When you look up at the Milky Way, you may be looking at stars surrounded by planets with oceans like ours.
"All our data suggest that water was part of Earth's building blocks, right from the beginning. And because the water molecule is frequently occurring, there is a reasonable probability that it applies to all planets in the Milky Way," study lead author professor Anders Johansen from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation at the GLOBE Institute at the University of Copenhagen said in a press release.
Scientists previously theorized that water arrived on planets like Earth after they formed through collisions with ice asteroids. This would make the presence of water on any planet in the galaxy a matter of chance. But, in recent years, new theories have emerged. Another paper published in August 2020 found that water may have been part of Earth's original building blocks.
That paper, led by the French-based Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, drew its conclusions by looking at the composition of a type of meteorite that has a similar composition to early Earth.
The new study, on the other hand, was based on computer models. The researchers modeled planet formation to see how long it would take using which building blocks. They calculated that Earth, Venus and Mars were all made through a process called "pebble accretion," in which millimeter-sized particles of dust and ice gather together into planets.
"Up to the point where Earth had grown to one percent of its current mass, our planet grew by capturing masses of pebbles filled with ice and carbon. Earth then grew faster and faster until, after five million years, it became as large as we know it today," Johansen said in the press release.
This theory does not require water to be brought to a planet from outside. Instead, what determines the presence of liquid water on the planet is how far it is from its sun. It also increases the likelihood that liquid water would form on other planets in our galaxy, since they could have formed in the same way from the same materials.
This, in turn, increases the chance that these planets would host extraterrestrial life.
'With our model, all planets get the same amount of water, and this suggests that other planets may have not just the same amount of water and oceans, but also the same amount of continents as here on Earth. It provides good opportunities for the emergence of life," study co-author professor Martin Bizzarro, also at the University of Copenhagen, said in the press release.
This is not the first study to suggest that other planets in our galaxy were likely to have oceans. A NASA-led study published in June of 2020 looked at the likelihood that other planets in the Milky Way would have ice-covered oceans similar to those on Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa. They calculated that 14 of the 53 planets they studied could be ocean worlds.
NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.
As NASA pointed out in a statement, warm ocean temperatures near the equator draw the water northward. As the water moves away from the Amazon, the landscape becomes drier and more flammable. That means that fires set for agriculture and clearing land have an increased potential to grow out of control. Meanwhile, the additional moisture traveling north aids the development of hurricanes.
"The fire season forecast is consistent with what we saw in 2005 and 2010, when warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures spawned a series of severe hurricanes and triggered record droughts across the southern Amazon that culminated in widespread Amazon forest fires," said Doug Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the NASA statement.
Morton, who co-created the Amazon fire season forecast, analyzes the relationship between climate conditions and active fire detections from NASA satellite instruments to predict fire season severity.
"Our seasonal fire forecast provides an early indication of fire risk to guide preparations across the region," Morton, noting that the forecast is most accurate three months before the peak of burning in the southern Amazon in September. "Now, satellite-based estimates of active fires and rainfall will be the best guide to how the 2020 fire season unfolds."
Their model suggests that the regions that were hardest hit by the 2019 wildfires are at the highest risk again. Furthermore, the depleted resources as South American countries try to combat the COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate the problem by diminishing firefighting and emergency responder capabilities, according to Newsweek.
"You have a perfect storm: drought, the recent increase in deforestation, and new difficulties for firefighting. 2020 is set up to be a dangerous year for fires in the Amazon," Morton said.
The COVID-19 crisis has also allowed deforestation in the tropics to surge as environmental enforcement has weakened, according to recent report from Conservation International.
"Fire season in the Amazon is influenced by ecological, climatic, social, cultural and economic factors, from sea surface temperatures that influence rainfall in South America, to commodity-driven deforestation and the COVID-19 pandemic," said Karyn Tabor, senior director of ecological monitoring at Conservation International, in a recent statement. "Some governments have used widespread focus on the pandemic to quietly roll back environmental protections designed to prevent deforestation which in turn fuels the capacity for future fires to take hold."
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, changing conditions as the climate crisis bears down on the planet is the largest risk for wildfires, along with human activity, according to Yang Chen, Earth scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and co-creator of the Amazon fire season forecast.
"Changes in human fire use, specifically deforestation, add more year-to-year variability in Amazon fires," Chen said in a NASA statement. "In addition, climate change is likely to make the entire region drier and more flammable – conditions that would allow fires for deforestation or agricultural use to spread into standing Amazon forests."
