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  • richardmitnick 9:02 am on June 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , DLR German Aerospace Center, Earth Observation, LRZ – Leibniz Supercomputing Centre Garching Germany, PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC, TUM SuperUMC IBM Linux super computer, , Xiaoxiang Zhu   

    From Science Node: Women in Stem- “The woman who maps the world” Xiaoxiang Zhu 

    Science Node bloc
    From Science Node

    13 Jun, 2018
    Alisa Alering

    Xiaoxiang Zhu, (image: U. Benz / TUM)
    Assistant Professor, Signal Processing in Earth Observation
    Department, Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering

    DLR Earth Observation Center

    What can you discover about the earth from space?

    A lot, says Xiaoxiang Zhu, Head of Signal Processing in Earth Observation at the Technical University of Munich and head of department of EO Data Science at the German Aerospace Center, who uses satellite remote sensing to create data-rich topographical maps of our entire planet.

    Xiaoxiang Zhu received the 2018 Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her work in remote sensing and 3D tomography. Additional footage courtesy PRACE and Vision Consultancy.

    Zhu is the 2018 winner of the PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC. Initiated in 2016, the award recognizes an early-career female scientist working in Europe who has had an outstanding impact on HPC research and who provides a role model for other women beginning careers in HPC.

    Combining data from Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, and from the German Aerospace Center, Zhu and her team derive maps on a global scale that will observe changes to cities over time, create 3D models of buildings and their functions, and also provide the first-ever transparent estimation of population density.

    ESA Sentinels (Copernicus)

    “In Europe, we have a very well-mapped environment. But in developing countries, particularly in areas with informal settlements and slums, the authorities don’t have access to basic information,” Zhu says.

    “Lack of data means it’s difficult to scale fundamental infrastructure like health care, clean water, and education according to actual population density,” she adds. “We are about to close this gap between nations and take the first step to provide this kind of information.”

    Global processing of petabytes of geospatial data requires big computing power. Working at a resolution of approximately ten meters means high-performance computing is absolutely essential. Since 2012, Zhu has used over 46 million core hours on the SuperMUC computer at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre.

    TUM SuperUMC IBM Linux super computer

    Global processing. To date, Zhu has used over 46 million core hours on the 6.8 PetaFLOPs SuperMUC supercomputer. Courtesy Technical University of Munich.

    LRZ – Leibniz Supercomputing Centre Garching, Germany

    “From the beginning, the data I/O and data storage alone required support from HPCs. When we get the data ready to process, we need supercomputers to be able to get results on a global or even city scale,” Zhu says. “And then, in order to convey our results to the public, the visualization of the data will again need HPC.”

    But, Zhu emphasizes, computation is only one aspect of her research. In addition to difficulties with storing such vast amounts of data, processing the satellite imagery presents its own challenges. Images must be modified to remove clouds and scientists must figure out how to fuse together images from different sources.

    “If we could have the computational details simplified,” Zhu says, “then our focus could be only on trying to improve the algorithm to reach the best accuracy. What I’m trying to do is better understand global organization and problems like climate change.”

    Combining passions for success

    About her decision to pursue a career in science, Zhu says, “When I was very young, I saw a picture of Earth taken from space and I thought ‘Wow, that’s really fantastic!’”

    But she’s also interested in mathematic models, and likes to work with people from different fields. “In earth observation, a lot of mathematics are involved, and we deal with data taken from space,” she says. “My team is very interdisciplinary—physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, urban geographic scientists—we all work together. This is just what I wanted.”

    Zhu believes that winning the award will help advance her connections in the HPC field and further her own research. But she says that accepting the award also brings a responsibility to assist other women working in science and HPC.

    For Zhu, this means trying to recruit more female team members, which she admits is sometimes difficult because there are fewer female candidates. She is also involved in groups that work to promote the participation of more women in all scientific fields.

    “Winning this award means that I should be a disseminator, who speaks for more women in HPC,” she says. “I’m very delighted to do this.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

  • richardmitnick 11:32 am on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, , ,   

    From UC Santa Barbara: “Under the Sea” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc
    From UC Santa Barbara

    June 5, 2018
    Jeff Mitchell

    Earth scientist Zach Eilon plumbs the depths of the Pacific Ocean to learn more about plate tectonics.

    The Pacific ORCA science party on board the research vessel Kilo Moana; UCSB’s Zach Eilon is seventh from left. Photo Credit: Courtesy Zach Eilon

    Watchstanders processing data in the vessel’s computer lab spot an underwater volcano that has never before been imaged. Photo Credit: Courtesy Zach Eilon

    Preparing to deploy an Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) at sunset. Photo Credit: Courtesy Zach Eilon

    Preparing to test all the OBS communication devices, temporarily housed in the “rosette”, sitting beneath the A-frame; the yellow packages on deck are the OBS instruments, awaiting deployment. Photo Credit: Courtesy Zach Eilon

    Voyaging across a vast swath of the Pacific Ocean to learn more about how the Earth’s tectonic plates work, scientist Zach​​ Eilon was assisted along the way by friendly deep-sea denizen SpongeBob SquarePants.

