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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.

National Physical Laboratory
  • 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.

NASA

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.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Jupiter's moon Europa has a huge ocean beneath its sheets of ice.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

White dwarfs.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
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  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Juan Carlos Correa (L) , a prospective home buyer is shown a short sale home by Denise Madan, a Real Estate agent with Re/Max, as he shops for a house on April 22, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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