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Hurricanes really are getting stronger, just like climate models predicted | Live Science

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Hurricanes really are getting stronger, just like climate models predicted | Live Science_5ec468fcace3b.jpeg

Hurricanes are getting stronger as the world gets warmer, according to a new analysis.

Studying how hurricanes have changed over time is difficult. The tools scientists use to study them change constantly and. measurements made with one instrument can’t be compared easily to measurements made with another. So though research has  suggested the warming world would produce wilder and stronger hurricanes, it’s been difficult to say that with certainty. Until now, the data just hasn’t been complete enough.. A new paper, published online May 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, aims to change that — studying a period of 39 years, between 1979 and 2017. Looking at the full four-decade span and normalizing their data in a certain way, the researchers found a clear trend: Storms are getting stronger in general, and major tropical cyclones are coming more often.

The 39-year period the researchers studied covers an era when climate change dramatically accelerated, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports. The world has warmed significantly in every year of those 39, and the 39 years include eight of the 10 warmest ever recorded ( 2018 and 2019 also make the warmest-years list but were too recent for this study, and the 2020 season isn’t over yet).

Related: How strong can a hurricane get?

“The main hurdle we have for finding trends is that the data are collected using the best technology at the time,” James Kossin, a NOAA scientist and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, said in a statement. “Every year the data are a bit different than last year, each new satellite has new tools and captures data in different ways, so in the end we have a patchwork quilt of all the satellite data that have been woven together.” 

In order to create a consistent record to work with, the researchers sanded the edges off their newer, sharper tropical cyclone images to fit an older standard: Images where each pixel represents an area  5 miles by 5 miles (8 by 8 kilometers), taken every three hours. They also tossed out images from newer satellites that provide views of storms from angles not available in 1998. That left them with an extensive dataset of about 225,000 similar-quality images of about 4,000 global tropical cyclones stretching back to the disco era.

Meteorologists have long used images of tropical cyclones to estimate their wind intensities, measured in kilotons. And that’s what the researchers did here, finding that the chances of any given tropical cyclone becoming a hurricane (hitting 65 knots) have gone up. Normally, hurricanes are defined as storms with winds of at least 74 mph (119 km/h). Winds of that speed emerge around the 65-knot mark. And the odds of major hurricanes (100-knot storms) have gone up by about 15% — with most of that increase happening in the last 19 years of the 39-year study period.

Right now, other possibilities haven’t been completely ruled out. This paper on its own doesn’t rule out the idea that the uptick in hurricanes isn’t the result of some perfect coincidence of other trends, the researchers wrote. But it shows the uptick is happening, precisely during the period of greatest warming, and precisely as the models of how that warming would impact tropical cyclones predicted. The balance of evidence — models and real-world observations — points strongly toward the idea that tropical cyclones “have become substantially stronger, and that there is a likely human fingerprint on this increase,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The trend isn’t obvious, the researchers wrote. There are regions like the North Pacific, where cyclones haven’t gotten stronger — likely because climate change has also moved their average storm tracks northward, to cooler regions with less ocean energy to feed them. And the worldwide average trend toward more powerful storms is complicated by other factors — cycles in the Atlantic Ocean that would have tended to make these storms more intense in recent decades anyway. This paper doesn’t fully disentangle local trends like those from global warming effects, the researchers wrote. But it does establish with 95% confidence that tropical cyclones have gotten significantly stronger in the era of most intense climate change, leading to more tropical cyclones becoming hurricanes, and more hurricanes becoming “major hurricanes.” 

Originally published on Live Science.

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Attention Required! | Cloudflare

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What can I do to prevent this in the future?

If you are on a personal connection, like at home, you can run an anti-virus scan on your device to make sure it is not infected with malware.

If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices.

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How to see Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in rare conjunction this weekend – CNET

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How to see Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in rare conjunction this weekend – CNET_5ffb826727c62.jpeg
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The two largest worlds and the smallest planet in the solar system make an appearance this weekend.


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A trio of planets make an appearance at dusk this weekend when Jupiter and Saturn, still chilling together at the after-party from last month’s rare Great Conjunction, will be joined just above the western to southwestern horizon by the more flighty planet Mercury. The planetary trio is a rare sight that can be witnessed with the naked eye just after sunset over the next several days, though Saturday evening offered perhaps the best opportunity to see the three worlds bunched together. 