    No, the beloved animated character wasn’t really there, but SpongeBob was the nickname Eilon, a UC Santa Barbara assistant professor of earth sciences, gave the sophisticated instrument that played a key role in his research.

    Otherwise known as ocean bottom seismometers, or OBS’s, these instruments are sensitive enough to detect earthquakes on the other side of the world.

    While the seismometers themselves sit on the seafloor, they are attached to a bright yellow flotation package — hence, the SpongeBob comparison — and are about a meter in width. The packages are affixed to a plastic base containing complex electronics.

    Eilon and collaborators carefully placed 30 of them on the ocean floor about 2,000 miles southeast of Hawaii during their recent Pacific ORCA (Pacific OBS Research into Convecting Asthenosphere) expedition aboard the U.S. Navy research vessel Kilo Moana.

    U.S. Navy research vessel Kilo Moana

    The trip and the experiment were part of an ongoing and high-profile international effort, on which UCSB is one of three lead institutions in the U.S., to seismically instrument the Pacific Ocean.

    Oceanic plates make up 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and offer important windows into the Earth’s mantle, Eilon said, yet they are largely unexplored due to the obvious challenge of putting sensitive electronics three miles beneath the sea surface. The earth science community has identified several unanswered questions regarding the thermal structure of oceanic plates, the significance of volcanism in the middle of oceanic plates and how the convecting mantle beneath the plates controls their movements.

    Undulations in the gravity field and unexplained shallowing of the ocean floors hint that small-scale convection may be occurring beneath the oceanic plates, but this remains unconfirmed, according to Eilon. The new experiment could help prove it.

    “Our little instruments will sit on the ocean floor for approximately 15 months, recording earthquakes around the world,” he said. “When we return to retrieve them next year they’ll hold seismic data in their memory banks that could change the way in which we understand the oceanic plates. That understanding is pretty significant, considering that these plates make up about 70 percent of our planet’s surface.”

    When they are recovered in July 2019, the OBS units are expected to provide data that allows Eilon and his collaborators to make 3-D images of the oceanic tectonic plates – a bit like taking a CAT-scan of the Earth. Of particular interest is the mysterious asthenosphere, the zone of Earth’s mantle lying beneath the lithosphere (the tectonic plate) and believed to be much hotter and more fluid than rocks closer to the surface. The asthenosphere extends from about 60 miles to about 250 miles below Earth’s surface.

    Once ready for deployment, the weighted instrument packages are designed to carefully sink upright to the seafloor. When the science party returns to the site, the ship will send an acoustic signal down to the individual science packages, commanding them to release the weight holding them down, allowing the buoyant yellow “SpongeBob” portion of the device to slowly float them to the surface, he explained.

    Once on the surface, the ship’s crew will home in on the package (which has a light, flag, and radio so the scientists can locate it) and lift it from the sea. From there the science team will commence the process of downloading the seismic data which are detailed records of the ocean floor vibrations. Turning these wiggles into 3D images is the result of highly complex computer processing and mathematics.

    Eilon said that in addition to giving researchers a better idea of how the Earth’s tectonic plates work, the data is expected to provide important information about geologic hazards.

    “By improving our understanding of interactions between plates, the data we collect should improve our ability to forecast earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” he said, “which I hope will help authorities save lives when these events occur.”

    Eilon, along with co-principal investigator Jim Gaherty of Columbia University, led the expedition’s diverse 14-member science team (drawn from 11 institutions across three continents). The $4-million research project is supported by the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Santa Barbara Seal
    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

  • richardmitnick 11:45 am on June 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Earth Observation, ,   

    From European Space Agency: “ESTEC’s new Galileo Payload Testbed Facility” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    ESTEC’s new Galileo Payload Testbed Facility
    07/06/2018 [June 7, 2018]
    Copyright ESA–Cesar Miquel Espana

    ESA microwave engineers took apart an entire Galileo satellite to reassemble its navigation payload on a laboratory test bench to run it as though it were in orbit – available to investigate the lifetime performance of its component parts, recreate satellite anomalies, and test candidate technologies for Galileo’s future evolution.

    ESA/Galileo Spacecraft

    Located in the cleanroom environment of the Galileo Payload Laboratory – part of ESA’s Microwave Lab based at its ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands – the new Galileo IOV Testbed Facility was inaugurated this week with a ceremony attended by Paul Verhoef, ESA Director of Navigation and Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality.

    Paul Verhoef congratulated the team and underlined the importance of ESA having these capabilities: ”Such a navigation payload laboratory does not exist in industry. We foresee the testing and validation a number of very innovative ideas for the next series of Galileo satellites, before entering into discussions with industry in the context of the procurement of the Galileo Transition Satellites that has recently begun. This shows the added value of ESA as the design agent and system engineer of the Galileo system.”

    “Our Lab has always been very responsive to the testing needs of the Navigation Directorate,’ comments microwave engineer César Miquel España.

    “Now this unique facility allows performance of end-to-end testing of a Galileo payload as representatively as possible, using actual Galileo hardware. We can also support investigations of any problems in orbit or plug in future payload hardware as needed. And because each item of equipment is separately temperature controlled we can see how environmental changes affect their performance.”

