After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.
On Wednesday, a SpaceX rocket launch carrying NASA astronauts was postponed 16 minutes before liftoff due to weather concerns.
"We had simply too much electricity," said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, to BBC. "There was a concern that if we did launch, it could actually trigger lightning."
They will try again at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30 and on Sunday, May 31 should the former also get scrapped.
The joint-mission, Demo-2, will make history as the first-ever manned commercial space flight and will take place in SpaceX's spacecraft "Crew Dragon."
When the SpaceX shuttle launches its private spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts in tow, it will mark the beginning of commercialized space exploration. SpaceX
The endeavor is actually a groundbreaking public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX, who both hope the collaboration will further open up the universe of space exploration, literally.
In 2011, NASA retired its aging space shuttle program. Since then, the U.S. hasn't launched its own astronauts into space, booking them tickets instead to train on and launch from Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, reported CNN.
When the Crew Dragon launches, it will mark the return of America's ability to launch its own astronauts into space.
"When we launch from America with a rocket built in America by an American company who's only been flying vehicles for the last decade or so, that is a success story straight out of the movies," said Douglas Hurley, one of the two NASA astronauts manning the mission, reported NBC News. "The Russians have been great partners, but it's important for the United States to have its own launch capabilities."
NASA hopes that its partnership with SpaceX will also usher in a new commercial marketplace for low-Earth orbit transportation.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will man the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. NASA
Rather than finance a replacement for the Space Shuttle, NASA has created the Commercial Crew Program to outsource "safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation" of cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station (ISS) to the private sector. The underlying objective was to free up NASA's time and resources for deeper space exploration, reported CNN.
"NASA has an ability to be a customer in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Bridenstine told NBC News. The top NASA official also envisioned a future where that marketplace is "entirely commercialized," where NASA is "one customer of many customers," and where numerous providers continue to compete on cost, innovation and safety, reported BBC.
SpaceX senior advisor Garrett Reisman told Bloomberg that the "new venture" is a different model from what the space agency has used in the past. Private companies can now retain their intellectual property and own and operate the new technology, a huge upside for innovators.
"It's also the beginning of a whole new age, a whole golden age of commercial space flight," he continued, reported Bloomberg. "One of the things that is different is the fact that NASA doesn't own the Falcon 9 [rocket] and Dragon [spacecraft]; SpaceX does. So after this mission is over, we can use the same rocket, the same spacecraft to take ordinary citizens up into space. It's opening up all kinds of new possibilities."
The outsourcing has potentially saved taxpayers $20-30 billion dollars, Reisman estimated, reported Bloomberg. While seats on the Soyuz cost NASA up to $86 million each, Crew Dragon seats cost the agency roughly $55 million each for this mission, CNN found. According to CEO Elon Musk, filling all seven seats in the SpaceX capsule will lower costs to $20 million per astronaut, reported ABC News.
With the successful completion of this last test mission, which is also SpaceX's first flight with humans aboard ever, the company will have the green light to ferry crew to the ISS regularly starting in August or September, reported ABC News.
"This is a huge milestone for NASA, for the country, and for SpaceX, but there will be other milestones after this," Reisman told Bloomberg. He said it is "extremely realistic" that the Crew Dragon will be used to fly private citizens into space in 2021.
"This era of commercial space travel and space tourism is literally right around the corner," he added, reported Bloomberg.
Musk will continue to seek out potential new clients for his budding space transport business, perhaps space tourists looking for a quick getaway to the Moon or Mars, reported Bloomberg.
The news report also found that SpaceX's success has catalyzed the competition, with Boeing also gearing up to carry astronauts to orbit under the same NASA Commercial Crew Program. New market entrants like Blue Origin, financed by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, are trying to cut costs using reusable rockets, a strategy Musk is also exploring.
"We're standing at the threshold of all of this commercial activity in space," said Wayne Hale, who led NASA's space shuttle program, reported Bloomberg. "One of the whole points of this exercise is to build a commercial business that can go on and do things in space that are not funded by the taxpayer, that actually create wealth and jobs."
