Our Atmosphere is Escaping
Posts tagged atmosphere.
Great read and video of the researchers in Mongolia.
Eight hundred years ago, relatively small armies of mounted warriors suddenly exploded outward from the cold, arid high-elevation grasslands of Mongolia and reshaped world geography, culture and history in ways that still resound today. How did they do it?
Tree-ring scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have worked in Mongolia since 1995. In 2010, Lamont researcher Neil Pederson and Amy Hessl of West Virginia University were seeking old trees for a study of wildfire history. High in the Khangai Mountains, north of the steppe where the long-disappeared Mongol capital of Karakorum once lay, they explored a nearly solid-rock plain of hardened lava left by a volcanic eruption some 8,000 years ago. Growing out of fissures and thin soils were thousands of gnarled, stunted larches and Siberian pines–a tree-ring scientist’s treasure. Annual rings of many species reflect rainfall or temperature in predictable ways. These can be read like books; and trees in the driest, harshest sites like this are exquisitely sensitive to rain, live to extraordinary ages, and leave trunks that may stand for centuries after they die. They are truly ancient manuscripts, writ with a fine hand.Pederson and Hessl analyzed 17 trees to chart a yearly record of rainfall back to 658 AD. They saw that from 1211-1230—the exact time of the Mongols’ rise—central Mongolia saw one of its wettest periods ever. That time also was unusually warm, as shown by a 2001 paper from other Lamont researchers.
Sea ice is any form of ice found at sea that originated from the freezing of sea water. It is the most visible feature of the Arctic Ocean, with its extent waxing and waning with the seasons. Ice thickness is highly variable, ranging from a thin veneer to tens of meters. While the existence of sea ice reflects the cold conditions inherent to high latitudes, sea ice also strongly modulates the energy budget and climate of the Arctic and beyond, particularly because it is white, and hence reflects much of the sun’s energy back to space (it has a high albedo) and also through acting as a lid, insulating the underlying ocean from a generally much colder atmosphere.
Historically, at its maximum extent in March, Arctic sea ice covered an area more than 15 million square kilometers, somewhat less than twice the size of the contiguous United States. The minimum extent, occurring in September, the end of the melt season, was typically around 7.0 x106 km2. However, as assessed over the modern satellite record spanning 1979 to the present, Arctic sea ice extent exhibits downward linear trends for all months, weakest in winter and strongest for September. The downward September trend appears to have accelerated over the past decade. Through 2001, the September trend stood at -7.0% per decade. Through 2012, it was more than twice as large at -14.3% per decade. The six lowest September extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past six years, with September of 2012 setting a new low mark. Decreased summer ice extent has been accompanied by large reductions in winter ice thicknesses that are primarily explained by changes in the ocean’s coverage of thick multiyear ice (MYI). MYI is ice that has survived at least one summer melt season. In the mid-1980s, MYI accounted for 70% of total winter ice extent, whereas by the end of 2012 it had dropped to less than 20%. At the same time the proportion of ice older than 5 years declined from 50% of the MYI pack to less than 8%.
Ice loss is also contributing to strong rises in Arctic air temperature during autumn and winter, not just at the surface, but extending through a considerable depth of the atmosphere. As discussed, sea ice acts as a lid, insulating the underlying ocean from a generally much colder atmosphere. With less ice, the insulating effect is weaker, so heat can readily be transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere above. This strong warming, termed Arctic amplification, is starting to extend beyond areas of ice loss to influence Arctic land areas.
Continued loss of the ice cover is in turn likely to impact on patterns of atmospheric circulation and precipitation not just within the Arctic, but into middle latitudes; there is evidence that this is already occurring. The basic reason for this is that the outsized warming of the Arctic changes the atmospheric stability and temperature differences between the Arctic and lower latitudes. Finally, as the ice cover retreats, the Arctic is becoming more accessible for marine shipping as well as oil and natural gas exploration, increasing the economic and strategic importance of the region.
Video of a meteorite exploding over the southern Ural Mountains, Russia.
Bangkok Post reports property damage, no casualties.
“A meteorite exploded above the Chelyabinsk region (of the Urals). The shock wave blew out windows in several places,” but no meteor fragments hit the ground, an emergencies ministry spokesman told the Interfax news agency.
“According to the preliminary information, four people were injured by flying glass,” the ministry added.
An agency report spoke of several injuries.
Witnesses cited by news agencies spoke of hearing loud explosions which led to panic among residents.
The Halley Research Station in Antarctica is run by the British Antarctic Survey. The station is used to conduct research into meteorology, glaciology, seismology, radio astronomy, and geospace science.
Recently, the program began focusing on anthropogenic climate change. Halley provides vital information for a global understanding of ozone depletion, polar atmospheric chemistry, sea-level rise and climate change.
The station is mobile, but will likely remain in place for years to come. It took four years to build, and delivered its first scientific research in 2012.
About 20 to 70 people work and live at the station throughout the year, depending on the season.
- Background on living, working, research, history, the weather, and even a webcam: here
- Curious about Halley’s governing institution, the British Antarctic Survey? Go here
- Want a job at Halley station?! Click: Job Vacancies
- More on the modular design: here
- I enjoyed reading the profiles of the station’s variety of vehicles, including Snowmobiles, Sno-Cats, Bulldozers, Cranes, and Tractors with sno-tracks
About the architects. The station was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects, which specializes in extreme environment engineering for unique clients.
Our approach requires us to exercise the lateral thinking abilities of an architect to the full, taking us into new territories, exploring new forms of construction and drawing upon the full breadth of available technologies from a vast array of industries. This is epitomised by the success of our work for extreme environments, where we are one of the global leaders in the design of scientific research facilities in the Polar Regions. Via HBA
The folks at Skeptical Science wrote an epic take down / open letter to London Mayor Boris Johnson. Johnson embarrassed himself in an opinion-editorial published the UK’s The Telegraph. In it, the Mayor of one of the most powerful cities in the world claimed he doesn’t know a thing about science, yet his ignorance and lack of curiosity somehow allows him to understand how the entire earth’s climatic system works.
