April marked the 388th month in a row that the global temperature was warmer than average

By Tom Yulsman | May 18, 2017 2:01 pm

April 2017: 388th consecutive month that was warmer than average.

To find a month when the global average temperature over the land and oceans was below average, you have to go all the way back to December 1984, according to the latest monthly analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Including April 2017, that makes it 388 straight months in which the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average.

Like NASA’s independent analysis released earlier this week, NOAA finds that last month was the second warmest April in records dating back to 1880.

SEE ALSO: The heat goes on: this past April was second warmest in records dating back to 1880 — as were February and March

From NOAA’s monthly global climate report, released today: Read More

Polar eye candy: check out this spectacular aerial photo of a Greenlandic fjord from NASA’s Operation IceBridge

By Tom Yulsman | May 17, 2017 6:59 pm

PLUS: a gallery of other compelling images from the mission

A fjord in southern Greenland, as seen during Operation IceBridge's last flight of the 2017 Arctic campaign, on May 12, 2017. (Source: NASA/John Sonntag)

A fjord in southern Greenland, as seen during Operation IceBridge. (Source: NASA/John Sonntag)

I’m always looking for cool imagery to use here at ImaGeo, and today I stumbled on this photo.

It’s of a fjord in southern Greenland, taken during Operation IceBridge’s final flight of the 2017 Arctic campaign, on May 12, 2017. Fractured sea ice floats between the towering cliffs, with a glacier visible in the far distance at the head of the fjord.

NASA posted the image here today. I’ve done some modest processing to correct a weird color cast in the original.

As NASA puts it:

IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice ever flown. It will yield an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. These flights will provide a yearly, multi-instrument look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland and Antarctic ice.

Here are a few of my other favorite images taken during the multi-year project: Read More

The heat goes on: This past April was second warmest in records dating back to 1880 — as were February and March

By Tom Yulsman | May 17, 2017 1:41 pm

But with the monster El Niño of 2015/2016 far back in the rear-view mirror, temperatures in 2017 are running somewhat lower than last year

A map of temperature anomalies in April 2017 shows that central and northeast Asia, as well as Alaska, were much warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. (Source: NASA GISS)

A map of temperature anomalies in April 2017 shows that central and northeast Asia, as well as Alaska, were much warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. (Source: NASA GISS)

NASA has come out with its monthly analysis of global temperatures, and the results are notable, if not terribly surprising: Last month was the second warmest April in 137 years of modern record-keeping.

Last month beat out April of 2010 by just a small amount to achieve that distinction, according to the analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It was second only to April 2016, which shattered the record for warmest year, thanks in part to a boost from El Niño.

Temperatures have moderated just a bit from the astonishing highs of 2016, as you can see in the following graph charting how the global average surface temperature has varied from that of the pre- and early-industrial time of 1880 to 1920: Read More

Why you should take hyperventilating headlines about CO2 with a grain of salt — but still be quite concerned

By Tom Yulsman | May 15, 2017 12:11 pm
The graph shows recent monthly mean carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. The last four complete years of the Mauna Loa CO2 record plus the current year are shown. (Source: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory)

This graph shows carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The last four complete years of the record plus the current year are shown. The dashed red line red line shows monthly mean values, and reveals a natural, up-and-down season cycle. The black line shows the trend after correcting for the average seasonal cycle.  (Source: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory)

Back in late April, there was a spate of hyperventilating headlines and news reports about the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This one in particular, from Think Progress, should have made its author so light-headed that she passed out:

The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years

Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit record concentrations.

That story and others were prompted by measurements at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory showing that the concentration of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere had exceeded 410 parts per million.

Some of you might be thinking this: Since rising levels of greenhouse gases are causing global warming, and myriad climate changes like melting ice sheets and glaciers, then this really was big news story.

And the highest CO2 level in 3 million years? WOW! That certainly justifies the hyperventilating hed, right?

I don’t think so. That’s because the headline is inaccurate, and the story hypes the crossing of a purely artificial CO2 threshold. This may rile up the readers of Think Progress, but it does little to encourage broader public engagement on the issue of climate change. In fact, it probably does the opposite. Why do I think this?  Read More

This stunning image of Jupiter from NASA’s Juno spacecraft is simply out of this world — except it’s not

By Tom Yulsman | May 8, 2017 4:59 pm

The filagree of atmospheric patterns at Jupiter’s south pole bears an eerie resemblance to a phenomenon here on Earth

enhanced color view of Jupiter’s south pole was created by citizen scientist Gabriel Fiset using data from the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset)

Enhanced color view of Jupiter’s south pole, created by citizen scientist Gabriel Fiset using data from the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset)

When I spotted this image of Jupiter on NASA’s website, I felt a bit disoriented.

At first glance, it looked like a fanciful artist’s conception of the giant planet. But it’s actually a real image of Jupiter’s south polar region, acquired by the Juno spacecraft. (Make sure to click on it, and then click again to enlarge it.)

The image has been enhanced to help bring out the fine detail in that achingly beautiful filagree of swirls, eddies and vortices in Jupiter’s atmosphere. But whether enhanced or not, those features are very much real.

And to my eye, they also seemed eerily familiar.

