Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Earth Space

NASA's Greenhouse Gas Observatory Captures 'First Light' 143

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the captain-planet-will-find-you dept.
mdsolar (1045926) writes with news that NASA's second attempt to launch a satellite to map carbon dioxide levels across the globe succeeded, and its instruments are operating properly. From the article: NASA's first spacecraft dedicated to studying Earth's atmospheric climate changing carbon dioxide levels and its carbon cycle has reached its final observing orbit and taken its first science measurements as the leader of the world's first constellation of Earth science satellites known as the International 'A-Train. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is a research satellite tasked with collecting the first global measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) — the leading human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change. The 'first light' measurements were conducted on Aug. 6 as the observatory flew over central Papua New Guinea and confirmed the health of the science instrument.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA's Greenhouse Gas Observatory Captures 'First Light'

Comments Filter:
  • The "first light" in the summary is just the initial measurements to confirm the health of the equipment. It's not capturing some cool phenomenon. This is apparently a term of art in astronomy, according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    It's like saying "the satellite booted up for the first time." Good news, but I'm going to keep my pants on.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      All this money wasted on actual measurements could have gone to generating computer models with baked in hockey sticks.

    • by hey! (33014)

      It's like saying "the satellite booted up for the first time." Good news, but I'm going to keep my pants on.

      Thank you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      First light is significantly more than bootup. After launch, typically at least a few days to weeks are spent doing initial power-on and checkout of various subsystems before collecting science or mission data. The initial health checks (monitoring component temperatures, voltages, currents, communications, powering on subsystems in order, etc) are much more analogous to booting up.

      Once initial checks are complete, then the instrument is commanded to collect real data. That is first light. For any satel

    • by oneiros27 (46144) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @02:06PM (#47664595) Homepage

      The launch of the spacecraft is effectively the start of 'Phase E' (operations) for the instruments ... but there's a lot of things that still have to happen:

      • They have to deploy any solar panels (unless it's got an RTG), and align with the sun
      • They have to check out the spacecraft health, to make sure that nothing shook loose during launch, and they can talk to it.
      • The spacecraft has to get to the right place. (which takes *years* for missions to the outer planets)
      • They test the instruments against a known source (calibration lamp or similar)
      • They deploy antenna or instrument booms, remove covers, etc.
      • They take real measurements (aka. "first light")
      • They may perform maneuvers (eg, take an image, roll the spacecraft over, take an image again ... or take an exposure whole rolling) for flat fielding (aka. "calibration")
      • They compare the results from the new sensor against other measurements to determine how (aka. "validation")

      They refer to this whole period as "commissioning". They're not always run in order (eg, for the missions to the outer planets, which might take *years* to get to, they try to check on the health of the instruments before they get to the planet). For some instruments, it might take years to validate the data.

      There's also typically a press conference with the "first release" of the data, after the first calibration is done, but that's more to do with scientists on the ground than the spacecraft itself.

      disclaimer : I work for a NASA center, but I don't deal with spacecraft directly; I just manage the data after it's downlinked & processed.

  • CO2 levels have continued to rise rapidly over the last decade, even as actual warming has kind of flatlined,

    If CO2 were a leading cause of warming, why would the temperatures not be spiking along with CO2 levels?

    It's great that we are tracking CO2, but the human race seems overall far too concerned with one aspect of warming that seems not to be playing out as a dangerous factor.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @12:41PM (#47663853) Homepage

      If CO2 were a leading cause of warming, why would the temperatures not be spiking along with CO2 levels?

      You seem to be assuming it's linear and immediate, as opposed to being a complex system with built in lag and other factors -- which would boil down to "if I release X amount of CO2, tomorrow the temperature will go up by Y".

      It doesn't work that way, and is much more complex.

      Much like if you turn up your thermostat, your house isn't instantly warmer, because, thermodynamics.

      • It doesn't work that way, and is much more complex

        . Yes, it's so complex that you don't understand it. And neither do climate scientists as evidenced by their modelling effort failures. Despite not understanding it, both you and they are 100% confident the hypothesis is correct, however.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          And based on your completely ignorant and idiotic posts, I assume you have nothing at all to refute any of this, other than your firmly held idiocy and conviction that they must be wrong?

          Why don't you go visit the creation museum or something, you might find other people who care about what you say.

        • We don't have a completely satisfactory theory of gravity (getting GR to play nice with quantum mechanics). Yet, we are very confident that the hypothesis that "things tend to fall" is correct.

          Gravity is exceedingly complex, yet there are certain things which are evident from even a rudimentary theory of gravity -- namely, things tend to fall. CO2, likewise, has a complicated relationship to the climate -- but it is a known greenhouse gas, which has certain implications.
          • By implication you are suggesting that the evidence for gravity existing is the same as the evidence that the AGW hypothesis is correct? Really? And what implications are there apart from that Al Gore earning £100m, taxes needing to rise and scientific institutions being handed billions of dollars to "study" it? Who is studying the positive effects of a warmer climate? Anyone? Why is that I wonder...
            • You seem to be confusing science and politics. You'd do well to ignore the politics and look at the science.

