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Earth Science

Out of the Warehouse: Climate Researchers Rescue Long-Lost Satellite Images 136

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Once stashed in warehouses in Maryland and North Carolina, images and video captured from orbit by some of NASA's first environmental satellites in the mid-1960s are now yielding a trove of scientific data. The Nimbus satellites, originally intended to monitor Earth's clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, also would have captured images of sea ice, researchers at the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center realized when they heard about the long-lost film canisters in 2009. After acquiring the film—and then tracking down the proper equipment to read and digitize its 16-shades-of-gray images, which had been taken once every 90 seconds or so—the team set about scanning and then stitching the images together using sophisticated software. So far, more than 250,000 images have been made public, including the first image taken by Nimbus-1 on 31 August 1964, of an area near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Besides yielding a wealth of sea ice data, the data recovery project, which will end early next year, could also be used to extend satellite records of deforestation and sea surface temperatures."
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Out of the Warehouse: Climate Researchers Rescue Long-Lost Satellite Images

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  • Re:warehouse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @01:26PM (#47818155)
    Yeah. They used a look-into-the-future technology to determine that data collected and stored in the 60s might contradict your political paranoia 50 years later. It's the same tech they used to print Obama's birth announcement in Hawaiian newspapers because (again) they knew that one day a Kenyan would try to get elected to the White House.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @01:33PM (#47818255) Homepage Journal

    Not likely since AGW is based on science, and scientific method. Where as deniers are just a bunch of dolts with no science behind them. Ask yourself this: How come AGW deniers never talk about the actual science?
    They make post like you do: No evidence, no data, every scientist, every agency, every competing country are all in some conspiracy and only the enlightened few* can see 'The Truth!'

    *get over yourself already

  • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @01:49PM (#47818427)

    It's modded funny, yet it's all too sadly true.
    City and State planning commission folks wanted to be prepared, and incorporate future sea level rise into any future construction on the coast, such as docks, ports, etc. Anything that could be affected by rising seas.

    So naturally the state legislature reacts by banning any such considerations or planning for the future and force all construction to stay in harms way. Which is absolutely idiotic. And frankly, it's a fundamental ethics violation for any civil or construction engineers to follow this law. knowing that it will directly put such projects at risk for future damage, the same as leaving out structural fireproofing or any other common safety practice.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:33PM (#47818803) Journal

    What would you expect to happen if there are correctable errors in the data and the theories are correct?

    What would you expect to happen if there are correctable errors and the theories are false, but the researcher was dodgy? Same result.

    Data that doesn't allow you to distinguish these cases isn't scientific. That's the difference between "evidence" and "pleasing story", after all. Reproducibility is everything: the scientific method is built on the foundation that a skeptical opponent of your research can repeat your experiment (or measurement) and be forced to come around. If you're "adjusting" your data, the methodology you use is very much part of this process. The raw data should be presented, the method of adjustment should be presented, and the rationale for the method should itself stand against skepticism. (E.g., if a ground station went from rural to urban over time, others can compare similar situations and see if your adjustment was appropriate).

    But if the raw data is destroyed? Well, pardon my skepticism.

    (And if you think scientific researchers are perfect angels, not humans vulnerable to bias or outright cheating, take a look at the reproducibility of biochem synthesis journals some time. Eesh.)

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:41PM (#47818895)

    I dont know about the satellite data, but in the case of the surface record, there can be no scientific reason to adjust temperature measurements. Such measurements are the core of the science .. things are measured and the values are what they are. It is never scientific to process past measurements and then call them "corrected" (which is what the climate folks are doing with the surface record.)

    That statement is false.

    Science is the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment, and Bayesian inference.

    There are many reasons why one might get the idea that past temperature records have systematic inaccuracies that may require correction. The urban heat island effect is one large one, which tends to produce higher uncorrected temperatures over time. The phenomenon is simple in principle: cities generate heat, have more dark surfaces, and trap heat in buildings etc which gets re-radiated at night. Weather stations sited near cities have typically become increasingly surrounded by them over the past century, because cities have grown.

    Ergo, the instrumental temperature record from many stations needs to be corrected downward to account for this effect, if we want to pull out the environmental temperature (what we are generally interested in.)

    This is what we do all the time in science. We start with a raw instrumental measurement and then apply various theory-dependent corrections to infer the underlying quantity we are actually interested in. For example, at the LHC, physicists measure the raw detection rates of various particles in multiple detectors, and then correct them for known background rates etc (frequently using ancillary measurements in the same detectors to determine those rates) to infer the presence (or absence) of the Higgs boson.

    What you are saying is "never scientific" is in fact the core of the scientific process, and it makes no difference if the original data were taken today or fifty years ago: they are open to justifiable correction by anyone who sees fit. If you have the idea that the corrections applied are unjustified, feel free to challenge them, but please don't go promoting your fallacious vision of what science is and how it works.

    And by the way, if you are interested in what an analysis of the uncorrected instrumental temperature record looks like at one particular station, here is an example: []

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @05:32PM (#47820669) Homepage Journal

    they are deniers, not skeptics. Skeptics apply critical thinking and make an effort to understand the science.
    Deniers don't do either.

What is research but a blind date with knowledge? -- Will Harvey