The Science Museum of Minnesota is a partner with the University of Minnesota on its Islands in the Sun project, which is monitoring the urban heat island in the Twin Cities to find ways of lessening its effects through landscape design. More than half the global population now lives in cities and so there is urgent need to understand and mitigate urban heat islands, especially during heat waves when the risk of heat-related illness and mortality can increase dramatically.
Courtesy Courtesy Department of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota
Islands in the Sun is setting up temperature sensors throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area. This temperature network when completed will be one of the densest in the world. Would you like to be a part of this effort? Islands in the Sun is especially interested in volunteers willing to have a sensor installed on their property and who live in the following locations -- downtown Minneapolis, downtown Saint Paul, Saint Paul – east of Rice St, West Saint Paul, South Saint Paul, Mendota Heights, Inver Grove Heights, Eagan, Oakdale, Woodbury, Cottage Grove, northern Roseville, Arden Hills, and Plymouth.
Information about the sensor and its placement can be found here. If you are still interested after reviewing this information, then fill out and submit a volunteer form. Please note that your interest does not guarantee that a sensor will be installed because each site must meet certain criteria. If selected, a temperature sensor will be installed at a location on your property acceptable to you with the expectation that it will remain onsite collecting data for up to four years. A technician will visit the sensor every two to three months to download data.
Thanks for considering being a part of this ground-breaking research project.
Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / Dr. Philip Bart, LSURecent investigations into microfossils show that Antarctica hasn’t been quite the icebox scientists have imagined it to be over the past 34 million years. Pollen and leaf wax samples from Miocene-aged sediments indicate the continent has experienced some periods of warming since the beginning of the most recent glacial period. The core samples studied came from ocean sediments collected near Antarctica, and particulates found in the samples indicate more rain fell on the ice-covered continent during the Middle Miocene epoch (15.5 – 20 million years ago) than previously thought, enough rain to spur the growth of forests of small, stunted trees.
Paleoclimatologist and organic geochemist Sarah Feakins of the University of Southern California and her colleagues analyzed core samples taken from between 144 and 1,100 meters beneath the ocean floor – levels dating back to the Middle Miocene. Spikes of concentrated amounts of pollens and leaf wax appeared in two periods – one about 16.4 million years ago, and another about 15.7 million years ago. The warm periods were relatively short, each lasting less than 30,000 years.
In a previous study, palynologist Sophie Warny of Louisiana State University had first described the pollen and leaf wax spikes found in the core samples, and she and Feakins eventually teamed up for the recent study. The team determined the particle spikes didn’t arise from the leaf wax and pollen blowing in from elsewhere but rather came from two species of trees that once lined the shores of Antarctica. The two species, podocarp conifer and southern beech wouldn’t have grown very tall – maybe knee-high – and neither spreads their pollen over wide areas. Had the pollens blown in from elsewhere - say South America or New Zealand - there were would have been more species in the mix.
Using a mass spectrometer, Feakins and NASA researchers analyzed the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium atoms in the wax molecules which indicated the temperature at the Antarctica location during the two warm periods was about 7 degrees Celsius during the summer. Today, summer temperatures in the same region are about –4 °C. The average global temperature at the time was about 3 °C higher than it is today. As the overall global temperature changes a relatively greater change in polar temperature isn't unexpected due to a process called polar amplification.
The data from Feakins and Warny’s study, which appeared in Nature Geoscience, adds to growing concerns over the sensitivity of Earth’s climatic and hydrological systems. At the moment, no trees line the shores of Antarctica, but current levels of carbon dioxide (393 parts per million) are not far off those thought to have existed during the Middle Miocene’s warm periods (400-600 parts per million) when forests did exist on the margins of the icy continent. This could indicate that even small changes in carbon dioxide levels can are capable of creating big changes in climate.
Courtesy Patrick HamiltonThe Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport reported a low at 6:00 a.m. this morning of 73 degrees F degrees while nearby Lakeville was at 57 – a 16 degree difference in only 20 miles. Said Paul Huttner, an MPR meteorologist, “…one of the biggest urban heat island effects today I have ever seen in 40+ years of watching and forecasting weather in the Twin Cities.”
Urban heat islands are regions of strong warming localized around the heart of a city with progressively lower temperatures as one travels away from the center – hence the name “heat island”. Urban heat islands exist because of large differences in land use, building materials, and vegetation between cities and their rural surroundings. In much of the world, cities are warming at twice the rate of outlying rural areas and so the frequency of urban heat waves is projected to increase with climate change through the 21st century.
Drs. Peter Snyder and Tracy Twine are in the midst of a four-year research project funded by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences to monitor the urban heat island of the Twin Cities. The project aims to improve understanding of the mechanisms contributing to urban heat islands with a goal of finding ways to lessen their effects through landscape design.
