GREENBELT, Md -- NASA is used to gaining worldwide attention from its accomplishments in space. But so far this year, it’s NASA’s 2014 climate report that`s been getting the headlines.
The NASA report states that last year was Earth’s warmest on record in 135 years. During this period, the average surface temperature has warmed about 1.4° Fahrenheit There’s no mention of the climate prior to 1880. The researchers chose to avoid theoretical data and focus on actual measured temperatures.
“That information is free of charge. It’s public and it’s made available for everyone on the planet,” said Dr. Michelle Thaller of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “NASA is a world resource. There’s nobody that does what NASA does. As an American, I think that this is something that we can be incredibly proud of. ”
The Goddard Space Flight Center is NASA’s East Coast home in Greenbelt, Maryland. The scientist there believe this warming isn’t cyclical or natural, it’s part of a trend. Measurements show that of the 10 warmest years measured, all but one occurred after 2000. The trend, NASA says, ”reinforces the need to study the impacts of human activity.”
The agency, however, stops short of speculating on what we should do about the findings.
“Certainly as a NASA scientist, we are concerned by the changes we’re seeing in the planet,” Dr Thaller said. “We’re out there telling people this has nothing to do with politics. Our job is simply to take the data. It’s not NASA’s job to say what people should do with the data or what politics should be in the United States government. But we can tell you the changes are happening and we can be very, very clear about that.”
Earth science accounts for $1.8 billion or 11 percent of NASA’s annual budget last year.
“(Earth) is a planet and studying the processes of Earth help us understand the Solar System than vice versa,” Dr. Thaller said. “Goddard Space Flight Center simply put is the largest collection of scientists and engineers in the world. We have the largest astrophysicists department in the world. We have the largest Earth Sciences department in the world.”
Goddard has 20 satellites circling the Earth with their backs to the stars. This year alone five more are being launched. One of those should have an impact on the weather forecasts that you see every day is the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission or GPM.
“The GPM is an international mission designed to measure precipitation all around the globe every three hours,” said Dr. Dalia Kirschbaum, a Research Physical Scientist, NASA . “If you take all of the rain gauges in the world, they fit into two basketball courts.”
The biggest hurdle to weather forecasting isn’t predicting what’s coming, but seeing what’s out there already. Satellites like GPM will allow forecasters to see what’s on the ground.
“It’s the first satellite or instrument to measure snow. We basically are with measuring snow where we are with measuring rain 50 years ago,” Dr Kirschbaum said. “There’s still a lot we don’t know about snow and GPM because it has these instruments that are fine tuned to measure snow it can give us a much better picture of what we might expect for snow storms. And help us with prediction and long term prediction.”
Chicagoans may find the NASA report hard to imagine. 2014 was a frigid year for the city, nearly 2.5 degrees colder than normal. But just as cold as it was here, it was warmer in other parts of the country.
“2014 was a very cold year for Minnesota, Chicago and for the central United States,” Dr Kirschbaum said. “But, it was also one of the warmest and driest years for California, and what that really tells us is that temperature warming that climate changing is not uniform.”
Whenever you talk about climate change, it’s going to spark a debate. As soon as NASA’s report was released, a number of various organizations began to question it and a separate report by NOAA which supported it’s conclusion.