Antarctica Without Ice and Snow

What does Antarctica look like in its underwear?
What does Antarctica look like in its underwear?


A team at the British Antarctic Survey working with NASA pulled together decades of data to show us a virtual map without all the ice and snow. For the first time, the continent’s bare topography is revealed.

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The Bedmap2 is a new virtual map created from substantial amounts of data that included recent measurements from airborne missions as well as satellites. The project, led by British Antarctic Survey scientist Peter Fretwell, relied on NASA’s Operation IceBridge, which has recorded Antarctica’s surface elevations, ice shelf limits and ice thickness. The new map led to some unexpected discoveries about the southernmost continent.

Not only is the volume of ice in Antarctica 4.6 percent greater than previously thought but the deepest point turns out to be under Byrd Glacier — about 1,300 feet deeper than the spot that had been called the deepest, according to research Fretwell and his colleagues recently published in the scientific journal The Cryosphere (PDF).

The Bedmap2 could also help humanity in the future. Study co-author Hamish Pritchard pointed out that understanding the actual height and thickness of the ice as well as the landscape underneath will be fundamental to modelling the ice sheet. ”Knowing how much the sea will rise is of global importance, and these maps are a step towards that goal,” he told the British Antarctic Survey.

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Over at NASA, interactive images show how the continent currently appears, and using a slider you can see the Bedmap2 topography below. There’s also a feature comparing the original Bedmap from 10 years ago with the newest one. Visualizing what’s below the frozen landscape is impressive, as long as it doesn’t end up being a snapshot of our planet’s shirtless future.

Image: Antarctica’s underlying topography in the Bedmap2. Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio.


The Rising Cost of Carbon Pollution

cost of carbon


Every ton of carbon dioxide we emit this year will cost the world $35 in health problems, wildfires, loss of agricultural productivity, and other disasters, according to the U.S. government. It had computed $21 a ton in 2010.

The value, known as the social cost of carbon – and which can equal the carbon tax — will rise for every additional ton of carbon dioxide we emit. It will be $43 in 2020 and $71 in 2050.

The world emitted 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2011.

The U.S. government routinely uses social cost when designing regulations such as fuel efficiency standards for cars. The value is calculated by the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon, composed of 12 government agencies, and was released on May 31.

A price for carbon is needed because we are shortsighted and are best at dealing with immediate problems. But the effects of climate change are not immediate. The extreme weather and high temperatures we are experiencing now are the result of the past emissions, and our present emissions will affect us decades into the future.

Most of us will not live through the worst of it. So, how much is it worth to the average American today to lessen climate change for future generations? It is an ethical question that gets worked out by economists.

Some of them disagree quite vehemently with the government’s calculations. Economists have redone the calculations and found that the actual social cost could be up to 12 times as large as the government’s 2010 estimate.

The government has increased social cost value to $35 this year because it has better knowledge of climate change effects, including sea level dynamics and the economic effects of sea level rise.

IMAGE: A dragonfly trapped in tar sands exposed in a road cutting north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, the center of the tar sands industry. The tar sands is the world’s largest industrial project and the most environmentally destructive. Carbon emissions from the tar sands is fueling climate change.


Global Floods of the Future

Projected return period (in years) in the 21st Century for river discharges matching what in the 20th Century were 100-year floods.
Projected return period (in years) in the 21st Century for river discharges matching what in the 20th Century were 100-year floods.

scientists who have employed no fewer than 11 separate climate models to study the decades ahead.

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The daring rescue of an elderly woman from a flooded river in Missouri is caught on video.

“Floods are among the most major climate-related disasters,” writes Yukiko Hirabayashi of The University of Tokyo and lead author of a paper in the June 9 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. “In the past decade, reported annual losses from floods have reached tens of billions of U.S. dollars and thousands of people were killed each year.”

This, and the fact that the primary worldwide organization that studies such things–the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)–has pointed out the need for better projections of river flooding, served as motivation for the new study.

What the researchers found was an increase in the frequency of flooding rivers in Southeast Asia, Peninsular India, eastern Africa and the northern half of the Andes. At the same time, river flood frequencies will drop in parts of northern and Eastern Europe, Anatolia, Central Asia, central North America and southern South America.

In terms of the number of people exposed to flood risks, they found that depends on the temperatures to which things heat up. With a 2-degree Celsius rise in temperature, about 27 million people will be exposed to more floods. With a 4 degrees C warming the exposure rises to 62 million and at 6 degrees C it is up to 93 million people.

The climate models were also used to study the outlets of some river basins. There they saw the frequency of floods increasing during the twenty-first century in just about every selected rivers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Africa and Northeast Eurasia. They also predict that what were considered 100-year floods in the 20th century will occur every 10 to 50 years in the 21st century.

“This is very important and useful information, and shows that policy makers should take climate change into account when developing adaptation strategies,” said flood researcher Brenden Jongman of VU University of Amsterdam. “Also, the analysis of changes in flood frequency on a global scale is very important – this shows that in many developing countries the frequency of extreme events might be increasing.”

While the latest IPCC report still states that ‘global warming might lead to higher flood frequencies and intensities, Jongman explained, this work finally puts real numbers on the flooding.


Climate Change Has Shifted the Location

Climate Change Has Shifted the Locations of Earth’s North and South Poles

 Climate Change Has Shifted the Locations
Climate Change Has Shifted the Locations

Increased melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and other ice losses worldwide have helped to move the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005

Global warming is changing the location of Earth’s geographic poles, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters.

Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005.

“There was a big change,” says lead author Jianli Chen, a geophysicist.

From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast toward northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds —or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east toward Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year.

Scientists have long known that the locations of Earth’s geographic poles aren’t fixed. Over the course of the year, they shift seasonally as the Earth’s distributions of snow, rain, and humidity change. “Usually [the shift] is circular, with a wobble,” says Chen.

But underlying the seasonal motion is a yearly motion that is thought to be driven in part by continental drift. It was the change in that motion that caught the attention of Chen and his colleagues, who used data collected by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to determine whether ice loss had shifted and accelerated the yearly polar drift.

GRACE’s twin probes measure changes in the Earth’s gravity field, which can be used to track shifts in the distribution of water and ice.  Chen’s team used GRACE data to model how melting icecaps affect Earth’s mass distribution. They found that recent accelerated ice loss and associated sea-level rise accounted for more than 90% of the post-2005 polar shift.

The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss, says Erik Ivins, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning sphere, its spin axis will tilt directly toward the position of the loss, he says — exactly as Chen’s team observed for Greenland. “It’s a unique indicator of the point where the mass is lost,” says Ivins.

Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of the Earth’s spin. Knowing the motion of the poles constrains estimates of ice loss made by other methods, Chen says.

And that could help scientists watching Earth’s ice bridge a likely data gap between GRACE and its replacement, GRACE II, which NASA has scheduled for launch in 2020. Researchers may also be able to use longstanding records of polar drift to improve estimates of ice loss and growth before the advent of satellite monitoring.

Chen estimates that data on polar shifts goes back roughly a century, well before the advent of Earth-monitoring satellites. “We don’t have a long record of measuring the polar ice sheet,” he says. “But for polar motion, we have a long record.”

The article was first published in Nature magazine on May 14, 2013.

Map of Potential Emission Trading Schemes

A big new World Bank  finds that more than 40 national governments and 20 sub-national governments have either put in place carbon-pricing schemes or are planning one for the years ahead. That includes either carbon taxes or some form of cap-and-trade. Here’s a map of the countries that are planning the latter:


The report notes that the countries and regions with carbon pricing either in place or firmly scheduled are responsible for one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. Now, there’s a key caveat: The programs in place don’t yet cover all sources of pollution — so, in practice, only 7.7 percent of the world’s emissions have actually been priced. But that should give some sense of the scale.

The list includes emissions-trading in the European Union, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It also includes cap-and-trade programs at the state or provincial level, such as in California, New England, and Quebec. On top of that, there are carbon taxes in place in Denmark, Finland, Norway, British Columbia, and soon South Africa.

And that’s just what exists now. The World Bank notes that developing countries like China and Brazil are also mulling over various carbon-pricing schemes. China, for instance, has set up pilot programs in seven different cities — including Beijing and Shanghai.

Source: Brad Plumer, Reporter,WP.

Entering unknown territory: Carbon dioxide milestone passed

Entering unknown territory

Carbon dioxide milestone passed
Climate change chronicles from NASA
Climate change chronicles from NASA

Imagine there are no people. Imagine a planet where the sea level is about five to 40 meters (16 to 131 feet) higher than normal. Imagine a planet that is hotter and wetter. Imagine, worldwide, it’s roughly 3 to 4 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today. And the North and South poles are even warmer still – as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than today.