After launch, Hurley and Robert Behnken, the other NASA astronaut, will spend roughly 19 hours aboard the Crew Dragon before arriving at the ISS, CNN reported. They will stay in space to staff the ISS for anywhere from 30 to 110 days, according to NASA. Then, the SpaceX Crew Dragon will return on its second manned mission with fresh crew and to bring the veteran astronauts back to Earth, CNN reported.
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By Jeremy Deaton
You may have heard about the hole in the ozone layer, which hovers over Antarctica. It has shrunk over time thanks to policies that curbed the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. In the nearly 40 years that NASA has kept track, it has never been smaller. That's the good news.
The bad news is that a separate hole in the ozone layer briefly opened up in the Arctic in March before closing in April, and climate change may be partly to blame.
This isn't the first such rift to develop in the Arctic, but it is the largest. Scientists say that in March, a stratospheric polar vortex — a band of strong, frigid winds circling the pole — corralled chlorine and bromine that chewed away at the ozone layer. Scientists said that climate change may have set the stage for a colder, and thus more powerful, polar vortex.
"In those years when a vortex can spin and set itself up and be undisturbed, it's getting colder and colder," said Ross Salawitch, a climate scientist at the University of Maryland. Cold air strengthens polar vortexes, allowing them to deal more damage to the ozone layer, he said.
This year's Arctic polar vortex was unusually strong and long-lived, helping to deplete the ozone layer. At the same time, currents that would normally deliver ozone from surrounding areas were stagnant. The bruising was far less severe than what is typically seen over the South Pole, though. At the South Pole, stratospheric polar vortexes are reliably strong thanks to the extreme cold, so the ozone layer regularly thins.
In a stratospheric polar vortex, high-altitude clouds form from trace gasses in the atmosphere. Pollutants containing chlorine and bromine are essentially benign until they run into one of these clouds. Then they transform into chemicals capable of terrorizing the ozone layer.
They still need sunlight to do their dirty work, however. That comes at the start of spring —around September in the Southern Hemisphere and around March in the Northern Hemisphere. As the days get longer, these chemicals react with sunlight to deplete stratospheric ozone.
Because Antarctica is so isolated from the rest of the world, a strong polar vortex can form undisturbed. That's not the case in the Arctic, where the mix of land and water surrounding the North Pole produces more dynamic weather that can weaken or disrupt a polar vortex.
Polar stratospheric clouds activate the chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. NASA
Ozone holes rarely form at the North Pole — the last one appeared in 2011 — and they are typically short-lived. But what happens in the Arctic does not stay in Arctic. As a result of the damage, the ozone layer is now a little thinner everywhere else. While it will repair itself over time, the recent polar vortex has likely slowed the recovery.
At the South Pole, the ozone layer tears open yearly. Scientists first discovered the Antarctic ozone hole in 1985. Researchers determined that it was caused by chemicals containing chlorine and bromine. These include chlorofluorocarbons, which are found in air conditioners, refrigerators and spray cans, halons, which are found in fire extinguishers, and methyl bromide, which is used to kill weeds, insects and other pests. The discovery was met with alarm, as the ozone layer filters out dangerous ultraviolet radiation, helping to sustain life on Earth.
"If there was no ozone layer, the ultraviolet radiation would sterilize the Earth's surface," said Paul Newman, chief scientist for earth sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Crop yields go down as ultraviolet exposure goes up." In humans, ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer and cataracts, and can weaken the immune system.
To restore the ozone layer, in 1987, countries adopted the Montreal Protocol to stem the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. It worked. Over time, the hole grew smaller and smaller, and the ozone layer began to heal. By the middle of this century, scientists expect it will be fully restored.
Carbon pollution is acting like a blanket, trapping heat in the lower atmosphere. As a result, it is both warming the surface of the Earth and preventing heat from reaching the upper atmosphere. As such, the lower atmosphere is warming, while the upper atmosphere is actually cooling. Polar vortexes grow stronger in the cold, producing more of the high-altitude clouds that activate the chemicals that eat up the ozone layer.
