2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record, NASA Analysis Shows

Globally, 2020 was the hottest year on record, effectively tying 2016, the previous record. Overall, Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. Temperatures are increasing due to human activities, specifically emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Lori Perkins/Kathryn Mersmann)

NEW YORK (NASA PR) — Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA.

Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, the year’s globally averaged temperature was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 2020 edged out 2016 by a very small amount, within the margin of error of the analysis, making the years effectively tied for the warmest year on record.

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Sea Ice Loss and Extreme Wildfires Mark Another Year of Arctic Change

In the Arctic Ocean, sea ice reached its minimum extent of 1.44 million square miles (3.74 million square kilometers) on Sept. 15 – the second-lowest extent since modern record keeping began. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

Arctic Report Card: 15 years of observations document impact of changing polar climate

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA’s 15th Arctic Report Card catalogs for 2020 the numerous ways that climate change continues to disrupt the polar region, with second-highest air temperatures and second-lowest summer sea ice driving a cascade of impacts, including the loss of snow and extraordinary wildfires in northern Russia.

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The Good, the Bad and the Brexit: UK’s Participation in European Space Programs Curtailed by EU Departure

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although the United Kingdom’s (UK) “Brexit” departure from the European Union (EU) on Jan. 1 will not affect its membership status in the European Space Agency (ESA), the nation’s participation in a number of European space programs is either ending or being curtailed.

On Christmas Eve, the UK and EU announced an agreement in principle that will govern trade, security and political relations after Brexit. Under the agreement, the UK’s participation in the:

  • Galileo satellite navigation and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) program will end;
  • Copernicus Earth observation satellite program will continue, contingent upon a further agreement to be worked out next year; and
  • EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST) program will end, although the Britain will continue to receive data as a non-EU country.
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NASA, US, European Partner Satellite Returns First Sea Level Measurements

The data in this graphic are the first sea surface height measurements from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (S6MF) satellite, which launched Nov. 21, 2020. They show the ocean off the southern tip of Africa, with red colors indicating higher sea level relative to blue areas, which are lower. (Credits: EUMETSAT)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, a joint U.S.-European satellite built to measure global sea surface height, has sent back its first measurements of sea level. The data provide information on sea surface height, wave height, and wind speed off the southern tip of Africa.

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NOAA Awards Radio Occultation Contracts to Spire Global, GeoOptics

NOAA has awarded Spire Global and GeoOptics contracts worth a combined $23 million to provide radio occultation data from satellites the agency will use to improve its weather forecasting.

Under the two-year Commercial Weather Data Operational Buy contracts, the companies’ satellites will measure how Global Navigation Satellite System radio signals bend as they travel through the atmosphere.

NOAA will use data collected on temperatures, pressure and water vapor to better model and forecast the weather.

San Francisco-based Spire Global and GeoOptics of Pasadena, Calif., will share the $23 million award in accordance with the data the companies provide.

The contracts are a follow-on to the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program under which Spire Global and GeoOptics provided radio occultation data to NOAA for evaluation.

NOAA concluded earlier this year that the provided data were of sufficient quality to warrant purchasing.

Biden Appoints Ellen Stofan to Lead NASA Agency Review Team

Ellen Stofan (Credit: Smithsonian Institution)
  • Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
  • Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.

Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.

Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.

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NOAA, Google to Apply AI to Environmental Monitoring, Weather Prediction

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS) has signed an agreement with Google to explore the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for enhancing NOAA’s use of satellite and environmental data.

Under this three-year Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement, NESDIS and Google will pilot specific AI- and ML-related projects to amplify NOAA’s environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, climate research, and technical innovation. 

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Wicker Introduces Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency Act to Put Commerce Department in Charge of Space Situational Awareness

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators. 

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U.S.-European Sea Level Satellite Gears Up for Launch

This animation shows the radar pulse from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite’s altimeter bouncing off the sea surface in order to measure the height of the ocean. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will soon be heading into orbit to monitor the height of the ocean for nearly the entire globe.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Preparations are ramping up for the Nov. 10 launch of the world’s latest sea level satellite. Since arriving in a giant cargo plane at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last month, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has been undergoing final checks, including visual inspections, to make sure it’s fit to head into orbit.

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5 Things to Know About Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will map up to 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days in order to monitor sea level variability. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

Set for launch in November, the Earth-observing satellite will closely monitor sea level and provide atmospheric data to support weather forecasting and climate models.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On Nov. 10, the world’s latest Earth-observing satellite will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. As a historic U.S.-European partnership, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will begin a five-and-a-half-year prime mission to collect the most accurate data yet on global sea level and how our oceans are rising in response to climate change. The mission will also collect precise data of atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasts and climate models.

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SpaceX Wins $109.4 Million Contract to Launch NASA Satellites on Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SAOCOM 1B satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, which includes four secondary payloads.

IMAP will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere, a magnetic barrier surrounding our solar system. This region is where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with winds from other stars. This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.

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Trump Fills Key NOAA Posts with Global Warming Skeptics

An aircraft drops chemicals on wildfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: USAF)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With the West Coast ablaze with wildfires and rising seas threatening to flood coastlines, the man who called global warming a Chinese hoax is filling two top jobs at the U.S. government’s premiere weather and climate agency with people who don’t believe warming is a problem.

The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump has tapped Ryan Maue to fill the post of chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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USSF and NOAA Begin Joint Operations of Infrared Weather Satellite

A view of the Earth from the EWS-G1 satellite taken on September 1, 2020. Originally launched in 2006 as GOES-13, the satellite provided operational weather coverage over the United States’ East Coast for 10 years before being replaced in the GOES-East position by GOES-16. The transfer to the Department of Defense and relocation of EWS-G1 is the culmination of joint efforts between SMC, NOAA and NASA. (Credit: U.S. Space Force’s MARK IV-B Program Office)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (U.S. Space Force PR) – The U.S. Space Force has declared Initial Operational Capability of the Electro-optical Infrared Weather System Geostationary (EWS-G1) spacecraft. EWS-G1, formerly known as GOES-13, was transferred to the U.S. Air Force by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2019 under an agreement between the U.S. Air Force and NOAA for Interagency Cooperation on Collection of Space-Based Environmental Monitoring Data.

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NOAA Readies for Addition to its Space Weather Toolkit

An artist’s rendering of the SWFO-L1 satellite. (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is planning an advanced satellite that will improve forecasts and warnings for potentially damaging solar activity while perched in a Sun-facing orbit a million miles from Earth.

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Space Weather Bill Passes Congress

The Sun sends out a constant stream of particles and energy, which drives a complex space weather system near Earth and can affect spacecraft and astronauts. NASA has chosen five new mission concept studies for further development to study various aspects of this dynamic system. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A bill to reorganize the nation’s response to space weather has passed both houses of Congress and heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow Act (PROSwift) assigns roles to federal departments and establishes an interagency working group to coordinate their activities.

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