Through the Atmosphere, Summer/Fall 2022

November 9, 2022 | Tristan L'Ecuyer

Environmental extremes exacerbated by a changing climate are accelerating sea ice melt and sea level rise while at the same time prolonged drought in the mid-latitudes is creating perfect conditions for wildfires.

CIMSS Director Tristan L’Ecuyer
Credit: Eric Verbeten

These fire and ice processes may seem unrelated but we live on an interconnected planet with interconnected atmospheric circulation patterns. In fact, recent research reveals that diminishing ice may alter atmospheric circulations — specifically, the polar jet — preventing Pacific moisture from reaching the Western U.S. and reinforcing the warm and dry conditions that make those areas vulnerable to wildfires.

We need more information about these forces at work in our changing climate in order to predict and adapt to these changes.

Read the Summer/Fall 2022 issue

Among the stories in this issue are four programs at SSEC and CIMSS that are adding to what we know about environmental changes, not only in the northernmost latitudes where ice covers the landscape, but also in the middle latitudes where drought and wildfire are increasingly making headlines.

The common denominator to all of these programs is environmental satellites.

Two involve using new satellite technologies to study sea ice in the Arctic aiming to improve climate models and measurements. And the other two, again using new satellite instruments, are developing tools to identify the locations of wildfires faster. In addition, they are building a database of fire attributes so that researchers can study conditions that spawn fires over time, using the past to inform future science, and future policy.

Our world is full of interdependencies where a change in one ecosystem can trigger unexpected changes in another. With the benefit of environmental satellites, researchers at SSEC and CIMSS are continuing to do what they do best: pursuing novel approaches to novel problems to support societal needs.

Read the issue and download the PDF here.