Earth from Space is an excellent overview of global cycles. NASA visualizations based on Earth Observation System (EOS) show us how massive scale interactions among ocean, land, atmosphere and life determine the climate all driven by solar energy. The instruments in EOS satellites are so accurate that even the effects of most unexpected and sudden events like the Chelyabinsk Airburst Event of 2013 can be tracked and measured as it is happening in real time. These instant high resolution measurements are absolutely crucial in predicting future climate.
NASA simulations based on high resolution satellite data produced impressively realistic General Circulation Models (GCMs). One of them called ECCO2 (Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean Phase II) provide results that help us understand the scale of major global problems such as ocean acidification due to increased carbondioxide levels in the atmosphere. ECCO2 simulations were used to re-create conditions of extremely intense hurricane season of 2005 during which the number of pre-determined storm names were insufficient and Greek alphabet were used in extra:
This two hour documentary talks about diverse topics from the Antarctic circumpolar current to photosynthesis in Amazonian forests fertilized by nutrient rich dust blown across the Atlantic from African deserts; topography of the ocean bottoms, middle ocean ridges and hydrothermal vents where life may have started; hurricane formation, Asian monsoons, plankton growth, lightenings that break up nitrogen gas into nitrates fertilizing the soil and even coronal mass ejections coming from our sun. Throughout the program we also get introduced to satellite instruments that make the observations and measurements.
NASA satellite fleet unravels some quite unexpected results. Who would say Earths highest clouds born at the edge of space seeded by meteors known as noctiluscent clouds were connecting weather patterns between north and south poles? Same satellites also help us develop longer time period weather forecasts predicting severity of winters.
Satellites are powerful but aren’t the only means to acquire high-resolution landscape-scale data. Being able to measure interaction of the living and the non-living at large continental-scales is eye opening. That’s what successful scientist Greg Asner does with the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO).
Humans changed the biogeochemical cycles in so many ways. Some of these changes now have permanent signatures that will not go away. Take for instance, the thin radiactive layer on all continents left from the nuclear tests of the cold war era. We are arguably in a new period along geological time: End Holocene and enter Anthropocene “The Age of Humans”.