7 Things Space Can Teach Us About Climate Change
During August, Venus was visible in the early morning sky and a planet 24 million miles away could be seen with the naked eye.
This natural wonder gave us a little bit of perspective, and we wondered what the endless entity of space could tell us about climate change and maybe help us prevent catastrophic changes.
1. A warning from Venus
While climate scientists are begging for data and research funding, some of the answers may already be out there. Experts say that in the first 2 billion years of Venus' history, it may have had a thinner Earth-like atmosphere and a shallow ocean of water. Venus is commonly known as Earth's 'Twin' as we have a similar composition and size.
The planet we know is not the same as it was - the hostile world has a 'suffocating carbon dioxide' atmosphere with intense temperatures of 470 degrees Celsius.
So, what changed?
With it's slower rotation (1 day on Venus is 243 days on Earth) and Venus' position as the second-closest planet to the Sun, it got a lot hotter. If we don't keep our temperature in check, one day, our cool little world may be too hot to handle.
2. Keep your eyes on the sky
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) record and create independent analysis in global temperatures. According to NOAA, 2019 was the second warmest year since 1880.
NASA uses their specialist perspective (literally, space) to understand the interconnected systems of land and sea. The agency develops new ways to observe and study the Earth with long-term data to see and gauge how our planet is changing.
3. Watching greenhouse gases
That space-y perspective is also handy for monitoring greenhouse gases - NASA's visuals demonstrate how they watch gases move through the atmosphere. This movement understanding and how long gases linger is essential for scientists to predict the planet's future and find ways to prevent further damage, e.g. stopping the burning of fossil fuels.
4. Arctic awareness
NASA monitors what's happening in the Arctic sea and the rapid melting of the sea ice with orbiting satellites. According to NASA's investigations, the oldest ice is melting (in 1985 the older ice was 16% of the total ice pack, by 2018, it was just 1%), which means the region is vulnerable to future melting - this makes the preservation of the Arctic more crucial than ever. The ice is essential to our climate for so many reasons from keeping methane levels at bay to influencing ocean's currents - it's vital to maintain for our existence.
5. Galactic rays and cloudy days
In the 1990s, Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark published studies arguing that galactic cosmic rays amplify the Sun's influence on the climate. When the Sun gets brighter, greater solar winds shield the atmosphere from cosmic rays that bombard the atmosphere, this then suppresses cloud formation and amplifies the warming effect.
While heavily debated, the crux of the theory suggests that while CO2 emissions are certainly triggering climate change - the production of such gases within the 20th Century is too small to explain today's global warming damage.
Prof. Masayuki Hyodo said, "When galactic cosmic rays increase, so do low clouds, and when cosmic rays decrease clouds do as well, so an opposite-umbrella effect may cause climate warming." So perhaps the answers lie in space after all.
6. She sees climate change on the seashore
Jason-3 is a satellite mission launched explicitly in 2016 to support scientific understanding of rising sea levels, ocean circulation and climate change. The importance of the mission has made it an international co-operation piece between the French (CNES), European (ESA) and American space agencies (NASA).
The data coming from Jason-3 allows scientists to analyse and predict how the world is changing from climate change, how we can prepare for its effects, and see whether or not our efforts have impactful change.
7. Keep perspective
If you've watched Cosmos and know of Carl Sagan's speech about the Pale Blue Dot, you'll know how moving perspective on our galactic home can be.
The incredible images of Earth taken from space may serve as reminders of what we have to lose if we don't act on Climate Change soon and reverse the effects of climate change.
If you fancy a bit of perspective or need a good weep, we strongly recommend listening to Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot speech here.