Tag Archives: NOAA

New government brochure promotes ‘climate literacy’

A new brochure aims to provide clarity and literacy on the issue of climate change.
A new brochure aims to provide clarity and literacy on the issue of climate change.

With the constant din of conflicting information on manmade climate change, some coming from within these very pages, it may be difficult for the layman to understand climate change and what it potentially means for the Earth.  A collaborative project from a number of United States government agencies seeks to offer some clarity to the subject in a new brochure titled “Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences“.

  • To download the brochure, see our links at the bottom of this article.

According to the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the guide “presents important information for individuals and communities to understand Earth’s climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches for adapting and mitigating change.”   The document is wonderfully laid out and colorfully illustrated with photos and begins by outlining the basic principles many have come to believe in terms of man’s impact on the climate. 

Human activities—burning fossil fuels and deforesting large areas of land, for instance—have had a profound influence on Earth’s climate.
– Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences

According to the document, the ‘essential principles of climate science’ are: 

  • The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth’s climate system.
  • Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
  • Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
  • Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
  • Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
  • Human activities are impacting the climate system.
  • Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Great detail is spent on each of those issues.  Tom Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center said, “There is so much misinformation about climate.  We want to provide an easily readable document to help everyone make the most informed decisions. Having one product endorsed by the nation’s top federal science agencies, as well as leading science centers and associations, makes this document an essential resource.”

Scientific observations and climate model results indicate that human activities are now the primary cause of most of the ongoing increase in Earth’s globally averaged surface temperature.
– Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences

As one might expect from the above quote, the document doesn’t lend any credence to or even mention any dissenting opinions about manmade climate change like we have documented previously.  The agencies represented obviously agree that the ‘science is settled’.  However, it is not overly preachy nor does it use over the top language like some climate change advocates are known to do.  The brochure can be a handy reference for everyone on all sides of the issue and help to lend a reasonable voice to the debate.

The new guide was spearheaded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with contributions from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Agency for International Development and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

For more info: 

Next generation weather satellite to be built in Denver

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver will build the next generation of weather satellites. Image courtesy Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver will build the next generation of weather satellites. Image courtesy Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has selected Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver to build their next generation of weather and environment monitoring satellites.  When the GOES-R satellites are launched in 2015, they will provide unprecedented capability to NOAA, the National Weather Service and all weather forecasters through the use of advanced technology. 

These extraordinary satellites will provide everything from lightning mapping and improved hurricane forecasting to monitoring of sea surface temperatures.  The press release from NOAA provides some of the details on this exciting endeavor: 

NOAA, NASA Select Contractor to Build GOES-R Series Spacecraft
New Geostationary Satellites Will Give Forecasters Better Information

December 2, 2008

NOAA and NASA officials announced today Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, of Denver, Colo., has been selected to build two spacecraft for NOAA’s next generation geostationary satellite series, GOES-R. There are two options, each providing for one additional satellite. Scheduled for launch in 2015, the new satellites will provide more data in greater detail which is essential to creating accurate weather forecasts.

The contract has a total value of $1.09 billion for the two satellites. A separate contract to build the GOES-R ground system, which receives, processes and distributes data transmitted from the spacecraft, will be announced later in 2009, officials said.

“GOES-R, with its highly advanced instruments and sensors, will provide about 50 times more weather and climate data than is available with NOAA’s current fleet of geostationary satellites,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Service. “The American public will see real life-saving benefits from this satellite system with more timely forecasts and warnings for severe weather.”

GOES-R will improve the monitoring of sea surface temperatures and also provide more data to hurricane forecasters by giving sharper images of storms every 30 seconds, instead of every 7.5 minutes as the current satellites provide.

Additionally, GOES-R will carry a first-of-its-kind instrument called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, which will quickly locate all lightning flashes occurring anytime, anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. The lightning mapper will aid in predicting tornadoes, which often spawn from lightning-packed thunderstorms.

Other key benefits expected from GOES-R include: greater monitoring of surface temperatures in metropolitan areas to improve warnings for heat stress, and better data to bolster the forecasts for unhealthy air quality days. GOES-R will feature advanced solar monitoring instruments for space weather forecasts and warnings of solar storms. These storms endanger billions of dollars worth of commercial and government assets in space and cause power surges for the satellite-based electronics and communications industry.