Astronomy magazine reports that the planets will all be visible within an area about 2.3 degrees across that evening (that’s about the width of your pinky and ring finger together when they’re held away from your body at arm’s length). Mercury will be the lowest of the three in the sky, Jupiter will be the brightest and Saturn will be the dimmest.

Binoculars might help you get a better view, while even a cheap backyard telescope can offer a chance to glimpse some of the larger moons of Jupiter. This might be a good thing to try when Mercury and Saturn have disappeared below the horizon and it’s a little darker out.

To be sure to catch the entire trio, the key is to get outside right after the sun sets as Mercury and Saturn will be quick to dip below the horizon within an hour. While the planets may be closest Saturday, they will continue to congregate while shifting around over the next several nights, so you have a few shots at catching them all like a kind of cosmic game of Pokemon.

As always, if the amateur astrophotographers among you grab any great images of the celestial gathering, please share them with me on Twitter @EricCMack.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.

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NASA’s Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System | TheHill

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NASA’s Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System | TheHill_5ffb8260e66f4.jpeg

Almost unnoticed, tucked into the 2021 fiscal NASA funding section of the recently passed omnibus spending bill, is a provision that would seem to liberate the upcoming Europa Clipper mission from the Space Launch System (SLS). 

According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved. Otherwise, NASA is free to search for commercial alternatives to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter’s ice-shrouded moon.

Europa Clipper is slated to go into orbit around Jupiter and make multiple flyby maneuvers near Europa, an icy world that many scientists believe has a warm ocean under the ice layer. Life may exist in that ocean, the confirmation of which would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of this or any other century.

The Europa Clipper being mandated to fly on an SLS to begin with was the result of an unseemly side of congressional budget politics. The space probe was championed by former Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonTexas Republicans sound post-2020 alarm bells 2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump’s NASA moon program Bottom line MORE (R-Texas), who at the time was the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. In order to get support for the Europa Clipper, Culberson added the SLS mandate, which garnered support from Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublican infighting on election intensifies Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Bottom line MORE ( R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shelby’s state contains a number of aerospace contractors involved in developing the SLS.

Ironically, Culberson lost his seat in 2018, in part, because his opponent, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), accused him of being more concerned with space missions than local issues, such as flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey. Nevertheless, the Europa Clipper continued without its key champion in Congress.

As Ars Technica points out, launching the Europa Clipper on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy saves the mission $1.5 billion. An advantage of using the SLS has been that it allows for a direct path to Jupiter without the time-consuming planetary flyby maneuvers that previous missions to the outer planets have required. The Falcon Heavy alone would not be able to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter space directly, though it might be able to if equipped with a powerful Centaur kick stage.

Both the economics and physics of getting to Europa change if SpaceX’s Starship, currently under development in Boca Chica, Texas, becomes available to launch the Europa Clipper in the mid-2020s. The Starship is meant to fulfill SpaceX’s CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskWill Axiom Space provide a commercial space station replacement for NASA’s ISS? World’s richest people added .8T to their combined wealth in 2020 Trump ends Obama’s 12-year run as most admired man: Gallup MORE’s dreams of settling Mars. But the massive reusable rocket would be available for other things, presumably including sending probes to the outer planets.

The massive cost savings by using a commercial launcher for the Europa Clipper creates other possibilities. The Europa Lander could be placed back on. A mission to Saturn’s frozen world Enceladus may also be greenlit.

The SLS is the result of a Faustian bargain struck between NASA and Congress in 2010. Congress was enraged by then-President Obama’s cancellation of the Bush-era Constellation deep space exploration program. According to then-NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, NASA agreed to the SLS in return for Congress supporting the Commercial Crew program that recently came to fruition with the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

The SLS has since been a lead weight on America’s space ambitions. The SLS slated to launch the Artemis 1 uncrewed mission around the moon is currently stuck in a ground-based “green run” series of tests. The SLS is currently using up a great deal of the money allocated to NASA’s Artemis program. The first flight is scheduled for November 2021 at the earliest.

In the meantime, SpaceX has been flying prototypes of the Starship, albeit only in the atmosphere and with occasionally explosive results. NASA is officially disdainful of the idea of replacing the SLS with the Starship. However, a version of the SpaceX massive rocket ship is in the running as a lunar lander for Artemis. It would not be too great a leap to cut out the SLS entirely and go directly with the Starship, if it were not for congressional budget politics.

And that, as Shakespeare would say, is the rub.

Mark Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has published a political study of space exploration entitled Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? as well as The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.  He is published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, the LA Times, and the Washington Post, among other venues.

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