"The temperatures in the stratosphere will probably be decreasing somewhat, and so that may slow down the recovery of the ozone layer," Manney said. "We have this situation in the Arctic, where we have had a couple of winters in the last couple of decades that have been much colder than usual."
Newman believes that falling temperatures will do little to deplete the ozone layer, however. He is more concerned with how climate change will alter currents that replenish Arctic ozone or break up the Arctic polar vortex.
"We don't really see a strong cooling of the Arctic stratosphere," he said. "The question in my mind is rather, 'What is the impact of climate change on these large-scale weather systems?'"
Salawitch said that it is difficult to determine what, exactly, the future holds for the ozone layer in the Arctic. Models disagree as to how much or how fast temperatures will change at the North Pole, or what that means for the polar vortex. As such, some say Arctic ozone will continue to thin, while others project a speedy recovery.
Scientists emphasized that the recent ozone hole in the Arctic would have been substantially worse had countries not taken steps to curb pollution. They said the episode speaks to the importance of the Montreal Protocol.
"We do have to keep in mind that the Montreal Protocol was very successful in getting the world to stop emitting these chlorofluorocarbons. The ozone layer is starting to recover," Manney said. "It's a remarkable success story."
Reposted with permission from Nexus Media.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
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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Antarctica and Greenland Raised Sea Levels More Than Half an Inch in Just 16 Years, New NASA Data Shows
Greenland and Antarctica have raised global sea levels by more than half an inch in the last 16 years, according to data from the most advanced laser that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has ever launched into space to observe the earth.
While the figures themselves are consistent with other studies, as The New York Times pointed out, the satellite laser allows researchers a much more precise picture of how polar ice is changing over time, which helps determine the role of the climate crisis and plan for future sea level rise.
"We've all been waiting for this new dataset," Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory research professor Robin Bell told NPR.
The study, published in Science Thursday, combines data from two NASA satellites: the original Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which took measurements from 2003 to 2009, and ICESat-2, launched in 2018. The two satellites allowed researchers to measure changes in ice mass from 2003 to 2019, and to calculate that Greenland and Antarctica contributed 0.55 inches to sea level rise during that time. That's around a third of the global total, which was also driven by the expansion of oceans as they warm, NPR explained.
"If you watch a glacier or ice sheet for a month, or a year, you're not going to learn much about what the climate is doing to it," University of Washington glaciologist and lead study author Ben Smith said in a NASA press release. "We now have a 16-year span between ICESat and ICESat-2 and can be much more confident that the changes we're seeing in the ice have to do with the long-term changes in the climate."
The data also revealed that Greenland's ice sheet lost an average of 200 gigatons of ice per year and Antarctica's lost an average of 118. That's more than 5,000 gigatons total, NPR reported. To put that in perspective, one gigaton is enough to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
But the satellite data also helped show how the ice was being lost. In Antarctica, the East actually gained mass, probably because of increased precipitation, The New York Times reported. But this was offset by losses in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula. In West Antarctica, 30 percent of that loss was due to floating ice, which either calves icebergs or melts from below due to warm ocean water. While this ice cannot contribute directly to sea level rise because it is already floating, its loss destabilizes the so-called "grounded ice" that can.
"It's like an apple tart and the ice shelves are like the wall of pastry around the edges of the tart," Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego glaciologist and study coauthor Helen Fricker explained to NPR. "And if those walls are too thin or they're not baked well enough, then the filling will ooze out."
In Greenland, two thirds of the ice loss was due to surface melting, something that rarely occurs in Antarctica, The New York Times said. Greenland also lost a lot of mass from its coastal glaciers, according to NASA. Its Kangerdulgssuaq and Jakobshavn glaciers have shrunken by 14 to 20 feet per year.
NASA explained why its satellites were able to provide such a detailed portrait:
ICESat-2's instrument is a laser altimeter, which sends 10,000 pulses of light a second down to Earth's surface, and times how long it takes to return to the satellite – to within a billionth of a second. The instrument's pulse rate allows for a dense map of measurement over the ice sheet; its high precision allows scientists to determine how much an ice sheet changes over a year to within an inch.
