Productivity from Corn Belt highest on earth

April 1st, 2014 at 1:37 pm by under Weather

The magnitude of fluorescence portrayed in this visualization

The magnitude of fluorescence portrayed in this visualization prompted researchers to take a closer look at the productivity of the U.S. Corn Belt. The glow represents fluorescence measured from land plants in early July, over a period from 2007 to 2011. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
› Larger image

Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to NASA and university scientists.

Healthy plants convert light to energy via photosynthesis, but chlorophyll also emits a fraction of absorbed light as a fluorescent glow that is invisible to the naked eye. The magnitude of the glow is an excellent indicator of the amount of photosynthesis, or gross productivity, of plants in a given region.

Research in 2013, led by Joanna Joiner of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., demonstrated that fluorescence from plants could be teased out from existing data from satellites that were designed and built for other purposes. The new research, led by Luis Guanter of the Freie Universität Berlin, used the data for the first time to estimate photosynthesis from agriculture. Results were published March 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to co-author Christian Frankenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., “The paper shows that fluorescence is a much better proxy for agricultural productivity than anything we’ve had before. This can go a long way regarding monitoring — and maybe even predicting — regional crop yields.”


Global warming impacts could spiral out of control

March 31st, 2014 at 2:47 pm by under Weather

AP Science Writer

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — If the world doesn’t cut pollution of heat-trapping gases, the already noticeable harms of global warming could spiral “out of control,” the head of a United Nations scientific panel warned Monday.

And he’s not alone. The Obama White House says it is taking this new report as a call for action, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying “the costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that issued the 32-volume, 2,610-page report here early Monday, told The Associated Press: “It is a call for action.” Without reductions in emissions, he said, impacts from warming “could get out of control.”

One of the study’s authors, Maarten van Aalst, a top official at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, “If we don’t reduce greenhouse gases soon, risks will get out of hand. And the risks have already risen.”

Twenty-first century disasters such as killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in the United States, droughts in Australia and deadly flooding in Mozambique, Thailand and Pakistan highlight how vulnerable humanity is to extreme weather, according to the report from the Nobel Prize-winning group of scientists. The dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more, the report’s authors said.

“We’re now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said the overall lead author of the report, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science in California. “We live in an area where impacts from climate change are already widespread and consequential.”

Nobody is immune, Pachauri and other scientists said.

“We’re all sitting ducks,” Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, one of the main authors of the report, said in an interview.

After several days of late-night wrangling, more than 100 governments unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary – which is aimed at world political leaders. The summary mentions the word “risk” an average of about 5 1/2 times per page.

“Changes are occurring rapidly and they are sort of building up that risk,” Field said.


NASA: Arctic melt season lengthening, ocean rapidly warming

March 31st, 2014 at 2:25 pm by under Weather

International science report: Climate change already causing harm worldwide

March 30th, 2014 at 8:31 pm by under Weather

March 30, 2013 – (New York) Climate change impacts already affect all continents and oceans, according to an international scientific assessment released today.

Member governments meeting in Yokohama, Japan for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change approved the summary of the second part of its Fifth Assessment (AR5), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.

A total of 309 authors and review editors from 70 countries produced the report, also known as Working Group II (WGII) along with 436 contributing authors and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers. The more than 12,000 studies reviewed illustrate observed, consequential and growing impacts that span human health, agriculture, water availability, and livelihoods as well as land and ocean ecosystems. Projected future impacts include species extinctions, increased flooding risks and systemic disruption to world food and water systems — all of which the report confirms can inhibit normal human activities, heighten existing insecurity and lead to more deaths globally.

Compared to the last IPCC impacts report, which came out in 2007, AR5 WGII emphasizes that climate change is a risk management issue. And the report makes clear that as warming rises, so too do the scope and range of risks. “Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts,” it says. The report urges decision-makers to consider the full range of possible scenarios, “including low-probability outcomes with large consequences.” The level of warming required to trigger these “tipping points” remains uncertain, meaning that if we continue to warm at the current rate, we run the risk of abrupt, unpredictable changes.

