30 November 2010

Warming Lakes and Giant Bubbles To Round Out November

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Greenland is a magical place. Never pass up a chance to visit. It's also the "Canary in the coal mine" of climate change. My pic taken from a C-130 in July.

There has been a lot of interesting science over the past few days. Every time I think about writing a post about one thing, I see something new!

So here is a little about a bunch of things that caught my eye.

The New York Times did an excellent piece on sea level rise and Greenland’s ice melt. Having spent two weeks in Greenland at NEEM in July, this caught my eye big time.  Justin Gillis of the Times deserves credit for doing a fabulous piece on the real science. You can read it here.

Another climate related story is a paper in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters. It’s titled Space observations of inland water bodies show rapid surface warming since 1985. The title speaks for itself. You can read the abstract here.

Radiometers on satellites can detect temperatures of water bodies very accurately. NOAA image.

The authors (Both from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab) looked at infrared images of  167 large inland water bodies in the summer season. The reason they looked in summer is that cloud cover and ice cover in winter would make getting enough data difficult.

Thermal IR imagery is really just showing  temperature. The satellite data showed that from 1985-2009 most of the lakes were warming. Not only that, but the trend matches predictions from climate models.

Papers like this are important because they confirm other independent observations of our warming climate. It’s one thing to claim warming based on thermometers at airports. When the satellite data, and numerous other independent data sets all agree, you have a conclusion that is much more certain.

The data also shows the warming is greater in the higher latitudes. This is what would be expected if the warming were due to greenhouse gases. In addition, the data is in agreement with temperature buoys on the Great Lakes.

On another subject, isn’t water an amazing substance? It actually gets lighter when it freezes. It’s one of the only substances to expand when it freezes as well! It also makes bubbles when you give it a little help…

You can find out more about Sterling Johnson (the guy doing those bubbles) here.

Last but not least, I get to meet the one and only Neil deGrasse Tyson this Friday! I will tape it and post the interview here soon. Is there a question you have always wanted to ask an astrophysicist? Drop me a note!