Tag Archives: NOAA

The solar maximum continues to fizzle

As it does every month, NOAA today posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. This latest graph, covering the month of September, is posted below the fold.

Not only is the Sun’s sunspot production continuing to fizzle, it is fizzling even more than before.
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The reason an environmental polar bear scientist has been suspended and under investigation is because while tasked to review and approve research proposals he played favorites, helping to write and revise the government proposal while working against a proposal from private oil companies.

The reason an environmental polar bear scientist has been suspended and is under investigation is because — while tasked to review and approve research proposals — he played favorites, helping to write and revise his preferred proposals while working against proposals from others.

Documents obtained by Nature through the Freedom of Information Act do not reveal the investigators’ conclusions but they suggest a more specific context for Monnett’s troubles: he assisted in the writing of a proposal from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that he was also responsible for reviewing for the [US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)]. He also resisted a separate initiative by oil companies.

Over five years, the NOAA study would synthesize knowledge of different elements of the Arctic environment — from marine mammals to fish to zooplankton — and offer conclusions about the overall impact of oil-and-gas exploration there. The NOAA team was awarded the contract last year.

Monnett exchanged e-mails with the NOAA researchers between February and May 2011, made edits to their draft proposal and talked on the phone with them about how to strengthen it. Nature has seen emails from within the BOEM showing that the reason for his suspension in 2011 was management concern about similar assistance being provided to a grant applicant on another contract, which Monnett was also responsible for reviewing.

This is the same scientist whose paper on drowning polar bears has become a favorite with the environmental movement.


The Sun continues to fizzle

Yesterday NOAA posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. You can see this latest graph, covering the month of July, below the fold.

As we have seen now for almost four years, the Sun continues to under-perform the predictions of solar scientists when it comes to the number of sunspots it is producing. In fact, that the sunspot number did not rise in July is surprising, as July had appeared to be a very active month for sunspots, with some of the strongest solar flares and coronal mass ejections seen in years. Instead, the number declined ever so slightly.
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Forecasting hurricanes

NOAA today announced its prediction for the upcoming Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, calling for between 9 and 15 tropical storms in 2012, with 4 to 8 becoming full blown hurricanes. The NOAA release can be seen here.

To me, the range of the prediction is so wide it really doesn’t mean anything. Moreover, I wonder about the reliability of these predictions.
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Senate panel proposes major NASA/NOAA budget changes

A Senate panel today proposed shifting the responsibility for building weather satellites from NOAA to NASA.

It is very unclear from this article why the Senate panel proposed this shift. They claim it will save money but I don’t see how.

What I can guess is that there is probably a turf war going on in Congress over this money. For example, shifting these weather satellites to NASA almost certainly means that the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland will get more money, which is almost certainly why Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) is for it.

One thought however: NASA generally focuses on individual missions, not long term operational stuff like weather. I suspect it probably is not a good idea to give this work to NASA.

The same article above also outlined the panel’s proposals for other areas of NASA’s budget. To me, the key issue is the budget for commercial space. The White House requested $830 million. The Senate panel has instead proposed $525 million.
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The Sun goes bust

It is that time of the month again. Today NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center today released its monthly update of the ongoing solar cycle sunspot activity, covering January 2012. I have posted the graph below the fold.

For the second month in a row the Sun’s sunspot activity plunged. The drop in activity has been so steep that it has cancelled out almost two thirds of the activity rise that occurred during the last half of 2010. In fact, the drop brings the Sun’s sunspot count back to numbers comparable with March of last year, hardly a sign of a fast ramp up to solar maximum, which is what solar scientists have come to expect the Sun to do. Instead, the Sun’s activity during this ramp up has fluctuated wildly, going up strongly for several months and then dropping precipitously for another few months. These wild swings have now repeated themselves four times since the fall of 2010.
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House proposes cutting NOAA by $103 million

More science budget news: The House today proposed cutting NOAA’s $4.59 billion budget by $103 million.

There already is some squealing about this (see the link above), but note that a $4.49 billion budget for NOAA would still be half a billion dollars more than NOAA’s 2008 budget, which is hardly what I’d call a draconian cut.


At House hearing head of NOAA challenged on ignoring Congressional law

At House hearings this week the head of NOAA was attacked for ignoring Congressional law in setting up a National Climate Service.

One big sticking point for legislators is language in this spring’s final 2011 spending bill that averted a government shutdown, which states that “none of the funds made available by this division may be used to implement, establish, or create a NOAA Climate Service.” Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said the appointment of Karl and the hiring of six regional directors appear to have ignored those instructions. He quipped that NOAA was “living in climate sin,” a reference to Karl’s statement during an interview in December 2010 with ClimateWire that “we’ve moved in, … we’re waiting for the marriage certificate, but we’re acting like we have a climate service.”

Lubchenco defended her actions, saying that her appointments were “smart” and merely “good planning.” She said their salaries are drawn from “existing funds” and that legislation dating back to the National Climate Program Act of 1978 describes providing climate services as part of NOAA’s mission. She responded to Hall’s concerns that the climate service would take away from NOAA’s other activities by saying, “It’s good government to reorganize periodically.” She also referred to its economic potential, citing the $1 billion industry that has emerged around the National Weather Service.

Speaking with ScienceInsider after the hearing, she made it clear that NOAA intends to push ahead. “This is an idea whose time has come.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, so what the law forbids NOAA from doing this. We know best, Congress can go to hell.


The Sun in April – Steady as she goes!

The monthly updated graph for April of the Sun’s solar cycle sunspot activity was posted yesterday by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. You can see it below.

Though the Sun remained active, you can see that the steep increase in sunspot activity that occurred in March has ceased. At the moment it looks as if the Sun’s sunspot activity is following the most recent scientific prediction, more or less exactly, though the small dip in April puts the numbers slightly below that prediction.

All in all, we still appear to be headed to the weakest solar maximum in two hundred years.

April Sunspot activity


The squeals at NOAA

The pig squeals at NOAA: The agency’s administrator told Congress yesterday that the 2011 budget deal will cause great harm to weather monitoring.

Note that NOAA is getting $4.5 billion in the 2011 budget, $700 million more than the weather agency got in 2008.

Only in Washington is a budget increase of almost 20 percent in three years called a draconian cut.


Hot time on the ol’ Sun tonight!

After literally years of inactivity, well below all initial predictions, the Sun truly came to life this past month. Below is the March monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, published by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The red curve is the prediction, while the dotted black line shows the actual activity.

As you can see, the Sun’s sunspot activity shot up precipitously. Though I don’t have the data from past years, the March jump appears to me to probably be one of the fastest monthly rises ever recorded.

Does this mean the newest prediction from the solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center calling for a weak solar maximum in 2013 is wrong? Probably not, though of course in this young field who knows? I would say, however, that the overall trend of the data still suggests the next maximum will be very weak.

Stay tuned! The next few months should finally give us a sense of where the next maximum is heading.

March Sunspot graph

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