ESRL Quarterly Newsletter - Spring 2010

The ESRL quarterly newsletter provides highlights of ESRL's diverse research programs and explains how these are integrated to form a more complete understanding of our Earth system. See the pdf version for the full listing.

Balloon launch

H2O Matters

Stratospheric water helps explain temperature trends

Earth's surface temperatures have not risen as quickly in the last ten years as they did in the 1980s and 1990s. A team of researchers led by ESRL's Susan Solomon (Chemical Sciences Division, CSD) has now shown that a still-puzzling decline in water vapor 10 miles above Earth's surface may be part of the reason.  more...

GPS for Storms, Climate, More

ESRL sends innovative instrument packages offshore for first time

In preparation for this year's hurricane season, several ESRL researchers spent the winter working with Devon Energy, placing Frisbee-sized satellite antennas high atop two Devon oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. ESRL researchers are testing their ability to use a serendipitous power of GPS signals- information that can be gleaned about atmospheric water vapor- to improve regional weather forecasts, monitor climate, and help verify satellite and balloon measurements.  more...


Climate Service

ESRL research expected to fuel proposed NOAA office

NOAA proposes to create a Climate Service by bringing together climate science, products, and service delivery capabilities from around the agency, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced Feb. 8, in a press conference with NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco."By providing critical planning information that our businesses and our communities need, NOAA Climate Service will help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change," Locke said.  more...

Director's Corner


A nice thing about my career in NOAA is that it has never been boring—it changes rapidly with the times, and today is no exception. As noted in "Climate Service", Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced that NOAA would propose a “NOAA Climate Service” (NCS). NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco emphasized that the planned reorganization would be accomplished with two goals in mind; first, to create a climate service, and second, to strengthen NOAA's science.  more...

Antarctic Tales

ESRL's Nick Morgan settles in for winter science, blogging

ESRL's man at the South Pole, NOAA Corps Officer Nick Morgan (lieutenant junior grade), is blogging regularly about his science and daily living experiences, through the Exploratorium's web site, Ice Stories.  more...

HFC-23 Emissions on the Rise

Policy experts take note of increase in the potent greenhouse gas

Three times in the last decade, ESRL scientists and colleagues traveled to Antarctica, drilled hundreds of feet into dense snow, and extracted air samples that they hoped would give them insight into atmospheric changes. Air trapped in compressed snow (“firn”) contains a record of atmospheric composition changes, and researcher were especially interested in the powerful greenhouse gas, HFC-23. There have been international efforts to control emissions of the gas, which lasts 300 years in the atmosphere, and which is thousands of times more efficient (per molecule) at trapping heat than is carbon dioxide.


ESRL's Leslie Hartten and student Melissa Burt in 2006.

Science Pipeline

Paper examines diversity in atmospheric science

A cohort analysis conducted on several sets of diversity data collected over the years conclude that although both gender and ethnic diversity have increased in the atmospheric sciences, those seeking to increase diversity in the field need to pay attention to the details.



A Climate for Pikas

ESRL analysis of habitat helps federal biologists make protection decisio

American pikas, little rabbit-like mammals that live on cool and rocky high-altitude slopes, have become a symbol of climate change impacts for some environmental groups. They often cannot tolerate the relative warmth of valleys, and so if climate change forces their preferred habitat upslope, populations could be left isolated, on "sky islands" of good habitat.  more...

Playing with Fire

Striving for better fire predictions of fire weather and its effects on fire behavior

Spring in South Carolina is normally mild and moist. But in April last year, emergency managers had to evacuate thousands of people from their homes in the path of a Myrtle Beach wildfire. The fire, fueled in part by the weather, burned and jumped over highways and canals and caused $16 million in property damage. ESRL's Sher Schranz finds motivation in such unexpected fire behavior. As the Myrtle Beach fire demonstrated, protecting the public and firefighters requires a better understanding of how weather affects fire and fire affects weather.  more...

Soarin' Over California

CalNex examines contributors to region's air quality, climate change challenges

The air over California will be scrutinized from every angle this spring, as scientists make the most detailed analysis yet of factors influencing air quality and climate change in the state. Their goals include understanding the origins of pollutants and greenhouse gases, and the transport, reactions, and eventual fates of those particles and gases. CalNex (for the “nexus” of climate change and air quality) should generate information that will help decision makers understand the complicated interactions of air quality and climate.  more...

Washington's Weird Winter

NOAA assessment implicates NAO and El Niño

Explanations for the record-breaking snows that paralyzed the Mid-Atlantic this winter were as diverse as they were bizarre: An inauspicious alignment of the stars; global warming; global cooling. But NOAA's Climate Scene Investigators (CSI), a team of “attribution” experts from around the agency, have identified the most usual of suspects: the ordinary ups and downs of weather.  more...

Brad Hall attaches the canister to a vacuum apparatus, to pull the gas into a micropipette about 1 mm in diameter. Immersing the pipette in liquid nitrogen cools and liquifies the gas.

Setting the Standard

Global Monitoring Division standards laboratories key to global atmospheric science collaboration

"In the mid-1980s, there were huge differences among measurements and instruments," says Brad Hall. "The idea of standards is to tie atmospheric measurements to a known, stable value. You have to be able to trust your measurements, especially if you're looking at a trend over, say, 20 years." Hall prepares standards of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and other gases. He and his colleagues create cylinders containing specific amounts of the materials, then send them around the world for scientists to use in calibrating their own measurement systems. That ensures that measurements made in China, on an airplane science mission, and on the ground in Antarctica are all comparable.  more...


Mentoring Undergraduate Innovators

ESRL's John A. Ogren guides "clinic team" from alma mater

Some call it luck; others call it fate. For John A. Ogren (Global Monitoring Division), becoming a sponsor for one of this year's Harvey Mudd Clinic Program teams was merely a "remarkable set of coincidences."  more...

Ozone Tied to Emissions Abroad

Springtime ozone above U.S. West is highest when winds sweep in from Asia

Springtime ozone levels above western North America are increasing primarily due to air flowing in from the west, an ESRL-led study concluded in January. The trend, which is strongest when air parcels originate in Asia, could challenge U.S. efforts to reduce ozone pollution.  more...

Achievements, in Brief

More news, publications, and honors from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory

Surprise Chemistry · Physical Sciences Review · Barrow Snowmelt · Web Hits Soar · A Force for Air