NASA: Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

by Duane Nichols on January 4, 2018

Where do we go from here?

Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: About Us

MISSION — The mission of “Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet” is to provide the public with accurate and timely news and information about Earth’s changing climate, along with current data and visualizations, presented from the unique perspective of NASA, one of the world’s leading climate research agencies.

Global Climate Change Web-Site:

SCIENCE ADVISORS — Listed from Internet web site:

Dr. Carmen Boening, Climate Scientist and Oceanographer — Dr. Carmen Boening has a Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from the University of Bremen, Germany. She is involved in JPL’s Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) and its follow-on mission, GRACE FO, to be launched in early 2018. Her research interests include the complex processes behind sea level rise, involving interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, land hydrology and land ice.

Dr. Erik Conway, Historian — Dr. Erik Conway is the historian at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, holding a Ph.D. in History of Science and Technology from the University of Minnesota. He writes on the history of Earth, planetary and space sciences in the 20th century, his most recent work entitled Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars.

Dr. Michael Gunson, Atmospheric Scientist – With a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Bristol University, Dr. Michael Gunson is the Global Change and Energy program manager and an Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) project scientist. His research interests lie in atmospheric remote sensing, atmospheric composition and chemistry, and climate change. Prior to his present JPL roles, Dr. Gunson worked as a lead scientist for building the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s AQUA satellite and the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) aboard the AURAsatellite.

Joe Witte, Climate Communicator — Joe Witte started his career as a glaciologist for the USGS, working on the ice of South Cascade Glacier, Wash. He has worked for network affiliate news stations in New York City, Seattle, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, and was NBC’s morning weatherman for 20 years. He currently advises NASA communications teams about how to adapt NASA science content for use by TV meteorologists.

Dr. Charles MIller, Atmospheric Scientist — Dr. Charles Miller received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. As a research scientist at JPL, his interests include atmospheric chemistry and carbon cycle science. He is the principal investigator of NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE), which looks at atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane in the Arctic. He is also the JPL lead for the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS)’s Monitoring Megacity CO2 Emissions from Space project, and a member of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) science team.

Dr. William Patzert, Oceanographer — NASA scientist Dr. William “Bill” Patzert has a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Hawaii. His research interests center on understanding and forecasting global and local climate change. He is a science communication expert and often appears in the print and social media and on local and national television and radio. He lectures widely and works with students from around the world.

Dr. Duane Waliser, Oceanographer – Dr. Duane Waliser has a Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from the University of California, San Diego. In addition to being JPL’s Earth Science and Technology Directorate’s chief scientist, he is an adjunct professor in the University of California, Los Angeles’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a visiting associate in Caltech’s Geological and Planetary Sciences Division. His research includes focus on climate dynamics and variability, ocean-atmosphere interactions, water cycle and weather/climate predictability.

Dr. Josh Willis, Oceanographer — A project scientist for NASA’s Jason-3 satellite and principal investigator of the Oceans Melting Greenland campaign, Dr. Josh Willis received his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Willis’ research interests lie in estimating both regional and global sea level rise and ocean circulation using NASA satellite data, among others. Because these are connected to global climate change, he also participates in public outreach efforts to communicate their significance.

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Daily Kos January 9, 2018 at 12:30 am

New York and Columbia University team up to reinstate climate advisory panel disbanded by Trump.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to stick it to Trump every way possible.

A big part of the Trump administration’s agenda is to undo everything and anything that might be seen as something that helps the vulnerable—or simply liked by progressives. One of the ways he does that is through undermining America’s efforts to understand and effectively grapple with climate change, which is why he disbanded the US climate advisory committee in August 2017.

A coalition is aiming to undo Trump’s advisory committee destruction by reinstating it—outside of the reach of Trump’s tiny little hands, of course. The coalition includes the State of New York and Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which announced:

Effective Jan. 1, the Earth Institute has brought on Richard Moss, the former chairman of the Federal Advisory Committee for the National Climate Assessment, as a visiting senior research scientist in the Earth Institute’s Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management. In his role, Moss will reestablish the panel, and deliver the report that the committee originally set out to write. The Earth Institute is supplying financial and logistical support as well as office space for the effort.

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) will also help reinstate the committee. In a statement detailing the proposals from his recent State of the State address, it explains:

In the absence of guidance from the Advisory Committee, decision-makers will have limited ability to know how climate change will impact their organizations and communities, and what they can do to better plan for those impacts.