              Who is studying the positive effects of a warmer climate?

              That sounds rather unscientific. Surely one should study the effects of a warmer climate, not bias onesself to positive and negative.

              But anyway why are your fishing for these red herrings? The effects on people has nothing to do with climate science. Climate scientists don't stufy the positive or negative effects, because they're too busy figuri

    • by bunratty (545641) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @12:44PM (#47663891)
      Most of the heat is going into the oceans and causing the sea level to rise [nationalgeographic.com] due to thermal expansion. Much of the rest of the heat is continuing to melt the ice caps in the Arctic [nsidc.org] and Antarctic [slate.com].
      • So what's this magic mechanism that fools the laws of Thermodynamics called? Because as far as I know the oceans have one thousand times the heat capacity of the atmosphere.
        • by riverat1 (1048260)

          What do you mean by "magic mechanism"? Nothing is happening that is outside of thermodynamics. It is well known that over 90% of the heat of global warming is going into the oceans.

          • The oceans transfer heat into the atmosphere. The oceans themselves are heated by that yellow-white thing in the sky that seems to get completely ignored here on slashdot. The point remains, the oceans have 1000 time the heat capacity of the atmosphere. So how is it that the atmosphere is warming the oceans? The whole argument is completely ridiculous.
            • by riverat1 (1048260)

              Mostly the atmosphere does not warm the oceans (although under some conditions there can be heat transfer to the oceans from the atmosphere). But the atmosphere can affect the rate at which the oceans lose heat which affects how much heat they retain.

      • Then there's nothing to worry about from CO2 if the oceans are absorbing the heat - even with all that melting and expansion we are getting at worst around a foot of rise in the next few hundred years. That's easily dealt with by coastal communities, especially over such a long period of time. Whole towns (and nations!) rise and fall over that kind of timescale...

        The situation is even better if you believe the IPCC:

        "The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report described studies that estimated sea level rise for the

        • by bunratty (545641)
          Who said anything about panic? Anyway, you're using linear extrapolation to estimate future sea level rise, because it gives you results you like. The actual estimates of future sea level rise [epa.gov] are far larger than your naive and optimistic guess.
          • That EPA article is scaremongering published before the IPCC (you know, the INTERNATIONAL panel on climate instead of just the U.S.) revised estimates significantly downwards...

            If there's no need to panic then why care about CO2 emissions? We should instead be focused on REAL pollution.

        • Then there's nothing to worry about from CO2 if the oceans are absorbing the heat

          The oceans are absorbing the CO2, causing ocean acidification. Nothing to worry about, right?

          • You might want to read the science on that skippy, the claim is that the oceans are ABSORBING HEAT.

            This is exactly why the global warming debate is so absurd, the people who claim they are on the science are not using science, but fear and calling that science.

        • 2.0mm/ year or rise means 8 inches in 200 years... Why does that panic you?

          No, 2mm/year means 16 inches in 200 years.

          Or is an inch 50mm where you come from?

          • I miscalculated but I thought that was too low, thanks for the correction.

            Still not a figure that is hard to deal with, and nothing like the 20-40 feet in a few decades some people are throwing about.

    • by Kiwikwi (2734467)

      actual warming has kind of flatlined,

      I keep hearing this, but I really don't see it [noaa.gov].

      It's like the repeated statement that "there has been no warming [since the record-setting global average in 1998]". Nobody ever claimed that global temperature would rise monotonically year-on-year; fortunately, we are allowed to look at the trend line across years and draw the quite obvious conclusion that yes, temperatures have been rising in the last two decades as well.

      (You'd think the 1998 argument would lose steam after the 2005 and 2010 global temperatu

      • yes, temperatures have been rising in the last two decades as well.

        Of course they have but the point is that CO2 emissions have been constantly high over that period, which should have accelerated the trend line upward way more than it has.

        In order to reach some of the gloomier temperature increases predicted to occur by 2100, you now have to have a massive increase in temperature gains that year by year is increasingly unlikely. At this point it's pretty obvious CO2 alone is not much of a danger.

        • by Kiwikwi (2734467)

          Of course they have but the point is that CO2 emissions have been constantly high over that period, which should have accelerated the trend line upward way more than it has.

          The NOAA source I linked can tell us that the 1990-2014 trend has been a rise of 0.14 C per decade, and that 2013 was already 0.78 C above the 1880 pre-industrial level. A simple linear extrapolation gives us a temperature of (2100-2014)*0.014 + 0.62 - (-0.16) = 2.0 C in the year 2100, coincidentally the same 2 C used as the critical limit beyond which global warming will have alarming consequences.

          Some may contend that the 2000-2014 trend has been a rise of only 0.04 C per decade, to which I'll note that t

          • coincidentally the same 2 C used as the critical limit beyond which global warming will have alarming consequences.

            Why, when that is still far less warm than it has been in the past?

            The danger of CO2 was always advertised as runaway warming, with a feedback loop of warming that could not be ended - not a slow linear ramp up of just 2C over 100 years.

