Historical photos show change

There’s nothing quite like historical photos of glaciers to show what a dynamic planet we live on. Alaska’s Muir Glacier, like many Alaskan glaciers, has retreated and thinned dramatically since the 19th century.

This particular pair of images shows the glacier’s continued retreat and thinning in the second half of the 20th century. From 1941 to 2004, the front of the glacier moved back about seven miles while its thickness decreased by more than 2,625 feet, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

side-by-side comparison of Muir Glacier in 1941, on left, and in 2004, on right.

Photo credits: Photographed by William O. Field on Aug. 13, 1941 (left) and by Bruce F. Molnia on

Aug. 31, 2004 (right). From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National
Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.
Use the study, at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-036, when teaching the NES lessons, Earth Climate Course or Satellite Meteorology, both found on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

For more historical images of glaciers, visit http://nsidc.org/data/glacier_photo/ or http://climate.nasa.gov/interactives/global_ice_viewer.

What Happened to all the Snow?

Winter seems to have been on hold this year in some parts of the United States. Snowfall has been scarce in places that were overwhelmed with the white stuff at the same time last year. In this ScienceCast, JPL climatologist Bill Patzert explains what’s going on.

Related NES Lessons:
   •  Weather and Climate: Satellite Meteorology
   •  Temperature and Earth Climate: Modeling Hot and Cold Planets

NASA Now: Aquarius

Dr. David Le Vine, deputy principal investigator for the Aquarius mission, discusses why we need to know more about sea surface salinity. Le Vine is an expert in measurement physics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He is currently a scientist with the Aquarius mission, which gathers data on sea surface salinity. Our current knowledge of sea surface salinity is very limited because in the past we’ve only collected data from ships traveling in shipping lanes.

The Aquarius satellite will scan the entire surface of Earth once every seven days for three years collecting data on sea surface salinity. Analysis of these data will help to better predict climate conditions.

Aquarius will gather as much data in a few months as we have gathered in the past 125 years.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now Minute: Aquarius

NASA Mission to Observe Earth's Salty Seas for Climate Clues

Person completing final checks of AquariusPreparations continue for the June 9, 7:20 a.m. launch of the international Aquarius/SAC-D observatory satellite from NASA’s Space Launch Complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Ca. The satellite will study connections between ocean circulation, the water cycle and climate by measuring ocean surface salinity. Global ocean salinity has been an area of much scientific uncertainty. Past measurements of salinity have been limited mostly to summertime observations in shipping lanes. Aquarius will map the entire ocean every day for at least three years from an altitude of 657 km (408 miles). The measurements will help scientists understand how salinity changes over time. Because ocean surface salinity varies from place to place and over time, scientists can use it to trace the ocean’s role in Earth’s water cycle. Aquarius will reveal how salinity variations influence ocean circulation and the water cycle, which help determine the Earth’s climate.

For information and activities about Earth observing satellites and Earth’s weather and climate, check out the NASA Explorer Schools module, Earth Climate Course.
For more information about Aquarius visit the mission website.

West Ward Elementary Students Participate in S'Cool Project

NASA Explorer Schools educator Elliott Alvarado and his students from West Ward Elementary School have been helping NASA scientists by participating in the Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line, or S’COOL, project. Students make atmospheric observations of cloud type and density, record simple weather information, and then post these to a central website. NASA scientists compare the student observations to images and information recorded by weather satellites. Alvarado reports the activity increases student interest and participation in science.

This activity complements NES modules Earth Climate Course and Satellite Meteorology.

For more information visit the S’Cool project website.

NASA Now: The Reason for the Seasons

NASA NOW LOGOIn this episode of NASA Now, you will learn what it’s like to study the atmospheres of other planets. We are approaching the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Dr. Kelly Fast, astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., discusses the reason for the seasons. Fast explains what an equinox is and whether or not other planets in our solar system have seasons.

Corresponding NES Teaching Materials:


NASA Now Minute: The Reason for the Seasons

Balloonsat High Altitude Flight Student Competition

Balloon Sat LogoThe BHALF competition is open to teams of four or more students in grades 9 to 12 from high schools and community groups throughout the United States, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Teams develop a flight experiment or technology demonstration and submit a proposal for consideration by a panel of NASA scientists and engineers. The panel will select eight teams to design and construct their project for competition. The eight projects will be sent to the near space environment of the stratosphere, or nearly 100,000 feet (~ 50.5 km) above Earth, during several NASA weather balloon launches in Northeastern, Ohio.Proposals are due February 11, 2011. 

For more information, check out the BHALF website.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus.