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September apparently wasn’t feeling like doing anything unusual, so it ended up being the warmest September on record for the globe. That’s been something of a trend this year, with each month landing in its respective top three. It has become increasingly clear that 2020 will likely be the second warmest year on record, if it isn’t the first.
Unlike in August, the contiguous US didn’t set a record in September, though it was still above the 20th century average. A high-pressure ridge dominated over the West Coast again, leading to even more warm and dry weather for much of the Western US. But a trough set up over the Central US in mid-September, bringing cooler air southward.
Two more hurricanes—Sally and Beta—led to above-average rainfall in the Southeast. Total precipitation for the contiguous US was a touch above average as a result, but the average as usual masks local differences. Drought conditions have expanded and worsened over much of the West, and there has been little relief for wildfire conditions.
Speaking of those hurricanes, they brought the number of named storms making landfall in the contiguous US to nine for the year. That tied 1916 for the most on record, but Hurricane Delta’s landfall in Louisiana has since added to 2020’s dizzying tally.
September also saw the number of billion-dollar-plus disasters in the US climb to 16—tying 2011 and 2017 for the most in a year since the start of this (inflation-adjusted) metric in 1980.
NOAA released its winter outlook on Thursday. These long-range outlooks are based on a combination of observed trends, important slow-changing patterns, and model simulations. NOAA typically discusses the next-month and next-three-months outlook, but this round includes the December-January-February seasonal window.
If you caught last month’s update, this will look pretty familiar. The biggest factor in play is the La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which are likely to persist at least until spring. La Niñas tend to have a pretty defined impact on US winter weather, though the variability of weather doesn’t disappear. But the cold surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific generally promote a shift in the US storm track that leads to more cold and wet weather across the northern tier of the country, with warmer and drier weather across the south.
LeoLabs, which uses its own ground-based radars to track spaceborne objects, put the odds of collision at 10% or greater. That’s high, but not uncommon, LeoLabs CEO Daniel Ceperley told CNN Business on Thursday.
But the US military, which uses data from the world’s largest network of radars and telescopes, said that its space traffic control team detected a “nearly zero percent probability of collision.”
In response, LeoLabs’s Ceperley said in a statement Friday morning: “We obviously have a great deal of respect for the [US military’s] 18th Space Control Squadron and their estimates. Nobody is disputing that these objects came close to one another.”
Meanwhile, Moriba Jah, an astrodynamicist at the University of Texas at Austin who has long been trying to raise public awareness about the abundance of junk in Earth’s orbit at constant risk of colliding, said the ordeal was only the latest piece of evidence that the world needs an internationally collaborative effort to track space traffic.
His data, an amalgamation of all publicly available real-time space traffic information, show dozens of potential collisions happening at any given moment. Jah suggested the Soviet satellite and discarded rocket booster were expected to come within 72 meters of each other. However, he couldn’t say for sure whether a collision was even “likely.”
Objects in space are tracked with telescopes and radar operated by governments and private companies. But all those organizations around the globe are hesitant to share their data with each other. So, when there is a chance that two things in space might collide, experts have an extremely difficult time hashing out exactly how high the risks are. LeoLabs does not share its data publicly.
Ceperley told CNN Business Thursday that the company decided to raise public awareness about this particular event because the two objects are both large, and because they’re in an area of orbit that’s still relatively clean compared to nearby orbits. The company is also trying to raise more general awareness about the debris problem, he said, to encourage the private sector to develop means of cleaning it up.
“Multiple times a week we’re seeing dead satellites come within 100 meters of each other, moving at tremendous speeds,” Ceperley said.
What happened Thursday
The Soviet satellite, which launched to space in 1989 and was used for navigation, weighs nearly 2,000 pounds and is 55 feet long, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The rocket booster, part of a Chinese Long March launch vehicle that likely launched in 2009, is about 20 feet long. Neither of the objects are still in use.
If the rocket and satellite did collide, it would have been the first time in more than a decade that two objects spontaneously collided in space — a situation space traffic experts have hoped desperately to avoid.
The last collision, in 2009, saw a dead Russian military satellite ram into an active communications satellite operated by US-based telecommunications firm Iridium. That event produced a massive cloud of debris, most of which is too small to track from the ground. And the wreckage is still in orbit, posing a constant threat to nearby satellites.
