University of Washington research suggests that using signals from Earth’s ionosphere could effectively optimise tsunami warning systems.
The researchers analysed the tsunami caused by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption in the South Pacific earlier this year – the largest recorded by modern equipment. The resulting tsunami caused a range of unexpected distant effects and was first predicted as only a regional hazard. However, the wave killed at least three people on the island of Tonga, travelling as far as Peru, where a further three people drowned, highlighting how accurate tsunami warning systems are essential.
The study, ‘Spectral Characteristics of Ionospheric Disturbances Over the Southwestern Pacific From the 15 January 2022 Tonga Eruption and Tsunami,’ explores how evidence from the ionosphere explains why the tsunami grew larger and travelled faster than tsunami forecasts predicted.
Jessica Ghent, the lead author and a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences, explained: “This was the most powerful volcanic eruption since the 1883 eruption of Krakatau, and a lot of aspects of it were unexpected. We used a new monitoring technique to understand what happened here and learn how we could monitor future natural hazards.”
Current tsunami warning systems are inadequate
Due to tsunamis being an extremely rare natural disaster, current tsunami warning systems are far from optimised and rely on a limited number of tide gauges and ocean sensors. In order to advance forecasting, the study focused on using GPS signals travelling through the upper atmosphere to track events on the ground.
For example, a large earthquake or volcanic eruption generates pressure waves in the atmosphere. As they pass through the zone known as the ionosphere – around 50 to 400 miles altitude and where electrons and ions float freely – particles are disturbed. GPS satellites sending coordinates down to Earth transmit a slightly modified radio signal that monitors the disturbance.
Brendan Crowell, co-author and a University of Washington research scientist in Earth and space sciences, said: “Other groups have been looking at the ionosphere to monitor tsunamis. We are interested in applying it for volcanology. This Tonga eruption kicked our research into overdrive. There was a big volcanic eruption and a tsunami — normally, you’d study one or the other.”
Mapping tsunamis with the ionosphere
For the investigation, the team utilised 818 ground stations in the Global Navigation Satellite System around the South Pacific to analyse the atmospheric disturbance in the hours after the eruption. Results showed that the sonic boom from the volcanic explosion made the tsunami larger and faster, as the ocean wave was enhanced by the atmospheric pressure wave created by the eruption. The initial tsunami forecasts did not account for this boost, explaining why it was underestimated.
Ghent said: “Tsunamis typically can travel in the open ocean at 220 meters per second or 500 miles per hour. Based on our data, this tsunami wave was moving at 310 meters per second or 700 miles per hour.”
The researchers subsequently separated the different aspects of the eruption, such as the acoustic sound wave, the ocean wave, and other types of pressure waves, to check their accuracy against ground-based observations.
Ghent explained: “The separation of these signals, from the acoustic sound wave to the tsunami, was what we had set out to find. “From a hazards-monitoring perspective, it validates our hope for what we can use the ionosphere for. This unusual event gives us confidence that we might someday use the ionosphere to monitor hazards in real-time.”
The potential new system for improving volcano and tsunami warning systems has a range of advantages due to ground-based monitoring being difficult in the Pacific Northwest and other areas. This is because sensors must be maintained and repaired, snow and ice can inhibit signals, accessing the monitoring stations can be difficult, and animals can eat through the cables of ground instruments.
Amateur N.S. astronomer captures magic of the green comet – CBC.ca
Tim Doucette with the Deep Sky Eye Observatory in southwestern Nova Scotia has captured a dazzling time-lapse of the green comet that’s making a rare pass near Earth.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) making its closest approach to Earth on Wednesday
An amateur astronomer from southwestern Nova Scotia has captured a dazzling time-lapse of the green comet that’s making a rare pass near Earth.
The last time the comet was this close to our planet was 50,000 years ago. Many Canadians are looking up at the stars this week as the comet gets ready to make its closest approach on Wednesday.
Tim Doucette with the Deep Sky Eye Observatory near Yarmouth, N.S., is among them.
He took a two-hour time-lapse of the comet during the early-morning hours of Jan. 28.
“If you’ve got a telescope and you look closely at the comet and the background stars, it’s travelling relative in our sky about one-quarter degrees per hour,” he told CBC Radio’s Mainstreet Halifax. “So within a few minutes you can see that the comet’s actually making motion in the night sky.”
You can listen to Doucette’s full interview with host Jeff Douglas here:
Mainstreet NS8:09Astronomer Tim Doucette captures images of rare green comet
With files from CBC Radio’s Mainstreet Halifax
Kemptville author’s book being sent to the moon
An author from North Grenville, Ont., is going to be part of a small club of authors whose works will be sent to the moon.
