earth day, reprise

First GOES-11 Image

First GOES-11 Image

Following last year’s earth day post I decided to do a short reprise of a few images of earth. Above is the first image sent back by the GOES-11 satellite on May 17th, 2000. You may not be familiar with the GOES satellites directly, but this type of satellite provides all of the visible cloud and water vapor imagery that gets shown during the weather section of the news. One of the most amazing things I notice in this image is the strong linear feature of clouds just north of the equator. This is called the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and is where the air from the northern and southern hemispheres meet and ascend. We write equations about it, talk about it in theory, but there it is!

Ice

Collapsed Larsen B Ice Shelf

Larsen B Ice Shelf

This next image shows the Larsen B Ice Shelf (on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula) during 2000 before its rapid collapse (over 35 days) in 2002. From NASA “[the shelf] lost 3,250 square kilometers (about 1,255 square miles) — an area somewhat larger than Rhode Island — sending a plume of icebergs into the Weddell Sea.” The collapse of such a large piece of ice in connection with the warming observed at these locations (about 3 degrees since the 1940′s) makes it a physical realization of the climate change I know is coming.
For more about Larsen B see “Fragment of its Former Shelf” from NASA earth observatory.

Climate Models

CCSM3 T341, November

CCSM3 T341, November - click to load video

My last image is not actually an image of the Earth directly, but a computer model simulation of the atmosphere calculated at very high resolution. I use this same model (at a much lower resolution) to run experiments to find how vegetation can influence climate. The videos have water vapor shown in white and rain shown in orange. I could watch these simulations all day…

Look at the Amazon and Congo rainforests for the orange pulse of the daily cycle in precipitation! There are even hurricanes! Last year I talked about how the complexity and heterogeneity of the earth’s surface makes me think it is impossible to write down in the form of equations. This year I’ll go with optimism. These results look like a real atmosphere. Amazing!

(I have limited video embedding skills (or desire to gain such skills) so please bear with me for the screen shot and link) To see more months or view the entire year go to the Community Climate Model.

People often ask me if I get depressed studying global warming, but in truth, I don’t. I guess I feel good about the fact that I’m trying to do something about it in the best way I know how. I hope you can all do the same. Happy earth day everyone!

1 Response to “earth day, reprise”


  1. 1 Adrienne

    Abby!
    This is the best post! I really finally get a feel for what you do, and it is seriously radical. I am so proud to be your friend; you do amazing work creatively and academically! Thank you for sharing this info. I absolutely love this type of stuff. The Earth is remarkable, constantly changing and adapting to to its current state. Humans could learn a thing or two from its inherent nature! Don’t be afraid to write posts similar to this on the non-earth days. I will continue to read! Your fan – Aday