Global Warming Climate Change Happening Now on Neptune’s Moon Triton Jupiter Pluto Mars and EARTH.
Sun Blamed for Warming of Earth and Other Worlds
Earth is heating up lately, but so are Mars, Pluto and other worlds in oursolar system, leading some scientists to speculate that a change in thesun’s activity is the common thread linking all these baking events.
Others argue that such claims are misleading and create the false impression that rapid global warming, as Earth is experiencing, is a natural phenomenon.
While evidence suggests fluctuations in solar activity can affect climate on Earth, and that it has done so in the past, the majority of climate scientists and astrophysicists agree that the sun is not to blame for the current and historically sudden uptick in global temperatures on Earth, which seems to be mostly a mess created by our own species.
Habibullo Abdussamatov, the head of space research at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, recently linked theattenuation of ice caps on Mars to fluctuations in the sun’s output. Abdussamatov also blamed solar fluctuations for Earth’s current global warming trend. His initial comments were published online by National Geographic News.
“Man-made greenhouse warming has [made a] small contribution [to] the warming on Earth in recent years, but [it] cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov told LiveScience in an email interview last week. “The considerable heating and cooling on the Earth and on Mars always will be practically parallel.”
But Abdussamatov’s critics say the Red Planet’s recent thawing is more likely due to natural variations in the planet’s orbit and tilt. On Earth, these wobbles, known as Milankovitch cycles, are thought to contribute to the onset and disappearance ice ages.
“It’s believed that what drives climate change on Mars are orbital variations,” said Jeffrey Plaut, a project scientist for NASA’s Mars Odyssey mission. “The Earth also goes through orbital variations similar to that of Mars.”
As for Abdussamatov’s claim that solar fluctuations are causing Earth’s current global warming, Charles Long, a climate physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Washington, says the idea is nonsense.
“That’s nuts,” Long said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t make physical sense that that’s the case.”
In 2005, Long’s team published a study in the journal Science showing that Earth experienced a period of “solar global dimming” from 1960 to 1990, during which time solar radiation hitting our planet’s surface decreased. Then from the mid-1990’s onward, the trend reversed and Earth experienced a “solar brightening.”
These changes were not likely driven by fluctuations in the output of the Sun, Long explained, but rather increases in atmospheric clouds or aerosols that reflected solar radiation back into space.
Other warming worlds
Others have pointed out anomalous warming on other worlds in our solar system.
Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University who monitors studies and news reports of asteroids, global warming and other potentially apocalyptic topics, recently quoted in his daily electronic newsletter the following from a blog called Strata-Sphere:
“Global warming on Neptune’s moon Triton as well as Jupiter and Pluto, and now Mars has some [scientists] scratching their heads over what could possibly be in common with the warming of all these planets … Could there be something in common with all the planets in our solar system that might cause them all to warm at the same time?”
Peiser included quotes from recent news articles that take up other aspects of the idea.
“I think it is an intriguing coincidence that warming trends have been observed on a number of very diverse planetary bodies in our solar system,” Peiser said in an email interview. “Perhaps this is just a fluke.”
In fact, scientists have alternative explanations for the anomalous warming on each of these other planetary bodies.
The warming on Triton, for example, could be the result of an extreme southern summer on the moon, a season that occurs every few hundred years, as well as possible changes in the makeup of surface ice that caused it to absorb more of the Sun’s heat.
Researchers credited Pluto’s warming to possible eruptive activity and a delayed thawing from its last close approach to the Sun in 1989.
And the recent storm activity on Jupiter is being blamed on a recurring climatic cycle that churns up material from the gas giant’s interior and lofts it to the surface, where it is heated by the Sun.
Sun does vary
The radiation output of the Sun does fluctuate over the course of its 11-year solar cycle. But the change is only about one-tenth of 1 percent—not substantial enough to affect Earth’s climate in dramatic ways, and certainly not enough to be the sole culprit of our planet’s current warming trend, scientists say.
“The small measured changes in solar output and variations from one decade to the next are only on the order of a fraction of a percent, and if you do the calculations not even large enough to really provide a detectable signal in the surface temperature record,” said Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann.
The link between solar activity and global warming is just another scapegoat for human-caused warming, Mann told LiveScience.
“Solar activity continues to be one of the last bastions of contrarians,” Mann said. “People who don’t accept the existence of anthropogenic climate change still try to point to solar activity.”
The Maunder Minimum
This is not to say that solar fluctuations never influence Earth’s climate in substantial ways. During a 75-year period beginning in 1645, astronomers detected almost no sunspot activity on the Sun. Called the “Maunder Minimum,” this event coincided with the coldest part of theLittle Ice Age, a 350-year cold spell that gripped much of Europe and North America.