Welcome to the Pliocene. That was the Earth about three to five million years ago, very different to the Earth we inhabit now. But in at least one respect it was rather similar. This is the last time that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were as high as they are today.

On May 9, 2013, CO2 levels in the air reached the level of 400 parts per million (ppm). This is the first time in human history that this milestone has been passed. A preliminary daily average reading of 400.03 ppm was reported by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii where these measurements are made. While 400 sounds like just another number whose meaning is hard to grasp – similar to, say, world population recently hitting seven billion – these things do resonate, says Dr. Gavin Schimdt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “People respond to anniversaries – why is 10 years after 9/11 more worthy of note than nine or 11 years? The importance of crossing 400 ppm is simply that it allows us to mark the occasion, and to demonstrate to the future that we knew where we were headed.”

CO2 is the most important man-made greenhouse gas, which means (in a simple sense) that it acts like a blanket trapping heat near the surface of the Earth. It comes from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, as well as deforestation. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from around 317 ppm in 1958 (when Charles David Keeling began making his historical measurements at Mauna Loa) to 400 ppm today. It’s projected to reach 450 ppm by the year 2040.

One of the problems is that CO2 lingers, both in the atmosphere and in the oceans (where it is being absorbed and acidifying the waters, with potentially big impacts on marine life). More than half of the CO2 is removed from the atmosphere within a century, but about 20 percent remains in the air for many thousands of years. Because of slow removal processes, even if we massively reduced our emissions of CO2 right now, atmospheric CO2 would continue to increase in the long-term. The CO2 we emit today, and that we have emitted since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, has long-term consequences that future generations will have to live with.

Some scientists, like NASA’s James Hansen, argue that CO2 must be limited to around 350 ppm in order to prevent “dangerous” climate change. As Hansen wrote in a 2008 paper, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced … to at most 350 ppm.”

To some, crossing the threshold of 400 ppm is a signal that we are now firmly seated in the “Anthropocene,” a human epoch where people are having major and lasting impacts on the planet. Because of the long lifetime of CO2, to others it means we are marching inexorably towards a “point of no return,” into territory that is unknown for the human race.

Written by : Amber Jenkins, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

World Environment Day 2013 celebrations is Think.Eat.Save

World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round and climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.

World Environment Day 2013 celebrations is Think.Eat.Save


The theme for this year’s World Environment Day celebrations is Think.Eat.Save. Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your food print. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.

Given this enormous imbalance in lifestyles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment, this year’s theme – Think.Eat.Save – encourages you to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices you make and empowers you to make informed decisions.

While the planet is struggling to provide us with enough resources to sustain its 7 billion people (growing to 9 billion by 2050), FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts.

This year’s campaign rallies you to take action from your home and then witness the power of collective decisions you and others have made to reduce food waste, save money, minimise the environmental impact of food production and force food production processes to become more efficient.

If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost. For example, it takes about 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk and about 16,000 litres goes into a cow’s food to make a hamburger. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food.

In fact, the global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.

Making informed decision therefore means, for example, that you purposefully select foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.

So think before you eat and help save our environment!

For More information and materials : CLICK THIS LINK

Landsat 8 Observing Earth with a clearer view

An ash plume drifts from Paluweh volcano in Indonesia. Image taken April 29, 2013 from the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM, now Landsat 8) Operational Land Imager instrument. Courtesy NASA.
An ash plume drifts from Paluweh volcano in Indonesia. Image taken April 29, 2013 from the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM, now Landsat 8) Operational Land Imager instrument. Courtesy NASA.

The latest in the Landsat series of Earth observation satellites, Landsat 8, officially begins its mission on May 30 to extend an unparalleled four-decade record of Earth’s land surface as seen from space. The Landsat program is a joint effort between the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA.

NASA launched the Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite on February 11. Since then, NASA mission engineers and scientists, with USGS collaboration, have been putting the satellite through its paces – steering it into its orbit, focusing the instruments, calibrating the detectors, and collecting test images. Now fully mission-certified, the satellite will be transferred to USGS operational control and renamed  Landsat 8.

