A Puzzling Collapse Of Earth's Upper Atmosphere

I first put this in my blog but thought I'd post it here so more could see it. I am also posting the comments made. I do believe we are in a warming TREND but it is created by natural causes and has happened before when men were not even in the picture..

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http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/15jul_thermosphere/

July 15, 2010: NASA-funded researchers are monitoring a big event in our planet's atmosphere.

High above Earth's surface where the atmosphere meets space, a rarefied layer of gas called "the thermosphere" recently collapsed and now is rebounding again. "This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years," says John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19th issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). "It's a Space Age record." The collapse happened during the deep solar minimum of 2008-2009—a fact which comes as little surprise to researchers.

The thermosphere always cools and contracts when solar activity is low. In this case, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain. "Something is going on that we do not understand," says Emmert. The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km. It is a realm of meteors, auroras and satellites, which skim through the thermosphere as they circle Earth. It is also where solar radiation makes first contact with our planet. The thermosphere intercepts extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photons from the sun before they can reach the ground. When solar activity is high, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to puff up like a marshmallow held over a camp fire. (This heating can raise temperatures as high as 1400 K—hence the name thermosphere.) When solar activity is low, the opposite happens. Lately, solar activity has been very low.

In 2008 and 2009, the sun plunged into a century-class solar minimum. Sunspots were scarce, solar flares almost non-existent, and solar EUV radiation was at a low ebb. Researchers immediately turned their attention to the thermosphere to see what would happen. How do you know what's happening all the way up in the thermosphere? Emmert uses a clever technique: Because satellites feel aerodynamic drag when they move through the thermosphere, it is possible to monitor conditions there by watching satellites decay. He analyzed the decay rates of more than 5000 satellites ranging in altitude between 200 and 600 km and ranging in time between 1967 and 2010. This provided a unique space-time sampling of thermospheric density, temperature, and pressure covering almost the entire Space Age. In this way he discovered that the thermospheric collapse of 2008-2009 was not only bigger than any previous collapse, but also bigger than the sun alone could explain.

One possible explanation is carbon dioxide (CO2). When carbon dioxide gets into the thermosphere, it acts as a coolant, shedding heat via infrared radiation. It is widely-known that CO2 levels have been increasing in Earth's atmosphere. Extra CO2 in the thermosphere could have magnified the cooling action of solar minimum. "But the numbers don't quite add up," says Emmert. "Even when we take CO2 into account using our best understanding of how it operates as a coolant, we cannot fully explain the thermosphere's collapse."

According to Emmert and colleagues, low solar EUV accounts for about 30% of the collapse. Extra CO2 accounts for at least another 10%. That leaves as much as 60% unaccounted for. In their GRL paper, the authors acknowledge that the situation is complicated. There's more to it than just solar EUV and terrestrial CO2. For instance, trends in global climate could alter the composition of the thermosphere, changing its thermal properties and the way it responds to external stimuli. The overall sensitivity of the thermosphere to solar radiation could actually be increasing. "The density anomalies," they wrote, "may signify that an as-yet-unidentified climatological tipping point involving energy balance and chemistry feedbacks has been reached." Or not. Important clues may be found in the way the thermosphere rebounds.

Solar minimum is now coming to an end, EUV radiation is on the rise, and the thermosphere is puffing up again. Exactly how the recovery proceeds could unravel the contributions of solar vs. terrestrial sources. "We will continue to monitor the situation," says Emmert. For more information see Emmert, J. T., J. L. Lean, and J. M. Picone (2010), Record-low thermospheric density during the 2008 solar minimum, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L12102. Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA
bitterdregs bitterdregs
46-50, F
2 Responses Jul 25, 2010

I have read this and find it augments with my thoughts as we do approach 12/21/2010. I am considering a Polar Change likely to happen. Yes, I found this interesting information.

