Failure of Glory satellite a major loss for climate change science

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:47 PM GMT on March 30, 2011

Share this Blog
5
+

As the Taurus XL rocket boosting the $424 million Glory climate change research satellite roared off the launch pad from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base just after 2am PDT on March 4, NASA scientists and engineers from the rocket's maker, Orbital Sciences Corporation, were optimistic. A similar Taurus XL rocket failed in February 2009, resulting in the loss of the $273 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which was designed to preform high-resolution measurements of emissions of carbon dioxide from Earth. The rocket's fairing, a nose cone designed to shield satellites as it traveled through Earth's atmosphere did not separate properly, dooming the Orbiting Carbon Observatory to a spot at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Engineers redesigned the rocket, which did several successful launches over the past two years. But the rocket failed again for Glory's launch, and now the satellite lies useless beneath the South Pacific Ocean.


Figure 1. Climate responds to changes in the sun's radiation, dust (aerosol) particles, reflectivity of the surface (albedo) due to changes in land use, and concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and halocarbons. Changes in any of these quantities are called "forcings", and can force the climate to be warmer (red bars) or cooler (blue bars.) The word "radiative" arises because these factors change the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation (heat) within Earth's atmosphere. Since 1750, the changes in radiative forcing as estimated by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that human activities, primarily due to increases in CO2 and other heat-trapping gases, have forced the climate to a warmer state. This forcing is equivalent to 1.6 watts per square meter of extra energy arriving everywhere on Earth's surface. However, there is a large uncertainty (LOSU = Level Of Scientific Understanding) on how much particles in the atmosphere (aerosols) affect Earth's climate. The uncertainty bars for the direct effect of particles in the atmosphere (where they scatter away more sunlight) and the indirect effects (where they increase the amount of sunlight-reflecting clouds, by acting as nuclei that cloud drops can form around) are very large compared to the uncertainty bars for other forcings.

The loss of the Glory satellite is a particularly bitter blow, since the satellite was designed to study the greatest unknown in climate change science--the emissions, composition, and distribution of dust particles in the atmosphere. Particles in the atmosphere (called aerosols by scientists) come from a variety of human-caused and natural sources. Black soot from fires can act to warm the climate, particularly if these black particles fall on ice and snow. However, most particles emitted into the atmosphere reflect sunlight back into space, and thus cool the climate. As seen in Figure 1, both the direct effects of dust particles (where they scatter away more sunlight) and the indirect effects (where they increase the amount of sunlight-reflecting clouds, by acting as nuclei that cloud drops can form around) are poorly known. It was hoped that data from the Glory satellite could significantly reduce these uncertainties. There is no replacement mission for Glory scheduled, and Congress' current budget-cutting appetite makes it unlikely a replacement satellite will be funded anytime soon. A replacement mission for the failed Orbital Carbon Observatory is scheduled for February 2013, but that mission may be delayed, since is it being launched by the same type of rocket that failed in Glory's launch.

As Gavin Schmidt notes in a post over at realclimate.org on Glory's demise, working from space is hard, expensive, and risky. Rocket failures resulting in the loss of hugely expensive satellites are not uncommon, and it takes years to procure funding and build new satellites. But, there is no substitute for satellites; the global coverage and detail of data they provide cannot be matched by surface- or aircraft-based observations. We must continue to hurl them into space, or risk plotting our course blindly into the future with only a fuzzy idea of how our planet is changing.

I'll be back on Friday with an April Fool's Day post.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 748 - 698

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15Blog Index

748. odinslightning
6:22 PM GMT on April 01, 2011
happy april fools day :)
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
747. wunderkidcayman
6:35 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Doc has a New Blog.
Link
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11704
746. hydrus
5:28 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting RitaEvac:
I expect 60mph gusts at NWS site ASAP
North Central Florida is taking a beating...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20935
743. odinslightning
5:24 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Talk about a last minute bow / hook echo. Damaging straight line winds possible in some areas along and just ahead of that line in addition to the threat of tornadic winds that prompted the tornado warning for that area.


