Ramp-Up in Antarctic Ice Loss Speeds Sea Level Rise

Crevasses near the grounding line of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. (Credit: University of Washington/I. Joughin)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, increasing global sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters) in that timeframe alone, according to a major new international climate assessment funded by NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).

According to the study, ice losses from Antarctica are causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years. Results of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

(more…)

Science Committee Oversight Democrats Request Hearing on White House’s “Ignore” Science Memorandum


WASHINGTON, DC (Democratic Oversight Members PR) – Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight sent a letter last week to Oversight Chairman Ralph Abraham requesting that he hold a hearing on a White House memo that suggested ignoring climate science was one option the Trump Administration should consider.

“Ignoring science and pushing political agendas that may be welcomed by industry, but harmful to the health, safety and security of all Americans should never be acceptable to the Science Committee or its members regardless of their political party,” wrote Subcommittee on Oversight Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA) and Subcommittee Minority Members Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). “Please help us hold these officials responsible to the public,” they wrote.

The suggestion to “ignore” science as one policy option regarding climate change was suggested in a memo prepared for senior White House and federal agency officials last fall by Michael Catanzaro, former Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Energy and Environmental Policy, according to a recent story in the Washington Post. Mr. Catanzaro, who joined the Trump Administration in 2017 from the CGCN Group, where he was a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry returned to CGCN in April 2018. However, the Members pointed out in the letter to Chairman Abraham, “the implications of his ‘ignore science’ memo still warrant a thorough review and appropriate oversight from the Science Committee – it speaks volumes as to how this Administration handles scientific evidence.”

NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite Moving Forward

NASA ISRO synthetic aperture radar satellite (Credit: NASA)

A joint collaboration between NASA and ISRO to orbit an advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellite is moving forward toward a 2021 launch date as engineers at the two agencies learn to work together effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

“The NISAR project continues to track a risk that process differences between NASA and its development partner, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), could negatively affect cost and schedule, but a recent project assessment concluded that collaboration between the two organizations has been effective,” the GAO report stated.

(more…)

GAO: JPL’s SWOT Mission Planning to Launch Ahead of Schedule

SWOT satellite (Credit: NASA JPL)

A Franco-American mission that will conduct a global survey of the Earth’s surface water is moving toward launching a year earlier than planned despite encountering technical challenges and and workforce shortages, according to an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite “will use its wide-swath radar altimetry technology to take repeated high-resolution measurements of the world’s oceans and freshwater bodies to develop a global survey,” the report stated.

(more…)

NASA Canceled Radiation Budget Instrument Due to Budget, Technical Issues

Radiation Budget Instrument (Credit: Harris Corporation)

Excessive cost growth, technical issues and poor contractor performance were the key factors that caused NASA to cancel a scientific instrument that had been set to fly aboard NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS-2), according to an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

(more…)

GAO_ ICESat-2 Mission Plagued by Laser Failures on Ground

This image shows the ATLAS instrument inside a Goddard cleanroom where the instrument was assembled. (Credits: NASA/D. McCallum)

Problems with lasers have caused a 17-month delay in the launch of a satellite that will measure changes in polar ice-sheet mass and elevation, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

Two lasers designed for use aboard the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) failed during ground testing due to cracked crystal, the report stated. The lasers have been repaired and will be used for the $1 billion mission. Only one laser is needed for mission success; the other one is a backup in case of the failure of the primary laser.

(more…)

Trump Administration Terminates NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

The Trump Administration has killed NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a program that monitored carbon output worldwide, Science reports.

The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.

The White House has mounted a broad attack on climate science, repeatedly proposing cuts to NASA’s earth science budget, including the CMS, and cancellations of climate missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3). Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts, a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The agency declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” But the CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration because of its association with climate treaties and its work to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And, unlike the satellites that provide the data, the research line had no private contractor to lobby for it.

Many of the 65 projects supported by the CMS since 2010 focused on understanding the carbon locked up in forests. For example, the U.S. Forest Service has long operated the premier land-based global assessment of forest carbon, but the labor-intensive inventories of soil and timber did not extend to the remote interior of Alaska. With CMS financing, NASA scientists worked with the Forest Service to develop an aircraft-based laser imager to tally up forest carbon stocks. “They’ve now completed an inventory of forest carbon in Alaska at a fraction of the cost,” says George Hurtt, a carbon cycle researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park, who leads the CMS science team.