Already, “Negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts,” the report states. “All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability.” These and other impacts will fall most heavily on the poor, yet the report is clear that no country or community is immune to climate-related risks.


Anniversary of first official tornado forecast

March 29th, 2014 at 9:21 am by under Weather

Last Tuesday marked the anniversary of the first official tornado forecast.

On March 25, 1948, following a devastating tornado several days prior, two Air Force forecasters made the first mention of a tornado before it actually happened – a thing that had been outlawed before then due to fear of public panic, or complacency if it didn’t materialize.

That bold move set the stage for modern-day tornado forecasting. Read more in the article below, courtesy of BlogOklahoma:

March 25, 1948

This memorial is dedicated to the first operational tornado forecast issued on March 25, 1948 by Major Ernest J. Fawbush and Captain Robert C. Miller at Tinker air force base, Oklahoma.

Issued several hours before a tornado struck Tinker air force base, this first forecast proved severe weather could be anticipated with a reasonable degree of accuracy. This focused national attention on forecasting tornadoes and warning the public of their potential danger.

Severe weather pioneers, Major Fawbush and Captain Miller, developed tornado forecasting techniques still in use today. The 1948 tornado forecast was the forerunner of today’s national severe weather forecasting and research program that protects lives and serves the American people.

Dedicated march 25, 1998

Photo (c)

Located at Heritage Airpark on Tinker Air Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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35.43338, -97.40599
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More than 30 severe weather reports in KXAN viewing area

March 28th, 2014 at 9:50 pm by under Weather

Here are the storm reports from Friday’s severe weather outbreak. In the KXAN viewing area there were 11 reports of golf ball size hail, and more than 30 reports of hail at least one inch in diameter–the minimum for a storm to be considered severe.

904 PM CDT FRI MAR 28 2014

..TIME...   ...EVENT...      ...CITY LOCATION...     ...LAT.LON...
..DATE...   ....MAG....      ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....

0235 PM     HAIL             17 NE TOW               31.03N  98.23W
03/28/2014  E1.00 INCH       BURNET             TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0235 PM     HAIL             5 ESE FLORENCE          30.81N  97.71W
03/28/2014  E0.25 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   LAW ENFORCEMENT

0330 PM     HAIL             BERTRAM                 30.74N  98.06W
03/28/2014  E0.50 INCH       BURNET             TX   PUBLIC

0335 PM     HAIL             4 W JARRELL             30.82N  97.67W
03/28/2014  E1.25 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   COCORAHS

0349 PM     HAIL             1 E JARRELL             30.82N  97.58W
03/28/2014  E1.75 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   LAW ENFORCEMENT

0405 PM     HAIL             WEIR                    30.67N  97.59W
03/28/2014  E1.00 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0410 PM     HAIL             1 SE CEDAR PARK         30.50N  97.82W
03/28/2014  E0.25 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   PUBLIC

0415 PM     HAIL             CEDAR PARK              30.51N  97.83W
03/28/2014  E0.25 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0415 PM     HAIL             2 NNW WINDEMERE         30.49N  97.66W
03/28/2014  E0.75 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0415 PM     HAIL             3 NW ROUND ROCK         30.55N  97.71W
03/28/2014  E0.50 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0415 PM     HAIL             5 SW ANDERSON MILL      30.40N  97.85W
03/28/2014  E1.25 INCH       TRAVIS             TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0416 PM     HAIL             JONESTOWN               30.50N  97.92W
03/28/2014  E0.70 INCH       TRAVIS             TX   PUBLIC

0421 PM     HAIL             1 NE CEDAR PARK         30.53N  97.82W
03/28/2014  E1.75 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   EMERGENCY MNGR

0422 PM     HAIL             CEDAR PARK              30.51N  97.83W
03/28/2014  E1.50 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   TRAINED SPOTTER

0430 PM     HAIL             JOLLYVILLE              30.45N  97.75W
03/28/2014  E1.75 INCH       WILLIAMSON         TX   TRAINED SPOTTER


Kaxan and I visit Spicewood Elementary

March 27th, 2014 at 2:49 pm by under Weather

Let me tell you, the Round Rock ISD Spicewood Elementary School 2nd graders are awesome! I visited with 145 of the Panthers this afternoon, and they were so attentive and polite, and asked some very intelligent questions about the weather.