George Morrow, director of Flight Project for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. said, “NASA Goddard is excited to be NOAA’s partner in this next generation GOES development and we look forward to delivering an outstanding observatory for their operational use.”

NOAA funds, manages and will operate the GOES-R program. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments for NOAA.

For more information:  NOAA / NASA GOES-R website

2008 Atlantic hurricane season sets record

This image shows the tracks of hurricanes that occurred during the 2008 season.  Click for larger image.
This image shows the tracks of hurricanes that occurred during the 2008 season. Click for larger image.

Sunday, November 30th marks the close of the hurricane season and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it was one for the record books.  The season marks one of the more active in the last 64 years overall and resulted in a record number of consecutive storms striking the United States.

According to Gerry Bell, Ph.D, the lead seasonal forecaster at NOAA, “This year’s hurricane season continues the current active hurricane era and is the tenth season to produce above-normal activity in the past 14 years.”  It is important to note however that comprehensive record keeping of hurricanes has only been occurring for the last 64 years so there is not a great deal of data to draw upon.

In all, a total of 16 named storms formed this season, eight of which were hurricanes.  Five of those were major hurricanes of category 3 strength or higher.  An average hurricane season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.  In May at the start of the 2008 season, NOAA forecasters predicted 12 to 16 named storms and then in August upped their predictions to 14 to 18 named storms.  This represents the first time in recent years forecasters had accurately bracketed the number of storms.  In 2007 NOAA predicted 10 hurricanes and only six formed. The year prior, 2006, nine hurricanes were forecasted by NOAA but only five formed.  In 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in the worst U.S. natural disaster, the forecasts underestimated storm activity.

2008 ties as the fourth most active season in terms of named storms (16) and major hurricanes (5).  It also tied as fifth most active in terms of hurricanes overall (8) since 1944. 

From NOAA, most notably:

For the first time on record, six consecutive tropical cyclones (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) made landfall on the U.S. mainland and a record three major hurricanes (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) struck Cuba. This is also the first Atlantic season to have a major hurricane (Category 3) form in five consecutive months (July: Bertha, August: Gustav, September: Ike, October: Omar, November: Paloma).

Bell attributes the active season to ongoing increased activity since 1995, lingering La Nina effects and warmer tropical Atlantic Ocean effects.

Here is a fascinating video from NOAA using satellite imagery of the entire hurricane season:

Remote control hurricane hunters set to deploy

NASA uses unmanned UAVs as hurricane hunters.
NASA uses unmanned UAVs as hurricane hunters.

Anyone who has followed the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan has heard about the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).  These are essentially remote control airplanes capable of performing a number of tasks from surveillance to actually carrying weapons. 

NASA and NOAA have over the last year been experimenting with a small UAV from Aerosonde, an Australian manufacturer.  NOAA currently uses manned hurricane hunter aircraft (WP-3D Orion and Gulfstream IVs) to take measurements from inside and immediately surrounding hurricanes.  This data is essential to not only predicting hurricane paths and guaging the storms’ strength but also to learning more about them. 

These new UAVs offer many advantages over the traditional, manned hurricane hunter aircraft.  For one, they can fly at much lower altitudes into the storms without endangering human lives.  Further, they can be called into service on much shorter notice than a manned crew and remain on station around a storm for longer periods of time.  In November of 2007 NOAA sent an Aerosonde UAV into Hurricane Noel and the unit was airborne for over 17 hours and collected more than seven hours worth of data. 

The technology has many applications within NOAA’s mission of monitoring our globe.  In addition to hurricane hunting, UAVs can be used to monitor ice flows, wildfires, severe weather, animal life and much more.  The program is really just getting started and funding is minimal in comparison to the military equivalent but the applications are very promising.  Maybe a tornado hunter is next!

Here’s a video from Aerosonde discussing the potential applications.

NOAA says October hottest on record – Oops – Maybe not

In this GISS image, incorrect data shows much of Russia under a heat wave in October.
In this GISS image, incorrect data shows much of Russia under a heat wave in October.

Scientists at NOAA and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) announced last week that October global temperatures were the hottest on record.  Naturally this caused quite a bit of hubbub and had the global warming alarmists in quite an uproar.  As we wrote about previously, the year has been cooler than normal in North America but this new data showed that Asia experienced record high temperatures last month.  Word of the “hottest October on record” quickly spread of course. 