There are also already hundreds of thousands — possibly millions — of objects whirling around in orbit uncontrolled, including tiny pieces of debris, spent rocket boosters, dead satellites and detritus from military anti-satellite missile demonstrations. The junk is heavily concentrated in areas of orbit closest to the Earth’s surface. And, though it doesn’t pose much of a risk to humans on the ground, it does threaten hoards of active satellites that provide all sorts of services, including tracking the weather, studying the Earth’s climate, and providing telecom services. The debris also threatens the International Space Station, where crews of astronauts have lived since 2000, and which has had to adjust its own orbit three times this year due to space debris.
McDowell explained on Twitter that a new collision would be “very bad.” The Soviet satellite and Chinese rocket booster could have led to a 10% to 20% increase in the amount of debris in space, and each new piece of debris boosts the odds that more collisions will keep happening.
It could even set off a disastrous chain reaction, leaving space littered with an impenetrable field of garbage that brings new rocket launches and space exploration to a grinding halt.
Part of the problem is that outer space remains largely unregulated. The last widely agreed-upon international treaty guiding the use of outer space hasn’t been updated in five decades, which has mostly left the space industry to police itself.
The rise in popularity of megaconstellations — epitomized by the Starlink internet constellation that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is building — has sparked a new wave of discussion about the risks of congestion in orbit. Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told CNN Business last month that growing congestion in space is already making it more difficult for his company’s rockets to find a clear path to orbit to deliver new satellites.
That window Musk referred to is a launch opportunity that arises every 26 months for mission to Mars. NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July of this year. The next window opens in 2022 with Musk referring to the 2024 Mars launch opportunity.
The mission will launch to the Red Planet on a SpaceX Starship vehicle, a reusable rocket-and-spacecraft combo that is currently under development at the company’s South Texas facility. SpaceX is also planning to use Starship for missions to the moon starting in 2022, as well as point-to-point trips around the Earth.
Musk has long said that humans need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure “the continuance of consciousness as we know it” — just in case planet Earth is left uninhabitable by a something like a nuclear war or an asteroid strike.
But SpaceX doesn’t have any plans to actually build a Mars base. As a transportation company, its only goal is to ferry cargo (and humans) to and from the Red Planet, facilitating the development of someone else’s Mars base.
“SpaceX is taking on the biggest single challenge, which is the transportation system. There’s all sorts of other systems that are going to be needed,” Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin said during the convention.
“My personal hope is that we’re gonna see Starship in the stratosphere before this year’s out, and if Elon is right, reach orbit next year or the year after,” Zubrin added. “This will change people’s minds as to what is possible. And then, you know, we’ll have NASA seeking to fund the remaining pieces of the puzzle or entrepreneurs stepping forward to develop remaining pieces of the puzzle.”
If Musk’s projections are correct — he is known for offering overly ambitious timelines — SpaceX’s first Mars mission would launch in the same year that NASA astronauts return to the moon under the Artemis program. SpaceX is also planning to fly space tourists on a Starship mission around the moon in 2023. NASA has also picked SpaceX as one of three commercial teams to develop moon landers for the Artemis program.
Musk said Friday that if it weren’t for the orbital mechanics that call for Mars launches every 26 months, SpaceX “would maybe have a shot of sending or trying send something to Mars in three years,” Musk said, adding that Earth and Mars won’t be in the best position. “But the window is four years away, because of them being in different parts of the solar system.”
Musk unveiled plans for SpaceX’s Starship plans in 2016. The project aims to launch a 165-foot (50 meters) spacecraft atop a massive booster for deep-space missions to the moon, Mars and elsewhere. Both the Starship and its Super Heavy booster will be reusable.
This year, SpaceX launched two test flights of Starship prototypes, called SN5 and SN6, from its Boca Chica test site in Texas. Those flights reached an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters).
SpaceX is currently preparing another Starship prototype, called SN8, for a 12-mile-high (20 kilometers) test flight in the near future.
Email Hanneke Weitering at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
A man skis on a road in the Ballard neighborhood after a large storm blanketed the city with snow on February 9, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Seattle almost reached its yearly amount of snowfall in a day. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
Western Washington is likely to experience a cooler, wetter winter this year because of a La Niña weather pattern, according to new long-term projections from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While more precipitation and cooler temperatures are the perfect conditions for snow, NOAA says it can’t project seasonal snowfall accumulations that far in advance. Snow forecasts are usually not predictable more than a week out, it explains in the new data.