The researchers took tracks of earlier ICESat measurements and overlaid the tracks of ICESat-2 measurements from 2019, and took data from the tens of millions of sites where the two data sets intersected. That gave them the elevation change, but to get to how much ice has been lost, the researchers developed a new model to convert volume change to mass change. The model calculated densities across the ice sheets to allow the total mass loss to be calculated.
This level of detail is essential for helping coastal residents and governments plan for sea level rise, which is expected to reach two to six feet by 2100, according to CNBC.
"Our goal is to be able to tell every coastal community what they can plan on [in] the coming decades," Bell told NPR. "To be able to do that, we both need to measure how the ice is changing but also understand better why it's changing."
Antarctica before and after its hottest day on record Feb. 6. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC.
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Three astronauts landed back on Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.
A Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft undocked from the ISS at about 10 p.m. UTC Thursday, with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir on board.
The Soyuz crew ship carrying the Exp 62 trio has fired its braking engines and will soon soar into Earth's atmosphe… https://t.co/s8mLlcueyR— Intl. Space Station (@Intl. Space Station)1587097414.0
Meir said it would be hard not to embrace family and friends due to a new culture of coronavirus-enforced social distancing on Earth. "I think I will feel more isolated on Earth than here," she said.
NASA said in a statement that after post-landing medical checks, the crew would return to the U.S. city of Houston and Star City in Russia.
They had spent more than 200 days in space and returned to Earth exactly 50 years after the Apollo 13 crew splashed down in the Pacific.
Morgan spent 272 days on board, during which he conducted seven space walks. He spent four of those walks improving and extending the life of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which searches for evidence of dark matter in the universe.
Meir and Skripochka both spent 205 days in space, during which time Meir carried out the first three all-women spacewalks with Christina Koch, who returned in February.
They passed control of the space station to the newly-arrived crew — cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from Russia's Roscosmos space agency, along with American astronaut Christopher Cassidy — before departure.
The new trio had to spend about a month in isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, and were unable to say goodbye to their families in person.
The ISS, which orbits Earth some 400 kilometers above it, has a mostly U.S. and Russian crew. Its laboratory conducts scientific experiments that cannot be carried out on Earth's surface.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
U.S. space agency NASA said Thursday its new mission would explore Titan, Saturn's largest moon, using a drone lander called Dragonfly.
The crewless craft with four propellers is slated to launch in 2026 and reach its destination in 2034.
"What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division.
BIG NEWS: The next @NASASolarSystem mission is… #Dragonfly – a rotorcraft lander mission to Saturn’s largest moon T… https://t.co/4pXfWWM0LB— Jim Bridenstine (@Jim Bridenstine)1561665650.0
What Will the Mission Involve?
The nuclear-powered Dragonfly is expected to spend two years flying vast distances across Titan's surface and touching down at different sites of interest.
It will visit the icy moon's dunes and the floor of a crater to search for signs of past or present microbial life. Its instruments will also investigate the atmosphere and an underground ocean.
"Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "Titan is unlike any other place in our solar system, and the most comparable to early Earth."
This similarity to our own planet means Saturn's moon could potentially hold clues for researchers about the origins of life.
Our new @NASASolarSystem mission, #Dragonfly, will send a rotocraft-lander to explore Saturn's moon, Titan! Why Ti… https://t.co/P19ZcdxiDM— NASA (@NASA)1561671039.0
What Do We Know About Titan?
Based on images collected by a previous mission, Titan has a rocky, rugged landscape, with lakes made of methane and ethane. It also has an ocean below its crust. It is the only place, besides Earth, known to have liquid rivers, lakes and seas.
Of the more than 150 known moons in the solar system, Titan is the second-largest, and the only one with a thick, hazy atmosphere. Like Earth, its atmosphere is nitrogen-based. But unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane.
The European Space Agency's Cassini-Huygens probe became the first spacecraft to land on Titan in 2005. That mission measured the temperature, pressure and density of the atmosphere and took pictures of the moon's surface.
The newly announced Dragonfly mission will be developed and led by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in the U.S. state of Maryland.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.