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Jessica Corbett
Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Covering Climate Now (CCNow) was co-founded in 2019 by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation in association with The Guardian and WNYC, over 460 media outlets — including Common Dreams — with a combined reach of two billion people have become partner organizations.
CCNow and eight of those partners are now inviting media outlets to sign on to the Climate Emergency Statement, which begins: "It's time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here. This is a statement of science, not politics."
The statement notes that a growing number of scientists are warning of the "climate emergency," from James Hansen, formerly of NASA, to the nearly 14,000 scientists from over 150 countries who have endorsed an emergency declaration.
"Why 'emergency'? Because words matter," the CCNow statement explains. "To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could 'render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable,' warned a recent Scientific American article."
CCNow's initiative comes after U.S. government scientists said last week that "carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years," with 2020 featuring a global surface average for CO2 of 412.5 parts per million (PPM) — which very likely would have been higher if not for the pandemic.
As Common Dreams reported last week, amid rising atmospheric carbon and inadequate emissions reduction plans, an international coalition of 70 health professional and civil society groups called on world leaders to learn from the pandemic and "make health a central focus of national climate policies."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that health must be part and parcel of every government policy — and as recovery plans are drawn up this must apply to climate policy," said Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.
CCNow also points to the public health crisis as a learning opportunity, describing the media's handling of it as "a useful model," considering that "guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example)."
"We need the same commitment to the climate story," the statement emphasizes.
Journalism should reflect what science says. https://t.co/MCbSRQMFch— The Nation (@The Nation)1618240621.0
CCNow executive director Mark Hertsgaard echoed that message Monday in The Nation, for which he serves as environment correspondent. He also addressed reservations that some reporters may have about supporting such a statement:
As journalists ourselves, we understand why some of our colleagues are cautious about initiatives like this Climate Emergency Statement, but we ask that they hear us out. Journalists rightly treasure our editorial independence, regarding it as essential to our credibility. To some of us, the term "climate emergency" may sound like advocacy or even activism — as if we're taking sides in a public dispute rather than simply reporting on it.
But the only side we're taking here is the side of science. As journalists, we must ground our coverage in facts. We must describe reality as accurately as we can, undeterred by how our reporting may appear to partisans of any stripe and unintimidated by efforts to deny science or otherwise spin facts.
According to Hertsgaard, "Signing the Climate Emergency Statement is a way for journalists and news outlets to alert their audiences that they will do justice to that story."
"But whether a given news outlet makes a public declaration by signing the statement," he added, "is less important than whether the outlet's coverage treats climate change like the emergency that scientists say it is."
Editor's Note: Common Dreams has signed on to the Climate Emergency Statement, which can be read in full below:
COVERING CLIMATE NOW STATEMENT ON THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY:
Journalism should reflect what the science says: the climate emergency is here.It's time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here.
This is a statement of science, not politics.
Thousands of scientists — including James Hansen, the NASA scientist who put the problem on the public agenda in 1988, and David King and Hans Schellnhuber, former science advisers to the British and German governments, respectively — have said humanity faces a "climate emergency."
Why "emergency"? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could "render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable," warned a recent Scientific American article.
The media's response to Covid-19 provides a useful model. Guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example).
We need the same commitment to the climate story.
We, the undersigned, invite journalists and news organizations everywhere to add your name to this Covering Climate Now statement on the climate emergency.
- Covering Climate Now
- Scientific American
- Columbia Journalism Review
- The Nation
- The Guardian
- Noticias Telemundo
- Al Jazeera English
- Asahi Shimbun
- La Repubblica
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jim Bell
Editor's note: Jim Bell is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and has worked on a number of Mars missions. On Feb. 18, NASA's Mars 2020 mission will be arriving at the red planet, and hopefully will place the Perseverance Rover on the surface. Bell is the primary investigator leading a team in charge of one of the camera systems on Perseverance. We spoke with him for The Conversation's new podcast, The Conversation Weekly, which launches today.
What's the Goal of This Mission?
What we're looking for is evidence of past life, either direct chemical or organic signs in the composition and the chemistry of rocks, or textural evidence in the rock record. The environment of Mars is extremely harsh compared to Earth, so we're not really looking for evidence of current life. Unless something actually gets up and walks in front of the cameras, we're really not going to find that.
This color–enhanced photo shows the ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater where Perseverance will look for signs of life. NASA/JPL/JHU-APL/MSSS/Brown University
Where Is the Perseverance Rover Landing to Look for Ancient Life?