Snyder, Twine and two graduate students installed two instrument towers at the Science Museum on Monday as part of their urban heat island research project. One is on the white roof outside of the windows of Elements Café and the other is on a nearby black roof. Both are visible if you stand at the southwest corner of the plaza outside of the Café and look back at the museum. The two towers with their arrays of temperature sensors and radiometers will collect data at the museum for about four weeks, permitting Snyder and Twine to better characterize the interactions between different roof types and solar radiation in their urban heat island modeling work.
Meteorological spring in the northern hemisphere is considered to be during the months of March, April, and May. During these three months, the average temperature across the United States was 57.1 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 5.2 degrees above the long term average. According to the latest information released by NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), spring 2012 is officially the warmest spring ever recorded since records began in 1895. 2012 beat out the year 1910 by a remarkable 2.0 degrees in Fahrenheit in the United States. The period from January through May in the United States saw an average temperature of 49.2°, or 5 degrees above the average. Overall, the United States experienced the second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter, and the warmest spring on record.
Wondering where all the snow is? Is this normal? This short video from NASA Goddard will answer some of your questions.
The most shocking thing I learned at NASA's Earth Ambassador training at Goddard Space Flight Center last month was that only about half of TV weather reporters have degrees in meteorology, many of them have almost no science background, and that around a quarter of them think that global warming is a scam.
Joe Witte, the meteorologist who spoke to our group, is a PhD candidate at George Mason University in their Climate Change Communication program. The school's study of almost 600 weather forecasters in 2010 highlighted the huge division between climatologists (scientists who study long-term climate change) and TV meteorologists, who report on weather changes over relatively short periods.
Meteorologists are not currently required to receive education on climate science, although the American Meteorological Society affirms that warming is happening and that it is probably mostly due to human activity. Climate change is a hot topic among weather forecasters. Many who believe in it are afraid to speak up on air for fear of losing valuable advertising dollars.
According to Joe Witte, only around 10% of all TV stations have a science reporter on their payroll. The public perceives weather reporters as the scientists on their news programs, regardless of their science background.
If we can support the education of meteorologists about climate change and give them access to media-friendly resources available to them from trusted sources like NASA, we'll be taking a huge step in public education about climate change. You don't have to be a scientist to understand climate change, but you do need access to reliable information about it.
When a politician, or an environmental institution speaks, everyone already knows what they're going to say, but when a weather reporter steps in front of a camera, people listen.
Courtesy NOAA/NASA GOES ProjectHead over to NASA's Global Climate Change website and see how you fare with their interactive climate quizzes. There are six quizzes you can do. I have to admit I was surprised at some of the answers. But even if you don't get every one of the right (I answered about 55% correctly), hopefully you'll learn something from your mistakes.
The entire nation now has a new ‘normal temperature.’ These climatological temperatures, and other weather parameters, are computed by averaging all temperatures over a 30-year period. These averages are called normal temperatures. These averages serve as a reference point and are used to help us interpret average climate conditions at a particular location. A comparison of today’s temperature with the normal temperature helps us determine if today is an atypical weather day. Private industry also uses these temperatures in the planning. For example, energy companies use the normal temperature for long term planning of energy usage. Agriculture uses this as they monitor a particular growing season.
The National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (or NCDC) calculates the normal weather conditions over a thirty year period for more than 7,500 locations in the United States.
Since this time period is a reference point, we have to define the 30-year period. As of July 1, this averaging period is 1981-2010. Prior to that date, the averaging period was 1971-2000. So, what does this new period tell us?
The normal temperature for the entire US is about 0.5 °F warmer now than it was during the 1971-2000 time period. The normal low temperature for WI is about 0.8 °F warmer now than it was in the 1971-2000 period; and WI normal high temperature is about 0.6 °F warmer. According to Assistant State Climatologist of WI, Dr. E. Hopkins, the new normal high and low temperatures for Madison (which is where I live) are 56.6 and 36.7, which are 0.2 and 1.2 degrees higher than the previous 30-year period.
You can find the new normals for where you live at this site:
Have I got a visual snack for you! But first, let's review:
Weather is not the same as climate. Weather is the actual day-to-day temperature, precipitation, wind, etc. Climate is the average long-term pattern of temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.
Got it? No? If you need more of an explanation (and who doesn't), check out this past Buzz post.
Great job! Now enjoy these amazing photos of extreme weather.
Did you check out the photos I shared with you above?
Get to it!
Alright. Moving on:
While Lane Turner's introduction to the photos makes it clear that a single extreme weather event is not evidence of climate change, she states (without citation) that
"a trend of weather intensity, and oddity, grows."
Turner's continues by asking whether weather is becoming more extreme and, if it is, whether these increasing extreme weather events are evidence of climate change.
Say that 10 times fast... and then post your own answer to Turner's question below.