Earth ChangesS


Record July 2009 Sea Surface Temperatures? The View from Space

Since NOAA has announced that their data show July 2009 global-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) reaching a record high for the month of July, I thought I would take a look at what the combined AMSR-E & TMI instruments on NASA's Aqua and TRMM satellites (respectively) had to say. I thought it might at least provide an independent sanity check since NOAA does not include these satellite data in their operational product.

The SSTs from AMSR-E are geographically the most complete record of global SSTs available since the instrument is a microwave radiometer and can measure the surface through most cloud conditions. AMSR-E (launched on Aqua in May 2002) provides truly global coverage, while the TMI (which was launched on TRMM in late 1997) does not, so the combined SST product produced by Frank Wentz's Remote Sensing Systems provides complete global coverage only since the launch of Aqua (mid-2002). Through a cooperative project between RSS, NASA, and UAH, The digital data are available from the same (NASA Discover) website that our daily tropospheric temperatures are displayed, but for the SSTs you have to read the daily binary files and compute the anomalies yourself. I use FORTRAN for this, since it's the only programming language I know.

Bizarro Earth

6.4 Earthquake Jolts Qinghai, China

AN earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale struck remote Qinghai Province in northwest China at 9:52 am today, the China Earthquake Administration said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or property losses, local government said.

The epicenter was located at 37.6 degrees north latitude and 95.8 east longitude and was near the Dachaidan region in the Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Haixi, according to theChina Earthquake Administration.

The epicenter was about 110 km away from Delingha City, the capital of the prefecture, and about 150 km away from Golmud, another major city in the Haixi prefecture.

Brick Wall

Sea Surface Temperatures "warmest on record"...but

There is a lot of wailing an gnashing of teeth today over this Associated Press story titled:

Please take a moment to read that story above as I can't post it here. Associated Press has declared war on bloggers.

First a few caveats:
  1. Yes (as mentioned about the northeast USA beach water temperatures in the AP article) we have some very warm sea surface temperatures this summer, we also had the coolest summer surface temperatures on record in many places in the USA.
  2. The AP story is written by Seth Borenstein. Seth tends to report the warmest side of things in the worst way, so take the story with a grain of salt. For example, Portland Maine also set a new record low for July Temperatures, see here. I don't think Seth covered that one nor the -50°F all time statewide Maine record low on January 16th, 2009 seen here. One should also note that NOAA reported "July Temperature Below-Average for the U.S." How quickly we forget. I'm not trying to pick a weather -vs- climate food fight, but simply pointing this out for balance. We've had some cold events this year also.
  3. Sea temperature spikes like this have have happened before. More on that later.
In the story Seth says: "The result has meant lots of swimming at beaches in Maine with pleasant 72-degree water."

To check that out, I utilized the Rutgers SST satellite page here. This image showing coastal Maine from NOAA-15 on August 18th seemed fairly representative and was one of the few that was almost completely filled with SST data. As you can see on this summary page, there is a lot of missing data. With this much missing data, one wonders if SST data averages are accurate.


Ancient Bird's Feathers Had Iridescent Glow

Feather fossil
© Jakob Vinther/Yale University
Scientists discovered that nanostructures found in this 40-million-year-old fossil were responsible for producing iridescent colors in the living feather.
Nanostructures preserved in feather fossils more than 40 million years old show evidence that those feathers were once vivid and iridescent in color, paleontologists say.

Iridescence is the quality of changing color depending on the angle of observation - it's what makes you see a rainbow in an oil slick.

Many insects, such as butterflies, display iridescent colors on their wings, as do many modern birds on their feathers.

The simplest iridescent feather colors are produced by light scattering off the feather's surface and a smooth surface of melanin pigment granules within the feather protein.

Scientists found smooth layers of these melanin structures, called melanosomes, when they examined feather fossils from the Messel Shale in Germany with an electron microscope.


US: Brisk July portends frigid, snowy winter, experts say

Meteorologists at AccuWeather have a name for 2009: "Year Without True Summer." The worst part? It could lead to the truest of winters.

July's below-average temperatures could mean heavy snowfalls and bitter cold this winter along the Eastern Seaboard, according to the State College-based service and its chief meteorologist, Joe Bastardi. Whether Pittsburgh will feel the chill is tough to say: It's on the edge of the predicted snow belt and might or might not be hit, depending on where the storms blow, AccuWeather meteorologist Kate Walters said.

But these types of long-term forecasts are difficult to make accurately, other meteorologists said. The National Weather Service has a less detailed long-range outlook that in part contradicts AccuWeather's. And Weather Channel meteorologists declined to comment, telling their spokesman that such predictions are just too hard to make.

"They vary greatly, depending on their detail. The more detail, the less likely they are to be accurate," said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Pittsburgh office. "It gets real (uncertain) beyond (90 days). All you're doing is trying to play the game of percentages."

Evil Rays

Arctic temperature headed below freezing

There's a couple of indicators that at least for Arctic temperature, the numbers are headed south. First the weather plot from the drifting buoy that is connected with NOAA's North Pole Cam:
Artic temp graph 08-2009
© unknown

After some very brief excursions above freezing, it is now averaging below freezing. See the raw weather data here. The temperatures from the buoy have been hitting -2°C regularly the past nineteen days.

Another indication is the north pole cam itself.
NOrth Pole Camera


US: California firefighters battle wilderness blazes

Los Angeles - California firefighters working in withering heat battled wildfires Thursday in rugged mountains above the foothill suburbs of Los Angeles, in the central coast region and on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park.

Weather plagued fire crews as temperatures in some areas rose toward triple digits and humidity levels headed downward. For a second day, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning of extreme fire conditions for many of Califonia's central and southern mountain ranges.

Alarm Clock

Pacific Ocean garbage patch worries researchers

Los Angeles - A tawny stuffed puppy bobs in cold sea water, his four stiff legs tangled in the green net of some nameless fisherman.

It's one of the bigger pieces of trash in a sprawling mass of garbage-littered water, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where most of the plastic looks like snowy confetti against the deep blue of the north Pacific Ocean.

Bizarro Earth

New Zealand: Wellington rocked by two earthquakes

Wellingtonians had a shaky night's sleep as two earthquakes rocked the city in the early hours of the morning. The quake, which measured 5.2 on the Richter scale, was centred 20 kilometres south of Wellington at a depth of 30 kilometres. It struck at 2.10am Friday.

Some residents say it is the biggest earthquake they have felt in 35 years. A second quake followed at 3.52am in the same area and measured 4.3.

Police were inundated by 111 calls from people wanting more information on the quake but had no reports of damage, a central police communications spokesman said.

However some residents have reported cracks in ceilings. GNS Science duty seismologist Ken Gledhill says the first earthquake was felt from the Kapiti Coast to the top of the South Island.

More than 100 reports of shaking were received by the GeoNet website within 25 minutes of the earthquake.

Bizarro Earth

US: Six earthquakes hit Oklahoma today

Six earthquakes struck Oklahoma today, including five in Jones. Magnitudes of the quakes in Jones ranged from 2.5 to 2.7 on the Richter scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. All five epicenters were near the intersection of Main Street and SW 3. They were reported at 7:58 a.m., 10:17 a.m., 10:31 a.m., 12:13 p.m. and 1:32 p.m.

Today's strongest quake measured 3.4 on the Richter scale. It was reported at 3:22 a.m. in Seminole County about 15 miles northeast of Ada.

There were no reports of damage, said Pontotoc County Emergency Manager Chad Letellier, whose office is in Ada. More than 30 people reported feeling the quake, he said.