Epic take down is epic.
Higher temperatures cause increased water evaporation. Evaporated water forms more cloud cover. Add those clouds to winter, and you get more snow. The end. So, either the Mayor is a genuine ignoramus, or he’s chosen the drunken route of power, wishing to stay elected rather than take action and lead.
The letter is a great read. Here’s the beginning:
Open Letter to London Mayor Boris Johnson - Weather is not Climate
Mayor Johnson, I was rather puzzled to read your recent opinion-editorial in the Telegraph, suggesting that the sun is to blame for global warming because it has been snowing in London in the winter. Quite simply, weather is not climate. The main necessary ingredients for snow are cold temperatures (which tend to occur in winter) and moisture in the atmosphere, which has increased as a result of global warming. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that winter precipitation in the United Kingdom will increase in a warming world.
In your editorial, you acknowledge your lack of expertise on the subject, but defer to weather forecaster Piers Corbyn due to his alleged accuracy in predicting British weather (that accuracy being generally exaggerated, with manycounter-examples). However, irrespective of his accuracy in making weather predictions, Corbyn is not a climate scientist; weather forecasting and climatology are very different scientific fields. If your cardiologist informed you that you need open heart surgery, would you ask your dentist for a second opinion?
If Corbyn would like his climate opinions to be taken seriously, he should subject them to the peer-review process like climate scientists do. However, it is very easy to see why he is wrong. Were the sun the main driver of global temperatures, the planet would have cooled slightly over the past 50 years. Instead it has warmed rapidly, and the United Kingdom has warmed nearly 1.3°C during the period of downward solar activity. Additionally, right now we are approaching the peak of the current 11-year solar cycle, which is difficult to reconcile with efforts to blame your wintery weather on low solar activity.
Read the rest, with more resources at Skeptical Science.
Why is it so cold? Counter-intuitive event called, Stratospheric Warming.
An unusual event playing out high in the atmosphere above the Arctic Circle is setting the stage for what could be weeks upon weeks of frigid cold across wide swaths of the U.S., having already helped to bring cold and snowy weather to parts of Europe.
An Arctic cold front was sliding south from Canada on Friday, getting ready to clear customs at the border on Saturday and Sunday, bringing an icy chill to areas from the Plains states through the Mid-Atlantic by early next week, including what promises to be a chilly second inauguration for President Obama.
Temperatures in Washington on Monday are expected to hover in the low 30s, only a touch milder than Obama’s first inauguration, when the temperature was 28°F.
Reinforcing shots of cold air are likely to affect the Upper Midwest, Great Plains and into the East throughout February, with some milder periods sandwiched in between.
Sudden stratospheric warming events occur when large atmospheric waves, known as Rossby waves, extend beyond the troposphere where most weather occurs, and into the stratosphere. This vertical transport of energy can set a complex process into motion that leads to the breakdown of the high altitude cold low pressure area that typically spins above the North Pole during the winter, which is known as the polar vortex.
The polar vortex plays a major role in determining how much Arctic air spills southward toward the mid-latitudes. When there is a strong polar vortex, cold air tends to stay bottled up in the Arctic. However, when the vortex weakens or is disrupted, like a spinning top that suddenly starts wobbling, it can cause polar air masses to surge south, while the Arctic experiences milder-than-average temperatures.
During the ongoing stratospheric warming event, the polar vortex split in two, allowing polar air to spill out from the Arctic, as if a refrigerator door were suddenly opened.
The Leonid meteor shower peaks before dawn on Saturday as the Earth passes through debris left behind by the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.
Wowah wee wah!
Free webinar from NOAA: Understanding The Short- and Long-Term Variations in Stratospheric Water Vapor ›
The regulation of stratospheric water vapor is a classic problem in atmospheric sciences, with important implications for both climate and stratospheric ozone chemistry. We present here simulations of stratospheric water vapor using a Lagrangian forward-trajectory model of the stratosphere covering the period 1987-2011. Analysis of the model suggests that variations in stratospheric water vapor over the last few decades are controlled by three factors: decadal variations in the Brewer-Dobson circulation, the QBO, and volcanic eruptions. We also see evidence for increases in the amount of water vapor entering the stratosphere, and implications for the next century will be discussed.
Register, here. September 26, 2012, 15:30-16:30 Mountain Time Zone
Something like this (more at the link):
This is basically all of the water that could precipitate out of the air at any given moment.
Related: xkcd’s What If series asks what would happen if a rainstorm dropped all its water in one big drop.
These maps are updated daily. Here’s how they’re created.
““Nobody understands why this convection can penetrate as deeply as it does,” said Dr. Anderson, who has studied the atmosphere for four decades.
Mario J. Molina, a co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for research in the 1970s that uncovered the link between CFCs and damage to the ozone layer, said the study added “one more worry to the changes that society’s making to the chemical composition of the atmosphere.” Dr. Molina, who was not involved in the work, said the concern was “significant ozone depletion at latitudes where there is a lot of population, in contrast to over the poles.”
The study, which was financed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, focused on the United States because that is where the data was collected. But the researchers pointed out that similar conditions could exist at other midlatitude regions”
The terraforming of Mars is the hypothetical process by which the climate, surface, and known properties of Mars would be deliberately changed with the goal of making it habitable by humans and other terrestrial life, thus providing the possibility of safe and sustainable colonization of large areas of the planet. The concept relies on the assumption that the environment of a planet can be altered through artificial means; the feasibility of creating a planetary biosphere is undetermined.