16 May 2009
Astronomy and Meteorology are two sciences that have legions of non scientist helpers. Thousands of people across the world record weather data each day in places that governments cannot afford to locate “official” stations. In the USA, COCORAHS members record rainfall with high quality, and very accurate rain gauges in thousands of locations. They do it because it matters. This data is invaluable to forecasters like myself, and to future and present researchers in weather and climate. It is very likely that this weather data will be looked at over 100 years from now by researchers not even born yet.
In Astronomy, it’s much the same. Backyard observers are usually the ones who spot a new comet or gamma ray burst. As thanks, a comet finder gets it named after him!
This brings me to the WOW images I talked about.
Thierry Legault is an Engineer in Paris. He is one of these backyard Astronomers who is very familiar to professionals who work in the large telescopes. Thierry specializes in astrophotography and even has an asteroid named after him. (Many asteroids are found by backyard sky watchers.)
A couple of days ago, Thierry took a photo of the sun. The image was taken with his 13 cm wide telescope.
Here it is:
I know what you are thinking. I’ve seen it before you say. I can just go outside.
Well Thierry took this photo at just the right moment. I mean JUST the right moment. Look in the lower left quadrant of the image above. You see a speck? It’s not your monitor.
Here is a blown up image of that speck:
You see it??
It’s what you think it is.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis, and just below it is the Hubble Space Telescope. He had to time it to the second, and he got it!
He has some other INCREDIBLE images on his website. You MUST see them!
The other image is from NOAA. The National Climate Data Center (NCDC to us wx geeks) has released the April global temperature anomalies.
Here it is:
The red dots indicate areas that were warmer than normal, and the blue dots are areas colder than normal. The bigger the dot, the greater the departure from normal. Notice how many of the red dots are in the far North.
Now look at the global temps for ALL of 2008.
You see the same thing.
Now here is one more piece of information.
Climate models have improved dramatically over the last twenty years. The early models were crude, but all of the models have been very consistent, in forecasting the greatest warming (from increasing Carbon Dioxide levels) to be in the far North. In Science, a prediction that verifies adds weight to a theory. A theory that makes prediction, after prediction, and keeps verifying, soon comes to have a high level of acceptance among scientists. The images above are just one of hundreds of verifications, seen around the world over the last twenty years.
This is why there is such a high consensus among climate scientists, that we may be running out of time, to deal with greenhouse gases. I showed the April image on air Friday night. When I show anything to do with climate, I get emails like the one I received tonight:
Subject: GW lunacy
interesting that you make a big deal about the april climate, but i don’t remember you doing so on a cooler month. Your global warming hysteria has become political.
Just to be clear, I don’t do politics. You will see nothing here on the current climate legislation. Yes, I am very much in favour of doing something to srop greenhouse gas emissions globally. We have no choice. REALLY- WE HAVE NO CHOICE. I will leave the political arguments to others. The Science is much more interesting. I just hope something that works is done, because my kids, and grand kids will have to live with the consequences if we do not. So will yours.
Oh, if you are wondering about those other months that I supposedly am not mentioning. If we get a major volcanic eruption, or a very strong La Nina, we might get one.
It will be temporary though. The CO2 is still increasing, and it will overwhelm the temportary cooling of such events fairly quickly. Dr. James Hansen of NASA says, even a quiet sun with no sunspots (A new Maunder Minimum) would only stop the temp. rise for about 7 years. The CO2 would rise so much, that we would start warming again within a decade.
We tend to think of the atmosphere over us as a gigantic entity. Only astronauts can escape it, but they don’t have to go very high. You might be surprised to know, that by the time the solid rocket boosters burn out , two minutes after launch, the Astronauts in the Shuttle are looking at a nearly black sky. They are already above 95% of the atmosphere. Just two to three minutes from a sunny, and blue Florida sky to the black of space.
I offer in evidence the image below, taken yesterday from Atlantis:
Look at the thin blue line around Earth, behind the Hubble Telescope. That’s our atmosphere. Basically the “whole shootin match” as we would say in Oklahoma!