Therefore, Governor Cuomo, as co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance and in collaboration with partners, will reconvene the Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to navigate the challenges of climate change. As a result, the Advisory Committee will continue its critical work without political interference and provide the guidance needed to adapt to a changing climate.

The committee won’t have the same power or reach as the federal version, of course. Its power will be limited in its current capacity. However, it aims to make information about climate change more accessible and provide resources to better understand how dire of a situation we’re in and what we can do to mitigate that. I’m looking forward to seeing what they will do!



David Nutt January 19, 2018 at 1:13 pm

French president taps climate scientist to ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’

By David Nutt, Cornell Chronicle, January 9, 2018

The race to see who will lead the fight against climate change is heating up.

After President Donald Trump announced in June his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a “Make Our Planet Great Again” program that would bring climate scientists to France and fund their research with $70 million in three- to five-year grants. On Dec. 11, Macron unveiled the first round of recipients. Among the initial 18 scientists selected – 13 of whom are American – is Louis Derry, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in the College of Engineering and faculty fellow with Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

“Usually people don’t pay too much attention to what people like me do,” Derry said, “And I think the visibility it gives us in this field is good.”

The field, for Derry, is “critical zone” science, which refers to the study of the Earth’s outer layer of skin – from the bottom of groundwater to the tops of trees – where water, atmosphere, ecosystems, soil and rock all meet. Derry’s research focuses on the intersection of geochemistry and hydrology, specifically the kinds of chemical processes that occur in a natural system. By developing new tracers that provide a chemical or isotopic fingerprint of a particular kind of reaction or source, he gains insight into the reaction mechanisms and ultimately the ways water is moving through the system.

“There are 90 elements in the periodic table, there’s a lot of things to play with,” Derry said. “We’re measuring things at the part-per-trillion level. It’s not easy to do that. Or let’s say it’s easy to screw it up in the process. It’s not hard to get it wrong.”

Competition for the grants was high, with 1,822 scientists submitting applications. Derry was a natural fit for the program, having lived in France 25 years ago when he was a postdoc studying erosion and weathering in the Himalayan Mountains, and he’s fluent in French. And in his role as director of the National Science Foundation office for critical zone observatories, he has worked in close partnership with French researchers who have a similar critical zone organization. In fact, Derry was already talking with colleagues in the Paris Institute of Physics of the Globe about a possible collaboration when he learned of Macron’s initiative. So they teamed up and put together a proposal.

“These ideas were percolating for a while,” said Derry, who plans to step down as director of the NSF-CZ in the spring.

The new project will use isotopic tracers to study how the chemistry of streams is controlled, and how it varies with rainfall and the creation of new pathways. Ultimately, the four-year, 1.5 million euro grant will help researchers better model and predict the ways water systems respond to changes in precipitation caused by an increasingly erratic climate. This has long been a “black box” problem for researchers, who lacked the computational tools needed as well as the ability to make the necessary high-precision measurements, according to Derry. Now the technology is available. And thanks to Marcon’s program, so is the funding.



WAPO Editorial January 21, 2018 at 9:24 pm

The Shutdown Brouhaha has Covered Up far Bigger News

Editorial, Washington Post, Opinion Page, January 21, 2018

PHOTO: People gather to protest President Trump’s announcement that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate agreement on June 1, 2017, in Washington.

ONE BYPRODUCT of the day-to-day chaos of the Trump presidency is that the nation’s biggest, long-term challenges are often forgotten. While Washington spent this week agonizing over the prospect of a totally unnecessary government shutdown, what should have been far bigger news went nearly unremarked.

According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year was one of the warmest years on record — second or third, depending on which agency’s records you examine, because each has its own method for its calculations. One reason it may not have topped 2016, the warmest year ever, was the presence then of a warming El Niño, a regular phenomenon the lack of which does not indicate that the planet is coping with radical, human-induced changes in the atmosphere’s chemistry.

One warm year is not necessarily cause for concern. The trend, however, is. The past three years were the warmest three ever recorded. The five warmest years in the record all came since 2010. Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the data came since 2001. This decade is on track to be warmer than the 2000s, which were warmer than the 1990s, and so on. The heating of the Earth is unmistakable.

Some climate doubters insist that while the warming trend is established, humans’ responsibility is not. This assertion is nearly as absurd as denying the warming in the first place.

It is not coincidence that breakneck warming occurred just as humans began pumping increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Scientists have spent more time than necessary examining other offered causes — such as solar activity — only to conclude that those supposed causes cannot account for the patterns of warming clear in the data.