Spicewood 3

Spicewood Elementary Panthers 1

Spicewood Elementary 2nd graders

kaxan head shotKaxan read a book at Rawson Saunders School

Our mascot Kaxan joined me for a few minutes and the kids really loved him–especially his autographed photos!

It was a busy day for Kaxan. This morning he listened while students from Rawson Saunders School read two books to him. It was one of his regular visits as a Divine Canines therapy dog.


Super Guppy lands at ABIA

March 26th, 2014 at 3:56 pm by under Weather

It wasn’t your everyday landing at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport today. Airport officials say NASA’s Super Guppy stopped in to refuel and change crews.  (Photos courtesy ABIA)

NASA Guppy (2)

NASA Guppy 02

Here’s more about the Super Guppy from NASA:

When you think of a guppy, you usually picture the typical aquarium variety fish, interesting to watch, yet small. But NASA has a very large guppy, a Super Guppy, and one that flies at that. Recently, NASA’s B-377SGT Super Guppy Turbine cargo aircraft, operated by NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, came to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California for a special job.

The plane needed new landing gear, consisting of struts, wheels and tires. As with many aircraft, the immense Super Guppy had to be jacked off the ground for the landing gear change, as well as for cycling the gear up and down afterward in order to ensure proper operation. What the crew lacked at JSC was a hangar large enough to jack up the Super Guppy indoors, necessary in order to keep it out of the wind. A giant aircraft sitting on a few narrow jacks several feet off the ground outside on a windy day is not a good idea…

The landing gear work on this one-of-a-kind airplane was done by the plane’s maintenance crew who do all of their own work on this unique machine.

Usually, the Super Guppy transports oversized parts, such as International Space Station modules, over long distances for NASA. Earlier Guppy-type aircraft have served NASA in this role since the Apollo days, when several of the type carried Saturn V moon rocket segments from manufacturers around the country to the NASA Kennedy Space Center for assembly prior to launch.

So, keep looking. The next time you spot a strange-looking airplane in the sky that reminds you of a whale, it might just be a Super Guppy!

Gray Creech
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Public Affairs


NASA: Amazon inhales more carbon than it emits

March 25th, 2014 at 10:54 pm by under Weather

Old-growth Amazon tree canopy in Tapajós National Forest, Brazil.

Old-growth Amazon tree canopy in Tapajós National Forest, Brazil. A new NASA study shows that the living trees in the undisturbed Amazon forest draw more carbon dioxide from the air than the forest’s dead trees emit. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(JPL) A new NASA-led study seven years in the making has confirmed that natural forests in the Amazon remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit, therefore reducing global warming. This finding resolves a long-standing debate about a key component of the overall carbon balance of the Amazon basin.

The Amazon’s carbon balance is a matter of life and death: living trees take carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow, and dead trees put the greenhouse gas back into the air as they decompose. The new study, published in Nature Communications on March 18, is the first to measure tree deaths caused by natural processes throughout the Amazon forest, even in remote areas where no data have been collected at ground level.

Fernando Espírito-Santo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the study, created new techniques to analyze satellite and other data. He found that each year, dead Amazonian trees emit an estimated 1.9 billion tons (1.7 billion metric tons) of carbon to the atmosphere. To compare this with Amazon carbon absorption, the researchers used censuses of forest growth and different modeling scenarios that accounted for uncertainties. In every scenario, carbon absorption by living trees outweighed emissions from the dead ones, indicating that the prevailing effect in natural forests of the Amazon is absorption.


Report rain, hail and snow to help meteorologists!

March 25th, 2014 at 11:08 am by under Weather


CoCoRaHS is a community network of volunteer weather observers who report daily rain, hail and snow data online in order to aid National Weather Service meteorologists, hydrologists, and water planning experts.

It only takes five minutes per day, and is a great way to get involved in the weather community and learn something while you’re at it.

Join CoCoRaHS today during March Madness – a competition between states to see who can sign up more new volunteers during the month of March.

Texas won last year – let’s do it again!

Sign up here: