The OCO-2, aka, Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, is a satellite that measures CO2 in the atmosphere, using a spectrograph.
From a news article in today’s Science, “One of the crowning achievements of modern environmental science is the Keeling curve, the detailed time series of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) begun in 1958 that has enabled deep insights into the mechanisms of global climate change. These measurements were difficult to make for most of their 60-year history, involving the physical collection of air samples in flasks at a small number of sites scattered strategically around the globe and the subsequent analysis of their CO2 inventories in a handful of laboratories throughout the world.”
The purpose of the OCO-2 was to make these measurements much more accurate and efficient, and to provide more granularity in the details. The space craft was launched in July 2014, replacing an earlier OCO (OCO-1, if you like) which was launched in 2009.
Do not tell Donald Trump about this satellite. He’ll have it shot down.
The news is bad, and is being widely covered. Here I just want to make a remark or two about the link between big fires and global warming.
As of last report, there are 15 known dead and 150 or more missing. Hopefully they are only virtually and not actually missing; there is a lot of confusion and communication resources are in many cases down.
Wild fires are tricky in more ways then one. It is easy to get caught in one (I’ve manage that myself), and it is hard to predict or fully understand why some years have more than others. There has been a long term trend nationally towards fewer wild fires, for several reasons, most of which have to do with human activities. The most significant part of that trend is that humans caused many, huge, often deadly wild fires in the past. The worst wildfire ever in Minnesota, in terms of Death toll, was during World War I and had mainly to do with farming and railroads being a bad mix. Cutting lots of land to farm provides the fuel, and in those days, railroads were travelling tinderboxes sparking fires everywhere they went. Continue reading →
Just a pointer to my colleague John Abraham’s current post in The Guardian:
The latest example, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto has a strong clean energy proposal
As soon as Donald Trump won the presidential election, people in the US and around the world knew it was terrible news for the environment. Not wanting to believe that he would try to follow through on our worst fears, we held out hope.
Those hopes for a sane US federal government were misplaced. But they are replaced by a new hope – an emerging climate leadership at the state level and a continuation of economic forces that favor clean/renewable energy over dirty fossil fuels. In fact, it appears that some states are relishing the national and international leadership roles that they have undertaken. Support for sensible climate and energy policies is now a topic to run on in elections.
This change has manifested itself in American politics. One such plan stems from my home state, but it exemplifies work in other regions. I live in the state of Minnesota where we are gearing up for a gubernatorial election, which is where this plan comes from.
My state is well known as somewhat progressive, both socially and economically. The progressive policies resulted in a very strong 2007 renewable energy standard, which helped to reduce carbon pollution and create 15,000 jobs.
This graphic, by Boggis Makes Videos and put on YouTube just a few days ago, breaks all the rules of how to make effective, understandable graphs for the general public. However, if you follow all those rules, it is difficult or impossible to get certain message across. Therefore, this graphic is necessary if a bit difficult. I would like you to watch the graphic several times with a prompt before each watching so that you fully appreciate it. This will only take you six or seven minutes, I’m sure you weren’t doing anything else important. Continue reading →
Hunter Cutting, Director of Strategic Communications at Climate Nexus, talks about the upsides of the issues surrounding climate change. “One of the very interesting things I think about this whole issue is it’s actually not a scientific problem. Thanks to work of scientists we’re actually pretty clear what causes global warming,” said Cutting. “What we’re really talking about is moving our economy from a fossil fuel economy to renewable energy economy and the cost to that is marginal at best.”
Global warming can cause record winter storms. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s no snow job. When the oceans warm, more water evaporates into the air.
MANN: “And what that means is there’s more precipitation. Water is cycling more vigorously through the atmosphere, and that gives us more extreme weather.”
That’s Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Penn State University. He says in summer, an unusually warm ocean can strengthen storms like Hurricane Irene.. but in winter, the evaporation from a warm ocean collides with cold arctic air and turns to snow.
As seawater evaporates, it also releases additional energy into the atmosphere. This extra energy then fuels storms, making them more intense.
This past winter, a large area of the North Atlantic was much warmer than usual — which Mann says contributed to the record Nor’easters that buried parts of New England in snow.
MANN: “So climate change is actually providing more energy to intensify these nor’easters, and it’s providing more moisture so that they can convert that moisture into record snowfalls.”
2014 was the warmest year on record for the global ocean surface. So New England, get your shovels ready for more extreme snow in coming years.