By Julia Conley
NASA scientists confirmed in a report Wednesday that 2018 was one of the hottest years on record, continuing what the New York Times called "an unmistakable warming trend."
Last year was the fourth-warmest on record since scientists began recording such data 140 years ago, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). This finding makes the last five years the five hottest years ever, scientists said, slapping down any question that the planet is growing warmer.
"2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend," said GISS director Gavin Schmidt in a statement.
"The five warmest years have, in fact, been the last five years," he told the Times. "We're no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It's here. It's now."
Earth's global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880. The past five years are, collective… https://t.co/qHhCGVGUmn— NASA Climate (@NASA Climate)1549472388.0
GISS also noted that the average temperature of the globe in 2018 was 1º Celsius (or 1.8º Fahrenheit) higher than the average temperature at the end of the 19th century, as human activities began emitting more and more carbon into the atmosphere following the Industrial Revolution.
The report follows a year marked by wildfires which scorched more than 1.5 million acres in California and an extended drought across much of Europe, as well as news that glaciers at the North and South Poles are melting at far faster rates than previously believed.
Of the top 20 hottest years on record, the agency said, 18 of them have been since 2001.
"Kids graduating from high school have only known a world of record-breaking temperatures," said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union for Concerned Scientists. "With global emissions rising for the second year in a row, this disastrous trend shows no signs of changing any time soon."
As climate scientists have said for decades, the warming of the planet affects far more than the hotter temperatures that are observable by humans each year. Global warming has influenced shifts in oceans that have may cause increasingly destructive and deadly hurricanes, and changes in the jet stream which scientists say contribute to extreme cold snaps across whole regions of the U.S. just last week.
These shifts have brought about a "new normal," Ekwurzel said, "with stronger hurricanes, polar vortex shifts, recurrent high tide flooding, life-threatening heat waves, longer wildfire seasons, and more rain during heavy downpours."
"It also comes at a cost—with both the loss of human lives and catastrophic economic impacts," she added. "According to NASA and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], there were a total of 14 billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events in the U.S. in 2018 alone, costing the nation $91 billion in direct economic damages and resulting in 247 deaths."
Hoda Baraka, communications director for 350.org, called the report "a red screaming alarm bell that we must stop the fossil fuel industry."
"Temperatures are rising year on year, breaking records everywhere, and causing untold damage across the world—meanwhile coal, oil, and gas companies intend to continue profiting from spewing their pollution into the atmosphere. The science is clear, to have a realistic chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C we must end the fossil fuel industry, starting today," said Baraka.
The report was released as two House committees convened for their first climate crisis-related hearings in a decade, leading to hope among green campaigners that the U.S. government—led by a president who has denied the existence of the climate crisis and indicated he will exit the Paris climate agreement, refusing to take even minor steps to curb carbon emissions—will begin to take seriously its role in stemming the crisis.
"For years, climate change has been grossly ignored by President Trump, as well as Congress writ large," said Ekwurzel, who testified at the House Energy and Commerce Committee's hearing Wednesday. "With roughly one decade left to tackle this problem head on, House Democrats have signaled that the climate crisis is at the top of their agenda by scheduling a slew of hearings on the subject this month."
In the 8 years the @HouseGOP held the House majority, we experienced historic hurricanes, raging wildfires, long dr… https://t.co/Tj3vt9M1VB— Rep. Adam Smith (@Rep. Adam Smith)1549463782.0
No more climate denialism. No more evasions. @HouseDemocrats are in charge. Led by @RepRaulGrijalva, the Natural Re… https://t.co/TwvaaoGHuj— Natural Resources Committee (@Natural Resources Committee)1549310234.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
The unusual image blew up online and now NASA is back with more photos of weirdly angular icebergs from the same Operation IceBridge trip.
From yesterday's #IceBridge flight: A tabular iceberg can be seen on the right, floating among sea ice just off of… https://t.co/MOc3UjFRUQ— NASA Ice (@NASA Ice)1539794700.0
We usually think of icebergs as craggy chunks like the one from Titanic, but IceBridge senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck caused a stir after he captured photos of the flat, sharp-cornered specimens.
