Friday, October 17, 2008

Cloud Radar: Predicting The Weather More Accurately

Cloud Radar: Predicting The Weather More Accurately

ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2008) The weather. It’s the one topic of conversation that unites Britain – umbrella or sun cream? Now scientists at the Science and Technology Facilities Council have developed a system that measures the individual layers of cloud above us which will make answering the all-important weather questions much easier in future.

The Cloud Radar will not only allow forecasters to predict the weather more precisely, the information gathered will also enable aircraft pilots to judge more accurately whether it is safe to take off and land in diverse weather conditions, offering a powerful safety capability for civil airports and military air bases.

Developed over 10 years by researchers and engineers at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, in collaboration with the Met Office, the Cloud Radar can take a complete and accurate profile of cloud or fog up to 5 miles overhead. Operating at 94 GHz, 50 times higher in frequency than most mobile phones, the radar measures the cloud base height, its thickness, density and internal structure as well as providing similar information on cloud layers at higher altitudes.

The earliest version of the cloud radar was built to demonstrate that a low power system operating at high frequency could compete with more common radar types. It was built from the spare components of a radar altimeter designed to operate on a satellite, so that it used small, low-power components in contrast to previous cloud radars that use expensive pulsed sources which consume many times more power and have limited lifetimes.

Brian Moyna, Senior Systems Engineer at STFC said: “In a nutshell, our Cloud Radar takes a slice of cloud and provides a complete and accurate vertical profile. Compared to conventional pulsed radar instruments, this radar is a low power, high sensitivity, portable instrument that uses all solid state components for lower cost and increased reliability.”

The Met Office has just purchased a Cloud Radar which is being trialled at sites around Britain. Additionally, a Cloud Radar has also been acquired by the University of Marburg in Germany.

The radar consists of a millimetre-wave frequency source that continuously emits a low power signal in the vertical direction that is frequency modulated. A signal is returned, mainly due to what is known as ‘back-scattering’ from water droplets and ice crystals in the atmosphere. This signal is picked up by a receiver and converted to a microwave signal, which is then digitised, analysed and a real-time image of the returned signal intensity versus altitude is displayed for the user.

The new Cloud Radar is the result of several hundred thousands of pounds of investment into the Space Science & Technology Department at STFC with proof of concept funding from CLIK, STFC’s wholly-owned technology exploitation company, along with the Met Office.


Global Warming Will Have Significant Economic Impacts On Florida Coasts, Reports State

ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2008) Leading Florida-based scientific researchers released two new studies today, including a Florida State University report finding that climate change will cause significant impacts on Florida's coastlines and economy due to increased sea level rise.

A second study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University recommends that the state of Florida adopt a series of policy programs aimed at adapting to these large coastal and other impacts as a result of climate change. Key findings of the FAU report were included just this week by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's Climate and Energy Action Team when it adopted the "Adaptation" section of its final report.

"The impacts of climate change on Florida's coasts and on our economy will be substantial, persistent and long-term, even under our conservative estimates," said Julie Harrington, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis at FSU. "Should, as many models predict, sea level rise, and hurricane strength and other factors become more extreme, much greater economic impacts will occur along many parts of Florida's coast in this century."

The second new study, by researchers at FAU, focused on state adaptation policies needed as Florida faces the impacts of climate change.

"The goal of our study is to help the state of Florida adapt, in the most effective way possible, to climate change impacts that are now inevitable," said Jim Murley, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and leader of the study. "These approaches must be comprehensive and strategic, not piecemeal and episodic. Governor Crist and other leaders have rightly identified adapting to climate change as one of the state's greatest challenges -- we look forward to working with the state to protect our people, natural splendor, and economic livelihood. There is real work to be done."

This research was supported by a grant from the National Commission on Energy Policy, a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

About the FSU study

This study uses current estimates of sea level rise from Florida State University's Beaches and Shores Resource Center and 2001 estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate the effect of sea level rise on the six coastal counties. The results show projected trends in storm-surge flood return periods associated with hurricanes, damage costs associated with flooding from major storm events, and the value and area of land at risk.

Under the FSU study's estimates for sea level in Dade County, the value of land at risk totals $6.7 billion in 2080 (in 2005 dollars). (By comparison, using International Panel on Climate Change sea level estimates, the value of land at risk in Dade County ranges from $1 billion to $12.3 billion in 2080). The study also calculated the effect of storm surge and sea level rise on future damage costs, finding that if a storm like Hurricane Wilma from 2005 occurred in 2080, the cost to Dade alone would be from 12 percent to 31 percent higher (in 2005 constant dollars). While these findings do not account for adaptive strategies or potential future increases in property values, they still provide valuable information about potential impacts and resources that are put at risk from sea level rise.

About the FAU study

Key findings of the report have been included by Gov. Crist's Climate and Energy Action Team as it adopted the "Adaptation" section of its final report this week in Tallahassee. Important findings from the FAU study call for major state environmental, growth management and public infrastructure decision-making processes to be adjusted so they are responsive to future climate change impacts.

"FAU will continue to research how Florida can be a leader in providing guidance to other states on how best to put in place workable solutions that will help communities adapt to future climate change impacts," Murley said.

"Storm events associated with certain levels of storm surge could increase in frequency in the future, due to sea level rise," Harrington said.