    The Testbed began as an ‘engineering model’ of a first-generation Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space in Italy for ground-based testing. It was delivered to ESTEC in August 2015, along with four truckloads of ground support equipment and other hardware.

    That began a long three-year odyssey to first take the satellite apart, then put it back together – akin at times to space archaeology, since the satellite had been designed more than 15 years ago.

    “We found lots of documentation on how to integrate the satellite, but nothing on how to take it apart,” adds technician Gearóid Loughnane. “We had to dismantle it very carefully over several weeks to remove the smaller items safely and take out the electrical harness, which ended up as a big spaghetti pile on the floor.”

    The next step was to extricate the navigation payload from the satellite platform, and then begin to lay it out to connect it up again. A parallel effort tracked down supporting software from the companies involved, to be able to operate the payload once it was complete, as if it is orbiting in space.

    Valuable help came from Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in the UK, Dutch aerospace company Terma that developed Galileo software, and Rovsing in Denmark, supplying ground support equipment.

    “A big challenge was tailoring the spacecraft control and monitoring system to work only with the payload units while having to emulate the platform equipment” comments technician Andrew Allstaff.

    Comprising equipment produced by companies in seven separate European companies, the Testbed generates navigation signals using actually atomic clocks co-located in the lab, which are then upconverted, amplified and filtered as if for transmission down to Earth.

    The idea came from a GIOVE Payload Testbed already in the Lab, which simulates the performance of a test satellite that prepared the way for Galileo. As a next step the team hopes they can one day produce a Galileo ‘Full Operational Capability’ Payload Testbed – the current follow-on to the first-generation IOV satellites.

    The next four Galileo FOC satellites are due to be launched by Ariane 5 in July.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:32 am on June 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Earth Observation, , Ice Cube experiments   

    From European Space Agency: “ICE Cubes space research service open for business” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    5 June 2018

    A new European commercial service is allowing researchers, educators, universities and companies to run their experiments on the International Space Station. Dubbed Ice Cubes, budding space researchers can build their experiment in blocks of 10 x 10 x 10 cm that slot into a dedicated rack on ESA’s space laboratory Columbus.

    Similar to small ‘CubeSats’ that orbit Earth, Ice Cube experiments can be made from ‘commercial off the shelf’ products and be stacked together to allow for larger experiments if needed.

    The Ice Cube unit in this image is installed on the experiment rack in a full-size mockup of the Columbus laboratory at ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands.

    Due to their high degree of modularity and use of off-the-shelf subsystems, Ice Cubes projects are ‘plug and play’ and can be readied for flight more rapidly compared to traditional space experiment schedules. The first Ice Cubes will be running next year.

    The service is being offered by Space Applications Services in partnership with ESA, ensuring years of spaceflight know-how to help researchers, educators and companies develop and build safe and useful experiments – including a discount for educational users.

    More information and how to get started is available on the Ice Cubes website, let the space science begin!

    The first European facility for commercial research on the International Space Station was installed today in Europe’s space laboratory Columbus. The International Commercial Experiments service – ICE Cubes for short – offers fast, simple and affordable access for research and technology experiments in microgravity.

    NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold installed the ice-box-sized facility in the European Physiology Module in the Columbus laboratory. ICE Cubes gets its power, temperature regulation and communications from Columbus.

    The facility hosts experiments designed around 10 cm cubes (1U) or combinations of this volume – there is room for 12 cubes on top and two rows of four cubes below. Experiments can also float freely through the Columbus laboratory and communicate wirelessly with the facility to send data to Earth.

    The first experiments are going to be launched on the next SpaceX Dragon supply vessel scheduled for launch this month. Designed to be plug-and-play, the experiment cubes only need to be slotted into the facility for them to work.

    The first ICE Cubes experiments from the International Space University highlight the versatility of the service. One will investigate plant biology, another will bio-mine with microbes, and a third merges the arts and science by using a person’s heart rate to change a piece of kaleidoscopic artwork.

    The ICE Cubes service is based on a partnership with Space Applications Services and is part of ESA’s human and robotic exploration strategy to ensure access to the weightless research possibilities in low Earth orbit.

    Columbus laboratory

    From idea to reality in a year, anybody’s experiment can be launched to the Space Station. Service launches occur typically three times a year. With one point of contact and over two decades of space research know-how, getting an experiment designed, built and in compliance with International Space Station standards has never been easier.

    The price starts from €50 000 for a 1-kg experiment with an end-to-end service package running for four months, with cheaper rates for educational organisations.

    ICE Cubes control centre

    ICE Cubes offers unprecedented 24-hour direct access to its experiments via a dedicated mission control centre at Space Applications Services’ premises in Sint-Stevens-Woluwe, Belgium. Clients can connect at any time to their experiment from their own location over internet to read the data and even send commands directly.

