8 August 2011

Weekend Digest- New NASA App & Record Low Arctic Ice In July

Posted by Dan Satterfield


The NASA Terra satellite produced this image of ground temperature anomalies over the U.S. at the end of July. While our eyes can only see a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, the MODIS sensor can see light in many different wavelengths. It truly is amazing what we can "see" from space when we look at the light we cannot see directly with our eyes.

I spent much of the week in Washington,DC for a meeting of a committee that looks at the science involved with the GOES R weather satellite that will be launched in 2015 (budget allowing!). GOES R will be a totally new generation of weather satellite and will change the way the planet is monitored for weather and climate. More about this soon but here are some of the interesting bits of science I picked up in the past week.

Arctic Ice Sets New July Low

The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced this week that the area of Arctic sea ice reached the lowest levels ever measured last month. NSIDC says “Average ice extent for July 2011 was 7.92 million square kilometers (3.06 million square miles). This is 210,000 square kilometers (81,000 square miles) below the previous record low for the month, set in July 2007, and 2.18 million square kilometers (842,000 square miles) below the average for 1979 to 2000.

As you can see from the graph on the right, the melt rate has slowed and the amount of ice is now above what it was in early August of 2007, the current record holder. It may turn out that when the ice stops melting in early September, we are not at a record low, but there is little doubt that it will be close. While there seems to be little doubt that climate change will cause the summer sea ice to disappear by later this century, there are other factors(subscr. req’d) but BBC has a good summary here) that control the year to year areal extent, and it would not be scientifically accurate to say that this means the ice will disappear ahead of schedule.


I had a chance to test this new NASA visualisation app out and it really is great. For my fellow iPad owners, it is a must have and totally free. Just go here.

There is a new movie on the app today that shows the area around McMurdo Base, Antarctica (based on Landsat data). Having been to McMurdo, I can tell you that words do not do it justice, but this movie does give you an idea of what the area around the base looks like. NASA does a great job of inspiring the next generation of scientists, and they do it for less than a penny of every tax dollar spent.

Christchurch Quake Aftermath

My fellow AGU blogger Dave Petley has been down in New Zealand and has a series of great posits about the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake. I spent several days in Christchurch waiting for the weather to clear in Antarctica and it breaks my heart to see the damage. You can learn a lot about landslides from his posts and his photography has been superb. The Landslide Blog is here.

Climate Myth 101

One of the most enduring of climate change myths, is the one claiming volcanoes produce much more carbon dioxide than we humans do. Nothing could be farther from the truth and there is a good post on Real Climate with the details. Somehow I expect that I will hear this myth repeated again many times.

Highs on Sunday from the Oklahoma Mesonet.

Heat Wave Waning??

I am seeing some real signs on this Sunday night that the heat wave in the Plains is beginning to weaken, but Texas may see more 100 degree heat in the week ahead. Austin broke its string of 100 degree days on Sunday with 22, and they have had 54 days this year above 100. Capital Climate has a good summary of the records in Texas. Oklahoma had some rain today, but many areas still were above 38C (100°F).

The high pressure system loft has weakened but the ground is so hot and dry, that temps easily reach the century mark in spite of this. There will be some more rain in the state this week but temps will likely cool slowly, but cool they will. My friends in OKC had some heavy rain and felt temperatures drop to the low 80’s briefly for the first time in weeks.