Recent studies have cast doubt on this relationship, however. New estimates of the total change in the brightness of the Sun during the Maunder Minimum suggest it was only fractions of a percent, and perhaps not enough to create the global cooling commonly attributed to it.
“The situation is pretty ambiguous,” said David Rind, a senior climate researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has modeled the Maunder Minimum.
Based on current estimates, even if another Maunder Minimum were to occur, it might result in an average temperature decrease of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, Rind said.
This would still not be enough to counteract warming of between 2 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit from greenhouse gases by 2100, as predicted by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
LiveScience staff writer Andrea Thompson contributed to this article.
Pluto is undergoing global warming, researchers find
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Pluto is undergoing global warming, as evidenced by a three-fold increase in the planet’s atmospheric pressure during the past 14 years, a team of astronomers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Williams College, the University of Hawaii, Lowell Observatory and Cornell University announced in a press conference today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences in Birmingham, AL.
The team, led by James Elliot, professor of planetary astronomy at MIT and director of MIT’s Wallace Observatory, made this finding by watching the dimming of a star when Pluto passed in front of it Aug. 20. The team carried out observations using eight telescopes at Mauna Kea Observatory, Haleakala, Lick Observatory, Lowell Observatory and Palomar Observatory. Data were successfully recorded at all sites.
An earlier attempt to observe an occultation of Pluto on July 19 in Chile was not highly successful. Observations were made from only two sites with small telescopes because the giant telescopes and other small telescopes involved lost out to bad weather or from being in the wrong location that day. These two occultations were the first to be successfully observed for Pluto since 1988.
Elliot said the new results have surprised the observers, who as recently as July thought that Pluto’s atmosphere may be cooling. “From the July data, we knew that Pluto’s atmosphere had changed since 1988, but the August data allowed us to probe much more deeply into Pluto’s atmosphere and have given us a more accurate picture of the changes that have occurred,” he said.
Jay Pasachoff, an astronomy professor at Williams College, said that Pluto’s global warming was “likely not connected with that of the Earth. The major way they could be connected is if the warming was caused by a large increase in sunlight. But the solar constant–the amount of sunlight received each second–is carefully monitored by spacecraft, and we know the sun’s output is much too steady to be changing the temperature of Pluto.”
Pluto’s orbit is much more elliptical than that of the other planets, and its rotational axis is tipped by a large angle relative to its orbit. Both factors could contribute to drastic seasonal changes.
Since 1989, for example, the sun’s position in Pluto’s sky has changed by more than the corresponding change on the Earth that causes the difference between winter and spring. Pluto’s atmospheric temperature varies between around minus 235 and minus 170 degrees Celsius, depending on the altitude above the surface. The main gas in Pluto’s atmosphere is nitrogen, and Pluto has nitrogen ice on its surface that can evaporate into the atmosphere when it gets warmer, causing an increase in surface pressure. If the observed increase in the atmosphere also applies to the surface pressure–which is likely the case–this means that the average surface temperature of the nitrogen ice on Pluto has increased slightly less than 2 degrees Celsius over the past 14 years.
Marc Buie, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, has been measuring the amount of sunlight reflected by Pluto. “The pressure increase can be explained if the average amount of sunlight reflected by the surface has decreased, which means that more heat is absorbed from the sun,” he said. “This could be the reason that the pressure has been pumped up.”
David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who measured the size of Pluto in the late 1980s using a series of occultations and eclipses involving Pluto’s satellite, noted that even though Pluto was closest to the sun in 1989, a warming trend 13 years later shouldn’t be unexpected. “It takes time for materials to warm up and cool off, which is why the hottest part of the day on Earth is usually around 2 or 3 p.m. rather than local noon, when sunlight is the most intense,” Tholen said. Because Pluto’s year is equal to about 250 Earth years, 13 years after Pluto’s closest approach to the Sun is like 1:15 p.m. on Earth. “This warming trend on Pluto could easily last for another 13 years,” Tholen estimated.
Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, are presently about the same distance from the sun, and each has a predominantly nitrogen atmosphere (with a surface pressure 100,000 times less than that on Earth), so one might expect similar processes to be occurring on these two bodies.
A 1997 occultation of a star by Triton revealed that its surface had warmed since the Voyager spacecraft first explored it in 1989. On Triton, “Voyager saw dark material rising up as much as 12 km above the surface, indicating some kind of eruptive activity,” Elliot said. “There could be more massive activity on Pluto, since the changes observed in Pluto’s atmosphere are much more severe. The change observed on Triton was subtle. Pluto’s changes are not subtle.”