That doesn’t mean we can’t dream about it, or cross our fingers and hope instead for a heat wave. The National Weather Service issued a poll on Twitter on Thursday asking Pacific Northwesterners how they feel about snow this winter.
Just over 2,000 people voted and 56.5% said they want a ton of snow, with another 25.4% voting for just a bit of snow. That leaves 18% hoping for the more typical clouds and rain, and maybe some sun breaks this season.
But we might as well take a poll: How much snow are you rooting for this winter? #wawx
For now, if you’re a snow lover, you’re likely already paying close attention to what’s happening in the Cascade Mountains. Snow began falling in earnest at Stevens Pass last weekend, with another hit on Wednesday.
Stevens Pass plans to open on Dec. 4 this season, with some safety precautions. CEO of Vail Resorts, Rob Katz, outlined those precautions here. They include mandatory face coverings and reservations, in order to maintain the proper capacity to ensure good physical distancing.
Snoqualmie Pass is also resuming operations this season, but it’s unclear when. It had to pause its seasons pass sales in September to re-evaluate volume. The resorts plans to resume those sales sometime in October. Meanwhile, it has also published a list of COVID-19 precautions here, which also includes mandatory face coverings.
NOAA’s next winter outlook will post on November 19, 2020. For a full explanation of the entire United States’ climate outlook, NOAA has posted this handy video:
A dead Soviet satellite and an abandoned Chinese rocket body have crashed into each other rapidly in space this week, but were far from a catastrophic accident on Thursday night.
Leo Labs, a company that uses radar Track satellites and debris In space, Said On Tuesday it said it was monitoring a “very high-risk” conjunction – an intersection of two objects’ orbits around Earth.
The company used its radar array to monitor every two objects when it crossed the overhead three or four times a day from Friday.
Data indicate that two large pieces of space junk are missing from each other 8 to 43 meters (26 to 141 feet) Thursday night at 8:56 p.m.
On Wednesday, when the estimated miss distance was just 12 meters (19 feet), Leo Labs calculated a 10 percent chance of hitting objects.
It may seem trivial, but NASA normally moves the International Space Station when the orbiting laboratory is only 0.001 percent (1 in 100,000) more likely to encounter iding with an object.
Since both the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body were not working, no one could move them out of each other. The astronomer said that if they were ide, an explosion equivalent to the explosion of 14 metric tons of TNT would send rockets of debris in all directions. Jonathan McDowell.
10 minutes after the fusion, when the rocket body flew over Leo Labs radar, there was only one object – the company tweeted that “there were no signs of debris”.
“Bullet Dodge,” McDowell Said On Twitter. “But space debris is still a big problem.”
The collision may not have endangered anyone on Earth, as the satellites are 991 kilometers (616 miles) from Earth and cross the Antarctic Ocean over the Veddel Sea. But as a result thousands of spacecraft fragments were dangerous in Earth’s orbit.
Experts at Aerospace Corporation have calculated very few collisions: 1 in just 23 billion by Thursday morning, with objects estimated to miss 70 meters (230 feet) from each other.
“The space-wreck community is constantly alerting us to these close policies, and we are not lying or lying about it,” Ted Mulhapt, who oversees The Aerospace Corporation’s space-wreck analysis, told Business Insider.
“Any of them is a low probability event, because the space is still very large. But when you take these items and combine them, sooner or later you’ll see the rewards. It’s time for us to go through another big collision with our models.”
Space collisions make clouds of dangerous high-speed debris
Nearly 130 million bits of space junk Currently orbiting the Earth, from abandoned satellites, detached spaceship and other missions. Those debris travel at about 10 times the speed of a bullet, which is fast enough to cause deadly damage to important equipment no matter how small the pieces.
Such a hit can kill astronauts on a spaceship.
The problem is exacerbated when collisions between space junk pieces cause objects to disintegrate into smaller pieces.
Two events in 2007 and 2009 increased the size of large debris in low Earth orbit 70 percent.
The first was the China test of an anti-satellite missile, in which China fired one of its own weather satellites. Two years later, an American spacecraft accidentally hit a Russian.
“Because of that, there’s a debris belt now,” Sepperley said.
India conducted its own satellite missile test in 2019, and that explosion created a prediction 6,500 ruins Larger than the eraser.
The satellite fired by India has a mass of less than one metric ton.
Combined, the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body that cared for each other weighed nearly three metric tons (2,800 kilograms). Depending on those large volumes, the collision could create a significant cloud of hazardous debris.
