News Climatology Satellite Space

New Radar Photography, Polar Ice Impacts, and Record Heat: The Latest Headlines

  • By AMS Staff
  • Sep 24, 2021

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

NASA’s Delta-X mission helps with disaster response after Hurricane Ida

Charged with studying the Mississippi River Delta, NASA’s Delta-X project was gearing up to collect data on Louisiana’s coastal wetlands when Hurricane Ida barreled ashore in late August. The storm – a high-end Category 4 when it made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on August 29 – damaged buildings and infrastructure alike, resulting in power outages, flooding, and oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regularly monitors U.S. coastal waters for potential spills and noticed some slicks that appeared just off the coast after the hurricane. They were able to use Delta-X radar data to corroborate the presence and location of these oil slicks.

Cities struggle to protect residents from extreme heat

Heat is the number on weather-related killer in the U.S., yet our infrastructure was not built with it in mind. As that heat gets more extreme, cities are rethinking how to adapt. Heat waves might not have names, but they are killing more people than hurricanes, floods or even wildfires in this country. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, heat is the No. 1 weather-related cause of death in the U.S.

For more on why heat waves are so difficult to define and create warnings for, check out our latest AMS Weather Band webinar: How Hot is Too Hot?

Melting polar ice is warping the Earth’s crust

The melting of polar ice is not only shifting the levels of our oceans, it is changing the planet Earth itself. Dr. Sophie Coulson and her colleagues explained in a recent paper in Geophysical Research Letters that, as glacial ice from Greenland, Antarctica, and the Arctic Islands melts, Earth's crust beneath these land masses warps, an impact that can be measured hundreds and perhaps thousands of miles away. 

"Scientists have done a lot of work directly beneath ice sheets and glaciers," said Coulson, who did her work in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and received her doctorate in May from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. "So they knew that it would define the region where the glaciers are, but they hadn't realized that it was global in scale."

Fireball camera networks help increase space rock observations and recovery

Rocks from space provide opportunities to understand the history of our Solar System and are important in studies of how life arose on Earth. However, fall locations often remain unknown or hidden and the space rocks’ scientific messages are then lost. To address this, astronomers deploy networks of fireball cameras to measure the precise paths of fireballs by comparing their positions to stars in the background. This means they can ascertain both the locations where space rocks can be collected, and can trace backward to where in the Solar System they came from. However, these networks are designed to work at night. So what happens if a space rock arrives during the day? Read more on how a recent response was driven by social media and dash cam footage

Burrowing mice turn to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for survival

The Environmental Management Branch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been working on shoreline restoration efforts to build up dunes that have been affected by beach erosion and storm surges – an effort that beach mice appear to appreciate very much.

While the primary purpose is to protect the launch pads and surrounding infrastructure from storm impacts and rising sea levels, the dunes also provide a sustainable wildlife habitat. Continuous research and monitoring conducted along Kennedy’s beaches show that shortly after the dunes are built and native vegetation is planted, beach mice and gopher tortoises are drawn to the new habitat.

Small enough to fit in the palm of a human hand when fully grown, the beach mouse is a threatened species and is the only protected small mammal known to inhabit the coastal dunes and nearby scrub at Kennedy. They're now seeking refuge next to space craft

James Webb space telescope creeps closer to launch

The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to head to space on Dec. 18, 2021. With it, astronomers hope to find the first galaxies to form in the universe, will search for Earthlike atmospheres around other planets and accomplish many other scientific goals.

To see deep into the universe, the telescope has a very large mirror and must be kept extremely cold. But getting a fragile piece of equipment like this to space is no simple task. Go behind the scenes with one of the scientists working on the telescope and learn more about the challenges she and her colleagues had to overcome to design, test and prepare to launch and align the most powerful space telescope ever built.

New images of the moon show advances in radar technology

The National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory (GBO) and National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S) have released a new high-resolution image of the Moon, the highest-ever taken from the ground using new radar technology on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT).

The resolution of the new Tycho Crater image is close to five meters by five meters and contains approximately 1.4 billion pixels. The image covers an area of 200km by 175km, ensuring that involved scientists and engineers captured the entire crater, which measures 86km in diameter.