Researchers study faraway objects through occultations–eclipse-like events in which a body (Pluto in this case) passes in front of a star, blocking the star’s light from view. By recording the dimming of the starlight over time, astronomers can calculate the density, pressure and temperature of Pluto’s atmosphere. Observing two or more occultations at different times provides researchers with information about changes in the planet’s atmosphere. The structure and temperature of Pluto’s atmosphere was first determined during an occultation in 1988. Pluto’s brief pass in front of a different star on July 19 led researchers to believe that a drastic atmospheric change was under way, but it was unclear whether the atmosphere was warming up or cooling down.
The data resulting from this occultation, when Pluto passed in front of a star known as P131.1, led to the current results. “This is the first time that an occultation has allowed us to probe so deeply into Pluto’s atmosphere with a large telescope, which gives a high spatial resolution of a few kilometers,” Elliot said.
From MIT, in addition to Elliot, researchers involved were physics seniors Katie Carbonari, Erica McEvoy and Alison Klesman; Kelly Clancy, technical assistant in earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences (EAPS); EAPS graduate student Susan Kern, MIT graduate Joyance Meechai (S.B. 2000); David Osip, EAPS research scientist; Michael Person, EAPS graduate student; and aeronautics and astronautics junior Shen Qu.
NASA is still deciding whether to send a spacecraft to Pluto, the only planet not yet observed at close range. The Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission in the New Horizons Program, if approved, would be launched in 2006 and would reach Pluto 10 years later. This mission will seek to answer questions about the surfaces, atmospheres, interiors and space environments of the solar system’s outermost objects, including Pluto and its moon, Charon.
Researchers are looking forward to observing additional Pluto occultations in the years before the Pluto-Kuiper mission flies by Pluto. Of particular interest is the prospect of using SOFIA, a 2.5-meter airborne telescope being built by NASA in collaboration with the German space agency, for Pluto-occultation events when it begins operating in 2004. Edward Dunham, who leads the occultation effort at Lowell Observatory, also is leading a team that is building HIPO, a SOFIA instrument designed specifically to observe occultations. The combination of HIPO and SOFIA will provide very high-quality data on a much more frequent basis than is possible using ground-based telescopes alone.
“This is a very complex process, and we just don’t know what is causing these effects” on Pluto’s surface, Elliot said. “That’s why you need to send a mission.”
This work is funded by Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, and NASA’s Planetary Astronomy Program.
Strange things are happening in both outer and inner space scientists are discovering that the Solar System, the sun, and life itself are mutating in totally unprecedented ways.
They are reporting changes that are being recorded in space that have never been seen before Studies show that the Sun and the planets themselves are physically changing at an accelerated pace. Most notably, they are undergoing major changes in their atmospheres.
Sun: The Sun is the center of our Solar System, and all life that is on this Earth came from the Sun. If there were no Sun, we would not be alive. This is simply scientific fact. And so any changes that occur in or on the Sun will eventually affect every person alive.
We know that the Sun’s magnetic field has changed in the last 100 years. There’s a study by Dr. Mike Lockwood from Rutherford Appleton National Laboratories, in California. Dr. Lockwood has been investigating the Sun, and reports that since 1901 the overall magnetic field of the Sun has become stronger by 230 percent.
Moon: Earth’s moon is growing an atmosphere . Around the moon, there is this 6,000- kilometer- deep layer of Natrium that wasn’t there before.
Mercury: Unexpected polar ice discovered, along with a surprisingly strong intrinsic magnetic field.
Venus: 2500% increase in auroral brightness, and substantive global atmospheric changes in less than 40 years.
Mars: “Global Warming,” huge storms, disappearance of polar icecaps.
Jupiter: Over 200% increase in brightness of surrounding plasma clouds.(Huge belts in the giant planet’s atmosphere have changed color, radiation hotspots have faded and flared up again, and cloud levels have thickened and dissolved, all while space rocks have been hurtling into it the gas giant.)
Saturn: Major decrease in equatorial jet stream velocities in only 30 years, accompanied by surprising surge of X-rays from equator.
Uranus: Big changes in brightness, increased global cloud activity (This planet used to have a very calm atmosphere. )
Neptune: 40% increase in atmospheric brightness.
Pluto: 300% increase in atmospheric pressure, even as Pluto recedes farther from the Sun.
Earth: Substantial and obvious world-wide weather and geophysical changes. Earth’s Axis has changed. On Earth, the overall volcanic activity increased 500 percent from 1875 to 1975, while the earthquake activity has increased by 400 percent since 1973. Dr. Dmitriev says that comparing the years 1963 to 1993, the overall number of natural disasters — hurricanes, typhoons, mud slides, tidal waves, etc. — has increased by 410 percent.
The Earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing. This decrease actually began 2000 years ago, but the rate of decrease suddenly became much more rapid 500 years ago. Now, in the last 20 years or so, the magnetic field has become erratic.