High-risk satellite combinations are becoming more common
Objects did not crash, but Seperley said the two satellites were “canceled, so basically no one was keeping an eye on them.”
The U.S. Air Force, which tracks satellites for the government, did not inform NASA about the potential collision, the space agency told Business Insider at the time.
Expert warnings about space junk grew even more urgent from that miss.
“We have recently determined the number of combinations,” Dan Oltrog, an astronomer, told Business Insider, which researched orbital debris at Analytical Graphics, Inc.
Oltrose uses a software system that has been collecting and estimating conjunction data for the past 15 years. In recent times in orbital encounters, he says, “seems to be well-connected with the newly launched large-star cluster spacecraft.”
The largest constellations he represents are Internet satellite clusters, which companies like SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb plan to launch. In total, the companies plan to launch more than 100,000 satellites by the end of the decade. Since May 2019, SpaceX has already launched nearly 800 new satellites into Earth orbit.
The catastrophe of wreckage can reduce our access to space
If the space-junk problem is exacerbated, the chain of collisions will get out of control and surround the Earth in an impassable field of debris. Donald J. Snyder, who worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and calculated in a 1978 paper.
“It’s a long-term impact that will last for decades and centuries,” Mulhapt said Told Business Insider In January. “Anything that does a lot of debris increases that risk.”
The number of objects in Earth’s orbit could already have a Kessler-like effect – a risk described last week by Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.
“It will have a huge impact on the launch side,” he said Told CNN Business, Rockets “should try and weave between these [satellite] Constellations. “
Perhaps nothing exposes the extent to which convenience and poor economic policies can combine to make the Earth uninhabitable than the story of plastics. Over the past several decades, plastic waste has been found in the snow atop the highest mountains and in the deepest parts of the ocean. Microplastics are in our food and inside our bodies. Just this week, a study in California found that 13.3 quadrillion microfibers — defined as those less than 5 millimeters in length — are released into the state’s environment every year, mostly from washing clothes made with plastic based cloth and thread.
To put that in some perspective, that is 130,000 times more microfibers than the number of stars in the Milky Way, according to a report by The Guardian. They get flushed out in the rinse cycle and then dumped into rivers and oceans, where they get ingested by plants and animals that make up the food chain for humans. A recent study found more than 70% of fish caught in the open oceans have microplastics in their stomachs. The economic failure is a financial system that imposes no cost upon the manufacturers who produce plastics. Recently, reports have surfaced that the oil industry is hoping to offset declines in fuel consumption by ramping up plastic production for consumption in Africa.
Can nothing save us from the scourge of plastics? Surely the industry has shown no morality or sense of decency in its onslaught against the environment. Anything to make a buck and the consequences be damned. A group of researchers in the UK, China, and Saudi Arabia — almost none of whom would be allowed into the United States by the current maladministration — think they have discovered a partial solution. Here’s an excerpt from the abstract to the study, which was published October 12 in the journal Nature Catalysis.
“Here we report a straightforward rapid method for the catalytic deconstruction of various plastic feedstocks into hydrogen and high-value carbons. We use microwaves together with abundant and inexpensive iron-based catalysts as microwave susceptors to initiate the catalytic deconstruction process. The one-step process typically takes 30–90 seconds to transform a sample of mechanically pulverized commercial plastic into hydrogen and (predominantly) multiwalled carbon nanotubes. A high hydrogen yield of 55.6 mmol g−1plastic is achieved, with over 97% of the theoretical mass of hydrogen being extracted from the deconstructed plastic. The approach is demonstrated on widely used, real-world plastic waste. This proof-of-concept advance highlights the potential of plastic waste itself as a valuable energy feedstock for the production of hydrogen and high-value carbon materials.”
A report by Phys.Org says the experimental process involved pulverizing the plastic samples and then using microwaves with aluminum oxide and iron oxide serving as catalysts. The microwaves allow for heating the catalysts without heating the plastics. Instead, the plastics were heated incidentally by the catalysts — an approach that prevents unwanted side reactions and makes the process more efficient.
The carbon nanotubes produced in the lab were of sufficient quality for use in other applications. The researchers note that there are currently other large-scale applications that involve the use of microwaves in commercial venues, which suggests they could be used for recycling plastics as well. They acknowledge that they have not yet tested their approach to recycling plastics at a larger scale but believe the disaster that lies in the world’s future if plastic pollution is not brought under control will drive efforts like theirs to succeed.