its pretty cold behind this front thats moving over all of u in fla. im in mobile and we r behind it....its about 55-60 degrees here, colder in the shade. last night it was pounding lightning deep and way up in the atmosphere cuz when it would strike it would rumble a super long time. i bet the tops of those clouds are way way up there.
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
741. RitaEvac
5:22 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
NWS site was at the peak point of bow echo
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
739. RitaEvac
5:13 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
I expect 60mph gusts at NWS site ASAP
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
738. palmbaywhoo
5:12 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
We've been tracking a likely rain-wrapped tornado from Indian Shores to
Forever, FL. Damage has been reported all along this stretch. The
tornado has crossed over the turnpike and heading toward I-95 near June
Park and eventually Melbourne. Damaging, destructive winds are likely.
There are active tornado warnings across central Florida including the
I-4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando. The tornado threat continues through
this afternoon. Track the Storms


weather.com
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 388
737. RitaEvac
5:12 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
736. Skyepony (Mod)
5:12 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting palmbaywhoo:
It is getting really ugly out there right now!



You'll probably get even worse than me.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37803
735. Skyepony (Mod)
5:10 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Greyelf~ I think it's not a huge priority in FL cause most tornadoes are EF-0s.. We don't have them here either. NWS says get a weather radio. You can get text/e-mail alerts too.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37803
734. palmbaywhoo
5:09 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
It is getting really ugly out there right now!
Quoting Skyepony:
I may be about to get smacked here...Under a Tornado Warning.

Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 388
733. hydrus
5:09 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL
1255 PM EDT THU MAR 31 2011

FLC097-311715-
/O.CON.KMLB.TO.W.0017.000000T0000Z-110331T1715Z/
OSCEOLA-
1255 PM EDT THU MAR 31 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 115 PM EDT FOR CENTRAL
OSCEOLA COUNTY...

AT 1252 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS CONTINUED TO
DETECT A TORNADO. THIS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR FOREVER FLORIDA...OR
9 MILES SOUTH OF HOLOPAW...MOVING EAST AT 60 TO 65 MPH.

Now that's hauling ass...
We had one up here last week moving at 68 knots....
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20935
732. hcubed
5:09 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
.
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
730. Skyepony (Mod)
5:07 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
I may be about to get smacked here...Under a Tornado Warning.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37803
729. RitaEvac
5:07 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Hi, I'm an AllState agent and I'd love to recruit some of you today especially with the predictions for this hurricane season. Let's go into a private chat if interested.

LOL
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
728. Greyelf
5:05 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Now that things have cooled down for my daughter and I don't have to watch like a mother hen, I thought I'd come here to ask a question. She said they have no siren (which is why I was helping to watch out for her in case her power went out). Why in the world would such a developed area not have a siren?!?
Member Since: June 5, 2007 Posts: 18 Comments: 838
727. odinslightning
5:04 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting Greyelf:
Ok, I apologize now to all that are going to have to read subsequent posts about how X Insurance sucks. I guess I should have added a disclaimer with my earlier post stating my posting of the commercial was not an endorsement. LOL..



lol elf sorry didn't mean to troll or attack your comments. your cool i just saw that allstate commercial and it made me rattle on in a different direction.

no malice intended, i just know about certain things and i was trying to help you all out by informing you of on the ground conditions in the real world. what you said was totally cool, sorry about the confusion :)
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
726. FtMyersgal
5:03 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting hcubed:


Brings to mind that saying: "The needs of the many oughtweigh the needs of the few..."


Or the one
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1216
725. odinslightning
5:02 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

No.
Going from a La Nina to a neutral year, activity is likely to be a bit above historical average. In addition, the A/B high is forecast to be slightly stronger than average, which leads to more westerly storm tracks and the warmest SSTs pushed further west. Also, a good analogue to this year's conditions is 2008, and most of us remember what happened that year.



hmm neutral strange maybe the models show that but here on the gulf coast we haven't seen the end of the pineapple express all year. 58 degrees at the end of march....it feels like december/january. but maybe im missing something.
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
723. hcubed
4:57 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:
I'm off to a trio of exciting meetings. Before I go, though, this, which is sad if true. (FN:TIWAGOS)


Japan's Nuclear Rescuers: 'Inevitable Some of Them May Die Within Weeks'

Workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control, the mother of one of the men tells Fox News.

