Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists use meteors to investigate climate change and giant waves at the ‘edge of space’

23.05.2005


A new research radar based in Antarctica is giving scientists the chance to study the highest layer of the earth’s atmosphere at the very edge of space.



Using the new radar, scientists will be able to investigate climate change and explore the theory that while the lower atmosphere is warming, the upper atmosphere is cooling by as much as 1 degree Centigrade each year.

They will also be able to find out more about the complex waves, tides and other mechanisms that link this region - known as the mesosphere - to the lower regions of the atmosphere.


At heights of around 80-100km (50-62 miles) the mesosphere is notoriously difficult to investigate and is the least-explored part of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The low air pressure at this altitude means that it is impossible to fly aircraft in the mesosphere and even the huge weather balloons that are used to measure stratospheric ozone cannot climb high enough to reach this altitude.

Satellites begin to burn up when they enter the mesosphere, so the new radar - just installed at the Rothera research base in Antarctica in a joint project between the University of Bath and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) - will help scientists explore the region using remote sensing.

“Fortunately, nature provides us with an excellent answer to the problem of investigating the mesosphere,” said Professor Nick Mitchell who heads the project in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bath.

“Meteors, or ‘shooting stars’, burn up in the mesosphere. The meteors drift just like weather balloons so we can use a radar on the Earth and bounce radio waves off the meteors to find how fast they are moving and so measure the winds at the edge of space.

“The fading of the radio echoes from the meteors also lets us measure the temperature of the atmosphere. We can detect thousands of meteors in any one day and with this information study the waves and tides that flow around the planet on a continuous basis.

“The mesosphere has been called the miner’s canary for climate change; meaning that it is very sensitive and the changes there may be larger than in any other part of the atmosphere.

“Evidence of these changes comes from sightings of noctilucent clouds, very unusual clouds seen only in polar regions and known to be in the mesosphere. These clouds don’t seem to have been observed before 1885 and may mark the onset of a long-term cooling of the upper atmosphere”.

The researchers hope to use this temperature data to see if the effects of climate change are present in the upper atmosphere.

The radar is the latest element in a global array of radars being installed by the University of Bath group. It will be used in tandem with an identical radar at Kiruna, inside the Arctic Circle in Northern Sweden, to find out if there are any differences between the Arctic and Antarctic upper atmosphere.

“We know that there are big differences lower down in the atmosphere, for instance in the stratosphere the ozone hole is much larger over the Antarctic than over the Arctic, but we don’t really know what the differences are like higher up,” said Professor Mitchell.

First results from the radar show that it is detecting about 5,000 meteors ever day. Analysis at the University of Bath has revealed frigid temperatures in the mesosphere, the lowest temperatures of about -130ºC, paradoxically occurring at midsummer.

The Rothera radar has been installed by Dr Peter Younger, a postdoctoral researcher from the University assisted by colleagues from BAS.

The radar is made of six antennas about 2 metres high set up over a space the size of a football pitch. The site itself is a rocky beach on the edge of Marguerite Bay – a landscape of icebergs, penguins and seals. Dr Younger has just returned to the UK having spent two months on the installation.

Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.bath.ac.uk/pr/releases/antarcticradar.htm

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>