Rollingwithhusky :<br />
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This is really interesting. I would not be surprised to learn that the way we've abused the planet is literally destroying it. I do believe in global warming and climate change, we are experiencing it here... our average summer temps have increased greatly over my lifetime and those higher temps are sustained for weeks at a time. <br />
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Thanks for sharing this. ;)<br />
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edit: I get excited and take every chance to try to convince people to take responsibility... LOL<br />
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I can remember being taught in high school that all stars have a 'life span', at the end of which they can 'implode' or collapse on themselves... is what we're talking about more or less the changes in the sun and therefore the gravitational pulls and paths of the planets? <br />
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I know that the life of our sun is long, but not infinite. Perhaps what we're seeing in this extraterrestrial change is just a step in the natural life cycle of the sun?<br />
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Me :<br />
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Husky, it's not that. This indicates that man is not the cause. Only 4% of the 10% of CO2 is from man's emissions.<br />
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"Global Warming" is happening on many planets and moons in the solar system. ( NASA ) man's emissions don't travel that far. Volcanism both above ground and submarine is increasing exponentially. There are many things Gore's documentary did not mention. One key element is that the oceans are warming from the BOTTOM UP. That does not happen if the cause is CO2 in the atmosphere. That happens from increased submarine volcanism.<br />
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The cause is extraterrestrial. not as in aliens LOL but not on the planet earth. It seems that the galactic alignment is effecting the sun which is in turn effecting the planets. At the same time, the earth is in a precursor phase to a magnetic reversal. Both combined are what is causing the climate change. The impact of man's emissions is negligable.<br />
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Although I do very much agree we should develop eco friendly technology for many reasons, I can't say we are the cause of "global warming". In my opinion, the facts point to nature.<br />
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ME:<br />
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hsuky, the sun is relatively young. Let's say about 46 in human years LOL 4.6 billion in actual years. It won't implode until it reaches it 90's or further. (so science says at the moment ) I think humans will be long gone by then.<br />
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The sun has been through several galactic core alignments. We know nothing of the effect, if there is one, in recorded history...with the exception of mayan predictions, and Egyptian predictions but of course those cannot be proven or taken as legitimate science as there is no proof. What we DO have are piling coincidences that indicate a climate change cause that is beyond our solar system and effecting our sun, in turn effecting most of the bodies in our solar system gravitationally and magnetically.<br />
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Einstein said that when the poles reach 11,000 psi, there would be a pole reveral. We are there now. The magnetic field of the earth is almost at 0. Magnetic fluctuations have already been recorded and it is certain we are in the beginning stages of a pole shift. With the galactic alignment on top of that effecting both the sun and our planet, it is likely that this in some way accounts for the 60% unknown factors mentioned in the article as well as climate change in general on most of the planets and moons.<br />
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NASA has predicted that this solar cycle will we the worst maximum in recorded history. Interestingly, that is also the Mayan/Egyptian prediction. They also learned during the juxtaposition of this solar cycle and the last, that the suns magnetic field was bouncing between the old cycle and the new with each new emerging sunspot. ( the fields reverse with each new cycle ) The bouncing back and forth in magnetism...was supposed to be impossible..yet it happened. Now we are firmly into the new cycle. The maximum will occur in...uh... 2012. LOL That's when there are solar flares capable of knocking out our satellite systems, glitching out computers and all electronics, UV rays up so high that people will be needing a good sunblock or they will get burned quickly, etc.<br />
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You can watch what the sun is doing at www.spaceweather.com <br />
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Now these crazy solar flares can effect the earth in many ways. earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. Our magnetic field is what protects us from the sun...but our magnetic field is preparing to shift and is close to 0 so we have less protection than at any time in recorded history. <br />
Oh I should say our magnetic field also helps to protect us from celestial body impacts...asteroids, meteors etc...<br />
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Formerlyknownas :<br />
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We are also entering a new month in the great year of polar precession or precession of the equinoxes. The last time we entered a new month (lets call it February), the eastern Mediterranean was fairly lush and green, and the Nile valley was producing 3 or 4 grain harvests a year. Now we are entering January (The Age of Aquarius).<br />
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I don't remember when I read it (about a decade ago, I think), studying the freeze / thaw cycle of Ice Ages, the most well known, the Wurm 3 Glaciation (last occurrence during the late neolithic) is linked to the polar procession. It seems that the polar procession is in orbital resonance (tide-locked) with the Sun's movement in the local stellar cluster in much the same way a the Moon's day is tide-locked with it orbit of the earth.<br />
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ME:<br />
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Yes. Great info there thanks ! <br />
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Don't quote me on this but if I remember correctly, the ancient Egyptians said that with every quarter round the precession of the equinoxes, natural disasters occur in magnificent proportion. The culmination/beginning of the cycle is Aquarius and they say this cycle is the the worst for planetary change.<br />
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that's not science fact, just something I remember about the egyptian predicitions. let's hope they turn out to be wrong.<br />
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geological evidence does suggest major earth changes, including climatic, with the polar reversals in several incidences but I am not sure if they have found anything that would corroborate the egyptian predictions in regard to precessional wobble. I guess we will find out LOL