There was a three- or four-year process that involved the entire global community of Mars and planetary science researchers to figure out where to send this rover. We chose a crater called Jezero. Jezero has a beautiful river delta in it, preserved from an ancient river that flowed down into that crater and deposited sediments. This is kind of like the delta at the end of the Mississippi River in Louisiana which is depositing sediments very gently into the Gulf of Mexico.
On Earth, this shallow water is a very gentle environment where organic molecules and fossils can actually be gently buried and preserved in very fine-grained mudstones. If a Martian delta operates the same way, then it's a great environment for preserving evidence of things that were flowing in that water that came from the ancient highlands above the crater.
There's lots of things we don't know, but there was liquid water there. There were heat sources – there were active volcanoes 2, 3, 4 billion years ago on Mars – and there are impact craters from asteroids and comets dumping lots of heat into the ground as well as organic molecules. It's a very short list of places in the solar system that meet those constraints, and Jezero is one of those places. It's one of the best places that we think to go to do this search for life.
The Perseverance Rover is 90% spare parts from the Curiosity Rover but has a few new tools on board. NASA/JPL-Caltech
What Scientific Tools Is Perseverance Carrying?
The Perseverance Rover looks a lot like Curiosity on the outside because it's made from something like 90% spare parts from Curiosity – that's how NASA could afford this mission. Curiosity has a pair of cameras – one wide angle, one telephoto.
In Perseverance, we're sending similar cameras, but with zoom technology so we can zoom from wide angle to telephoto with both cameras – the "Z" in Mastcam-Z stands for zoom. This allows us to get great stereo images. Just like our left eye and our right eye build a three-dimensional image in our brain, the zoom cameras on Perserverance are a left eye and a right eye. With this, we can build a three-dimensional image back on Earth when we get those images.
The Mastcam-Z includes two cameras with zoom lenses allowing researchers to create three-dimensional images of the Martian landscape. MSSS/ASU
3D images allow us to do a whole range of things scientifically. We want to understand the topography of Mars in much more detail than we've been able to in the past. We want to put the pieces of the delta geology story together not just with two-dimensional, spatial information, but with height as well as texture. And we want to make 3D maps of the landing site.
Our engineering and driving colleagues really need that information too. These 3D images will help them decide where to drive by helping to identify obstacles and slopes and trenches and rocks and stuff like that, allowing them to drive the rover much deeper into places than they would have been able to otherwise.
And finally, we're going to make really cool 3D views of our landing site to share with the public, including movies and flyovers.
The sample tubes are specially built to store the rock and soil cores for future pickup. NASA/JPL-Caltech
What Else Is Different About This Mission?
Perseverance is intended to be the first part of a robotic sample return mission from Mars. So instead of just drilling into the surface like the Curiosity Rover does, Perseverance will drill and core into the surface and cache those little cores into tubes about the size of a dry-erase marker. It will then put those tubes onto the surface for a future mission later this decade to pick up and then bring back to Earth.
Perseverance won't come back to Earth, but the plan is to bring the samples that we collect back.
In the meantime, we'll be doing all of the science that any great rover mission would do. We are going to characterize the site, explore the geology and measure the atmospheric and weather properties.
How Will You Get Those Samples Back to Earth?
This is where it gets a little less certain, because these are all ideas and missions in the works. NASA and the European Space Agency are collaborating on a concept to build and launch a lander that will send a little fetch rover that goes and gets the little tubes, picks them up and brings them back to the lander. Waiting on the lander would be a small rocket called a Mars Ascent Vehicle, or MAV. Once the samples are loaded into the MAV, it launches them into Mars orbit.
Then you've got this grapefruit- to soccer-ball-sized canister up there, and NASA and the Europeans are collaborating on an orbiter that will search for that canister, capture it and then rocket it back to Earth, where it will land in the Utah desert. What could possibly go wrong?
If successful, that'll be the first time we've done that from Mars. The scientific tools on the rovers are good, but nothing like the labs back on Earth. Bringing those samples back is going to be absolutely critical to getting the most out of the samples.
Jim Bell is a professor of Earth and space exploration at Arizona State University.
Disclosure statement: Jim Bell receives funding from NASA for his work on the Perseverance rover mission.. He is also an unpaid member of the Board of Directors of The Planetary Society, engaging in activities including education and advocacy of space exploration with elected officials.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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"This is the first private flight to the International Space Station. It's never been done before," Mike Suffredini, chief executive and president of Axiom Space, a privately funded space company, told the AP.
Although the crew recognizes the crises currently happening on Earth, they feel their efforts as the first private space crew are "an enhancement of their other philanthropic efforts," the Washington Post reported.
"There are a lot of issues — adversity, and in some regards, crises, here, not only in the U.S., but worldwide," Larry Connor, one of the crew's private citizens, told the Washington Post. "And those absolutely need to be a priority. But we cannot forget about the future. We cannot forget about having long-term visions... And hopefully this mission and the research we're going to do is going to be one small step on that journey."
While their efforts may open doors for the future of commercial space travel, some criticize their timing, as the Covid-19 pandemic, economic recession and increasing costs of the climate crisis continue to ravage communities on Earth.
This debate raises questions on whether space agencies should further their space exploration or use their technology and finances to research climate solutions.
Based on a 2019 Pew Research Center study, 63 percent of Americans think NASA's top priorities should be monitoring the Earth's climate. This public support is backed by Lori Garver, chief executive at Earthrise Alliance and former deputy NASA administrator.
In a 2019 opinion piece published in The Washington Post, she wrote about the relationship between space exploration and climate change.
She explained how NASA's original purpose involved expanding human understanding and solving the nation's impossible problems. But "the impossible problem today is not the moon. And it's not Mars. It's our home planet," she wrote.
Today's aim of space travel should no longer focus on racing space rivals to the latest discovery, Garver added. "Climate change — not Russia, much less China — is today's existential threat."
Space travel and research also come with a heavy environmental cost. For example, when Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon Heavy reaches orbit, it will have emitted more carbon dioxide than an average car would emit in two centuries, The LA Times reported.
But some claim space innovation can also fuel sustainable technology in the commercial sector. For example, ecology projects such as learning to grow plants in space have developed into an energy-saving practice for indoor agriculture, Scientific American reported. Another space-funded project seeking to remove potent chemicals from dirty rocket launchpads has developed a frequently used compound to clean Superfund sites in the U.S.
Whether the environmental benefit of space exploration and research outweighs the environmental cost remains to be seen. Members of the private space station crew, however, think their experiences will benefit education outreach back home.
While in space, Connor said he does "not want to be a spectator," the Washington Post reported. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want to do something of value."
Back home, Connor intends to teach lessons to students at Dayton Early College Academy, a K-12 charter school, according to the Washington Post.
"These guys are all very involved and doing it for... the betterment of their communities and countries, and so we couldn't be happier with this makeup of the first crew because of their drive and their interest," Suffredini told the AP.
While the crew's time in space may benefit others, some question if spending $35,000 a day for the privilege makes sense.
"The public doesn't understand the purpose of spending massive amounts of money to send a few astronauts to the moon or Mars," Garver wrote in her op-ed. "Is this the most valuable display of our scientific and technological leadership?"
For much of human history, it's been hard for scientists to learn about remote areas of the Earth that they cannot observe directly.
Jack Kaye is associate director for research in NASA's Earth Science Division.
"It's very hard to know what's going on out in the middle of the ocean or on polar ice sheets or in tropical forests or boreal forests," he says.
But modern technology has changed that. NASA now operates a fleet of satellites that orbit the Earth. They make it possible to see the whole planet and observe how it's changing as the climate warms.
Satellites can help measure ocean temperatures, sea levels, and forest cover on a global scale and monitor changes over time.
"We can see the way that we are changing the surface of our planet," Kaye says. "We can look at things like the changing of the mass of the ice sheets in Greenland and tell people, 'We're really seeing this, we know what's going on.'"
Kaye says along with rigorous data, satellites provide images that help people realize what's at stake as the climate warms.
"You can see the Earth sort of suspended in the darkness of space, and the imagery I think gives us a clear sense of this is our planet, this is where we live, and we have to manage it," he says.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
The next few weeks in February will bring nail-biting moments of truth for three countries — indeed, the world — as three separate Mars missions approach the Red Planet. The United Arab Emirates, China and the United States each launched separate missions to Mars in July 2020, and they are all about to arrive. The first two, within days of each other.
Of the three missions, America's Mars 2020 mission comes with the most experience and confidence. It is also the most innovative. Its cargo includes Earth's first-ever Martian helicopter, Ingenuity.
It will be the first to test flight on another planet, in an atmosphere that's thinner than the Earth's, and may help our understanding of future human spaceflight beyond the moon.
That said, the US mission is the last of the three scheduled to arrive, so, for now at least, the Americans can sit back, relax, and watch how the others fair.
First Up: The Emirates Mars Mission
The Emirates Mars Mission launched a probe called Hope on July 20, 2020, from Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan.
Hope is the first Arab interplanetary mission. It aims to provide scientists with a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. And they promise to share the data.
On February 9, 2021, Hope will begin what's called a Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI).
The so-called "burn" will commence at 7.30 p.m. Gulf Standard Time (4.30 p.m. CET, 10.30 a.m. EST), and will last "a rather nerve-wracking 27 minutes," in the words of one EMM spokesperson.
The operation will be fully autonomous because the probe will be 11 minutes' radio-time away from Earth, "so there's nothing much we can do about things once we start," continued the email to DW.
Hope has six thrusters that will provide 650 Newtons of power. Firing the thrusters for that long can expose the spacecraft to a lot of stress, from vibrations through to heat. It is "easily the most dangerous operation of the mission," said the spokesperson.
If all goes well, it will be the proper start of a two Earth-year mission (or one Martian year).
Next up, it's China with the country's first independent Mars mission. It was launched on July 23, 2020, from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province.
Tianwen-1 is also expected to enter a Martian orbit during the second week of February. In fact, it's hoped the Chinese robotic probe will make it the day after the EMM — and two days before the Chinese New Year.
The spacecraft will conduct a "braking" operation to decelerate its speed to a point at which it can be captured by Mars' gravity. As with the EMM, the Tianwen-1 probe will survey the Martian atmosphere.
But that's not all. The main part of the mission is scheduled for May when China aims to soft-land a rover in the southern part of Mars' Utopia Planitia.
China sees Tianwen-1 as a step towards future missions that would bring back rock and soil samples from Mars to Earth.
Third: Perseverance and Ingenuity
The USA's latest Mars mission involves a new rover called Perseverance and a helicopter called Ingenuity. Ingenuity is strapped to the belly of the rover.
The rover is due to land on February 18 at about 3.55 p.m. EST at a place called Jezero Crater.
It will descend through the Martian atmosphere at a speed of about 20,000 kilometers per hour/kph (12,000 miles per hour). It will be slowed with a parachute and a powered descent to about 3.2 kph.
NASA's Mars 2020 may pave the way for human missions to Mars.
Then, a large sky crane will lower the rover on three bridle cords until it lands softly on six wheels.
That's the plan, anyway. NASA has landed a number of rovers on Mars over the years, but as it says itself: "Landing on Mars is hard."
Race to the Red Planet
NASA describes Perseverance as a "robotic astrobiologist." It is the largest and "most sophisticated" rover ever sent to the Red Planet's surface.
Perseverance will look for signs of ancient Martian life. It will also demonstrate technologies for making oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. It is hoped the mission will prepare the ground for future human missions to Mars and our moon.
So, this really is only the very beginning. The fact that we have two large, experienced nations with interplanetary ambitions, in the US and China, plus a relative newcomer — and further US-European and a Japanese Mars mission waiting in the wings — there is a definite sense of a new race beyond what humans have done before in space.
These three missions were timed to launch when the distance between the Earth and Mars was relatively short. It usually takes about nine months to get to Mars, but these missions were able to cut that trip down to seven. And despite the added challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, not one of them missed the opportunity to go.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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When countries began going into lockdown last winter and spring, clearer skies from reduced traffic and industry were hailed as a rare bright spot during a difficult time.
But a study published in Geophysical Research Letters in December 2020 shows that those blue skies had an unexpected side effect: They made the Earth slightly warmer.
"There was a big decline in emissions from the most polluting industries, and that had immediate, short-term effects on temperatures," said Andrew Gettelman, lead author and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist. "Pollution cools the planet, so it makes sense that pollution reductions would warm the planet."
Soot and sulfate air pollution had the biggest impact, the study authors explained. Known as aerosols, these types of pollutants release particles into the atmosphere that either scatter sunlight on clear days or brighten clouds, reflecting sunlight. Both of these impacts mean less sunlight reaches Earth and temperatures cool.
In 2020, a reduction of these pollutants warmed global temperatures by about 0.1 to 0.3 degrees Celsius, the press release explained. The effect increased in places with higher aerosol emissions. Temperatures over China, Russia and the U.S. were as much as 0.37 degrees Celsius warmer, The Associated Press reported. All told, aerosol reduction may have contributed to 2020 experiencing one of the warmest years on record, NASA Climate Scientist Gavin Schmidt, who was not involved in the research, told The Associated Press.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers compared the actual weather with climate models reproducing the same conditions without the lockdowns and subsequent emission reductions. This allowed them to calculate the impact of reduced aerosols on temperature changes that were too small to identify based solely on observations, the press release explained.
The study found that aerosol reduction had a bigger impact on 2020 temperatures than the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. However, that may change in the future. Because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere longer, the lockdown dip in greenhouse gases may still slow down the climate crisis in the long term.