"I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I've not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had," Harbeck said in a NASA post.
This panorama of the entire tabular iceberg was edited together from two images taken while flying past the berg.NASA/Jeremy Harbeck
These nature-made frozen slabs have an official name: "tabular icebergs." Because of its smooth surface and clean edges, the rectangular berg likely only recently broke off the Larsen C ice shelf, which famously released a Delaware-sized chunk of ice last year, now dubbed A68.
"The iceberg's sharp angles and flat surface indicate that it probably recently calved from the ice shelf," NASA tweeted.
In the new photo (at the top of this article), Harbeck captured a slightly less rectangular iceberg around the same area. Look closely and you can see a corner of the now-classic rectangular iceberg as well as A68 in the distance.
"I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos," Harbeck added in the NASA post.
Massive Iceberg Finally Breaks Off: #Antarctic Landscape 'Changed Forever' https://t.co/S5KiGgMJ86 @greenpeaceusa @Greenpeace @MIDASOnIce— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1499862899.0
These calving events are like a long fingernail that eventually snaps off at the end, University of Maryland Earth scientist Kelly Brunt explained to LiveScience.
Such a break can create nearly perfect geometric edges, similar to when a glass plate shatters and creates straight edges, sea ice specialist Alek Petty told NPR.
Operation IceBridge Mission Scientist John Sonntag explains more about the tabular icebergs. Watch here:
New #IceBridge video: Mission Scientist John Sonntag provides commentary on footage from an Oct. 16 flight over the… https://t.co/aglmginyXF— NASA Ice (@NASA Ice)1540400402.0
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From January through September, the average global temperature was 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 57.5°F, making it the fourth warmest year-to-date on record, and only 0.43°F lower than the record-high set in 2016 for the same period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA) announced Wednesday. NOAA's global temperature dataset record dates back to 1880.
With latest update from @NASAGISS, 2018 is almost guaranteed to be the 4th warmest year in the record, and likely t… https://t.co/Y0W975KTae— Gavin Schmidt (@Gavin Schmidt)1539616451.0
This past September was also the fourth-hottest on record. "In fact, the 10 warmest September global land and ocean surface temperatures have occurred since 2003 with the last five Septembers (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018) ranking as the five warmest on record," the report noted.
Parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia observed record-warm temperatures during the month, NOAA found.
"Temperatures were at least 3.6 degrees F above average across southern South America, Alaska, the southwestern and eastern U.S., much of Europe, the Middle East and parts of Russia," the report said.
Average sea-surface temperatures were also the fourth-highest on record in September and fourth-highest for the year to date.
Furthermore, sea ice coverage remained smaller than usual at the poles. NOAA said that the average Arctic sea ice coverage (extent) last month was 26.5 percent below the 1981-2010 average, the seventh-smallest extent for September on record.
At the same time, Antarctic sea ice extent was 3.3 percent below average, the second smallest for September ever recorded.
Sea ice extent at the polesNOAA
The incredibly precise Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) is the main feature of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) that successfully launched into space from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 15.
The United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launched with the NASA ICESat-2 onboard, Sept. 15, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA/Bill Ingalls
"For us scientists the most anticipated part of the mission starts when we switch on the laser and get our first data," said Thorsten Markus, ICESat-2 project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in a press release. "We are really looking forward to making those data available to the science community as quickly as possible so we can begin to explore what ICESat-2 can tell us about our complex home planet."
Following a successful week along its planned orbit, NASA tweeted Friday that the $1 billion ICESat2 is "looking great" and it will switch on ATLAS in about a week.
Week 1 update: #ICESat2 is looking great! 👍🛰️ Solar array deployed, all subsystems turned on, and we’re busy checki… https://t.co/GZenTsPbNM— NASA Ice (@NASA Ice)1537558899.0
The technology captures 60,000 measurements every second and can estimate the annual height change of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to within four millimeters, the width of a pencil, NASA touted.
The ICESat-2 repeats its orbit around Earth every 91 days so scientists can track how ice height changes across the four seasons.