    The experiments themselves will be highlighted on the ESA website over the next few weeks. Visit the ICE Cubes service website for more information and contact details.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 10:16 am on June 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Earth Observation, Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, ICEYE, ICEYE X1 – PSLV C40, , One of ICEYE’s key initial focuses has been ice surveillance for companies involved in Arctic operations   

    From Horizon: “Microsatellite swarms could paint clearer picture of our planet” 


    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    28 May 2018
    Gareth Willmer

    Microsatellites such as those developed by ICEYE not only reduce the size of the satellite but also cut costs significantly. Image credit – ICEYE

    Space is not just a hostile place for life, but also for business. Building and launching a traditional bus-sized satellite tens of thousands of kilometres above Earth can cost hundreds of millions of euros, but thanks to miniature satellites, the economics are changing.

    Among the start-ups seeking new ways to tap into space’s potential is microsatellite manufacturer ICEYE.


    ICEYE X1 – PSLV C40

    It aims to cut satellite prices to less than one-hundredth of traditional satellites, using a series of microsatellites partly built with off-the-shelf mobile electronics.

    In January, the company sent what it described as the world’s first microsatellite based on synthetic-aperture radar – technology that allows satellites to see through clouds and into the dark – into a low-Earth orbit of about 500 kilometres.

    Suitcase-sized and weighing just 70 kilograms, ICEYE-X1 is the first of three satellites that the company plans to launch this year, with a goal of having 18 in the sky by the end of 2020.

    ICEYE says that gloomy conditions can make imagery using optical-based systems unavailable up to 75 % of the time, a problem their technology avoids.

    ‘That means you can image in any place in the world at any time,’ said Pekka Laurila, CFO and co-founder of ICEYE.

    At present, requests from companies for data can take satellite providers days to process, and are often updated only once every 12 hours. ICEYE believes it can get this down to two hours once it gets six microsatellites into the sky, and even further with more launches.

    ‘If you’re able to do monitoring on a scale of a few hours, you are actually catching a set of completely new phenomena that has never been monitored from space before,’ said Laurila. ‘It gives you access to understanding these phenomena on a human timescale.’

    Ice surveillance

    There are all sorts of areas in which this could be applied, from agricultural production to tracking climate change, but one of ICEYE’s key initial focuses has been ice surveillance for companies involved in Arctic operations – where vessels moving at several knots need rapid updates on ice-field movements.

    ‘That’s an area where continuous coverage is extremely important,’ said Laurila.

    This revolutionary approach has arrived at a time when unprecedented amounts of data are being generated by satellites.

    The surge in data is driven by a range of factors, including more detailed Earth observation services. One way to process this increasing flow of information is to find better ways of getting satellite data back down to ground.

    At the moment, a lot of satellite data gets lost in transit to and from Earth, or ‘thrown overboard’, according to John Mackey, CEO of mBryonics, a technology development company based in Galway, Ireland.

    He coordinates a project called RAVEN, which is working to improve signal transmission. To do so, mBryonics is harnessing a technology called adaptive optics, which is used in telescopes to give astronomers clear images of stars by reducing the twinkle when viewing them through the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere.

    Adapting this technique to beam data up and down from satellites helps create a much stronger signal and a higher data rate by lessening such atmospheric interference, said Mackey.

    Moving this data faster could also help with a challenge facing future low-orbit satellites – seeing less of the Earth than those satellites higher up. Low-orbit satellites have a more limited line of sight to ground stations and therefore a smaller window to beam data down when they pass by – maybe just 10 to 15 minutes, said Mackey. Speeding up the data rate means they can transfer more during this period.

    Additionally, mBryonics is seeking to use its technology to create links between satellites, which could help create constellations to intelligently route data in the most efficient way possible. ‘Then, if I send my data up to the satellite, it can fire it across the satellite constellation and get me to my destination much faster,’ said Mackey.

    And not only can that cut the number of ground stations needed, but it could also help move the data faster and thus avoid big delays in providing costly satellite-related services. mBryonics is aiming to demo a full commercial system of its satellite technology within the next two years.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 7:38 am on May 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Downward positron beam from a terrestrial gamma-ray flash, Earth Observation, Hurricane Hunter aircraft NOAA, Lightning in the eyewall of a hurricane beamed antimatter toward the ground, UCSC SCIPP labs ADELE-Airborne Detector for Energetic Lightning Emissions,   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Lightning in the eyewall of a hurricane beamed antimatter toward the ground” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    May 21, 2018
    Tim Stephens

    First detection of the downward positron beam from a terrestrial gamma-ray flash was captured by an instrument flown through the eyewall of Hurricane Patricia in 2015.

    Hurricane Patricia was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere as it approached the west coast of Mexico in 2015. (NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response)

    Hurricane Patricia, which battered the west coast of Mexico in 2015, was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Amid the extreme violence of the storm, scientists observed something new: a downward beam of positrons, the antimatter counterpart of electrons, creating a burst of powerful gamma-rays and x-rays.

    Detected by an instrument aboard NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft, which flew through the eyewall of the storm at its peak intensity, the positron beam was not a surprise to the UC Santa Cruz scientists who built the instrument. But it was the first time anyone has observed this phenomenon.

