Earth's Outlook from Above

Earth's Outlook from Above



This is a podcast of Scripps Institution
of Oceanography at UC San Diego. To learn more about how you can support
Scripps, visit us online at scripps.ucsd.edu. For fifty years, satellites have been
roaming the skies collecting valuable information on earth. They have quickly become a critically
important scientific tool to study the global environment and can
offer much-needed insight into the future of our planet.
Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego use earth orbiting
satellites to tackle global environmental problems. I think in any discipline of the earth sciences that you can think of and all the disciplines represented at Scripps the – the progress that has happened not only since 1957
since Sputnik most importantly since basically the
mid-seventies to now when we started being able to collect
and manage those data is is visible in all disciplines. So we
see our understanding of the Earth from
the outside all the way to the middle to the quality
of Earth increased enormously by just a very
virtue of having global, continuous observations associated with satellites. One thing
that has happened over the last fifteen years is we know the topography of the
ocean globally, to an amazing precision, to an inch or so depending on you know
how much you want to average and that has changed drastically not only our understanding of what the
ocean bottom looks like, but also how ocean circulation happens uh it has allowed us to tie this with space and surface-based observations
of sea surface temperature. Scripps
geophysicist, Helen Amanda Fricker, an associate
professor in the institute of geophysics and planetary physics, uses satellite observations to study the
Western Antarctic Ice Sheet in an effort to understand one of global
warming's most dramatic consequences: sea level rise. Scientists predict that
even small changes in ocean levels can place coastal cities under water and disturb entire ecosystems. Using
NASA's ice cloud and land elevation satellite or ISAT, Fricker noticed astonishing
changes in the ice sheet signaling that a complex system of active
water lakes exist beneath. So we discovered the areas on
the ice sheet where the surface elevation was changing by a um several meters in one place we saw a
change of 10 meters. We saw the surface actually was drawing down by by 10 meters over about nearly three years and we interpreted
that after looking at across the whole system we realize this was happening in
many places in that some of these changes were occurring
in phase and some of them were out of phase. So the lakes were actually linked to each
other. We interpreted as being the movement of subglacial water
underneath the ice sheet and what we were seeing was the surface response to the water moving
beneath the ice sheet. Meanwhile on the Big Island of Hawaii, hot magma's blazing new trails beneath Hawaii's Volcano National Park and Scripps professor David Sandwell,
with the help of satellite, is able to closely monitor new
subterranean volcanic activity. On Father's Day 2007, the eastern portion
at the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island woke up after more than 30 years. The
east rift of the volcano, part of a complex subterranean plumbing system, is exhibiting new motion that could affect residents living on the
volcanically active island. They call it the Father's day rift event
because it began on June 17 of this last year. During that event, what happened is there was a dike
injection, a dike intruded into the ground it up opened about two meters or six feet and that was first detected in GPS data. Fortunately we had synthetic aperture
radar data before the event and we could use that along with an
acquisition taken just after the event to make a very nice looking interferogramic
a complete map of the ground deformation. Scripps researchers are eager for the
next generation of satellites to push science into the future and
greatly increase their understanding of global environmental change. Science has
reached a pivotal point in understanding and modeling the Earth's
climate system. In order to predict what will happen to the climate over the
next 100 years, scientists need precise satellite
observations to feed their models. In the near future and the coming years
we're going to have a lot more satellites, maybe hundreds of satellites used to
monitor all types of things like climate change
and earthquakes and so on. What is changing right now is we have
the capability of modeling those data and modeling the evolution to where we are developing the possibility of
predicting what's going to happen, predicting what's going to happen locally
or a few days that's the weather. Or predicting what's going to happen over
decades or even century, globally, and the studies of the climate. I guarantee
you that fifty years from now, as we accumulate more data and
have a longer history and have better computer models, we
will probably look back and think about 2008 as being the pioneering era of Earth's system modeling. This has been a presentation of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San
Diego.

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2 thoughts on “Earth's Outlook from Above

  1. of course those who own these satellites can scan for wealth, and invade to mine,start wars, they can predict what cities will be underwater and not invest there, raise prices of property in high safe spots in silence, the poor may get hit by a sattelite in the head instead… why so little information being shared in with schools and media if some of these are paid with tax money ?

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