How do you white balance your camera? Aim it at a piece of paper. How do you white balance an Earth-monitoring satellite? Aim it at a Turkish salt lake.
At least that’s the hope of scientists headed to southern Turkey to study a salt lake named Tuz Gölü (Turkish for “salt lake,” natch) later this month. During July and August, most of Lake Tuz evaporates into reflective white salt, making it perfect for satellite-calibration, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites said, recently endorsing the spot as one of eight calibration sites.
Just as white balancing your camera is important to keep your friends from looking jaundiced, calibrating satellites makes sure that they can take accurate climate and coastal degradation measurements.
As Popular Science reports, the team led by the UK National Physical Laboratory will spend nine days at lake Tuz measuring the reflectance of test sites from a variety of angles. From above, several satellites will simultaneously take recordings of the white lake for comparison. The NPL hopes this will be the first step for an automated system “LandNET” using all eight sites.
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It tends to come in autumn. The Venetians call it acqua alta–the seemingly seasonal flooding of their historic city center. But a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres suggests that Italians eager to predict the next flood shouldn’t study the Earth’s seasons, but should instead look at the sun.
A project led by David Barriopedro at the Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal analyzed hourly recordings of water levels in the city from 1948 to 2008. His team noted a correlation of these “high-surge events” and the eleven-year solar cycle: Periods of maximum solar activity, when sun spots usually appear, seemed to herald the acqua alta.
To build a history of how Earth’s climate has changed over centuries, you need something long-lasting that’s been around the whole time—long-lived trees, or cores from ice in Antarctica and Greenland that has built up over the years, or maybe gravestones.
Gravestones? They’re actually ideal candidates, standing in one place and receiving little touch or attention from the living. If you’ve ever tried to read inscriptions in an older cemetery, you know what the elements can do to the stone as atmospheric gasses dissolved in the rain wear it down. But to some climate scientists, the amount of wear is raw data attesting to the climate history of the area.
No one is quite sure what caused bizarre 600-mile-long tubular clouds to form above a small Australian town. But because the fluffy white rods, known as Morning Glory clouds, can move up to 35 miles per hour, they can pose a problem for airplanes flying through the area.
A small number of pilots and tourists travel there each year in hopes of “cloud surfing” with the mysterious phenomenon.
Similar tubular shaped clouds called roll clouds appear in various places around the globe. But nobody has yet figured out what causes the Morning Glory clouds.
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Image courtesy of Mick Petroff
If you want to be leggier, consider moving to Florida. It might even work if your parents have average-sized limbs. New research has found that DNA isn’t the only route to long legs: Warmer temperatures can also lead to longer limbs by helping cartilage grow, at least in mice.
Researchers raised baby mice in cold (45F), normal (70F), or warm (81F) temperatures for about two months. The mice raised in warmer temperatures grew longer tibias and femurs (leg bones), and metatarsals (“toes”). The researchers say the effect may be partly explained by increased blood flow under warmer conditions, which promote growth of the cartilage capping the ends of long bones. However, this doesn’t fully explain the results, and they believe temperature also affects other biological mechanisms, like the expression of proteins.