Gettelman emphasized that the study's message is not that we should pollute more.
"Clean air warms the planet a tiny bit, but it kills a lot fewer people with air pollution," Gettelman told The Associated Press.
Instead, the value of the study involves understanding aerosols' impact on the climate, according to the press release. This can then help scientists more effectively combat climate change.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
If you've ever been on a tour of a cleanroom — a sterile environment where engineers build and test satellites and other spacecraft — you will know it's a pretty surreal experience.
You're standing there, starring up at a rough and unfinished-looking object, seemingly wrapped in kitchen aluminum foil, with wires and solar panels sticking out at various angles and it's tough imagining what the thing will actually do when it's in an operational environment.
The engineers will tell you: This towering object is an instrument of precision and beauty. It will observe our planet Earth and deliver valuable data on our changing environment, monitor the oceans or track migration and military movements.
But it's virtually impossible to truly get what that means. You're unlikely to be one of the comparably few humans ever to see the thing in action, in situ.
Virtually 'Live'… to Be Watched Again Later
So imagine how surreal it was to tour a spacecraft, or as DW did this Tuesday (February 2, 2021), a set of European Service Modules (ESMs), via a shaky YouTube channel.
You're not in the cleanroom but in front of a computer screen. And the tour is a series of pre-recorded and pre-scripted video statements with bad sound. It was white noise — static — for the first ten minutes.
But we already know that the ESMs form an integral part of Orion, a human spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the moon and an orbiting lunar base called Gateway. We also know that Orion belongs to Artemis, NASA's human spaceflight program that aims to get humans back to the moon by 2024.
So, we had a head start. And YouTube being YouTube, we got to watch the whole tour again later anyway.
Andreas Hammer, Airbus's Head of Space Exploration, delivered opening remarks from a cleanroom in Bremen, where the event was meant to be held in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, that got nixed. So, there he was, all alone, dressed in a white lab coat and hair net.
Right off the bat, Hammer said attempts to send humans back to the moon started in Bremen, where those ESMs are being constructed. And the ESMs, said Hammer, are the Orion's "powerhouse."
There are three ESMs so far. They will provide air, electricity and propulsion, thermal control and all the consumables for the astronauts, including oxygen and water. ESA has just commissioned a further three units from Airbus.
Without the ESMs, there would be no human spaceflight with Orion, no mission.
"Nothing in space is simple," said Hammer's colleague Didier Radola, who heads the Orion ESM program at Airbus, and as such, no one goes to space alone.
ESMs 1 and 2
Artemis may be an American program but the Americans have drafted European know-how and technology to get the job done.
Hammer stood in front of ESM2, which is almost completely integrated and ready for the Artemis 2 mission, which will fly astronauts around the moon. It will be tested and handed over to NASA later this year.
ESM1 has already been delivered to the Americans. It's scheduled to be integrated with the rest of the spacecraft, loaded with fuel and launched by the end of 2021.
"You can see propellant tanks, cables, electronic devices. It's an incredible piece of machinery and I never get tired of getting totally amazed when I see and touch that," said Hammer.
Back and Forth to Our '8th Continent'
German star astronaut Alexander Gerst also delivered some inspirational remarks about human travel to the moon, replete with the usual clichés. But Gerst is talented and he is a good communicator.
Gerst calls the moon "our 8th continent." Going back to the moon will bring us the "knowledge of tomorrow," he says, including science on living sustainably on Earth and long term on the moon. He's also excited about bringing samples of moon and Mars rock back to Earth.
But later, during a Q&A session, ESA's outgoing director general, Jan Wörner, reminded us, that he is not a fan of the phrase "going back to the moon."
Saying were "going back" sounds too much like repeating what was last done during the Apollo moon missions between 1969 and 1972 — and that smacks of the Cold War era, said Wörner.
Instead, he wants us to go #ForwardToTheMoon. And then beyond — a reference to Mars and, no doubt, the three Mars missions (USA, UAE, China) that are about to arrive at the "Red Planet." But whether humans get back to the moon by 2024 depends, says Wörner, on the priorities of America's new political administration under President Joe Biden.
So, we'll have to "look forward" to see what happens. There is one area, however, where the space community seems entirely backward-looking.
Men, Women and All?
During the Q&A session, talk turned to the lucky astronauts who would get to fly first on Orion.
Walther Pelzer, Director General of the German Space Agency (DLR), spoke highly of Gerst's chances: "Of course we're interested in having a European astronaut with a German passport among them," said Pelzer. "But he should be experienced. He should have shown that he's a good leader, and Gerst showed he was an exceptional leader when he was commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and the mission didn't go as planned." That's our emphasis on all those he's.