The program’s cost is $10 million per year.

Bridenstine Squeaks in as NASA Administrator in Party-Line Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to serve as the next NASA Administrator was narrowly approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday afternoon.

The part-line vote was 50-49, with all Republicans voting yes and all the Democrats opposed. Sen. John McCain, who is absent undergoing cancer treatments, did not vote.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who had raised concerns about confirming a politician to run an agency with broad bipartisan support, voted to support the nomination.

Democrats opposed the nomination for several reasons, including Bridenstine’s previous claims that global warming is not occurring. He has since modified his views.

Senate to Vote on Bridenstine’s Nomination to Lead NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed a motion to bring the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to become the next administrator of NASA to a vote on the Senate floor.

News of the cloture motion was tweeted by Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) on Monday. The account is operated by the Senate Republican Cloakroom staff.

Bridenstine was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in September. The Senate Commerce Committee approved by a narrow party-line vote, with all the Democratic members voting against it.

Democrats have said that Bridenstine lacks the requisite scientific and technical background to lead the nation’s space agency. They have also questioned his past statements that global warming was not occurring. NASA spends $1.9 million on Earth science programs.

The vote on Bridenstine could be very close. It is believed that all 49 Democrats will vote against it. That would leave a narrow margin of 51 Republicans to vote for Bridenstine.

However, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has questioned  the wisdom of appointing a partisan politician to run an agency that has broad bipartisan support.

Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie. However, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been absent from the Senate undergoing cancer treatments.

Opposition to Nye’s State of the Union Attendance Grows

Bill Nye (Credit: Montclair Film Festival)

The criticism of the decision by The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) to attend Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address tonight at the invitation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has grown to include a petition and an opinion piece in a prominent scientific publication.

An online petition urging Nye to cancel his plans started by ClimateHawkVote had garnered 35,790 signatures, more the 35,000 it was seeking. The petition reads:

President Donald Trump is a bigoted climate denier. So is Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s embattled nominee for NASA Administrator. So why is Bill Nye “very pleased” to be Bridenstine’s guest at Trump’s first State of the Union address?

Bill, please be the Science Guy, not the Bigoted Climate Denial Guy. Cancel your plans to attend Trump’s State of the Union as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest.

An opinion piece in Scientific American by the organization 500 Women Scientists disagrees with Nye’s claim that he is not endorsing Bridenstine, the Trump Administration or their science policies by attending the annual address.

But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants, a ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education….

The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.

In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.

Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

(more…)

A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

(more…)

Senate Committee Approves Bridenstine Nomination by Party Line Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA administrator by a party-line vote of 14-13 this morning.

Republicans voted for Bridenstine while Democrats opposed him. The nomination now goes to the full Senate where Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage at a date to be determined.

During a contentious hearing last Wednesday, Democrats had criticized the former fighter pilot turned politician as lacking the scientific and technical expertise to lead the space agency. They also questioned whether the deeply conservative Republican was too partisan to lead NASA. Democrats were critical of his positions on climate change and LGBT rights.

Republicans praised Bridenstine’s service in the House, where he had become one of Congress’s leading policy wonks. The Congressman has the support of a number of space organizations as well as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The position of administrator is one of two positions at NASA that require Senate approval. The Trump Administration has yet to nominate a deputy administrator.

Walking on Coals: Bridenstine Dances Around Hot Climate Change Issues

The new NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Nominee Kinda Sorta Doesn’t Really
Walk Back Position on Global Warming

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Friday, the U.S. government released a long-in-the-making report on climate change that contained a stark assessment of what humans are doing to planet Earth.

“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report states. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

(more…)

Lamar Smith Leaving Congress

Lamar Smith

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the controversial chairman of the House Science Committee, has announced that he will not seek election to another two-year term next year.

“At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon! And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics.

“With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold and hundreds of votes to cast,” Smith added.

Smith, who has represented Texas’ 21st District since 1987, has been a leader in the GOP fight against efforts to address global warming, which the majority of Republicans in Congress do not believe is a serious threat. His committee also oversees NASA and other science agencies.