Others argue that the country should not get lost in an unsolvable disagreement on the science but rather just talk about solutions. But without a clear sense of the problem, policymakers will waste time and money on the wrong responses.

If global warming were a totally natural phenomenon, the task would be simply to build a society more resilient to temperature extremes, crazy weather, droughts, floods and scrambled-up ecosystems. But because humans are warming the planet, the top priority must be to remove the underlying cause by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year also marked a recent low in the federal government’s response to climate change. President Trump installed a climate-change denier, Scott Pruitt, at the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling the end of landmark climate rules on power companies.

Mr. Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, pushed for a pro-coal policy so absurd that the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected it out of hand. The president also announced he would pull out of the Paris climate agreement, an accord that the United States spend years fine-tuning to ensure it was a fair deal.

In 50 years, many of the unnecessary distractions that Mr. Trump packed into his presidency will be forgotten. But no one will forget how selfishness and purposeful ignorance reigned in the United States as the world began to cook.



Weather Channel January 27, 2018 at 4:41 pm


By ClimateDenierRoundup, Daily Kos, January 26, 2018

Yesterday, visitors to were greeted with a banner making the simple (yet somehow still contentious claim) that “THERE IS NO CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE.”

The Weather Channel has set out to prove this point with a new series of stories showing climate impacts in all 50 states. In a rather bold move for the household outlet and go-to for weather reporting, the homepage of the site prominently linked to a number of those pieces, with normal weather maps and content available below the climate stories.

Calling the feature “United States of Climate Change,” the Weather Channel will not debate climate science in the series, but will instead tell climate stories. For example, the first link was to a a five minute video looking at South Carolina’s Gullah and Geechee communities, African-American communities living on the state’s coastal barrier islands.

As the video explains, these communities have watched their land shrink as the ocean rises, and they are facing a potential six feet of sea level rise by 2100. With shorelines already noticeably altered, such a rise poses a major threat to their continued survival of their four hundred year old culture. Yet their concerns have been dismissed by officials, one woman interviewed explains, who pass residents off as just “emotional natives.”

Meanwhile, in the northern US, warming winters are causing a different sort of problem. Another story shows how Connecticut residents are dealing with a climate-boosted growth in mouse and tick populations, which carry the threat of Lyme disease. As winter shrinks and temperatures warm, tick populations are no longer checked every winter, causing the Lyme disease they carry to spread rapidly.

Moving off the East Coast, perhaps someone should let Scott Pruitt know that beef production is taking a hit in his native Oklahoma. Cows are susceptible to heat stress, and warm days in winter before they’ve shed their heavier coats can be especially dangerous. When it hit 99 degrees F on February 11th last year, the cattle took to a pond to cool off, and yet skeptical ranchers interviewed for the story were still unconvinced of climate change. The story relays that there’s a certain degree of recognition that things are changing, but the resistance to what the Koch and Exxon and others have successfully branded as the liberal issue of climate change remains.

Finally, the Weather Channel’s Montana-based feature looks at how heat and drought have hurt the barley crop, a mainstay of local economies and one of the key ingredients in beer. Barley can survive a hot day, provided nights cool down. But with hotter days and hotter nights, the more valuable and desirable “plump” barley is in shorter supply while the less desirable “thins” and “mids” make up a greater proportion of the harvest. This is bad news for beer drinkers.

“No Barley, No Beer,” reads a farmer’s bumper sticker in the video.

If the thought of an America with no burgers and no beer doesn’t worry even the staunchest denier, we don’t know what will.



Julia Rosen February 16, 2018 at 12:26 pm

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL — The carbon harvest

Julia Rosen
Science 16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 733-737


In 2015, the Paris climate agreement established a goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2°C. In the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers surveyed possible road maps for reaching that goal and found something unsettling:

In most model scenarios, simply cutting emissions isn’t enough. To limit warming, humanity also needs negative emissions technologies that, by the end of the century, would remove more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than humans emit.

The technologies would buy time for society to rein in carbon emissions, but they also give policymakers an excuse to drag their feet on climate action in the hopes that future inventions will clean up the mess. One particular technology has quietly risen to prominence, thanks to global models.

The idea is to cultivate fast-growing grasses and trees to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and then burn them at power plants to generate energy. But instead of being released back into the atmosphere in the exhaust, the crops’ carbon would be captured and pumped underground.

The technique is known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or—among climate wonks—simply as BECCS. Although BECCS is relatively cheap and theoretically feasible, the sheer scale at which it operates in the models alarms many researchers


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