I soon realized what those patterns reminded me of: the swirls, eddies and vortices of surface currents in our own oceans. Have a look for yourself: Read More

Heading into the summer, Arctic sea ice is in bad shape

By Tom Yulsman | May 5, 2017 9:42 am

Arctic sea ice extent in April was nearly 394,000 square miles below the long-term average — an area one-and-a-half times the size of Texas.

April 2017 Arctic Sea Ice Trend

April 2017 Arctic sea ice concentration trends since 1979. The deepest blue color shows areas where sea ice has declined by more than 20 percent per decade. (Source: NSIDC)

The Arctic’s floating lid of sea ice continued to decline in April, tying the record set last year for lowest April extent.

This makes it four straight months of record lows in 2017, leaving Arctic sea ice in a precarious state as seasonal warming accelerates with the approach of summer. Read More

This striking new movie shows Cassini’s view as it swooped low above Saturn’s cloud-tops

By Tom Yulsman | May 3, 2017 6:22 pm

With Cassini already preparing for a third dive between Saturn and its rings, NASA has released this spectacular movie from the first dive

I can’t help it — I’m just enchanted by the imagery coming back from Cassini as it has been swooping through the gap between Saturn and the giant planet’s rings. The latest is the movie above, made from a sequence of rapid-fire images acquired by Cassini as it made its first dive on April 26th.

From NASA’s release about it today:

The movie comprises one hour of observations as the spacecraft moved southward over Saturn. It begins with a view of the swirling vortex at the planet’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet stream and beyond.

As Cassini captured the footage, it dropped from 45,000 to 4,200 miles above Saturn’s cloud tops. As it zoomed along it got an ever sharper view of smaller and smaller features. Read More

Here’s what Cassini heard as it made its daring dive between Saturn and its rings

By Tom Yulsman | May 2, 2017 10:57 am

A Simon and Garfunkel song comes to mind—and that has scientists scratching their heads as the spacecraft heads today for a second dive.

In this illustration, the Cassini spacecraft is shown diving between Saturn and the planet's innermost ring. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In this illustration, the Cassini spacecraft is shown diving between Saturn and the planet’s innermost ring. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

As the Cassini spacecraft swooped between Saturn and its innermost ring on April 26th, one of its instruments listened for the sounds of its passage through the heretofore unexplored region. What it heard was of great interest to engineers planning for the second dive, as well as to scientists who study Saturn’s rings.

The engineers were hoping to hear the sound of silence, specifically nothing indicative of lots of dust hitting the spacecraft. If the gaps between Saturn and its rings turned out to be very dusty, on future dives — including the next one, scheduled for today, May 2nd — the spacecraft would once again have to use its 13-foot-wide antenna to shield its delicate instruments.

The ring scientists, though, were expecting to hear the sound of lots of particles hitting the spacecraft — because they thought this gap would be fairly dusty.

As it turned out, the engineers came away delighted, and the scientists puzzled. Read More

Spectacular new satellite imagery of severe storms shows the atmosphere as a boiling, roiling cauldron of clouds

By Tom Yulsman | April 30, 2017 11:31 am

High-resolution animation from GOES-16: massive thunderstorms over southern Illinois, part of a sprawling, dangerous weather system


A screenshot from an animation of GOES-16 weather satellite images shows severe storms boiling up over southern Illinois, where they dumped heavy rainfall on April 28, 2017. Click to watch the animation. (Source: CIRA/RAMMB/NOAA)

A large swath of the nation’s midsection has been hammered with torrential downpours. And the forecast calls for yet more, thanks to a low-pressure system pumping super-moist air into the region. With the ground already saturated, the sustained heavy rainfall is threatening major flooding from Oklahoma and Arkansas and up into Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

On Friday, April 28th, the new GOES-16 weather satellite captured just how roiled up the the atmosphere was on that day, centered over southern Illinois. The spectacular animation shows what it looked like as severe storms boiled up over the region. The images that make up the animation were acquired by the satellite in intervals of 30 seconds, allowing for a near-real-time view of the developing storms. Read More

A columnist makes asinine arguments on climate change, prompting scientists to cut their noses, spiting our faces

By Tom Yulsman | April 29, 2017 9:47 pm

The cure for false speech is more truth telling — not less speech.


Here’s what 29 feet of sea level rise would look in New York City. (Source: Courtesy of Climate Central)

In his first piece as an op ed columnist for the N.Y. Times, Bret Stephens rightly decries hyperbole in discussion about climate change. Then he makes seemingly reasonable arguments that turn out to be asinine.

My reaction? Yawn. It’s quite doubtful that he will move the needle of public opinion on climate policy in the United States beyond the noise of natural variability. And I’m pretty darn sure that what he says in his superficially seductive but ultimately silly column will have no impact whatsoever on policy. In that arena, we’ve really got much bigger problems than Bret Stephens.

So I was going to leave it at that, until I started reading reactions on Twitter and elsewhere by some scientists. One renowned and highly respected climate scientist, Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University, wrote an  excellent letter to the New York Times. Excellent, but for one major issue, in my opinion: He also scored an own-goal by publicly saying he was cancelling his subscription to the Times.

Why do I say an “own-goal”? Keep reading. But first, an excerpt of some of the really good things Ramstorf said:

My heroes are Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler, who sought the scientific truth based on observational evidence and defended it against the powerful authority of the church in Rome, at great personal cost.

Had the New York Times existed then – would you have seen it as part of your mission to insult and denigrate these scientists, as Stephens has done with climate scientists?

Read More



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

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