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Atmospheric and Space News for the End of August

  • By AMS Staff
  • Aug 27, 2021

Here are a few of the news stories from the weather and atmospheric sciences and space that we've been following this week. Do you have a story we missed? Share it in the community!

Unpacking the basics of attribution science

We had a lot of questions about attribution science during Victor Gensini’s recent webinar on severe storms and their prediction and analysis. He does talk about attribution science in the webinar, but if you’re interested in a few more basics, and the process of attributions, check out this article on attribution science and how it works

How flood warnings get lost in the noise

Dr. Marshall Shepherd argues that the public is much more attuned to messages about hurricanes and tornadoes than other types of disasters such as flooding. This can lead to increased impacts of storms as people don’t prepare for the flooding or extreme temperatures that accompany other events. “When I ask people what the most deadly U.S. weather phenomenon is, they usually say “hurricanes, lightning, or tornadoes.” However, National Weather Service data continually reveals that over the last three decades extreme temperatures and flooding are the deadliest weather stressors on an annual basis.” Read more about the risks ignoring flood warnings can create. 

World War II bombing raids created ripples in the ionosphere

A new study suggests that the impacts of World War II bombing raids by Allied Forces reached all the way into the Earth's ionosphere—a layer of Earth's atmosphere between roughly 50 and 375 miles high that's charged, or ionized, by solar and cosmic radiation. The data suggest each bombing raid released the power of hundreds of lightning strikes, reducing the density of negatively charged electrons in the ionosphere.

While this effect only lasted a few hours, the unusual approach that the researchers took to examine the atmospheric disruptions may eventually help scientists more accurately predict ionospheric disturbances—the most severe of which can cripple communications and global positioning systems (GPS). Read the full story here

European floods stronger due to climate change

As we wait for analysis of the devastating floods in Tennessee, scientists are releasing further details on the flooding that happened in Europe last month. A new report indicates that the extreme rainfall that caused the flooding was made more likely and more severe by climate change. The downpours, which swept through Germany and Belgium in July, were 3 to 19 percent more intense and 1.2 to 9 times more likely because of human-caused warming. Read more

A garbage truck for space

Recent damage to the International Space Station by passing debris has underscored the need for addressing the space junk problem. To combat this issue, Astroscale Inc., a private, Japan-headquartered company, has created several commercial spacecrafts for decluttering space. The company is on track to deliver the world’s first garbage truck for removing defunct satellites in 2024, and recently announced that its prototype has completed its first demonstration in space. Although experts say that one active debris remover isn’t enough to solve the problem, it is an important move toward protecting valuable equipment in space, including satellites that aid with everything from weather forecasts to GPS navigation. Read more here

Where do you come down on the Pluto debate? 

Pluto inspires some surprisingly intense emotions. When Neil deGrasse Tyson was planetarium director at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, he received hate mail from children when Pluto was left out of a planetary display. And in August 2006, complete uproar resulted when the International Astronomical Union, or IAU, wrote a new definition of “planet” that left Pluto out. The new definition required that a body 1) orbit the sun, 2) have enough mass to be spherical (or close) and 3) have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of other bodies. Objects that meet the first two criteria but not the third, like Pluto, were designated “dwarf planets.” But the number of planets was originally limited because of the needs of astrologers to create coherent fortunes, not because of astronomers. Read more on why the definition of planet is still debated, and let us know where you would classify Pluto by posting in the Weather Band Community.