Friday, August 30, 2013

Examining Earth Hazards 
A public interest assessment of significant natural and non-natural hazards 
of concern to  scientific and emergency management communities

(September 1, 2013 - Baltimore, MD)  When out-going Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke to the National Press Club in late August 2013, (C-Span Video) she shined an important light of situational awareness onto several high-risk hazards which for some, usually fall into a "low probability" column. That is, until major weather events of the past several years changed that perspective for many. Even in 2013, nations around the world continue to experience catastrophes ranging from massive floods and devastating wildfires to a historic meteor explosion in Russia and numerous other parts of the globe.

With September being National Preparedness Month in the United States, our team is bringing attention to the Secretary's presentation as evidence our government officials are paying much closer attention to the increasing threat of "Earth hazards."  Concurrently,   use of "probability" in decision-making appears to be gaining important ground across the Homeland Security enterprise. In weather forecasting and climate science, as in many scientific and governmental venues, probability plays an influential role in how intelligence is presented, and how policymakers or leaders act on the information. 

In Secretary Napolitano's remarks, she notes the following about national efforts to secure the homeland against future hazards:
"In a world of evolving threats, the key to our success is the ability to be flexible and agile, and adapt to changing circumstances on the ground – whether that is across the globe, or here at home. It means taking every necessary step to prepare for a range of potential outcomes, and understanding that if things don’t go according to plan, or the unexpected occurs, we are ready and able to shift resources and adjust operations, learn from our mistakes, and put ourselves in a position to succeed in the future."
Later in her remarks, the Secretary maps out several critical points in an "Open Letter To My Successor." Among these include references to two types of hazards, which may at first seem to be unrelated, unless the events have a single point of origin.
A major cyber-attack  "Our country will, for example, at some point, face a major cyber event that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy, and the everyday functioning of our society."  [see 2012 DHS statement: Cyber Threats]
Severe weather events "You also will have to prepare for the increasing likelihood of more weather-related events of a more severe nature as a result of climate change, and continue to build the capacity to respond to potential disasters in far flung regions of the country that could occur at the same time."
How is this related to weather forecasting? 

Since our founding in 2004 as a "common good enterprise," the Foot's Forecast team has always strongly advocated a supportive relationship with local, state and federal emergency management. Our role is to augment and repurpose existing weather intelligence data into a format that is appropriately sourced, verifiable, peer-reviewed and guided by the scientific method.

Our approach has repeatedly earned invitations to work side-by-side with local and state government officials to assist during their darkest hours, such as Hurricane Sandy, as well as to collaborate and celebrate in their ground-breaking successes, such as the Baltimore Grand Prix.
When our information is presented to or requested by officials and policy-makers, it is done so in a manner to support public safety, strengthen understanding of scientific data, and scaffold around the tireless, heroic work of those who put their lives on the line to secure our nation and its institutions. We are encouraged to see how agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security have a renewed appreciation to understand and plan for Earth Hazards, as evidenced by the Secretary's remarks. 
What hazards are being examined?
Image credit:

Starting in September 2013, our Earth Hazards series will begin exploring a compendium of datasets, perspectives and hypotheses surrounding a list of the "most probable" hazards that could present challenges in the immediate- and near-term. For most of our readers, chief among these concerns is simply, "What about winter?" We will address that priority analysis first, and then move on to a series of investigations through the different "spheres" of influence as noted below. We offer this preview of questions to be explored within each topic as follows, and when appropriate, we will provide examples of inter-relationships between phenomena.
  • HELIOSPHERE: Risks from solar disturbances, such as Coronal Mass Ejections producing catastrophic regional power outages from effects of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) [also see Lloyds of London 2013 report]
  • MAGNETOSPHERE: Are changes in the Earth's magnetic field, which has weakened 10% since the 19th century, reducing effectiveness of Earth's protective "shielding" to radiation? (see Dec 2003 Science @ NASA report)
  • ATMOSPHERE: Can short- and long-range climate teleconnections influence extreme weather patterns, or be influenced by magnetic or solar interference? What impact geoengineered Solar Radiation management has on the atmosphere? (See UK's Royal Society 2009 report on geoengineering the climate)
  • HYDROSPHERE: What relationships present between oceanic factors such sea surface temperature anomalies, Nino/Nina and related influences on climate? Consideration of how radiation from the Fukushima power plant is affecting ocean systems and the biosphere. (see NBC Nightly News 9/5/2013 report)
  • CRYOSPHERE: Can we detect changes in concentration and extent of Arctic Sea Ice? What comparisons exist between northern hemispheric snow cover and winter indicators; (see Danish Meteorological Institute monitoring of polar temperatures above 80 deg N)
  • GEOSPHERE: What forces can affect global seismic and volcanic activity, including consideration of whether there is any correlation over time between solar phenomena and earthquakes over time?  (See 10/5/2011 report by NASA scientist Dr. Alex Young at privately-operated website The Sun Today)