Those comments, while true, seemed to ignore that a "she" or gender-neutral individual may possess those very same qualities, too.
DW just had to follow-up. We asked: "What is ESA actively doing to address the gender imbalance in space?"
So far, the bulk of astronauts who have been able to gain any experience at all — whether that's given them exceptional qualities or not — have been men. Ergo, the opportunities to be among the first to fly on Orion will be skewed in favor of men.
Better Living Through Better Communication
Jan Wörner smiled and said progress started with the language we all use.
"If you say 'manned spaceflight,' then it's already decided," said Wörner, "and that's not good. So, it's better to talk about human spaceflight or, in German, "astronautische Raumfahrt" (astronautical spaceflight).
Sometimes, said Wörner, "I've hidden behind what happened in the past and during the last class of astronauts we only had about 16% female candidates but that's not a good argument for the future and ESA will do what it can to promote female astronauts."
David Parker, ESA's Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, then added that Italy's Samantha Cristoforetti would return to the ISS and therefore gain the same level of experience as the rest of the European astronaut corps. "So, I don't know why you would discount her chances," he said. We at DW certainly don't.
The Right Direction
Pelzer, who recently replaced Pascale Ehrenfreund — a woman — at DLR, mentioned Anna Rathsman, the head of the Swedish National Space Agency.
"Yes," said Pelzer, "ESA's new DG [director general] is a man, but we just appointed Rathsman as the chair of the ESA Council, so we are going in the right direction."
Looking at the faces on the call, however, all the official representatives were men. And that is the overall picture at ESA, where 10 of the 11 top jobs are held by men, and Wörner's replacement, Josef Aschbacher, who will assume the role later this year, was chosen from a largely male list of candidates (one source told us it was roughly 85% male).
Our virtual tour and call ended with an odd feeling of deflation.
You normally get a chance to chat to familiar faces, colleagues from other media outlets, while the room empties. You might even get some feedback. But not here, where one gets the nagging feeling that virtual tours suit ESA's style. It's easier to control the message when the tour is pre-recorded and the moderator can mute unruly journalists.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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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.
But for space nerds, Mars is already the center of attention in February. Three space probes that were launched in the summer of 2020 will arrive on the red planet.
On February 9, "Hope," the first interplanetary mission of the United Arab Emirates, is set to enter orbit around Mars. Only one day later, the Chinese probe Tianwen-1 will join it. The name means "heavenly questions," referring to a famous piece of ancient poetry.
Both missions will take surface and atmospheric measurements of Mars. Probably in May, a small rover will detach from the Chinese spacecraft and make its way down to the surface to explore the surroundings of the landing site.
A Landing Like a James Bond Movie
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
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.
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.
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.
Life on Mars?
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.
The Long Wait for James Webb
The Hubble Space Telescope has been orbiting the Earth for more than 30 years. NASA
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.
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.
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.
A Sensitive German Camera
The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures that will fold up around the telescope for launch. NASA
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.
Many communication or reconnaissance satellites only unfold in space. However, not every micrometer is as important as with this telescope.
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.
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.
No Flight to the Moon but to the ISS
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.
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.
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.
Two Lunar Eclipses
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.
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.
Two Solar Eclipses: One Annular, One Total
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.
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.
Dark Sun Over Antarctica
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.
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.
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.
Two Giant Planets in Northern Summer and Southern Winter
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.
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.
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.
Shooting Stars in August and December
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.
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.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Google's New Timelapse Shows 37 Years of Climate Change Anywhere on Earth, Including Your Neighborhood
Google Earth's latest feature allows you to watch the climate change in four dimensions.
The new feature, called Timelapse, is the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017. It is also, as far as its developers know, the largest video taken of Earth on Earth. The feature compiles 24 million satellite photos taken between 1984 and 2020 to show how human activity has transformed the planet over the past 37 years.
"Visual evidence can cut to the core of the debate in a way that words cannot and communicate complex issues to everyone," Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Moore herself has been directly impacted by the climate crisis. She was one of many Californians evacuated because of wildfires last year. However, the new feature allows people to witness more remote changes, such as the melting of ice caps.
"With Timelapse in Google Earth, we have a clearer picture of our changing planet right at our fingertips — one that shows not just problems but also solutions, as well as mesmerizingly beautiful natural phenomena that unfold over decades," she wrote.