Certainly, the threat to the environment is real and it is enormous. The Center for International Environmental Law has issued a new report that should send a shudder down your spine. It says demand for plastics is accelerating, especially in developing nations. If the “business as usual” scenario plays out at anticipated, by 2050, plastics — from extracting the oil and gas they are made from, to manufacturing them, to distributing them, to disposing of them — will contribute 2.8 million gigatons of carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere each year, equivalent to the emissions from 615 coal fired generating plants.
Finding a way to replace conventional plastics with substitutes that are biodegradable or can be broken down by microbes would be a good start on the path to ending the scourge, but sensible economic policies that place the cost of disposal on manufacturers would go a long way toward ending an avalanche of plastics entering the Earth’s environment today. Less plastic in the world would mean less plastic to be converted back into useful byproducts like the microwave and catalyst process. All such post production remediation costs money. Why shouldn’t the companies who create the problem pay to clean up their own mess?
Steve Hanley Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.
Ice hockey is fast-paced, highly physical, with lots of close contact — the perfect environment for spreading the coronavirus hotspot.
“You’re likely to spread the virus just by the heavy breathing that you’re doing just by exerting yourself,” explained University of South Florida professor of public health, Dr. Marissa Levine. “All of that being indoors then made that more likely as a potential for a superspreader event.”
The term super-spreader means when one contagious person infects many others.
According to the report from the CDC, that is exactly what happened at a Tampa Bay area hockey game on a Tuesday night back in June.
“We don’t really know who the super-spreaders are, this person who was infected was a super-spreader but they didn’t really feel sick until the next day,” USF Health Dr. Michael Teng said.
Health officials believe that one man was the source, already contagious but not showing symptoms. Within five days of the match-up, eight of his teammates, five players on the other team, and one rink employee all got sick.
A situation that could have contributed to widespread community transmission of COVID-19.
“I think as we learn more we realize that bottom line is you have to take precautions in most settings that you’re in when there are other people around,” Levine said.
Health officials say we are entering a very critical time with flu season starting and new coronavirus infections trending up in the state, so it is more important than ever to stay at least six feet from others, wear face coverings, and wash your hands.
An abandoned Chinese rocket stage and a Soviet-era satellite almost collided on Earth overnight.
The collision created a large amount of new space debris and made our existing space debris problem worse.
As we continue to launch more and more satellites, space junk is more likely to affect affected missions.
If you haven’t heard before: Space junk is becoming a real problem. Throwing too much stressful garbage around the Earth’s bit rabbit is actually posing a threat to future space missions and even ongoing programs like the International Space Station. This is bad, and with companies like SpaceX planning to launch thousands more satellites on a regular basis, it’s just getting worse.
On Thursday night, the seriousness of our space junk problem Became clear When it looked like the old rocket phase of a Chinese mission, it was about to collide with an already dead Soviet satellite. Scientists monitored both objects, eliminating the number and determined that there was a 10% chance that the objects would collide, which is quite high and certainly noticeable. Thankfully, the two large pieces of space debris missed each other, but that doesn’t mean we can go back to ignoring our space debris.
I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, so an old, dead Soviet satellite landed on a piece of Chinese rocket. so what?”
While it is true that none of the wreckage was functional or critical for ongoing work, a collision can be devastating. You see, when arbitrary objects in space run fast against each other, they create more debris as a result. This means that two large objects become dozens, hundreds or even thousands of small, but still dangerous objects that continue to orbit the earth.
We are monitoring a very high risk combination between two big things in LEO. Multiple data points show miss distances
Even these small objects can cause serious problems for space missions, as something as small as a high-speed bolt can cause incredible damage if it affects a significant piece of space machinery. If heaven forbids, a manger spacecraft is ignited or killed by a small, fast-moving piece of metal as it reaches the space station or the moon, with disastrous consequences.
On top of that, the smaller the unit, the harder it is to track down from the ground. Two large objects are a problem, of course, but a thousand small objects can spell destruction moving at different speeds and in new directions.
The good news, of course, is that the satellite and rocket phases could not collide. However, the risk of such incidents does not go away anytime soon. Many countries have proposed proposed ways to clean up the Earth’s crust and remove large pieces of space debris, but so far, little progress has been made.
Mike Wehner has provided information on technology and video games over the past decade, including news and trends on VR, wearables, smartphones and future technology. Most recently, Mike served as Technical Editor at Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his game addiction.
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