The so-called Fukushima 50, the team of brave plant workers struggling to prevent a meltdown to four reactors critically damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, are being repeatedly exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to bring vital cooling systems back online.

Speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said: %u201CMy son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation. %u201CHe told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term.%u201D

%u201CThey have concluded between themselves that it is inevitable some of them may die within weeks or months. They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.%u201D

Article...


Brings to mind that saying: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few..."
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
722. emcf30
4:56 PM GMT on March 31, 2011

Quoting Kearn:
clouds look really funny towards lake kissimmee, do we have a possible tornado now?

That the storm that hit  Lakeland and  Lake Whales. Nearing Holopaw now and moving towards Melbourne. Channel 9 just said this is the strongest one yet. They also said NWS stated possible tornado hit fun n sun at Lakeland airport. Reports are at least 70 people trapped in downed hanger. Fire EMS enroute to scene.

Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
721. Greyelf
4:56 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Ok, I apologize now to all that are going to have to read subsequent posts about how X Insurance sucks. I guess I should have added a disclaimer with my earlier post stating my posting of the commercial was not an endorsement. LOL..
Member Since: June 5, 2007 Posts: 18 Comments: 838
720. odinslightning
4:54 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting Greyelf:


Good grief. I don't give 2 shakes about the insurance carrier. I just find the commercial funny, just like I USED to find the Geico commercials funny.



lol, nothing wrong with that friend...Cheers



They make me laugh too, but I also laugh at different levels of the joke, like how they r so crooked and the commercials just look spooky in a way like the film stock is silver nitrate.....anyhow :) cheers
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
719. odinslightning
4:53 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:
711.

I'm not fond of Allstate myself, especially after comparing my wife's rates with mine (I'm technically a higher risk group, and I was paying $400 less per year in a newer, more expensive car, both of us with totally clean records)




Yah, and trust me the real crookedness begins when you submit a claim. I caught them in 2009 in Denver getting into IntegraClaim and changing the pricing downward about 30-40%. They changed a square of roofing 25 yr shingles from 145 a square to a round 100 bucks. They are so stupid that when they do downward slope pricing they round numbers off. Crooked as the day is long.....Trust me, find u a new carrier before hurricane season starts if you live in CONUS east coast. I think the predictions for a busy storm season will be dramatically higher than the November/December 2010 predictions since the La Nina has not receded but in fact has only strengthened. When they announce the new predictions the premium quotes for all carriers will have to be raised....so change now before you will pay more...
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
717. Buhdog
4:51 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
been off all off season! Good to see some familiar faces.... Cape Coral is WINDY boy...anyone know what time we should get the storms?
Member Since: July 30, 2005 Posts: 1 Comments: 960
716. Greyelf
4:50 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting odinslightning:



Allstate is the most crooked carrier known to man.


Good grief. I don't give 2 shakes about the insurance carrier. I just find the commercial funny, just like I USED to find the Geico commercials funny.
Member Since: June 5, 2007 Posts: 18 Comments: 838
715. Barefootontherocks
4:50 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
New FL Tor watch, MCD and new Day 1 severe outlook removed.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 152 Comments: 18536
714. jeffs713
4:48 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
711.

I'm not fond of Allstate myself, especially after comparing my wife's rates with mine (I'm technically a higher risk group, and I was paying $400 less per year in a newer, more expensive car, both of us with totally clean records)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
713. odinslightning
4:48 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting overwash12:
So,I take your not in good hands!LOL



LOL! Your in Crooks Hands, at MCO and Pilot.....lmfao
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
712. caneswatch
4:48 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
EAS: NEW Tornado Watch until 8pm. I'll post the NWS text.

