from the world's big
Europe's new space mission to uncover 'Truths' on climate change
The TRUTHS mission aims to collect extremely precise data on how much radiation Earth absorbs and reflects.
- TRUTHS would use state-of-the-art technology to precisely measure Earth's so-called "radiation budget."
- The new technology would also help calibrate instruments aboard existing satellites.
- The European Space Agency and UK Space Agency are expected to launch the mission in 2026.
The European Space Agency is set to launch a satellite designed to boost the accuracy of climate-change predictions.The main goal of the mission, called TRUTHS (Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio-Studies), is to precisely measure the amount of solar radiation that Earth reflects back into space. These measurements would give scientists a better idea of how much solar radiation the Earth absorbs, and it would also help answer questions about the extent to which natural variability impacts climate change.
To measure solar irradiance (energy coming from the sun) and reflectances and radiances coming from Earth, TRUTHS uses a hyperspectral camera and a cryogenic radiometer. These instruments generate detailed maps of the light (visible and near-infrared) that's reflected off the Earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere.
TRUTHS would also calibrate climate instruments aboard other satellites. Since the 1970s, space agencies have been using space-based radiometers to measure solar energy and its effects on climate. These instruments are considerably accurate, yet many climate-change models still have a significant degree of uncertainty, for reasons including:
- Cloud feedback
- Snow, ice and land cover
- Aerosols in the atmosphere make it difficult to gather accurate data
TRUTHS' instruments are about 50 times more precise than earlier technologies, according to a report from the Royal Society.
Why we need extremely accurate climate models
Once TRUTHS is able to start generating highly detailed maps of the light Earth reflects, it would effectively establish a "climate fingerprint" against which scientists could compare future measurements.
"By doing that we'll be able to detect subtle changes much earlier than we can with our current observing system," Nigel Fox, a professor at Britain's National Physical Laboratory, which is leading the initial design phase of TRUTHS, told the BBC. "This will allow us to constrain and test the climate forecast models. So we'll know earlier whether the predicted temperatures that the models are giving us are consistent or not with the observations."
The Royal Society report noted that boosting the accuracy of climate models is important for knowing which climate-change mitigation strategies are, or would be, effective:
"The IPCC concludes that the mix of natural variability and anthropogenic effects on decadal time scales is far from fully understood or measured, requiring significant improvements in accuracy. Unequivocal attribution and quantification of subtle fingerprint indicators from this noisy background are fundamental to our ability to predict climate reliably and use appropriate mitigation/adaptation strategies. The uncertainty in climate prediction lies in the complexity of the models, our inadequate understanding of the Earth system and its feedback mechanisms, and the relatively poor quality of available data against which to test predictions on the necessary decadal time scales."
The member states of the European Space Agency are expected to green-light the mission for a 2026 launch. It's expected to cost at least $275 million.
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Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
China moves to Russia and India takes over Canada. The Swiss get Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi India. And the U.S.? It stays where it is.
What if the world were rearranged so that the inhabitants of the country with the largest population would move to the country with the largest area? And the second-largest population would migrate to the second-largest country, and so on?
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.