On Nov. 19, 2016, an Atlas V rocket launched the first next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) satellite.
This close-up view from a full Earth image by GOES-16 weather satellite shows the powerful nor’easter bringing snow to the northeastern U.S. on March 7, 2018 at 10:26 a.m. EST (1526 GMT).
A full-disk view of the Earth on March 7, 2018 as seen by the GOES-16 weather satellite at 10:26 a.m. EST (1526 GMT).
This full-disk view of Earth from the GOES-East satellite shows a storm swirling over a darkened United States Jan. 4, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT).
The GOES-16 satellite’s Solar Ultraviolet Imager took images of the sun using six wavelengths of light, spotting a large coronal hole in the sun’s southern hemisphere on Jan. 29, 2017.
NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite took this photo of Earth at 1:07 p.m. EDT (1807 GMT) on Jan. 15. It was created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the GOES-16 ABI instrument.
The Caribbean islands and part of the southeastern United States are visible in this photo taken by NOAA’s GOES-16 weather satellite.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES East satellite captured this visible image of Category 4 Hurricane Irma on Saturday (Sept. 9) at 10:37 a.m. EDT (1437 GMT).
This visible-light image of Hurricane Harvey taken from NOAA’s GOES East satellite on Aug. 25 at 10:07 a.m. EDT (1407 GMT) clearly shows the storm’s eye as the storm nears landfall on Texas’ southeast coast.
This image of Category 5 Hurricane Maria moving through the eastern Caribbean was taken at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Sept. 19, 2017, by NOAA’s GOES East satellite.
Using nearly a decade of satellite data, researchers at Colorado State University have uncovered “milky seas” in a way they’ve never been seen before – a rare and fascinating oceanic bioluminescent phenomenon detected by a highly sensitive spaceborne low-light sensor.
Milky seas are an elusive and rare display of bioluminescence in the Earth’s ocean, and the largest known form on our planet. Distinct from turbulent froth created by wakes of ships, milky seas achieve a long-lived, widespread, and uniform glow in the ocean’s surface that can persist for several nights, and span more than 100,000 square kilometers (almost 39,000 square miles) – about the size of the state of Kentucky.
Mariners experience these extraordinary conditions only in certain remote areas of the world—mainly in the northwest Indian Ocean offshore of the Horn of Africa, and in the waters surrounding Indonesia. Predicting when, where, and why milky seas form remains a modern-day scientific mystery.
The mysterious glow
Surreal descriptions of the fabled “milky sea,” which eyewitnesses say glows as bright as a snow field or a bed of clouds, has been shared among mariners throughout history, said Steve Miller, CIRA’s incoming director and lead author on the Scientific Reports paper. These stories found their way into seafaring adventure novels like Moby-Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, taking their place in folklore, but not so much in scientific observation.
In more than 200 recorded sightings dating back to the 19th century, only once, in 1985, did a research vessel sail through a milky sea. The water sample collected at the time suggested a strain of luminous bacteria, colonizing a bloom of algae at the water’s surface, created the glow. Some of the features of milky seas, however, are not adequately explained by this hypothesis – especially in the face of eyewitness accounts.
Bolstered by new observations from space, researchers are now positioned to understand much more about the circumstances of this fascinating phenomenon. From far above the world’s oceans, the Suomi NPP and NOAA-20 satellites collect imagery using a sophisticated suite of sensors, including the “Day/Night Band” instrument. The Day/Night Band detects very faint amounts of visible light at night, and peers through the darkness to reveal the glow of city lights, the flames of forest fires, and much more – including, now, the ability to see milky seas.
“The Day/Night Band continues to amaze me with its ability to reveal light features of the night. Like Captain Ahab of Moby-Dick, the pursuit of these bioluminescent milky seas has been my personal ‘white whale’ of sorts for many years,” Miller said.