    Hurricane Hunter aircraft. Credit NOAA

    According to David Smith, a professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, the positron beam was the downward component of an upward terrestrial gamma-ray flash that sent a short blast of radiation into space above the storm. Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) were first seen in 1994 by space-based gamma-ray detectors. They occur in conjunction with lightning and have now been observed thousands of times by orbiting satellites. A reverse positron beam was predicted by theoretical models of TGFs, but had never been detected.

    UCSC SCIPP labs ADELE-Airborne Detector for Energetic Lightning Emissions

    “This is the first confirmation of that theoretical prediction, and it shows that TGFs are piercing the atmosphere from top to bottom with high-energy radiation,” Smith said. “This event could have been detected from space, like almost all the other reported TGFs, as an upward beam caused by an avalanche of electrons. We saw it from below because of a beam of antimatter (positrons) sent in the opposite direction.”

    One unexpected implication of the study, published May 17 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, is that many TGFs could be detected via the reverse positron beam using ground-based instruments at high altitudes. It’s not necessary to fly into the eye of a hurricane.

    “We detected it at an altitude of 2.5 kilometers, and I estimated our detectors could have seen it down to 1.5 kilometers. That’s the altitude of Denver, so there are a lot of places where you could in theory see them if you had an instrument in the right place at the right time during a thunderstorm,” Smith said.

    Unresolved questions

    Despite the confirmation of the reverse positron beam, many questions remain unresolved about the mechanisms that drive TGFs. Strong electric fields in thunderstorms can accelerate electrons to near the speed of light, and these “relativistic” electrons emit gamma-rays when they scatter off of atoms in the atmosphere. The electrons can also knock other electrons off of atoms and accelerate them to high energies, creating an avalanche of relativistic electrons. A TGF, which is an extremely bright flash of gamma-rays, requires a large number of avalanches of relativistic electrons.

    “It’s an extraordinary event, and we still don’t understand how it gets so bright,” Smith said.

    The source of the positrons, however, is a well known phenomenon in physics called pair production, in which a gamma ray interacts with the nucleus of an atom to create an electron and a positron. Since they have opposite charges, they are accelerated in opposite directions by the electric field of the thunderstorm. The downward moving positrons produce x-rays and gamma-rays in their direction of travel when they collide with atomic nuclei, just like the upward moving electrons.

    “What we saw in the aircraft are the gamma-rays produced by the downward positron beam,” Smith said.

    First author Gregory Bowers, now at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and coauthor Nicole Kelley, now at Swift Navigation, were both graduate students at UC Santa Cruz when they worked together on the instrument that made the detection. The Airborne Detector for Energetic Lightning Emissions (ADELE) mark II was designed to observe TGFs up close by measuring x-rays and gamma-rays from aircraft flown into or above thunderstorms.

    Getting too close to a TGF could be hazardous, although the risk drops off rapidly with distance from the source. The gamma-ray dose at a distance of one kilometer would be negligible, Smith said. “It’s hypothetically a risk, but the odds are quite small,” he said. “I don’t ask pilots to fly into thunderstorms, but if they’re going anyway I’ll put an instrument on board.”

    Smith’s group was the first to detect a TGF from an airplane using an earlier instrument, the ADELE mark I. In that case, the upward beam from the TGF was detected above a thunderstorm. For this study, the ADELE mark II flew aboard NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter WP-3D Orion during the Atlantic hurricane season.

    In addition to Bowers, Smith, and Kelley, the coauthors of the paper include Forest Martinez-McKinney at UC Santa Cruz, Joseph Dwyer at the University of New Hampshire, and scientists at Duke University, Earth Networks, University of Washington, NOAA, and Florida Institute of Technology. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    Stem Education Coalition

    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

  • richardmitnick 7:59 pm on May 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, NASA GFZ GRACE-FO mission   

    From JPL Caltech: “Just Five Things About GRACE Follow-On” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    May 18, 2018
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

    Written by Carol Rasmussen
    NASA’s Earth Science News Team

    NASA German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) spacecraft

    Scheduled to launch no earlier than May 22, the twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a collaboration between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), will continue the work of monitoring changes in the world’s water cycle and surface mass, which was so well performed by the original GRACE mission. There are far more than five things to say about this amazing new-old mission; but here are a few favorite facts.

    1 Percent (or Less)

    GRACE-FO tracks liquid and frozen water by measuring month-to-month changes in Earth’s gravitational pull very precisely. More than 99 percent of our planet’s gravitational pull doesn’t change from one month to the next, because it represents the mass of the solid Earth itself. But a tiny fraction of Earth’s mass is constantly on the move, and it is mostly water: Rain is falling, dew is evaporating, ocean currents are flowing, ice is melting and so on. GRACE-FO’s maps of regional variations in gravity will show us where that small fraction of overall planetary mass is moving every month.

    2 Satellites, One Instrument

    Unlike other Earth-observing satellites, which carry instruments that observe some part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the two GRACE-FO satellites themselves are the instrument. The prime instrument measures the tiny changes in the distance between the pair, which arise from the slightly varying gravitational forces of the changing mass below. Researchers produce monthly maps of water and mass change by combining this information with GPS measurements of exactly where the satellites are and accelerometer measurements of other forces acting upon the spacecraft, such as atmospheric drag.