The collected data will help scientists get a better picture of Earth's melting icecaps and improve forecasts of sea level rise.
"We can parameterize these processes better and put them into models so that our models will be more accurate and predict future sea level scenarios, so that we can then send that information to planners for preparing for the future," Helen Fricker, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who helped NASA develop the ICESat-2 mission's scientific goals, told Here & Now.
"As the climate is warming," Fricker continued, "we are seeing changes in the sea level—sea level is rising—but the ultimate thing that we're trying to get to is, how much ice will we lose and how quickly will we lose it?"
With the #ICESat2 mission launched, it is heading to orbit. Once there, it'll time how long it takes for laser beam… https://t.co/fveSxMZAJf— NASA (@NASA)1537018971.0
A sweeping AP analysis finds that in the decades since Hansen's testimony, global temperatures have risen nearly 1 degree F, while the U.S. is nearly 1.6 degrees warmer. The AP also reports that all of the 188 U.S. cities it reviewed have gotten warmer, while daily heat records have been broken more than two million times in cities across the country.
"Thirty years ago, we may have seen this coming as a train in the distance," said NOAA's Deke Arndt, one of the more than 50 scientists interviewed who confirmed the breadth of the AP's findings. "The train is in our living room now."
As reported by the AP:
"Clara Deser, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that when dealing with 30-year time periods in smaller regions than continents or the globe as a whole, it would be unwise to say all the warming is man-made. Her studies show that in some places in North American local—though not most—natural weather variability could account for as much as half of warming.
But when you look at the globe as a whole, especially since 1970, nearly all the warming is man-made, said Zeke Hausfather of the independent science group Berkeley Earth. Without extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, he said, the Earth would be slightly cooling from a weakening sun. Numerous scientific studies and government reports calculate that greenhouse gases in the big picture account for more than 90 percent of post-industrial Earth's warming.
'It would take centuries to a millennium to accomplish that kind of change with natural causes. This, in that context, is a dizzying pace,' said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech in Atlanta."
Trump Kills NASA Carbon Monitoring Program as CO2 Levels Soar Past 'Troubling' 410 ppm Threshold… https://t.co/0Qp14lKC5Z— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1526309011.0
For a deeper dive:
By Julia Conley
With a first-of-its-kind satellite study, NASA scientists have identified more than 30 parts of the globe where the depletion of freshwater has been most dramatic, largely due to human activity and the climate crisis.
Parts of India, the Middle East, Australia, the Arctic, Antarctica, and California were among the places pointed out in the new study, published in Nature on Wednesday, as areas where an overuse of groundwater resources from irrigation, agricultural, and industry projects, as well as the loss of glaciers and ice sheets, have led to water shortages.
NASA has identified more than 30 hotspots where freshwater is in particular danger.
The findings showed a "clear human fingerprint" on the drying out of the earth, the authors of the report told the Guardian.
Aside from the warming planet's effect on rapidly melting polar ice, the extraction of water from rivers like those that feed into the Aral Sea in Central Asia, for the purposes of farming and industrial use, have resulted in dramatic losses of freshwater.
Over-extraction has been especially problematic in parts of India and China, according to the study, causing a rapid decline in the availability of water despite normal rainfall levels.
"The fact that extractions already exceed recharge during normal precipitation does not bode well for the availability of groundwater during future droughts," wrote the study's authors.
"This report is a warning and an insight into a future threat," Jonathan Farr of the charity WaterAid told The Guardian. "We need to ensure that investment in water keeps pace with industrialization and farming. Governments need to get to grips with this."
The worst-affected regions were uninhabited parts of the globe like Antarctica where 10 percent of the icy continent's glaciers are now in retreat, according to a study published last month.
Freshwater is present in lakes, rivers, soil, snow, groundwater and glacial ice. Its loss in the ice sheets at the… https://t.co/OxSMkuTbXl— NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)1526493329.0
5 Billion People Could Have Poor Access to Water by 2050, UN Warns https://t.co/QlpXdWAsw4 @YEARSofLIVING… https://t.co/EGAjvMJEtk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1521466272.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.