Catching the light
By carefully analyzing Day/Night Band observations from three locations where milky seas are often reported, Miller and his team located 12 occurrences of this elusive phenomenon between 2012 and 2021.
Catching the light created by milky seas requires patience – and the right conditions. Even faint moonlight reflecting off the ocean’s surface can mask the signal. Light emitted by the glowing upper atmosphere, both directly upward and as reflected by the clouds, can likewise contaminate observations. Researchers carefully analyzed signals in the satellite data to rule out other sources of light emission, and used sophisticated techniques to find the persistent bioluminescent structures emitting light beyond the background noise.
Appearing as a persistent glowing patch on the ocean at night, these glowing bodies of water move with ocean currents. Disappearing from view during the day – due to the overwhelming amount of light from the Sun compared to the faint glow from the ocean – these patches become visible again to the satellite.
Coupling the satellite observations with measures of sea surface temperature, marine biomass, and the analyzed sea surface currents have led the authors to pose new hypotheses for the unique conditions surrounding milky sea formation.
“Milky seas are simply marvelous expressions of our biosphere whose significance in nature we have not yet fathomed,” Miller said. “Their very being spins an unlikely and compelling tale that ties the surface to the skies, the microscopic to the global scales, and the human experience and technology across the ages; from merchant ships of the 18th century to spaceships of the modern day. The Day/Night Band has lit yet another pathway to scientific discovery.”
Weather forecasting stays down here in the troposphere where we all live. Space forecasting goes way beyond that.
NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) has transitioned a new computer model into operations to increase its understanding of space weather events and improve space weather forecasting capabilities. These advances will help forecasters provide better information to us about potential impacts from a solar storm will help us better prepare and adapt to the disruption storms cause across so many parts of our lives; including communications, satellite and airline operations, human space flight, and navigation and surveying.
If you want your mobile phone and GPS to work right, we need to know what’s going on with solar storms so this first of its kind coupled Whole Atmosphere Model and Ionosphere Plasmasphere Electrodynamics Model (WAM-IPE Model) is now part of the Space Weather Prediction Center’s (SWPC) suite of forecast tools.
This is a major breakthrough because it’s the first time a forecast model will predict how Earth’s upper atmosphere will respond to solar and geomagnetic conditions as well as the disturbances from the lower atmosphere.
A new neutral-density product that could be used by satellite operators and ground-tracking systems for space traffic management. We’ve all heard how much equipment we have in orbit these days and this information will give operators the ability to predict the orbits of all the tech flying around.
The model will augment the existing WSA-ENLIL solar wind propagation model and the Geospace Model in SWPC operations, adding an important link in the “Sun-to-Earth” space weather modeling process. Space weather is caused by a series of interconnected events, beginning at the Sun and ending in the near-Earth space environment. Our ability to predict conditions and events in space depends on our understanding of these connections, and more importantly, our ability to predict the details.
In a study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists from the University of Washington and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory use remotely-piloted sailboats to gather data on cold air pools, or pockets of cooler air that form below tropical storm clouds.
“Atmospheric cold pools are cold air masses that flow outward beneath intense thunderstorms and alter the surrounding environment,” said lead author Samantha Wills, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies. “They are a key source of variability in surface temperature, wind and moisture over the ocean.”
The paper is one of the first tropical Pacific studies to rely on data from Saildrones, wind-propelled sailing drones with a tall, hard wing and solar-powered scientific instruments. Co-authors on the NOAA-funded study are Dongxiao Zhang at CICOES and Meghan Cronin at NOAA.
Atmospheric cold pools produce dramatic changes in air temperature and wind speed near the surface of the tropical ocean. The pockets of cooler air form when rain evaporates below thunderstorm clouds. These relatively dense air masses, ranging between 6 to 125 miles (10 to 200 kilometers) across, lead to downdrafts that, upon hitting the ocean surface, produce temperature fronts and strong winds that affect their surroundings. How this affects the larger atmospheric circulation is unclear.