    3 Gravity Missions, Including One on the Moon

    The same measurement concept used on GRACE and GRACE-FO was also used to map the Moon’s gravity field. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) twins orbited the moon for about a year, allowing insights into science questions such as what Earth’s gravitational pull contributed to the Moon’s lopsided shape. The intentionally short-lived GRAIL satellites were launched in September 2011 and decommissioned in December 2012.

    4 Thousand-Plus Customers Served

    GRACE observations have been used in more than 4,300 research papers to date — a very high number for a single Earth science mission. Most papers have multiple coauthors, meaning the real number of scientist-customers could be higher, but we chose a conservative estimate. As GRACE-FO extends the record of water in motion, there are sure to be more exciting scientific discoveries to come.

    5 Things We Didn’t Know Before GRACE

    Here’s a list-within-a-list of five findings from those 4,300-plus papers. Watch the GRACE-FO website to learn what the new mission is adding to this list.

    •Melting ice sheets and dwindling aquifers are contributing to Earth’s rotational wobbles.

    • A few years of heavy precipitation can cause so much water to be stored on land that global sea level rise slows or even stops briefly.

    •A third of the world’s underground aquifers are being drained faster than they can be replenished.

    • In the Amazon, small fires below the tree canopy may destroy more of the forest than deforestation does — implying that climatic conditions such as drought may be a greater threat to the rainforest than deforestation is.

    • Australia seesaws up and down by two or three millimeters each year because of changes to Earth’s center of mass that are caused by the movement of water.

    Bonus: The Fine Print

    JPL manages the GRACE-FO mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, under the direction of the Earth Systematic Missions Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft were built by Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, under subcontract to JPL. GFZ contracted GRACE-FO launch services from Iridium. GFZ has subcontracted mission operations to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which operates the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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    NASA image

  • richardmitnick 3:15 pm on May 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Earth Observation, Earth’s Orbital Changes Have Influenced Climate Life Forms For at Least 215 Million Years, ,   

    From Rutgers University: “Earth’s Orbital Changes Have Influenced Climate, Life Forms For at Least 215 Million Years” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    May 6, 2018

    Todd Bates

    Gravity of Jupiter and Venus elongates Earth’s orbit every 405,000 years, Rutgers-led study confirms.

    Every 405,000 years, gravitational tugs from Jupiter and Venus slightly elongate Earth’s orbit, an amazingly consistent pattern that has influenced our planet’s climate for at least 215 million years and allows scientists to more precisely date geological events like the spread of dinosaurs, according to a Rutgers-led study.

    The findings are published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Dennis Kent with part of a 1,700-foot-long rock core through the Chinle Formation in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. The background includes boxed archives of cores from the Newark basin that were compared with the Arizona core.
    Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

    “It’s an astonishing result because this long cycle, which had been predicted from planetary motions through about 50 million years ago, has been confirmed through at least 215 million years ago,” said lead author Dennis V. Kent, a Board of Governors professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Scientists can now link changes in the climate, environment, dinosaurs, mammals and fossils around the world to this 405,000-year cycle in a very precise way.”

    The scientists linked reversals in the Earth’s magnetic field – when compasses point south instead of north and vice versa – to sediments with and without zircons (minerals with uranium that allow radioactive dating) as well as to climate cycles.

    “The climate cycles are directly related to how the Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes,” said Kent, who studies Earth’s magnetic field. “The Earth’s orbit changes from close to perfectly circular to about 5 percent elongated especially every 405,000 years.”

    The scientists studied the long-term record of reversals in the Earth’s magnetic field in sediments in the Newark basin, a prehistoric lake that spanned most of New Jersey, and in sediments with volcanic detritus including zircons in the Chinle Formation in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. They collected a core of rock from the Triassic Period, some 202 million to 253 million years ago. The core is 2.5 inches in diameter and about 1,700 feet long, Kent said.

    The results showed that the 405,000-year cycle is the most regular astronomical pattern linked to the Earth’s annual turn around the sun, he said.

    The study was conducted by National Science Foundation-funded scientists at Rutgers–New Brunswick; Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, where Kent is also an adjunct senior research scientist and where longtime research collaborator and co-author Paul E. Olsen works; and other institutions. Christopher J. Lepre, a lecturer in Rutgers’ Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and seven others co-authored the study, and the cores were sampled at the Rutgers Core Repository.

    See the full article here .

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    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

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  • richardmitnick 1:17 pm on May 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Earth Observation   

    From Argonne National Laboratory ALCF: “E3SM provides powerful, new Earth system model for supercomputers” 

    Argonne Lab
    News from Argonne National Laboratory

    From Argonne National Laboratory ALCF

    May 8, 2018
    Andrea Manning

    Argonne scientists helped create a comprehensive new model that draws on supercomputers to simulate how various aspects of the Earth — its atmosphere, oceans, land, ice — move. This earth simulation project emerged from Argonne and other U.S. DOE national laboratories, including Brookhaven, Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia, as well as several universities. Credit: E3SM.org

    The Earth — with its myriad shifting atmospheric, oceanic, land, and ice components — presents an extraordinarily complex system to simulate using computer models.

