Satellite data may yield early warning on toxic algae blooms

Toxic algal blooms like this one in Lake Erie in 2011 can cause human and animal health risks, fish kills, and degrade drinking water supplies. Image Credit:  USGS/NASA Earth Observatory

Toxic algal blooms like this one in Lake Erie in 2011 can cause human and animal health risks, fish kills, and degrade drinking water supplies. Image Credit: USGS/NASA Earth Observatory.

NASA and partners to track developing algal blooms from space

Staff Report

FRISCO — As global warming threatens to make toxic algal blooms more frequent and more intense, NASA, NOAA, the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have teamed up to try and develop an early warning system based on satellite data.

Algal blooms are a global environmental problem. They pose a health risk to people and animals and threaten drinking water supplies. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

The new $3.6 million, multi-agency effort will use ocean color satellite data to develop an early warning indicator for toxic and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater systems and an information distribution system to aid expedient public health advisories. Continue reading

Climate research shows clear trend of more Midwest flooding during past 50 years

Warmer atmosphere means more moisture, more rain

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Missouri River flooding in July, 2011, via NASA’s Earth Observatory program.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After carefully reviewing data from hundreds of stream gauges, University of Iowa scientists say they’ve identified a clear trend of increasing floods during the past 50 years.

“It’s not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods,” said Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineer and corresponding author on the paper, published Feb. 9 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

Climate: NASA study confirms global sea ice decline

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Antarctic sea ice has expanded in the past few years, but overall, the planet is still losing an area of ice the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined each year. bberwyn photo.

Growth in Antarctic ice extent doesn’t cancel out Arctic decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — NASA researchers who took a close look at both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice say that, overall, Earth has been losing ice at an average rate of about 13,500 square miles per year since 1979, equivalent to an area about the size of Maryland. Continue reading

Psst! Wanna see some carbon dioxide?

New NASA visual helps trace path of greenhouse gases

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a way, addressing global warming is like fighting a ghost. How do you tackle odorless and colorless heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane?

NASA, the government agency that literally has the best global perspective on climate change, has just released a new computer generated animation that help show the source of greenhouse gases and how they disperse around the planet. Continue reading

Ozone hole about the same size as last year

A depiction of the ozone hole over Antarctica, courtesy NOAA.

A depiction of the ozone hole over Antarctica, courtesy NOAA.

Ozone-depleting chemicals decreasing in atmosphere, but weather plays big role in year-to-year variability

Staff Report

FRISCO — The ozone hole over Antarctica didn’t change much from last year, scientists said this week, pointing to weather and climate variability as key factors in year-to-year variability.

The single-day maximum area was similar to that in 2013, which reached 9.3 million square miles. The largest single-day ozone hole ever recorded by satellite was 11.5 million square miles) on Sept. 9, 2000. Overall, the 2014 ozone hole is smaller than the large holes of the 1998–2006 period, and is comparable to 2010, 2012, and 2013. Continue reading

Global warming: New NASA aerial mission to explore impacts of Arctic sea ice loss

Arctic cloud formation still a climate wild card

Sun glint off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

Sun glints off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — The ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice is probably already affecting weather and climate in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Researchers aren’t exactly sure of how, but there’s been plenty of speculation, mostly focused around changes in the jet stream.

Climate scientists may know a bit more in a few years after they study the results of a new NASA field campaign studying the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate. The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) will conduct research flights Aug. 28 through Oct. 1, covering the peak of summer sea ice melt. Continue reading

Comet ISON set to brush the sun

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A NASA image of Comet ISON taken in April 2013.

Experts still not sure if the comet will survive

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Sky watchers hoping for a spectacular appearance by Comet ISON are carefully tracking the comet’s path as it approaches the sun. Though the comet isn’t visible to casual observers just yet, astronomers have been able to capture some clear images, especially after an outburst in mid-November boosted the comet’s brightness tenfold, according to NASA.

But nobody knows for sure what will happen next, especially since the comet is on a path for a close pass by the sun on Thanksgiving Day. There’s a chance the comet could disintegrate at any time — according to NASA, that happens less than 1 percent of the time when they get this close to the sun. Continue reading

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