Some climate impacts that viewers can witness include the melting of 12 miles of Alaska's Columbia Glacier between 1984 and 2020, Fortune reported. They can also watch the disintegration of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. The changes are not limited to the impacts of global warming, however.
Moore said the developers had identified five themes, and Google Earth offers a guided tour for each of them. They are:
- Forest change, such as deforestation in Bolivia for soybean farming
- Urban growth, such as the quintupling of Las Vegas sprawl
- Warming temperatures, such as melting glaciers and ice sheets
- Sources of energy, such as the impacts of coal mining on Wyoming's landscape
- Fragile beauty, such as the flow of Bolivia's Mamoré River
However, the feature also allows you to see smaller-scale change. You can enter any location into the search bar, including your local neighborhood, CNN explained. The feature does not offer the detail of Street View, Gizmodo noted. It is intended to show large changes over time, rather than smaller details like the construction of a road or home.
The images for Timelapse were made possible through collaboration with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellites and the European Union's Copernicus program and Sentinel satellites. Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab helped develop the technology.
To use Timelapse, you can either visit g.co/Timelapse directly or click on the Ship's Wheel icon in Google Earth, then select Timelapse. Moore said the feature would be updated annually with new images of Earth's alterations.
"We hope that this perspective of the planet will ground debates, encourage discovery and shift perspectives about some of our most pressing global issues," she wrote.
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By Jessica Corbett
A new study is shedding light on just how much ice could be lost around Antarctica if the international community fails to urgently rein in planet-heating emissions, bolstering arguments for bolder climate policies.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that over a third of the area of all Antarctic ice shelves — including 67% of area on the Antarctic Peninsula — could be at risk of collapsing if global temperatures soar to 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
An ice shelf, as NASA explains, "is a thick, floating slab of ice that forms where a glacier or ice flows down a coastline." They are found only in Antarctica, Greenland, Canada, and the Russian Arctic—and play a key role in limiting sea level rise.
"Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from flowing freely into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise," explained Ella Gilbert, the study's lead author, in a statement. "When they collapse, it's like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from glaciers to pour into the sea."
"We know that when melted ice accumulates on the surface of ice shelves, it can make them fracture and collapse spectacularly," added Gilbert, a research scientist at the University of Reading. "Previous research has given us the bigger picture in terms of predicting Antarctic ice shelf decline, but our new study uses the latest modelling techniques to fill in the finer detail and provide more precise projections."
Check out my piece for @ConversationUK on how & why #Antarctica's #IceShelves are at risk as global #temperatures r… https://t.co/YCMzgfliiR— Dr Ella Gilbert (@Dr Ella Gilbert)1617975049.0
Gilbert and co-author Christoph Kittel of Belgium's University of Liège conclude that limiting global temperature rise to 2°C rather than 4°C would cut the area at risk in half.
"At 1.5°C, just 14% of Antarctica's ice shelf area would be at risk," Gilbert noted in The Conversation.
While the 2015 Paris climate agreement aims to keep temperature rise "well below" 2°C, with a more ambitious 1.5°C target, current emissions reduction plans are dramatically out of line with both goals, according to a United Nations analysis.
Gilbert said Thursday that the findings of their new study "highlight the importance of limiting global temperature increases as set out in the Paris agreement if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, including sea level rise."
"If temperatures continue to rise at current rates," she said, "we may lose more Antarctic ice shelves in the coming decades."
The researchers warn that Larsen C—the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula—as well as the Shackleton, Pine Island, and Wilkins ice shelves are most at risk under 4°C of warming because of their geography and runoff predictions.
"Limiting warming will not just be good for Antarctica—preserving ice shelves means less global sea level rise, and that's good for us all," Gilbert added.
All the more reason we need to push our leaders towards a quick end to the use of all fossil fuels! https://t.co/yrNUgjbkYG— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)1617915642.0
Low-lying coastal areas such as small island nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu in the South Pacific Ocean face the greatest risk from sea level rise, Gilbert told CNN.
"However, coastal areas all over the world would be vulnerable," she warned, "and countries with fewer resources available to mitigate and adapt to sea level rise will see worse consequences."
Research published in February examining projections from the Fifth Assessment Report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the body's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate found that sea level rise forecasts for this century "are on the money when tested against satellite and tide-gauge observations."
A co-author of that study, John Church of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales, said at the time that "if we continue with large ongoing emissions as we are at present, we will commit the world to meters of sea level rise over coming centuries."
Parties to the Paris agreement are in the process of updating their emissions reduction commitments—called nationally determined contributions—ahead of November's United Nations climate summit, known as COP26.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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