So, is litter in space related to the butterfly effect?

December 12, 2006

Marc Kaufman reports in today’s Washington Post on the greenhouse effect’s impact on the thermosphere. That’s an upper layer of the atmosphere, from about 60 to almost 400 miles above the earth. Kaufman reports on work by Stanley Solomon at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The gist of Solomon’s research is that observations have confirmed predictions that carbon dioxide released into the thermosphere will have a cooling effect in that part of the atmosphere, not a warming effect. It’s also tied to solar activity, in predictable 11-year cycles. At the low point of that activity, the thermosphere cools further, which — when combined wiht the cooling from increasing carbon dioxide emissions — keeps space debris from falling to the lower atmosphere where it would be destroyed.

I like the quote Kaufman uses at the end, from Stephen Maran of the American Astronomical Society:

“This shows how interrelated things are in and around the Earth,” [Maran] said of the new findings. “The same thing that is melting ice in Greenland or raising sea levels around atolls in the Pacific is actually causing effects in the outer atmosphere that you might have thought was way above the fray.”

Read the full article:

Greenhouse Effect Could Cause a Space Problem
Marc Kaufman, Washington Post, Dec. 12, 2006


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