If you would like more information about our Earth Hazards investigations, or wish to collaborate with us on any of our projects, read to the next section or contact us:

Earth Hazards
Collaborating across disciplines to manage tomorrow's risks

8/17/2013 By Senior Advisor R. Foot 

"Really? There's a comet coming this Fall?"  Yes, a recently-discovered comet is approaching the inner solar system, and it could produce quite a celestial show for Earth observers starting in September. 

By now, we know you might be wondering... How does this relate to climate and weather? (and) Why are we telling you this now? We're glad you asked! 

The Foot's Forecast team employs an interdisciplinary "Earth Systems" perspective when conveying the latest research and observations on how global and solar system forces interact to drive our climate and weather. The upcoming comet is just one example of how we can promote celestial events to raise the public's scientific awareness about the Earth-Sun system.  

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1), first discovered in September 2012, is crossing into the inner solar system, and by December 2013, could look similar to this NASA rendering shown above. The Comet's perihelion in late November is also expected to coincide with an anticipated "flip" of the Sun's electromagnetic field. As part of our Long Range Team's customary data preparation for the winter forecast, we will be examining these factors as we look ahead to the seasonal transition and what weather challenges may come.

Just as important as the long range scientific connections, is the potential educational value of this global experience. We encourage all teachers at all levels of instruction to consider ways they can leverage this opportunity to raise student awareness about interactive natural forces, with ISON blazing the trail of knowledge forward for all of us.  

On our team, a major forecast for a high impact event or a seasonal projection employs a concerted multi-state collaborative effort accounting for numerous scientific factors. These include Earth Systems such as El Nino/La Nina ocean temperature anomalies, atmospheric factors such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and even celestial influence such as solar output and relationships with Arctic Sea Ice. 

(Image credit: NASA X-Ray view of the Sun)

We utilize an interdisciplinary mosaic of resources including NOAA's Climate Prediction CenterOcean Prediction Centerinnovative NASA websites such as the Solar Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO), and open access University resources available at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Penn State e-WALL

We present a reasoned and sound analysis of the latest research or observational findings in a plain language approach to guide non-technical audiences in building  understanding of climate-driven influences on society, and the science behind potential hazards. 

Interested in using this knowledge to improve your resiliency to and preparation for climate-influenced risks? Contact us: 
(Image: NOAA animation of 30-day changes in upper level atmospheric activity for the Northern Hemisphere, as seen in a Polar view. This image conveys how "compressed" or "expanded" the atmosphere is in the 14,000 to 18,000 foot level above mean sea level, aiding forecasters in analysis of how upper levels impact surface weather.)

FORECASTING OPPORTUNITIES The links for our seasonal and specialty zones display recent examples of how our multi-state team works together in handling events such as Atlantic basin tropical cyclones, long range projections, and tracking how solar output affects hemispheric weather. Are you a students with interest in Space Weather, the tropics, severe weather or long range forecasting? Contact us to learn more, and we look forward to an engaging season ahead of new discoveries, whether in the sky, or beyond!


ravensbbr said...

"For most of our readers, chief among these concerns is simply, "What about winter?"

ummm...yup. Throw in the occasional high-level weather event (hurricane, tornado, etc.)and the odd earthquake and yeah, that sums up the average FF Powderhound/Amateur Met/Geek :-P

ravensbbr said...

And I'm proud to be one!

Amy said...

When does the winter forecast come out? Can I start wearing my PJs inside out now to get snow this winter. I mean real snow.

Rocket said...

Outside lighting for your home or business has never been more accessible or outdoor solar lights