    But a new Earth modeling system, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM), is now able to capture and simulate all these components together. Released on April 23, after four years of development, E3SM features weather-scale resolution — i.e., enough detail to capture fronts, storms, and hurricanes — and uses advanced computers to simulate aspects of the Earth’s variability. The system can help researchers anticipate decadal-scale changes that could influence the U.S. energy sector in years to come.

    The E3SM project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research. “One of E3SM’s purposes is to help ensure that DOE’s climate mission can be met — including on future exascale systems,” said Robert Jacob, a computational climate scientist in the Environmental Science division of DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and one of 15 project co-leaders.

    To support this mission, the project’s goal is to develop an Earth system model that increases prediction reliability. This objective has historically been limited by constraints in computing technologies and uncertainties in theory and observations. Enhancing prediction reliability requires advances on two frontiers: (1) improved simulation of Earth system processes by developing new models of physical processes, increasing model resolution, and enhancing computational performance; and (2) representing the two-way interactions between human activities and natural processes more realistically, especially where these interactions affect U.S. energy needs.

    “This model adds a much more complete representation between interactions of the energy system and the Earth system,” said David Bader, a computational scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and overall E3SM project lead. “With this new system, we’ll be able to more realistically simulate the present, which gives us more confidence to simulate the future.”

    The long view

    Simulating the Earth involves solving approximations of physical, chemical, and biological governing equations on spatial grids at the highest resolutions possible.

    In fact, increasing the number of Earth-system days simulated per day of computing time at varying levels of resolution is so important that it is a prerequisite for achieving the E3SM project goal. The new release can simulate 10 years of the Earth system in one day at low resolution or one year of the Earth system at high resolution in one day (a sample movie is available at the project website). The goal is for E3SM to support simulation of five years of the Earth system on a single computing day at its highest possible resolution by 2021.

    This objective underscores the project’s heavy emphasis on both performance and infrastructure — two key areas of strength for Argonne. “Our researchers have been active in ensuring that the model performs well with many threads,” said Jacob, who will lead the infrastructure group in Phase II, which — with E3SM’s initial release — starts on July 1. Singling out the threading expertise of performance engineer Azamat Mametjanov of Argonne’s Mathematics and Computer Science division, Jacob continued: “We’ve been running and testing on Theta, our new 10-petaflops system at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, and will conduct some of the high-res simulations on that platform.”

    Researchers using the E3SM can employ variable resolution on all model components (atmosphere, ocean, land, ice), allowing them to focus computing power on fine-scale processes in different regions. The software uses advanced mesh-designs that smoothly taper the grid-scale from the coarser outer region to the more refined region.

    Adapting for exascale

    E3SM’s developers — more than 100 scientists and software engineers — have a longer-term aim: to use the exascale machines that the DOE Advanced Scientific Computing Research Office expects to procure over the next five years. Thus, E3SM development is proceeding in tandem with the Exascale Computing Initiative. (Exascale refers to a computing system capable of carrying out a billion [1018] calculations per second — a thousand-fold increase in performance over the most advanced computers from a decade ago.)

    Another key focus will be on software engineering, which includes all of the processes for developing the model; designing the tests; and developing the required infrastructure, including input/output libraries and software for coupling the models. E3SM uses Argonne’s Model Coupling Toolkit (MCT), as do other leading climate models (e.g., Community Earth System Model [CESM]) to couple the atmosphere, ocean, and other submodels. (A new version of MCT [2.10] was released along with E3SM.)

    Additional Argonne-specific contributions in Phase II will center on:

    Crop modeling: Efforts will focus on better emulating crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans, which will improve simulated influences of crops on carbon, nutrient, energy, and water cycles, as well as capturing the implications of human-Earth system interactions
    Dust and aerosols: These play a major role in the atmosphere, radiation, and clouds, as well as various chemical cycles.

    Collaboration among – and beyond – national laboratories

    The E3SM project has involved researchers at multiple DOE laboratories including Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia national laboratories, as well as several universities.

    The project also benefits from collaboration within DOE, including with the Exascale Computing Project and programs in Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing, Climate Model Development and Validation, Atmospheric Radiation Measurement, Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, International Land Model Benchmarking Project, Community Earth System Model, and Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments for the Arctic and the Tropics.

    The code is available on GitHub, the host for the project’s open-source repository. For additional information, visit the E3SM website: http://e3sm.org.

    ANL ALCF Cetus IBM supercomputer

    ANL ALCF Theta Cray supercomputer

    ANL ALCF Cray Aurora supercomputer

    ANL ALCF MIRA IBM Blue Gene Q supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility

    See the full article here .

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    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more visit http://www.anl.gov.

    About ALCF

    The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s (ALCF) mission is to accelerate major scientific discoveries and engineering breakthroughs for humanity by designing and providing world-leading computing facilities in partnership with the computational science community.

    We help researchers solve some of the world’s largest and most complex problems with our unique combination of supercomputing resources and expertise.

