The "Buresh Blog" is going to enjoy a long weekend. This column will be updated Tue., 10/02.....click here to go to "Talking the Tropics With Mike"..........
A new website debuts today that could help climate scientists estimate the historical intensities of hurricanes around the world faster than before - and the public is invited to help. The website, CycloneCenter.org -- click here, allows volunteers to examine color-enhanced images from 30 years of tropical cyclones taken from the archives of NOAA's Hurricane Satellite Data system. Then, site users will be guided through a process to analyze a specific hurricane image and answer questions, using a simplified technique for estimating the maximum surface wind speed of tropical cyclones.
The method for determining the strength of tropical cyclones has been applied differently around the world and has changed over time. That inconsistency has led to uncertainties in the global historical record of tropical cyclone activity, especially in parts of the world where additional data sources such as aircraft reconnaissance are not available. After many people review the same image, scientists will then use that feedback to come up with new estimates of a cyclone's intensity.
CycloneCenter.org allows volunteers to examine color-enhanced images from 30 years of tropical cyclones taken from the archives of NOAA's Hurricane Satellite Data system. (Credit: NOAA)
"The human eye can best recognize patterns in storm imagery, which is why we are enlisting the public to identify image patterns and build a consistent analysis of tropical cyclone data worldwide," said Chris Hennon, Ph.D., an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a principal investigator for this project.
The end product will be a new global tropical cyclone data set that will provide 3-hourly tropical cyclone intensity estimates, confidence intervals, and a wealth of other metadata that could not be realistically obtained in any other fashion. Using citizen scientists could allow meteorologists to make more rapid progress on the analysis of historical tropical cyclone data. The new data set will be used by NOAA climate scientists and other researchers in an attempt to better understand and research global tropical cyclone activity.
"The main advantage of a citizen science approach is that dozens of people, rather than one or two, will analyze a single image," said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville. "Scientists will be able to use the analysis by a large number of people to better define the accuracy of the historical intensity of tropical cyclones."
Hennon added: "We have nearly 300,000 hurricane images from around the world - more than a full length motion picture has movie frames. By collaborating with the public, we hope to perform more than a million classifications in two months, something that would take a team of analysts more than a decade to accomplish."
NOAA's National Hurricane Center (NHC) and Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) tropical cyclone experts traditionally examine data from satellites as well as numerous other sources in the construction of the historical record. NHC and CPHC have no current plans for the project's results to affect the historical tropical cyclone record for the North Atlantic and eastern and central North Pacific basins served by NHC and CPHC.
CycloneCenter.org was developed in partnership with the Citizen Science Alliance, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites and UNC Asheville.
CycloneCenter.org is part of the Zooniverse.org network of public participation projects that includes Old Weather.org, which aims to rescue weather records contained in World War I ships' logs. More than 1 million logbook pages have been transcribed so far. The original Zooniverse project, Galaxyzoo.org, was launched in 2007 wherein a total of more than 400,000 people have registered to take part and have classified more than 50 million images of galaxies in its first year alone.
Click ** here **: Arctic sea ice at summer's end: '84 and 2012. CLICK ON "Image Comparison" (which is below the images) to utilize the "sliding bar" that you can slide with your mouse left and right to compare Sept 1984 ice area to Sept 2012.
In August and September 2012, sea ice covered less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other time since at least 1979, when the first reliable satellite measurements began. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA announced in mid-September that the extent of Arctic sea ice had dropped to 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles)—well below the previous record of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles) set in 2007.
The maps above compare the Arctic ice minimum extents from 2012 (top) and 1984 (bottom). According to NSIDC, the average minimum extent for 1979–2000 was 6.70 million square kilometers (2.59 million square miles). The 1984 minimum was roughly that amount, so a comparison between 2012 and 1984 gives an idea of how much conditions this year strayed from the long-term average. The minimum ice extent in 2012 was about half the average. (Turn on the image-comparison tool to see the difference.)
Arctic sea ice grows through the winter each year and melts through the summer, typically reaching its minimum extent sometime in September. The extent can vary considerably from year to year, sometimes above the long-term average and sometimes below. Extent is defined as the total area in which the ice concentration is at least 15 percent.
The 2012 map was compiled from observations by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR-2) sensor on the Global Change Observation Mission 1st–Water (“Shizuku”) satellite, which is operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). As of September, AMSR-2 data were still preliminary, as the mission was launched in May 2012 and instruments are still being fully calibrated and validated. But the data agreed with observations from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) from the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.
The 1984 image was made from observations by the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) on theNimbus-7 satellite. Sea ice in the 1984 image has a blockier appearance because that sensor had coarser resolution. The white circle over the pole in each image is a data gap resulting from satellites flying close to—but not directly over—the poles. The wider orbital coverage by AMSR-2 (and other satellite instruments) has shrunk the size of this gap. The area around the North Pole is ice-covered—an assumption confirmed by many airborne and ice-surface expeditions—but researchers use an average of the concentration just outside the gap to estimate the extent within.
The summer of 2012 witnessed periods of extremely rapid sea ice melt. “In June, sea ice lost about 170,000 to 175,000 square kilometers per day, but only for a few days,” NSIDC scientist Walt Meier explained. “Sea ice melt usually slows down in August to about 60,000 to 70,000 square kilometers a day. But this year, we saw melt rates upwards of 100,000 to 150,000 square kilometers a day, and those high melt rates persisted through the first half of the month.”