"As sea level rises, damage costs associated with extreme storm events increases significantly for the Florida counties examined in this study," she said.


Navy Confirms Sunken Submarine Is Grunion

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2008) Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny announced October 2 that a sunken vessel off the coast of the Aleutian Islands is in fact the World War II submarine USS Grunion (SS 216).

The submarine Grunion arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 20, 1942. The vessel completed pre-patrol training before departing on its first war patrol June 30. Grunion's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Abele, was ordered to proceed to the Aleutian Islands and patrol westward from Attu on routes between the Aleutians and the Japanese Empire. On July 10, Grunion was reassigned to the area north of Kiska. Over the next 20 days, the submarine reported firing on an enemy destroyer, sinking three destroyer-type vessels, and attacking unidentified enemy ships near Kiska.

Grunion's last transmission was received on July 30, 1942. The submarine reported heavy antisubmarine activity at the entrance to Kiska, and that it had 10 torpedoes remaining forward. On the same day, Grunion was directed to return to Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base. There was no contact or sighting of the submarine after July 30, and on August 16, Grunion was reported lost.

"I am honored to announce that, with records and information provided by the Abele family and assistance from the Naval Historical Center, USS Grunion has been located," said McAneny. "We are very grateful to the family of Grunion's Commanding Officer Lt. Cmdr. Mannert L. Abele for providing the underwater video footage and pictures that allowed us to make this determination. We also appreciate the efforts of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial for their assistance in this matter. We hope this announcement will help to give closure to the families of the 70 crewmen of Grunion."

Abele was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism. A destroyer, USS Mannert L. Abele (DD 733), was commissioned in his honor, and was later lost in action off Okinawa in 1945. Japanese anti-submarine attack data recorded no attack in the Aleutian area at the time of Grunion's disappearance, so the submarine's fate remained an unsolved mystery for more than 60 years.

After discovering information on the internet in 2002 that helped pinpoint USS Grunion's possible location, the sons of Grunion's commanding officer, Bruce, Brad, and John Abele, began working on a plan to find the submarine. In August 2006, a team of side scan sonar experts hired by the brothers located a target near Kiska almost a mile below the ocean's surface. A second expedition in August 2007 using a high definition camera on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) yielded video footage and high resolution photos of the wreckage of a U.S. fleet submarine.

"This discovery has come about through a stream of seemingly improbable events; it's like we won the lottery 10 times in a row," said Bruce Abele, eldest son of Grunion's commanding officer. "It is so dramatic to see the underwater photo and be certain it was in fact Grunion; not only is this announcement important for the families of the crew members, it's also important for the Navy and the country."

The Abele brothers then contacted the USS Cod Submarine Memorial for assistance in identifying the wreckage. The vessel is lying at a depth of about 3,200 feet. Very cold water and lack of significant currents has preserved much of the wreckage.

Dr. John Fakan, director of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial, remarked about the importance of having an unmodified example in USS Cod, a fellow Gato-class submarine, in identifying the wreckage of USS Grunion.

"USS Grunion and USS Cod shared the same blueprints," he said. "It is very gratifying for me and my crew to help with the identification of the submarine."

With the information provided by the Abele family and the USS Cod Submarine Memorial, COMSUBPAC and the Naval Historical Center examined the evidence and historical records and determined that the submarine found at the reported position could only be USS Grunion.

"The synergy of our group working together with the Navy for the common cause has been a wonderful group effort," Bruce Abele said. "The teamwork combined with everyone's compassion and wisdom has resulted in our success."

According to Bruce's brother John Abele, those responsible for contributing to this discovery included historians and engineers from the United States, Australia, Israel and Japan. Of particular note was the involvement of Japanese naval architect Yutaka Iwasaki, who provided information critical to pinpointing the location of the submarine.

Bruce and John's brother, retired Lt. Brad Abele, who recently passed away, also played a significant role in the find. As his brother John explained, "Brad's experience as a Naval aviator helped a great deal by helping us to plot the strategy for the discovery."

Unfortunately, the cause of Grunion's sinking remains a mystery. No matter what the cause, the end result was the loss of all hands. As the Naval Historical Center noted, "no amount of analysis or speculation will change or alter the fact that families lost fathers, husbands, uncles and brothers… the Navy and the nation will always be grateful for their service and their sacrifice."

Former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz once said, "When I assumed command of the Pacific Fleet on 31 December 1941 our submarines were already operating against the enemy, the only units of the Fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months to come. It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load until our great industrial activity could produce the weapons we so sorely needed to carry the war to the enemy. It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of great peril."

By the end of World War II, submarines had made more than 1,600 war patrols. Pacific Fleet submarines like Grunion accounted for more than half of all enemy shipping sunk during the war. The cost of this success was heavy: 52 U.S. Pacific Fleet submarines were lost, and more than 3,500 submariners remain on "eternal patrol."

A representative of the submarine force will speak on behalf of the U.S. Navy at a memorial service in Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 11. The service, hosted by the USS Cod Memorial, will honor the 70 crewmembers killed when USS Grunion was sunk near the Aleutian Islands on or about July 30, 1942.

"To provide ourselves and the families this closure, it's icing on the cake," said John Abele. "The memorial service is a symbolic event; we've discovered family we didn't know we had. Not only is this an honor for all of us, it increases the feeling of community we've been able to achieve."

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