In a bit of an embarrassment for NOAA and GISS, their claims were short lived when two blogger meteorologists went through the data and found a number of anomalies.  They discovered at least 10 Russian stations that oddly enough reported the exact same temperatures as September.  Well, since October is almost always cooler than September in the northern hemisphere they did some checking and found that GISS had used the incorrect data and it influenced the calculations significantly. 

Al Gore's infamous "hockey stick" graph that was used in An Inconvenient Truth was quickly debunked, as were many other "facts" used in the movie.
Al Gore's infamous "hockey stick" graph that was used in An Inconvenient Truth was quickly debunked as were a number of other "facts" used in the movie.

This isn’t the first time “anomalies” with data used to measure the earth’s temperature have been discovered and have caused incorrect calculations.  In other curious happenings, measuring stations have “disappeared” from data only to reappear later, stations have been found to be sitting next to heaters and gas wells and more.  Then of course there was Al Gore’s infamous “hockey stick” graph which was debunked soon after he began showing it.  Perhaps in the most grievous error just last year, NOAA had to revise their published figures for U.S. surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as they had claimed, but the 1930s.

When GISS and NOAA recalculated October’s temperatures it dropped the month to the 2nd warmest on record and that is significant.  However, these types of problems serve only to fuel doubt in the minds of climate change skeptics and highlight the need for more careful analysis and a level-headed approach to studying the subject – from both sides of the discussion. 

For more information:  NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Winter Weather Preparedness Week recap

Winter Weather Preparedness Week recap.
Winter Weather Preparedness Week recap.

As we have talked about this week, winter weather can be dangerous and downright deadly.  However, being prepared helps to ensure that you and your family remain safe when the snow starts to fly or other winter weather conditions occur.  It is very easy to ignore the dangers of weather – no matter the season – and find yourself saying, “I wish I would have….” Now is the time to think about how you can prepare for these conditions, before it is too late and you find yourself wishing you had. 

In this sixth and final message in a series on Winter Weather Preparedness from the National Weather Service, ThorntonWeather.com reviews the topics we covered this week and directs you to the previous articles and other resources to help you get ready.

Part 1 Winter travel safety
Part 2 Watches…warnings…and advisories
Part 3 High winds
Part 4 Wind chill temperatures and hypothermia
Part 5  Avalanche safety
Review  Winter Weather Preparedness Week review

600 AM MDT SAT OCT 25 2008

Enjoy the great outdoors in Colorado this winter season, but watch the weather.

The National Weather Service issues a variety of winter weather, outlooks, watches, warnings, and advisories, covered earlier during this Winter Weather Preparedness Week.  Safety tips were also passed along.

An example of severe winter weather occurred in March 2003 across the eastern foothills, adjacent plains, and mountains. Snowfall amounts ranged from 80 to 110 inches, along with strong winds in some areas.  The Denver metro area averaged nearly three feet of snow.  The storm was well forecast, and people, for the most part, heeded the warnings, so casualties and impacts were mitigated.

Continue reading Winter Weather Preparedness Week recap

Forecasters increase hurricane chances

NOAA says there is a greater chance for hurricanes in the coming months.
NOAA says there is a greater chance for hurricanes in the coming months.

In their August update to hurricane season forecasts, experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have changed their predictions for the season and now expect a greater chance of hurricanes this season.  They are now predicting an “above normal” season with 14 to 18 named storms – up from the 12 to 16 they predicted in May.

The forecasters now believe there is an 85 percent chance that this above normal trend will take place (up from 65 percent in May). 

“Leading indicators for an above-normal season during 2008 include the continuing multi-decadal signal – atmospheric and oceanic conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995 – and the lingering effects of La Niña,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D. of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Some of these conditions include reduced wind shear, weaker trade winds, an active West African monsoon system, the winds coming off of Africa and warmer-than-average water in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The updated 2008 hurricane outlook.
The updated 2008 hurricane outlook.

Thus far in 2008 there have been five named storms and the most active hurricane period – August to October – is just now beginning.  Will this prediction hold true?  Unfortunateley forecasters have struggled in recent years with their predictions.  Last year NOAA predicted 10 hurricanes and only six formed. The year prior, 2006, nine hurricanes were forecasted by NOAA but only five formed.  In 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in the worst U.S. natural disaster, the forecasts underestimated storm activity.