Source: NASA Science News
New research shows that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes arise from an unexpected diversity of thunderstorms storms and may be more common than previously thought.(learn more)
Scientists unveiled today an unprecedented new look at our planet at night. A global composite image, constructed using cloud-free night images from a new NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite, shows the glow of natural and human-built phenomena across the planet in greater detail than ever before.
Many satellites are equipped to look at Earth during the day, when they can observe our planet fully illuminated by the sun. With a new sensor onboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite launched last year, scientists now can observe Earth's atmosphere and surface during nighttime hours.
The new sensor, the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), is sensitive enough to detect the nocturnal glow produced by Earth's atmosphere and the light from a single ship in the sea. Satellites in the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program have been making observations with low-light sensors for 40 years. But the VIIRS day-night band can better detect and resolve Earth's night lights.
The new, higher resolution composite image of Earth at night was released at a news conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. This and other VIIRS day-night band images are providing researchers with valuable data for a wide variety of previously unseen or poorly seen events.
It is not every day that astronauts can claim to return to Earth with a new species of life. But when the astronauts on ESA’s CAVES underground training course returned to the surface they were carrying a special type of woodlouse. (read more)
Source: USGS Newsroom
The 40-year Landsat record provides global coverage that shows large-scale human activities such as building cities and farming. The program is a sustained effort by the United States to provide direct societal benefits across a wide range of human endeavors, including human and environmental health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture.
Landsat images from space are not merely pictures. They contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. A single Landsat scene taken from 400 miles above Earth can accurately detail the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, agricultural crops or forests. (read more)
The importance of global and frequent data coverage of volcanoes was highlighted in a recent article published in Science. Satellites are finding that volcanoes previously thought to be dormant are showing signs of unrest.(read more)
Satellite are seeing changes in land surfaces in high detail at northern latitudes, indicating thawing permafrost. This releases greenhouse gases into parts of the Arctic, exacerbating the effects of climate change. (read more)
Source: NASA Science Casts
A flurry of solar activity in early March dumped enough heat in Earth's upper atmosphere to power every residence in New York City for two years. The heat has since dissipated, but there's more to come as the solar cycle intensifies.
Source: ESA News
The first global high-resolution map of the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle – the Moho (the short name for Mohorovičić discontinuity) – has been produced based on data from ESA’s GOCE gravity satellite. Understanding the Moho will offer new clues into the dynamics of Earth’s interior. (read more)
Source: NASA News
NASA has completed commissioning of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (NPP), which is now making global environmental observations. The satellite will provide scientists with critical insight into the dynamics of the entire Earth system, including climate, clouds, oceans, and vegetation. It will also gather enhanced data for improving our nation's weather forecasting system.
The mission, launched in October 2011, is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense. All five of the satellite's instruments now have been activated for science data collection. (learn more)
Scientists have come up with an entirely new way to monitor the health of Earth’s plants from space. In work published in Geophysical Research Letters , researchers working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and in Germany and Japan report on how measurements taken from space can open a whole new window onto the planet’s carbon cycle.
Carbon is a building block of life. It is also a key component of our climate. Carbon dioxide — a gas that exists naturally in the air, but is also produced by humans when we burn fossil fuels, drive cars and chop down trees — acts as a thermostat that controls the temperature of the planet. As a “greenhouse gas,” it acts like a blanket that traps heat close to the surface of the Earth. The more carbon dioxide we emit, the more the warming. Since the beginning of the industrial age, carbon dioxide levels have gone up by nearly 40 percent, and the world’s average temperature has risen by about 0.5 degrees Celsius (nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit) as a result. Knowing how much carbon is going into and out of the Earth’s land, air and oceans — the carbon cycle — is critical for understanding how much global warming is likely to happen to our planet in the future. And plants and vegetation are a key part of this cycle.
When plants photosynthesize, they use energy from sunlight to turn carbon dioxide from the air into sugars used to live and grow. In doing so, they give off a fluorescent light — a glow that can’t be seen with the naked eye, but that can be seen with the right instruments. More photosynthesis translates into more fluorescence, meaning that the plants are very productive in taking up carbon dioxide. The amount of carbon dioxide taken up by plants is called “gross primary productivity,” and is the largest part of the global carbon cycle. (read more)
Drastic reductions in Arctic sea ice in the last decade may be intensifying the chemical release of bromine into the atmosphere, resulting in ground-level ozone depletion and the deposit of toxic mercury in the Arctic, according to a new NASA-led study.
The connection between changes in the Arctic Ocean's ice cover and bromine chemical processes is determined by the interaction between the salt in sea ice, frigid temperatures and sunlight. When these mix, the salty ice releases bromine into the air and starts a cascade of chemical reactions called a "bromine explosion." These reactions rapidly create more molecules of bromine monoxide in the atmosphere. Bromine then reacts with a gaseous form of mercury, turning it into a pollutant that falls to Earth's surface.
Bromine also can remove ozone from the lowest layer of the atmosphere, the troposphere. Despite ozone's beneficial role blocking harmful radiation in the stratosphere, ozone is a pollutant in the ground-level troposphere. (read more)
The three satellites that make up ESA’s Swarm magnetic field mission were presented to the media today. Following a demanding testing programme, the satellites were displayed in the cleanroom before they are shipped to Russia for their July launch. (read more)
NASA and Ohio State University researchers have discovered the major tsunami generated by the March 2011 Tohoku-Oki quake centered off northeastern Japan was a long-hypothesized "merging tsunami." The tsunami doubled in intensity over rugged ocean ridges, amplifying its destructive power at landfall.
Data from NASA and European radar satellites captured at least two wave fronts that day. The fronts merged to form a single, double-high wave far out at sea. This wave was capable of traveling long distances without losing power. Ocean ridges and undersea mountain chains pushed the waves together along certain directions from the tsunami's origin.
The discovery helps explain how tsunamis can cross ocean basins to cause massive destruction at some locations while leaving others unscathed. The data raise hope that scientists may be able to improve tsunami forecasts. (read more)