Michael Blouin of Kemptville says he’s been interested in space travel since the Apollo 11 mission that landed humans on the moon for the first time.
To be part of a group of hundreds of authors having their work immortalized within the vast expanse of space has him “gobsmacked.”
“I take comfort in the fact that no matter what happens, it looks like my books … will survive and be there,” he said.
“I sometimes wake up at night and say ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to the moon. Wow.’ It’s kind of amazing.”
How it came to be
Blouin said he’s been a lifelong fan of NASA and space exploration, so when the opportunity to get his work in the Writers on the Moon project came up, he had to take it.
Then around the deadline to apply, his house burned down.
Amid the chaos of not having anywhere to live and then moving into his son’s house, he realized he’d missed his chance.
“I had missed the deadline to apply for this program for books to go to the moon by 12 hours and I was just kicking myself,” he said.
“I lost everything and now I’d missed out on my chance to do something I’d always dreamed about doing.”
Luckily a friend and author in Newfoundland, Carolyn R. Parsons, said she had managed to get some of her work included in the project and had enough space on her microdisk to include him as well.
When do the books go?
The NASA launch is scheduled for Feb. 25 at Cape Canaveral in Florida, which will see his book Skin House brought to the stars along with other works of independent fiction.
Blouin is getting the chance to see the launch.
“These launches sometimes get delayed due to technical reasons or due to weather,” he said.
“But I’m hoping to give myself a big enough window that I’ll actually be on site.”
Blouin had some advice for people who aspire to write or create.
“Any young person aspiring in the arts just shouldn’t give up. Keep trying,” he said. “It can be a tough go but it’s worth every moment.”
He’s getting another of his books — I am Billy the Kid — up to the moon in 2024.
Green comet zooming our way, last visited 50,000 years ago – Cochrane Today
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A comet is streaking back our way after 50,000 years.
The dirty snowball last visited during Neanderthal times, according to NASA. It will come within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) of Earth Wednesday before speeding away again, unlikely to return for millions of years.
So do look up, contrary to the title of the killer-comet movie “Don’t Look Up.”
Discovered less than a year ago, this harmless green comet already is visible in the northern night sky with binoculars and small telescopes, and possibly the naked eye in the darkest corners of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s expected to brighten as it draws closer and rises higher over the horizon through the end of January, best seen in the predawn hours. By Feb. 10, it will be near Mars, a good landmark.
Skygazers in the Southern Hemisphere will have to wait until next month for a glimpse.
While plenty of comets have graced the sky over the past year, “this one seems probably a little bit bigger and therefore a little bit brighter and it’s coming a little bit closer to the Earth’s orbit,” said NASA’s comet and asteroid-tracking guru, Paul Chodas.
Green from all the carbon in the gas cloud, or coma, surrounding the nucleus, this long-period comet was discovered last March by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility, a wide field camera at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory. That explains its official, cumbersome name: comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF).
On Wednesday, it will hurtle between the orbits of Earth and Mars at a relative speed of 128,500 mph (207,000 kilometers). Its nucleus is thought to be about a mile (1.6 kilometers) across, with its tails extending millions of miles (kilometers).
The comet isn’t expected to be nearly as bright as Neowise in 2020, or Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake in the mid to late 1990s.
But “it will be bright by virtue of its close Earth passage … which allows scientists to do more experiments and the public to be able to see a beautiful comet,” University of Hawaii astronomer Karen Meech said in an email.
Scientists are confident in their orbital calculations putting the comet’s last swing through the solar system’s planetary neighborhood at 50,000 years ago. But they don’t know how close it came to Earth or whether it was even visible to the Neanderthals, said Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
When it returns, though, is tougher to judge.
Every time the comet skirts the sun and planets, their gravitational tugs alter the iceball’s path ever so slightly, leading to major course changes over time. Another wild card: jets of dust and gas streaming off the comet as it heats up near the sun.
“We don’t really know exactly how much they are pushing this comet around,” Chodas said.
The comet — a time capsule from the emerging solar system 4.5 billion years ago — came from what’s known as the Oort Cloud well beyond Pluto. This deep-freeze haven for comets is believed to stretch more than one-quarter of the way to the next star.
While comet ZTF originated in our solar system, we can’t be sure it will stay there, Chodas said. If it gets booted out of the solar system, it will never return, he added.
Don’t fret if you miss it.
“In the comet business, you just wait for the next one because there are dozens of these,” Chodas said. “And the next one might be bigger, might be brighter, might be closer.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
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