Music of the Sphere

NASA has gathered data about the Earth for a long time with a wide range of Earth science missions. As time has passed, missions have become more robust and collected much more data. Specialists at Earth Data have put the data starting in the mid-60s into musical tones in this brief video. Turn up the sound and enjoy.

If more data was collected from the Earth science mission, the pitch of the tone is higher. A guitar represents mission launches. The field of each mission is categorized into these orchestral parts:

      • Strings = Atmosphere and Weather
      • High Woodwinds = Geosphere – Landforms
      • Low Woodwinds = Hydrosphere – Water Worlds
      • High Brass = Cryosphere – Ice Formations
      • Low Brass = Biosphere – Living Organisms

By the way, April 22 is the 50th Earth Day. Listen to the first episode of NASA’s Curious Universe podcast:

Total Solar Eclipse | GOES-West View

A total solar eclipse took place on 2 July 2019. It was visible in the South Pacific and the southern tip of South America. The eclipse was imaged by the NOAA GOES-West weather satellite stationed over the equator above the Pacific Ocean. The video plays the eclipse 3x.

Dark areas on the globe are nighttime. The shadow of the Moon appears at the sunrise night-to-day boundary in the South Pacific. It moves east toward the southern tip of South America. It disappears at the sunset day-to-night boundary.

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Carbon Dioxide | Record Level Again

Marit Jentoft-Nilsen and Robert Simmon

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has been monitored since 1958 at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii. Values cycle up and down due to the amount of green vegetation available to convert CO2 to O2 by photosynthesis. Plants of the northern hemisphere reach maturity in June-August and reduce the level of CO2 from the previous month. Decomposition and respiration returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in the fall and winter. This is known as the fast carbon cycle. The carbon cycle of earth is discussed fully here.

The mean value of CO2 for May 2019 set the highest level in 61 yrs. This chart shows the monthly values plotted for the recent 5 years.

The full record for the Mauna Loa Observatory clearly shows the seasonal and long-term trends. The long-term rate is increasing evidenced by the greater steepness of the plot. More charts and analysis are available at this link.

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Earth’s Warming Climate

The year 2018 ranked as the fourth warmest since 1880. The three warmer years were 2016, 2017, and 2015 according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 1°Celsius (2°F). According to Schmidt and colleagues, this warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through human activities.

Surface temperature measurements of the Earth by NASA come from 6,300 locations. They include weather stations, ships and buoys at sea, and Antarctic research stations. The measurements produce the global average temperatures during the year. The baseline period from 1951 to 1980 is used as the mean value for comparison. The difference between the current readings and the 1951-1980 mean is accurate to within 0.1˚F with a 95% certainty level according to NASA.

This chart plots the monthly annual values from 1880 to 2018. Each time a record warm annual mean is set, it displays the year in the right margin. The most recent decades show rapid increases in the annual mean. It will cycle through the values a few times. Reload to see it again.

NASA Earth Observatory | Joshua Stevens | Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Scientists from multiple agencies agree on the rising temperature trend. The following plot shows annual mean variations from the 1951-1980 mean. Annual variations clearly stand out as wiggles in the plot. The steeper warming trend since 1980 is clear.

Five agencies are plotted together: NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). They all show the same trend and closely match the annual variations of each other.

NASA Earth Observatory | Joshua Stevens | Goddard Institute for Space Studies

I am encouraged when I read that more people believe global warming is taking place. Presently, about 70% of those in the U.S. agree. My post on the Yale public opinion survey is here. Are we going to do anything about it? Individually, we can take measures to reduce the carbon footprint of ourselves and homes. That isn’t enough.

Will our government agencies take on the challenges to guide the country toward better outcomes for the sake of our children and grandchildren? Will our nation join others to mount a global effort? At this time, I don’t see it happening. We should be leading the way with ideas and technologies. Give people direction. Motivate companies to be innovative about reducing the carbon footprint we impose upon this planet. How great would that be to see such a revolution? It could stimulate the economies of the world and give future generations a more livable planet.

Looking back from sometime in the future, will we see ourselves rising to meet the challenges? Or, will we merely see more people recognizing that they are in a worsening situation and doing nothing about it?

U.S. Climate | April and May 2018

Two contrasting headlines about recent climate in the U.S. this spring caught my attention. Both came from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The headlines were from the assessments of climate in the U.S. for April and May of 2018.

The contiguous United States had its coldest April in more than 20 years.

The contiguous United States had its warmest May on record.


The part of the U.S. where you live might not have seemed unusual. However, we noticed these differences in the midwest. Before examining April and May specifically, we will look at the climate for the year-to-date in the next two graphics. Relative to the period from 1895-2018, the upper plains was below average in temperature for the first five months of the year. The west was above to much above normal with record setting temperatures in the southwest.

Not shown in the graphic, the Alaska year-to-date temperature was 20.7°F, or 4.9°F above average. It was the ninth warmest on record. Western and northern Alaska were much above normal. Record low amounts of sea ice in the Arctic likely contributed to the warming.

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