    ALCF projects cover many scientific disciplines, ranging from chemistry and biology to physics and materials science. Examples include modeling and simulation efforts to:

    Discover new materials for batteries
    Predict the impacts of global climate change
    Unravel the origins of the universe
    Develop renewable energy technologies

    Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science

    Argonne Lab Campus

  • richardmitnick 2:34 pm on May 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, Modeled clouds in the tropics get a reality check,   

    From EMSL at PNNL: “Modeled clouds in the tropics get a reality check” 


    From EMSL

    at PNNL

    April 27, 2018

    From Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change Division

    Clouds hang over the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility’s observation site on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. The Manus Island site was part of ARM’s Tropical Western Pacific atmospheric observatory. Image courtesy of the ARM Facility.

    The Science

    Due to a scarcity of useful observations to guide model development, Earth system models often miss the mark in predicting tropical clouds and their effects on incoming and outgoing energy in the atmosphere. For most of the past two decades, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, a scientific user facility, collected data at three surface sites in the Tropical Western Pacific (TWP) to improve the data record in this sparsely sampled region.

    Scientists at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory analyzed the ARM TWP data to evaluate Earth system model results. They found that model errors in cloudiness are dependent on model resolution, which can further lead to errors in ambient temperature and humidity and, in turn, feedback on clouds.

    The Impact

    Marine boundary layer convection and tropical clouds – key elements of the global energy balance and water cycle – remain an important source of uncertainty in understanding tropical cloud feedback processes and climate sensitivity, and predicting Earth system changes.

    The long-term ARM TWP data sets provide an excellent resource for evaluating Earth system models using both statistical and process-oriented approaches and to reduce errors in cloud treatments. This measurement-to-model approach can be easily adapted for evaluating new schemes being developed for the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) or other Earth system models.


    Atmospheric moist convection in the tropics redistributes heat, moisture, and momentum globally. Recent generations of Earth system models have underestimated the coverage of tropical low clouds but overestimated their thickness and cooling effects. This is referred to as the “too few, too bright” tropical low-cloud problem. Compensating for this problem by adjusting estimates of different cloud properties may reduce the total error in energy budget estimates but hide other problems in model representations.

    Researchers used ARM’s long-term TWP data sets to evaluate CAM5’s ability to simulate the various types of tropical clouds (i.e., convective vs. liquid or ice stratiform), their seasonal and diurnal variations, and their influence on surface radiation, as well as the resolution dependency of modeled clouds. Increases up to 20 percent in the modeled annual mean total cloud cover were attributable to the large overestimation of stratiform ice clouds. Higher-resolution simulations reduced the overestimation of ice clouds, but increased the underestimation of convective clouds and low-level liquid clouds. Compared to the meteorological sounding data, the cooler and more humid air simulated in the model also caused overestimation of clouds at all altitudes.

    Comparing the modeled occurrence of convective clouds against ARM observations revealed the model deficiency in triggering deep convection too often, which affects the vertical transport of vapor and injection of liquid and ice to the upper air. This error manifested itself in the out-of-phase cloud diurnal cycle simulated by CAM5, causing the inaccurate vertical distribution of stratiform clouds.


    Sponsors: This research is based on work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER) as part of the Atmospheric System Research and Earth System Modeling programs.

    User Facilities: This research used data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, a DOE Office of Science user facility. The research used computational resources at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science user facility located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE Office of Science user facility sponsored by BER and located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    Research Area: Climate and Earth Systems Science

    Research Team: Hailong Wang, Casey D. Burleyson, Po-Lun Ma, Jerome D. Fast, and Philip J. Rasch, PNNL

    Reference: H. Wang, C.D. Burleyson, P.-L. Ma, J.D. Fast, P.J. Rasch, “Using the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Datasets to Evaluate Climate Models in Simulating Diurnal and Seasonal Variations of Tropical Clouds.” Journal of Climate 31, 3301-3325 (2018). [https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0362.1]

    See the full article here .

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    EMSL campus

    Welcome to EMSL. EMSL is a national scientific user facility that is funded and sponsored by DOE’s Office of Biological & Environmental Research. As a user facility, our scientific capabilities – people, instruments and facilities – are available for use by the global research community. We support BER’s mission to provide innovative solutions to the nation’s environmental and energy production challenges in areas such as atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, subsurface science and energy materials.

    A deep understanding of molecular-level processes is critical to gaining a predictive, systems-level understanding of the impacts of aerosols and terrestrial systems on climate change; making clean, affordable, abundant energy; and cleaning up our legacy wastes. Visit our Science page to learn how EMSL leads in these areas, through our Science Themes.

    Team’s in Our DNA. We approach science differently than many institutions. We believe in – and have proven – the value of drawing together members of the scientific community and assembling the people, resources and facilities to solve problems. It’s in our DNA, since our founder Dr. Wiley’s initial call to create a user facility that would facilitate “synergism between the physical, mathematical, and life sciences.” We integrate experts across disciplines; experiment with theory; and our user program proposal calls with other user facilities.

    We proudly provide an enriched, customized experience that allows users to connect with our people and capabilities in an environment where we focus on solving problems. We collaborate with researchers from academia, government labs and industry, and from nearly all 50 states and from other countries.

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