The Awfully Long Thermometer!

 In an earlier story I wrote about how the lighthouse keepers have been doing sea water samples since the early 1930s – some of the oldest observations on the BC coast!

Now, with satellites we can get different temperatures of the sea – Sea Surface Temperatures for one – similar to what the lightkeepers do, but globally.

Sea surface temperatures have a large influence on climate and weather. For example, every 3 to 7 years a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean along the equator warms by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius. This warming is a hallmark of the climate pattern El Niño, which changes rainfall patterns around the globe, causing heavy rainfall in the southern United States and severe drought in Australia, Indonesia, and southern Asia. On a smaller scale, ocean temperatures influence the development of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons), which draw energy from warm ocean waters to form and intensify. – NASA Earth Observatory

So, this satellite called Aqua was launched on the 4th of May 2002. Below is a . . .

. . . composite image of the Aqua Earth observation satellite over a hurricane on Earth. Aqua is designed to study the water cycle and global temperature changes. It is hoped that the data collected by the satellite will aid understanding of climate change and weather system formation and movement. Aqua was launched on 4th May 2002 as the latest in NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) of satellites. EOS is part of the Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) program. Other EOS satellites include Terra, which was launched in 1999. Aqua is a collaborative venture between NASA and the Japanese Space Development Agency NASDA. – SciencePhoto.com

Aqua carries six instruments for studies of water on the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere:

  • AMSR-E — Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS — measures cloud properties, sea surface temperature, near-surface wind speed, radiative energy flux, surface water, ice and snow. Furnished by the National Space Development Agency of Japan.
  • MODIS — Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, also measures cloud properties and radiative energy flux, also aerosol properties; land cover and land use change, fires and volcanos. This instrument is also aboard Terra.
  • AMSU-A — Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit — measures atmospheric temperature and humidity.
  • AIRS — Atmospheric Infrared Sounder — measures atmospheric temperature and humidity, land and sea surface temperatures.
  • HSB — Humidity Sounder for Brazil — VHF band equipment measuring atmospheric humidity. Furnished by Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais of Brazil. The HSB instrument has been in survival mode since 2/5/2003.
  • CERES — Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, Flying Models 3 and 4, measure broadband radiative energy flux. – Wikipedia

Here is a video of Sea Surface Temperatures from 2003 to the end of 2012. You might need the Apple Quicktime movie player. (download here)

 This is not replacing the lightkeepers, but adding to their work.

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