As the world’s population surpasses seven billion people, the impact of human society on the planet is increasing. The continuation of Landsat’s four-decade look at Earth will help monitor those impacts and more accurately forecast future environmental change.

A big picture, but more

Landsat images from space are not just pictures. They contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. Consequently, Landsat images can show where vegetation is thriving and where it is stressed, where droughts are occurring, and where wildland fire is a danger.

Landsat satellites give us a view as broad as 12,000 square miles per scene while describing land cover in units the size of a baseball diamond. From a distance of more than 400 miles above the earth surface, a single Landsat scene can record the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, agricultural crops, or forests.

Landsat images reveal subtle, gradual changes, such as Wyoming rangelands greening up after a drought, as well as massive landscape changes that occur in rapidly growing urban areas. Landsat can also provide broad assessments of sudden natural or human-induced disasters, such as the number of acres charred by a forest fire or the extent of tsunami inundation. Landsat data have been used to monitor water quality, glacier recession, sea ice movement, invasive species encroachment, coral reef health, land use change, deforestation rates, and population growth.

LDCM image acquired March 22, 2013. LDCM looks back to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Courtesy NASA.

LDCM image acquired March 22, 2013. LDCM looks back to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Courtesy NASA.

Landsat 8 brings a clearer view  

Landsat 8 is about the size of a delivery truck with a 30-foot-long deployed sheet of solar panels. Stocked with a 10-year supply of fuel, the satellite travels at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour.  It carries two highly-sensitive observation instruments, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). Advanced technology increases the reliability and sensitivity of these instruments, while the improved measurements are still compatible with the past Landsat data record.

The technical capabilities of Landsat 8 move forward in three areas in comparison to Landsat 7:  increased spectral coverage; higher data precision (the ultimate resolution is not changed); and increased quantity of data collection (60% more scenes per day).

Landsat 8 will orbit Earth once every 99 minutes at an average altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers),  repeating the same ground track every 16 days.  As Landsat 8 joins Landsat 7 in imaging the Earth, researchers and natural resource managers will once again be able to receive Landsat data every eight days for any given location. Many Landsat users depend on a short repeat cycle for prompt data on resources such as agricultural crops, forests, and water.  The USGS, NASA, and aerospace contractors have worked diligently to ensure that Landsat 8 would be operational in time for the 2013 North American growing season.

ven in notoriously warm Phoenix, AZ, the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) aboard LDCM (now Landsat 8) shows cooler (darker) areas of irrigated agriculture (lower center of image) and mountain forests to the North. Courtesy NASA.
ven in notoriously warm Phoenix, AZ, the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) aboard LDCM (now Landsat 8) shows cooler (darker) areas of irrigated agriculture (lower center of image) and mountain forests to the North. Courtesy NASA.

Free data for innovation

Beginning May 30, Landsat 8 data will be available from the USGS data archive free of charge. The Department of the Interior and USGS policy of unrestricted access and free distribution of Landsat data encourages researchers everywhere to develop practical applications of the data.  Special-purpose applications of Landsat data can serve commercial endeavors in agriculture and forestry; they can enable land managers in and out of government to work more efficiently; they can assist scientists in defining and assessing critical environmental issues. Ready access to authoritative Landsat images provides a reliable common record of Earth conditions that advances the mutual understanding of environmental challenges worldwide by citizens, researchers, and decision makers.

Two visually compelling examples of commercial systems that access the long record of consistent Landsat data to document land cover change around the globe are Google Timelapse and ESRI Change Matters.


Satellite Derived Sea Surface Temperatures (SST)

The Atlantic is much warmer than normal as NOAA issues today’s Hurricane Outlook for 2013. Parts of the Atlantic Basin are much warmer than normal especially in the breeding ground for hurricanes off the west coast of Africa. These higher than normal temperatures, along with reduced wind shear due to the absence of El Niño are just some of the reasons why NOAA is predicting an active to very active Atlantic hurricane season in 2013. This image from PO.DAAC’s State of the Ocean (SOTO) tool (, shows how the satellite derived sea surface temperatures (SST) differ from the average (i.e., SST anomalies) on May 19, 2013. Warmer than normal areas are colored red while cooler areas are colored blue.

For Seeing the Google Eartt Map of sea surface temperatures (SST) Click This Link

Source: NASA Website