Once sea ice begins to melt, it becomes a self-reinforcing process. Because there is less ice to reflect sunlight back into space, more energy is absorbed by the darker ocean water. As sea ice extents drop, less ice survives from year to year. Ice that has formed since the last melt season—“known as first-year ice”—is thinner and more prone to melting than thicker multi-year ice. In the past decade, first-year ice has come to dominate the Arctic Ocean.
According to Comiso, the rapid loss of sea ice through June 2012 was likely associated with the loss of this first-year ice, which was unusually extensive in March 2012. The rapid decline in August 2012, he noted, was caused in part by a strong storm that stirred up the region, breaking ice apart and moving more of it to lower latitudes.
“Climate models have predicted a retreat of the Arctic sea ice; but the actual retreat has proven to be much more rapid than the predictions,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate researcher at NASA Goddard. “There continues to be considerable inter-annual variability in the sea ice cover, but the long-term retreat is quite apparent.”
AMSR-2 is a follow-on to the successful AMSR-E instrument, a JAXA instrument that flew on NASA’s Aqua satellite. AMSR-2 detects microwave radiation in order to measure sea surface temperatures and wind speeds, sea ice concentrations, snow depth, soil moisture, water vapor, cloud liquid water, and precipitation. The AMSR-2 image is provided as a visual assessment of the state of sea ice through a special data access agreement with JAXA and with the principal investigator for sea ice, Josefino Comiso of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
I've written multiple times about the "Global Hawk" investigating Atlantic tropical cyclones during Sept. Click here to see just how big the unmanned plane is.
Earth Gauge: National Public Lands Day
On September 29, 2012, volunteers will come together nationwide to give back and spruce up national, state and local public lands for National Public Lands Day (NPLD). Volunteers have fun, learn more about their communities and make millions of dollars’ worth of improvements to public lands. Last year, 170,000 volunteers at more than 2,000 sites planted 100,000 trees, shrubs and other plants; built and maintained 1,500 miles of trails; and collected 500 tons of trash and 23,000 pounds of invasive plants! NPLD supports both the Let’s Move Outside! and Youth in the Great Outdoors initiatives by encouraging volunteers to explore and enjoy America’s natural wonders through outdoor recreation.
Tip: One of every three acres of land in the United States—nearly 600 million acres—belongs to you! On September 29, lend a hand to the national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, coastal preserves, forests, grasslands, marine sanctuaries, lakes and reservoirs that all of us use to hike, bike, climb, swim, explore, picnic or just simply relax. Search NPLD volunteer opportunities by state or zip code ** here **.
A sampling of activities taking place near Jacksonville:
· Fort George Island Cultural State Park: Prune vegetation and clean up litter from a section of trail.
· Fort Mose Historic State Park (St. Augustine): Remove invasive vegetation.
Most events take place rain or shine, so check the local forecast to be prepared.
NPLD is a fee-free day on many federally managed lands. And, volunteers who participate are given coupons for second free entry into their favorite federal public land areas that have entrance fees.
(Source: National Public Lands Day)
Climate Number: Two Pounds of Carbon per Year
Mangrove forests form some of the world’s richest ecosystems. Scientists who study how ecosystems interact with Earth’s climate want to know how much carbon dioxide (CO2) plants take out of the atmosphere and how much CO2 decomposers send back out into the atmosphere. Because mangrove forests feature wet soils that lack oxygen, making it hard for decomposers to generate CO2, these ecosystems tend to accumulate and build carbon rich soils. While much decomposing plant matter is exported to other parts of the ocean, where it may eventually become inert sediment or may be respired as CO2 back into the atmosphere, mangrove forests are net atmospheric carbon sinks, as opposed to sources. This status can change, however, if the rate of sea level rise becomes too fast. Mangroves live where freshwater meets the ocean and are used to the brackish water conditions in this environment. But these trees grow less efficiently with increased salinity associated with higher sea levels and higher sea levels themselves can simply submerge the forests. Mangrove forests can build soil relatively quickly compared to other ecosystems, but when they do not build soil quickly enough during periods of sea level rise, the mangrove trees die and more decomposition than growth happens. The long-term carbon balance of mangrove ecosystems is also influenced by freshwater discharge patterns from upstream areas, which is a function of rainfall levels and seasonal rainfall distribution. Along with sea level rise, these variables are driven by the global climate, and climate in turn is a function of long-term ecosystem carbon balances.
A study conducted near the mouth of the Shark River in the western section of South Florida’s Everglades National Park estimated that each square yard of mangrove forest accumulates about two pounds of carbon each year.
(Source: Barr, JG et al. “Controls on mangrove forest-atmosphere carbon dioxide exchanges in western Everglades National Park.” Journal of Geophysical Research 115 (2010): G02020.)
Climate in the News: “Researchers find malaria turning up in Alaska birds.” – Anchorage Daily News, September 23, 2012 – The recent warming trend has made the transmission of avian malaria within Alaska’s bird populations possible, creating a new, significant risk for several bird species.