TORNADO WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE FOR WT 81
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1245 PM EDT THU MAR 31 2011

TORNADO WATCH 81 IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 800 PM EDT FOR THE
FOLLOWING LOCATIONS

FLC009-015-027-043-049-051-055-057-061-071-081-08 5-093-095-097-
099-103-105-111-115-117-010000-
/O.NEW.KWNS.TO.A.0081.110331T1645Z-110401T0000Z/

FL
. FLORIDA COUNTIES INCLUDED ARE

BREVARD CHARLOTTE DESOTO
GLADES HARDEE HENDRY
HIGHLANDS HILLSBOROUGH INDIAN RIVER
LEE MANATEE MARTIN
OKEECHOBEE ORANGE OSCEOLA
PALM BEACH PINELLAS POLK
SARASOTA SEMINOLE ST. LUCIE
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
711. overwash12
4:47 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting odinslightning:



Allstate is the most crooked carrier known to man. I would rather have an a.c.v. lloyds policy than an r.c.v. policy with Allhate. They scam their insureds....They get into IntegraClaim and they downward slope the pricing illegally. Allhate is crooked and I refuse to shop at Sears or use H&R Block....anything Sears Roebuck owns i avoid cuz they are thieves and liars.
So,I take your not in good hands!LOL
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1466
710. jeffs713
4:46 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting scott39:
Why were most forecasters saying more westerly last season for the CV storms and then it changed?

The forecast changed. Historically, springtime forecasts stink, especially when the ENSO status is changing. Early last year, the ENSO models were showing a transition from a moderate-to-strong El Nino to neutral or weak La Nina. As the year went on, it became apparent that ENSO was trending towards a moderate-to-strong La Nina, which changes forecasts quite a bit. Also, the atmosphere lagged behind the ocean (much like 2009 did, iirc), which made forecasting difficult.

The Caribbean was rather wonky last year, with invisible (at least to most models and measurements) dry slots at the mid levels.

And finally, the persistent trough on the East Coast was *not* well forecasted, in either its duration or intensity.

[edit: Anyone with more experience or tools available to them, feel free to correct me]
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
709. Kearn
4:46 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
clouds look really funny towards lake kissimmee, do we have a possible tornado now?
Member Since: May 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 57
707. odinslightning
4:43 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Does anyone know when the 2011 hurricane prediction will be released by colo. state univ.? just curious to know what we are looking at this storm season.
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 514
705. wunderkidcayman
4:42 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
well guys its not looking good for the Caribbean and GOM based on the forecast from Accuweather so I preped up now are you WU bloggers in these areas
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11704
704. RitaEvac
4:41 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Shakey...shakey, shakey, shakey!

Gonna be some damage
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
703. scott39
4:41 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

No.
Going from a La Nina to a neutral year, activity is likely to be a bit above historical average. In addition, the A/B high is forecast to be slightly stronger than average, which leads to more westerly storm tracks and the warmest SSTs pushed further west. Also, a good analogue to this year's conditions is 2008, and most of us remember what happened that year.
Why were most forecasters saying more westerly last season for the CV storms and then it changed?
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6751
702. jeffs713
4:39 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting overwash12:
Maybe thats what they are basing there forecast on, History!

Guess they are using the CLIP5 model.

Or maybe the FLUSH model.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
701. Greyelf
4:39 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting jeffs713: I wonder how it feels to be the person in that Altima. Talk about getting a good parking spot...


As quoted by Mayhem of the Allstate commercials..."Shakey...shakey, shakey, shakey!"



Sorry... wanted to provide a little levity here. It was already stressful for me as my daughter lives in Brandon. She was a bit freaked.
Member Since: June 5, 2007 Posts: 18 Comments: 838
700. jeffs713
4:39 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Quoting scott39:
Do you feel the US will be as lucky as last year?

No.
Going from a La Nina to a neutral year, activity is likely to be a bit above historical average. In addition, the A/B high is forecast to be slightly stronger than average, which leads to more westerly storm tracks and the warmest SSTs pushed further west. Also, a good analogue to this year's conditions is 2008, and most of us remember what happened that year.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
699. scott39
4:38 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
Accuweather 2011 15-8-3
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6751
698. emcf30
4:38 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
My Bad, Hanger collapse was in Lake Whales not Lakeland. Planes were flipped at Lakeland.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933

Viewing: 748 - 698

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Scattered Clouds
64 °F
Scattered Clouds