain is planned, the design engineers are typically required to use design values for heavy rain, for example, the 100-year storm. Such design values have been determined by the National Weather Service and are available in a series of publications. However, these design values are based entirely on historical storms and do not incorporate possible future changes due to anthropogenic climate change. One reason this has not been done is that there is no generally-accepted methodology for inclusion of possible future anthropogenically-forced changes. In my own personal research, I am exploring this issue and I personally think we need to provide decision-makers with some guidelines. Otherwise, we may have a false sense of security about the adequacy of infrastructure currently being planned and built. But, there is much research and development that needs to be done to develop guidelines. [Email exchange, 5/3/13]
Meehl: Climate Change Has Increased The "Odds For Flooding" In Midwest
Jerry Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a lead IPCC author, told Media Matters that "it's hard to attribute a particular event to a particular cause and the way I always try to present it is you've shifted the odds for these precipitation and flooding events." He added that it's become "difficult to have any kind of rational discussion" of climate change, which is "discouraging to me because climate change is a science issue not a political issue" and "if I would have one thing to say, it would be let's talk about this as a science issue, climate change is a science issue that affects everyone."
In an earlier email to Media Matters, he explained that "higher levels of greenhouse gases increase the odds for flooding events such as the ones we're seeing now in the upper Midwest":
Observations have shown that the northern tier of states has been getting wetter and the southern tier drier. This is consistent with climate model simulations of the effects of increasing greenhouse gases (basically the wet areas get wetter, the dry get dryer). Observations also show that precipitation intensity has been increasing and models show this as a signature of increasing temperatures (warmer air holds more moisture, so for a given precipitation event, more rain or snow falls—when it rains it pours). These atmospheric responses to higher levels of greenhouse gases increase the odds for flooding events such as the ones we're seeing now in the upper midwest. [Email exchange, 5/1/13]
Budikova: "I'm Not Sure" Why Media Are Not Tying In Climate Context Of Floods
Dagmar Budikova, a scientist at Illinois State University who has published research about climate change and Midwestern flooding, stated in a phone conversation that "you can tie it in, but you have to do it very carefully." She said that journalists "could be doing that and I'm not sure why they wouldn't be." She added they may simply be "trying to be very careful" as "reporting on climate change is not a simple task" and it is "dangerous" to "assume that anything anomalous is related to climate change." However, she stated, in the case of Midwestern flooding, "the literature is definitely converging to this idea" that flooding is increasing, and "more and more evidence is mounting to suggest that it may have to do with anthropogenic climate change." When asked whether it was important for the media to mention the climate context of the floods to make the public more aware, she said "I would think that probably the more aware people are about anything really, the better we are off" and that it is most likely that "the media would be the vehicle" to bring it to the public's attention. [E-mail, 5/1/13] [Phone conversation, 5/6/13]
Hirsch: It's A "Reasonable Hypothesis" But "Evidence Is Unclear" On Whether Precipitation Will Continue To Increase
Robert Hirsch, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, wrote in an email to Media Matters that while it's a "reasonable hypothesis that anthropogenic climate change could change flooding risks," the increase in precipitation may not continue. In a phone conversation, Hirsch added that while climate models have projected further precipitation of the region, "there's been very little testing," which is done through hindcasting, of whether these models are skillful. From his email:
I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that anthropogenic climate change could change flooding risks. However, the evidence to date is very unclear about this, and we know that the climate models, while they may be able to project changes in temperature fairly well do not do well at all when it comes to the kind of heavy precipitation events that produce floods. What we know when we look at the last 140 years or so in the midwest, that there have been some pretty large swings in the size of floods, and much of that is probably not related to anthropogenic climate change. There were very large floods in the last half of the 19th century, much smaller floods generally in the first half of the 20th century, and now we seem to be in another period of larger floods. We don't think this can be explained by greenhouse forcing, but may be a normal periodic oscillation in the climate.
I would say that human activities on the landscape may be as big a factor or bigger than climate change when it comes to changing the size of floods in this region. Urbanization and land drainage can be significant contributors to increased flooding. [Email exchange, 4/30/13] [Phone conversation, 5/1/13]
We searched Nexis and Factiva databases for articles and segments on "flood!" between April 1 and May 3, 2013. Our results include four major television outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN), seven national print outlets (Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal) and eight local newspapers (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Indianapolis Star).
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
By Dirk Lorenzen
2021 begins as a year of Mars. Although our red planetary neighbor isn't as prominent as it was last autumn, it is still noticeable with its characteristic reddish color in the evening sky until the end of April. In early March, Mars shines close to the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation Taurus.
A Landing Like a James Bond Movie<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyOTIwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MDU5MDQ2Nn0.aLE-s5r9YhoJs40XbavhUwUXdY97iykXqo0OO0S5eso/img.jpg?width=980" id="19fa1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c758d3cd0d3e11fbd5290bb95da86396" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="700" data-height="394" />
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover (shown in artist's illustration) is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars. Ingenuity, a technology experiment, will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet. Perseverance will arrive at Mars' Jezero Crater with Ingenuity attached to its belly. NASA<p>The highlight of this year's Mars exploration is the landing of the NASA rover "Perseverance" on February 18. Once the spacecraft enters the atmosphere it will be slowed down by friction. The heat shield will surpass 1,000 degrees Celsius. Later, parachutes will deploy to slow it down even more. Roughly two kilometers above the planet's surface, a sky crane comes into play. Four thrusters keep the crane properly oriented.</p><p><span></span>The rover is connected to the crane by nylon tethers. Upon approach of Mars' surface, the sky crane will lower Perseverance down about 7 meters. Once the rover has touched down, the tethers are cut and the sky crane flies off to land somewhere else on the surface.</p><p>Entry, descent and landing takes just seven minutes – the so-called seven minutes of terror. The flight team can't interact with the spacecraft on Mars. Experts have to sit and watch what's happening more than 200 million kilometers away. Radio signals from the spacecraft need about 11 minutes to travel in one direction. When the control center in Pasadena, California receives the message that entry has begun, Perseverance will already be on the ground. There is only one chance for a smooth landing. Any error could mean the mission is lost. The audacious sky crane maneuver would be a great feat in any action movie. But NASA knows how to do it – the Curiosity rover landed with a sky crane in 2012.</p>
Life on Mars?<p>Scientists want to use Perseverance to explore whether there is or ever has been life on Mars. Today the planet is a hostile environment – dry and cold with no magnetic field shielding the harsh radiation from space. Life as we know it can't survive on the Martian surface right now. But billions of years ago, Mars was hotter and wetter and had a shield against radiation. So it is at least plausible that simple microbes developed there. Maybe they live in the soil now, one or two meters below the surface. Perseverance will collect samples to find out. A future mission by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will pick up the samples and return them to Earth. But this won't happen before 2030.</p>
The Long Wait for James Webb<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyOTIxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTM1MDUzNX0.0Jmw-vIz6zuOa7eNsVX2oVzc0L6AFp05cAs4QbzdK6c/img.jpg?width=980" id="9cf3e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d46a2f73a4a2e32a9775087750c92431" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="700" data-height="394" />
The Hubble Space Telescope has been orbiting the Earth for more than 30 years. NASA<p>The Hubble Space Telescope's images of planets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies are legendary. The cosmic eye, launched in 1990, is likely to fail towards the end of this decade. The James Webb Space Telescope will be its successor. It is scheduled to launch on October 31 with a European Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.</p><p><span></span>The launch date is about 14 years later than planned when the project began in 1997. At almost $10 billion (€8.2 billion), the telescope is more than ten times as expensive as originally conceived. Its namesake James Webb was the NASA administrator during the height of the Apollo project in the 1960s.</p><p>Astronomers expect completely new insights from James Webb Telescope images, such as how the universe came into being, how it developed and how galaxies, stars and planets are formed. The instrument will observe the earliest childhood of the cosmos and photograph objects that already existed in the universe 200 to 300 million years after the Big Bang. James Webb, as the experts call the telescope for short, may even provide information about possibly inhabited exoplanets – planets like ours orbiting stars other than the Sun. </p>
A Sensitive German Camera<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyOTIxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTE0MzY3Mn0.o3aPaW5t0MFkEgeJl0HQ1V9lz6WDxKVGXyYWvpfoYyk/img.jpg?width=980" id="6ff49" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="187458ae2291c2aeb3bd36bc1ed777e0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="985" data-height="657" />
The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures that will fold up around the telescope for launch. NASA<p>The mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope is 6.5 meters in diameter and consists of 18 hexagonal segments. The entire instrument unfolds in 178 steps over a period of several months. Only then – probably in the spring of 2022 – will we see its first images.</p><p>Many communication or reconnaissance satellites only unfold in space. However, not every micrometer is as important as with this telescope. </p><p>NIRSpec, one of the four cameras on board, was built at Airbus in Ottobrunn near Munich. It is made of an unusual material: ceramic. Both the basic structure and the mirrors are made of this very light, hard and extremely temperature-insensitive material. With good reason – the large camera has to withstand a lot in space. It is cooled to around -250 degrees Celsius in order to register the weak infrared or thermal radiation from the depths of space. Plastic or metal bend and lead to blurred images. Ceramic, on the other hand, remains in perfect shape.</p><p>The NIRSpec instrument will examine, among other things, emerging stars and distant galaxies. The ceramic camera is incredibly sensitive – it could register the heat radiation from a burning cigarette on the Moon. Thanks to this precision, astronomers will get completely new insights into the cosmos with the James Webb Telescope and NIRSpec.</p>
No Flight to the Moon but to the ISS<p>It's not very likely that the Orion spacecraft from NASA and ESA will start its maiden voyage to the Moon before the end of 2021. As part of the Artemis-1 mission, it will remain in space for four weeks and will orbit the Moon for a few days. There will be no crew on board for the first flight, but two dummies from the German Aerospace Center, which use thousands of sensors to measure the conditions that human beings would be exposed to. The Orion capsule comes from NASA, while the ESA supplies the service module. The service module, which is being built by Airbus in Bremen, provides propulsion, navigation, altitude control and the supply of air, water and fuel. After problems with an engine test in mid-January, the new NASA large rocket Space Launch System (SLS), with which Orion is supposed to be launched, is unlikely to be operational until early 2022.</p><p><span></span>Matthias Maurer from Saarland is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in October. The flight will be in a Crew Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral. Maurer will live and work in the orbital outpost for six months. He is currently training to work on numerous scientific experiments. Maurer will be the twelfth German in space.</p><p>So far, Germany has only sent men into space. In mid-March, ESA will start the next application process for astronauts. A few years ago, the private initiative Die Astronautin ("She is an astronaut") showed that there are numerous excellent female applicants.</p>
Two Lunar Eclipses<p>Even if there is no flight to the Moon, sky fans are looking forward to two eclipses this year. On May 26, there will be a lunar eclipse between 9:45 and 12:53 UTC. From 11:10 to 11:28 UTC, the Moon will be completely in the Earth's shadow. It can then only be seen in a copper-red light. This is sunlight that is directed into the Earth's shadow by the Earth's atmosphere – reddish, like the sky at sunset. This eclipse can be observed throughout the Pacific, and will be best viewed in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Antarctica. In Europe, the Moon will be below the horizon and therefore the eclipse will not be visible.</p><p>This also the case for the partial lunar eclipse on November 19. From 07:18 to 10:47 UTC, the Moon will be partly in the shadow of the Earth. In the middle of the eclipse (around 9:03 UTC) 98% of the Moon will be eclipsed. The spectacle will be best seen in North America, Greenland, East Asia and much of the Pacific, such as Hawaii and New Zealand.</p>
Two Solar Eclipses: One Annular, One Total<p><span>In 2021, the Moon will pass right in front of the sun, twice. On June 10, the moon will be nearly in the furthest point of its elliptical orbit around Earth. So it will be too small to cover the sun completely. In the middle of this eclipse, an annulus of the sun will remain visible. The sun's ring of fire appears between 9:55 and 11:28 UTC for a maximum of four minutes – but it will only be visible in the very sparsely populated areas of northeast Canada, northwestern Greenland, the North Pole and the far east of Siberia.</span></p><p>In the North Atlantic, Europe and large parts of Russia, an eclipse will be seen at least partially. Between 8:12 and 13:11 UTC, the Sun will appear like a cookie that has been bitten into as the Moon covers parts of the bright disk. In some places, the eclipse will last about two hours. In Central Europe, a maximum of one-fifth of the sun will be covered.</p>
Dark Sun Over Antarctica<p>The celestial event of the year will be a total solar eclipse on December 4. In a 400-kilometer-wide strip, the New Moon will cover the sun completely. For a maximum of one minute and 54 seconds, day will turn to night. For that short time, the brightest stars can be seen in the sky and the flaming solar corona can be seen around the dark disc of the Moon.</p><p><span></span>Unfortunately, hardly anyone will get to see this cosmic spectacle because the strip of totality only runs through the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic. From 7:03 to 8:04 UTC the umbra of the Moon moves across the Earth's surface – and perhaps some ships' crews will enjoy the solar corona.</p><p>Only during the few minutes of totality is it possible to look safely at the Sun with the naked eye. During the partial phase or in the case of an annular eclipse, suitable protective goggles are necessary to watch the spectacle. Normal sunglasses are not safe. Looking unprotected into the sun can lead to severe eye damage or even blindness.</p>
Two Giant Planets in Northern Summer and Southern Winter<p>Venus, our other neighboring planet, will be behind the sun on March 26. It is not visible for the first few months of the year. From the end of April through Christmas, it will be visible as an evening star in the sky after sunset. The planet, shrouded in dense clouds, is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. The best visibility will be from September to December.</p><p>The giant planet Jupiter is in its best position of the year on August 20. It then shines in the constellation Capricorn, only disappearing from the evening sky at the beginning of next year. The ringed planet Saturn is also in the constellation Capricorn and can be observed particularly well on August 2. </p><p>Jupiter and Saturn are the stars of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and those of the long winter nights in the Southern Hemisphere. They are in the same area of the sky, almost forming a double star with Jupiter being the brighter of the two.</p>
Shooting Stars in August and December<p>There are certain periods when the Earth crosses the orbital path of a comet and shooting stars are much more likely than on other nights. Many small stones and dust particles are scattered on comet orbits, which light up the Earth's atmosphere for a moment when they enter.</p><p>The Perseids are particularly promising: August 9-13, a few dozen meteors (the technical term for shooting stars) will scurry across the sky per hour. The traces of light will seem to come from the constellation Perseus, near the striking celestial W of Cassiopeia. The Geminids – meteors coming from the constellation Gemini – will be similarly exciting with up to 100 shooting stars per hour, December 10-15.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.
Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.
The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.
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By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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