“Results from previous studies suggest that cold pools are important for triggering and organizing storm activity over tropical ocean regions,” Wills said.
To understand the possible role of cold pools in larger tropical climate cycles, scientists need detailed measurements of these events, but it is hard to witness an event as it happens. The new study used uncrewed surface vehicles, or USVs, to observe the phenomena.
Over three multi-month missions between 2017 and 2019, 10 USVs covered over 85,000 miles (137,000 kilometers) and made measurements of more than 300 cold pool events, defined as temperature drops of at least 1.5 degrees Celsius in 10 minutes. In one case, a fleet of four vehicles separated by several miles captured the minute-by-minute evolution of an event and revealed how the cold pool propagated across the region.
“This technology is exciting as it allows us to collect observations over hard-to-reach, under-sampled ocean regions for extended periods of time,” Wills said.
The paper includes observations of air temperature, wind speed, humidity, air pressure, sea surface temperature and ocean salinity during cold pool events. The authors use the data to better describe these phenomena, including how much and how quickly air temperatures drops, how long it takes the wind to reach peak speeds, and how sea surface temperature changes nearby. Results can be used to evaluate mathematical models of tropical convection and explore more questions, like how the gusts created by the temperature difference affect the transfer of heat between the air and ocean.
In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week Dr. Kaboth-Bahr and an international group of multidisciplinary collaborators identified ancient El Niño-like weather patterns as the drivers of major climate changes in Africa. This allowed the group to re-evaluate the existing thought regarding climate impacts on human evolution.
Dr. Kaboth-Bahr and her colleagues integrated 11 climate archives from all across Africa covering the past 620 thousand years to generate a comprehensive picture of when and where wet or dry conditions prevailed over the continent. “We were surprised to find a distinct climatic east-west ‘seesaw’ a lot like the pattern produced by the weather phenomena of El Niño, that today profoundly influences precipitation distribution in Africa,” explains Dr. Kaboth-Bahr, who led the study.
Wet and dry regions shifted between the east and west of the African continent on timescales of approximately 100,000 years, with each of the climatic shifts being accompanied by major turnovers in flora (plant-life) and mammal fauna (animal-life).
“This alternation between dry and wet periods appeared to have governed the dispersion and evolution of vegetation as well as mammals in eastern and western Africa,” explains Dr. Kaboth-Bahr. “The resultant environmental patchwork was likely to have been a critical component of human evolution and early demography as well.”
The scientists’ work suggests that a seesaw-like pattern of rainfall alternating between eastern and western Africa probably had the effect of creating critically important ecotonal regions — the buffer zones between different ecological zones, such grassland and forest.
“Ecotones“provided diverse, resource-rich and stable environmental settings thought to have been important to early modern humans,” adds Dr. Kaboth-Bahr. “They certainly seem to have been important to other faunal communities.”
“Re-evaluating these patterns of stasis, change and extinction through a new climatic framework will yield new insights into the deep human past,” says Dr. Kaboth Bahr. “This does not mean that people were helpless in the face of climatic changes, but shifting habitat availability would certainly have impacted patterns of demography, and ultimately the genetic exchanges that underpin human evolution.”
Air temperature is measured about 6 feet above the ground in a ventilated shelter that is painted white. This method allows the temperature “in the shade” of air passing through the shelter.
Using this process Death Valley, CA is known as the hottest place on Earth due to the Furnace Creek, CA temperature of 134.1°F (56.7°C) recorded on July 10, 1913.
That’s air temperature, ground surface temperatures are a different beast.
Over the past 20 years NASA has been using satellites equipped with a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to measure the infrared heat emitted by surfaces like dirt, rocks, etc. to see how hot they get. You’ve certainly experienced touching really hot surfaces during a sunny day (think metal car door). Radiation from the sun mercilessly heats these objects on sunny days.
Using the MODIS data there are two places that have leaped to the top of the surface heat heap; the Lut Desert in Iran, and the Sonoran Desert along the U.S.-Mexico border where temperatures have reached 177.4°F (80.8°C).
The Lut Desert has a larger area with these scorching surface temperatures and is now considered to be the “Hottest Place on Earth”.
In this Month’s Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society researcher Yunxia Zhao of the University of California, Irvine reveals other mind-bending facts about temperatures here on planet Earth:
The biggest temperature swing in a single day : 147.3°F (81.8°C), from –10.7°F (–23.7°C) to 136.6°F (58.1°C) on July 20, 2006 in China’s Qaidam Basin, a crescent-shaped depression hemmed in by mountains on the Tibetan Plateau.
And the coldest place? No shocker here; with a satellite reading of -167.6°F (-110.9°) recorded in 2016 Antarctica reigns supreme.
Dust in the air in Arizona is not only irritating, it can severely damage your health. Valley Fever is caused by the the Coccidioides fungus which grows in dirt and fields and can cause fever, rash and coughing.
George Mason University’s Daniel Tong, one of the first scientists to discover the link between dust storms and Valley fever is leading a NASA-funded team to track the airborne spread of Valley fever across the United States for the first time.
Tong and his team are combining NASA satellite data and high-end computer modeling with homemade dust catchers made of pans for baking cakes and marbles. As wind passes over the uneven surface of the marbles, the interrupted flow causes the air to release the dust and spores it’s carrying. As the sediment falls through the layers of marbles to the bottom of the pan, it’s protected from being picked up by wind again, stored safely until the scientists come to collect several weeks’ worth of samples at a time.
Tong says that with more dust storms there will be more instances of Valley fever. For reasons that are not well understood, some people are more susceptible to the effects of Valley fever than others. Only 40 percent of people infected have symptoms, and 8 percent of those go to the hospital. “There’s no vaccine – the fungus lives with you for the rest of your life,” said Tong. “Those infected are paying about US $50,000 per hospital visit, and a quarter of those people have to go ten times or more.”
The team is working with local agencies to place the sensors in areas with frequent dust storms to see where Valley fever might be affecting the most people. Local health agencies like the Pinal County Public Health Department in Arizona and community physicians are already incorporating these data to inform health and safety measures like increased testing and public education.
From NASA written by Lia Poteet/Edited for blog my Marty Coniglio
Got your Red-Blue 3D glasses handy? If you do, check out the latest severe storm imagery from NASA.
NASA’s Langely Research Center in Hampton, VA is making 3-D imagery available. Following a severe storm outbreak that brought large hail, high winds and tornadoes to parts of Texas and Oklahoma on April 23 and 24, Langley scientists Kris Bedka and Konstantin Khlopenkov collaborated to create a 3D composite loop of satellite imagery collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-17 and GOES-16 satellites (visible above). GOES-17 is in a geostationary orbit (high Earth orbit that allows satellites to match Earth’s rotation) southeast of Hawaii and GOES-16 is in a geostationary orbit approximately due south of Virginia’s Hampton Roads region.
Since the two satellites collect images as often as every 30 seconds, and within just a few seconds of one another, combining imagery this way could be a game changer for researchers who study thunderstorms.
“Pairing the high-resolution 3D view with the very rapidly updating imagery really opens up a lot of doors for us in unraveling storm dynamical processes and how they lead to severe weather,” said Bedka.
The detailed 3D perspective also gives scientists a more accurate way to measure cloud height, which they currently do through a bit of inference by taking satellite-observed cloud temperature and matching it to weather prediction models, which provide gridded height and temperature profiles throughout the world. This method works well most of the time, but weather models do not always correctly simulate temperatures near the tops of powerful storms. By also incorporating the best possible 3D rendering of the clouds at the highest possible time intervals, scientists can track patterns visually and better unravel severe-weather processes. Bedka and Khlopenkov are currently working on an algorithm for automating cloud height based on the 3D imagery.