            That amount of increase still does not show any reason to worry about CO2 emissions. If there were something to worry about it would be because of an exponenti

            • by tbannist (230135)

              The danger of CO2 was always advertised as runaway warming, with a feedback loop of warming that could not be ended - not a slow linear ramp up of just 2C over 100 years.

              That may be what some people say is the issue, but as far as I understand it, the mainstream science concern is not run away warming that renders the planet unliveable. That's actually considered fairly unlikely in the near-term scenarios. The actual major areas for concern are rising seas, ecosystem disruption, droughts, wildfires, floods, augmented storms and storm damage, heat-related illness and disease, and economic losses.

              From what I've read about it, of particular note is that at around +4 degrees

      • by mellon (7048)

        This person probably lives downwind of the great lakes, which froze last winter because the polar vortex moved off the poles (which were above freezing at times) and landed on Minnesota. We had a great winter in Vermont. OTOH, they are experiencing unseasonable high temperatures in California this summer, and Europe has had some really hot summers recently. Unfortunately people confuse their local climate with the global climate.

    • by slew (2918)

      If CO2 were a leading cause of warming, why would the temperatures not be spiking along with CO2 levels?

      If you notice closely, they attempted to pose a slightly different question...

      carbon dioxide (CO2) — the leading human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change.

      If you ask the question like this, it's true. However, leading causes of warming is the sun and the other main gas driving global climate change is methane, neither of which is technically human produced.

      If you want to get technical, if factor in our desires for growing plants, industrialization, keeping warm and eating beef, then both CO2 and methane are somewhat similar in that regard. There's about 200x the CO2 than methane i

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        It's easy to forget humans are likely responsible for only 25Gtons of the CO2 released, where the natural carbon cycle is about 750Gtons (+- a extra volcano eruptions which are about 40Gtons)... Human contribution is non-negligible, for sure, but natural variations are of the same scale.

        Lately human caused emissions of CO2 are closer to 35 GT/year and volcanic eruptions are around 0.3 GT/year. When you say natural CO2 emissions are 750 GT/year that's kind of misleading if you don't also mention the ~770 GT/year that are naturally absorbed. That's why for thousands of years before human industrialization the CO2 level was around 280 ppm while the yearly seasonal variation was about 10 ppm.

    • Because, based on other issues, we were supposed to be cooling off. However, the truth is, that we continue to climb.
    • by mellon (7048)

      Warming hasn't flatlined. Atmospheric warming hasn't even flatlined. But sea warming has been consistent and substantial. Google clathrates if you're curious why you should care about that.

    • You might be misunderstanding the difference between short-term forecasts and longterm projections. I know I failed to understand the scientific nuance until recently.

      You see, "global average temperatures are going to rise X by 2100" is a projection. It's based on pretty basic thermodynamics (ie. this much carbon increases the greenhouse effect by such-and-such). This science, because it's so basic, is pretty solid.

      At the same time "global average temperatures are going to rise by Y by 2025" is a forecast.

  • has gone up since Sputnik.
    Right now, most of the world's CO2 emissions numbers are based on what gov claim that their nation consumed in coal, oil, and nat gas. Yet, it does not take into account issues such as inefficiencies, etc. Most of the numbers dealing with 3rd world and even some of the western nations are really wrong.
    With this, it will show the TRUE flow of CO2 outward, as well as into, of nations.

    Sadly, it will also become controversially once the far left realizes that America is NOT the
    • by bughunter (10093)

      Thank you for the intelligent comment. I worked on the original instrument design at Hamilton Sundstrand over 10 years ago, and it was heartbreaking to learn of the original launch failure. A lot of us suspected but had no evidence that the failure was someone's desired outcome... now that OCO-2 is on station and collecting data we finally feel a sense of accomplishment.

      And we'll not only learn who's contributing CO2 to the atmosphere, (and when, and where) but also what's consuming it, so we can not only

      • Thank you for the work. I worked on Mars Global Surveyor and Suspect that I had the same feeling when we lost MGS
        And yeah, when OCS's shroud failed to release, I was miffed, but far more miffed when they got the next contract for OCO2. Thank god that it was turned over to ULA. Oddly, not sure if you have noticed, but 100% of OCS's failures were earth sats. That has always struck me as interesting.

        But, I suspect that when the initial batch of numbers come from OCO2, that it is going to drive a lot of po
    • At that point, does the world finally point to China and say enough is enough, or will the far left still insist on giving them a MASSIVE out?

      That 'out' is the best thing that we can do. If you look carefully, China is moving as fast as it can towards fast breeder reactors, hydro, etc. They're cheaper in the long-run than carbon-based energy sources and much better for their air (and ours) but the capital expense is really high. Look, nobody in Beijing is happy about breathing diesel soup for breakfast.

      • No, China is NOT moving as fast as possible. They could stop producing new coal plants and buy nuke plants that are produced in America. However, that is EXACTLY what they are avoiding. Chinese leaders do NOT care about the lead, mercury, CO2, etc that they dump into the air and water. What they care about is holding on to power, while winning the cold war that they have with the west.

        China claimed that they were going to spend 100's of billions on doing Solar and Wind for China, BUT, for the amount that

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

Working...