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Data analytics can predict global warming trends, heat waves

July 15, 2020

3 days of heat variances, compared to 30-year record, can predict an extreme weather event

New research from Arizona State University and Stanford University is augmenting meteorological studies that predict global warming trends and heat waves, adding human-originated factors into the equation.

The process quantifies the changing statistics of temperature evolution before global warming in the early 20th century and recent heat wave events to serve as the early warning signals for potential catastrophic changes. In addition, the study illustrates the contrast between urban and rural early warning signals for extreme heat waves.

Tracking the pre-event signatures, or tipping points, of the increasing frequency and intensity of heat extremes will support the development of countermeasures to restore climate system resilience.

“Many studies have identified such changes in climate systems, like the sudden end of glacial period,” said Chenghao Wang, a former ASU research scientist now at the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. “These qualitative changes usually have early-warning signals several thousand years before them.”

Global warming early warming signals

Early warning signals as increasing autocorrelation coefficient and standard deviation prior to the early 20th century global warming (left) and mega heat wave during 2010 in Russia (right).

“We detected similar signals in events much shorter than previous studies,” Chenghao Wang said. “We found early-warning signals also exist before global warming and heat waves on the time scale of years and days.”

In addition to global historical temperature data, the team tracks current temperature variances from airport weather stations. If it’s abnormally hot, compared to 30 years of record, for at least three consecutive days, it’s considered a heat wave. 

“This method isn’t just applicable for predicting extreme weather events in the next few days or weeks," said Zhihua Wang, an ASU environmental and water research engineering associate professor. “It observes human-induced variabilities and will support prediction over the next decades or even century.”

Zhihua also serves as co-director of climate systems research at ASU's National Center of Excellence on Smart Materials for Urban Climate and Energy.

The emergence of early-warning signals before heat waves provides new insights into the underlying mechanisms, such as possible feedback via land-atmosphere interactions. In particular, given the increasing frequency and intensity of heat extremes, the results will facilitate the design of countermeasures to reserve the tipping and restore the resilience of climate systems.

According to Zhihua Wang, this method creates a “completely new frontier” for evaluating how things like global energy consumption and, conversely, the introduction of urban green infrastructure, are affecting climate change.

“We’re not replacing existing evaluation tools,” he said. “The data is already there. It’s enabling us to gauge what actions are having an impact.”

Based on the study results, researchers surmise that urban greening, or the use of public landscaping and forestry projects, along with adequate irrigation, may promote reverse tipping.

In addition to Chenghao Wang and Zhihua Wang, the team included rising high school junior Linda Sun from Horace Greely High School in Chappaqua, New York.

The study, "Early-Warning Signals for Critical Temperature Transitions," was published July 15 in Geophysical Research Letters. The research was funded in part by a National Science Foundation Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences grant.

Top photo of Phoenix by Peiyuan Li/ASU.

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Emirates Mars Mission to launch with ASU-designed instrument


July 15, 2020

The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is expected to lift off in July (exact launch date depends on weather conditions) on an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Japan, and arrive at Mars in February 2021, where it will spend two years orbiting the red planet gathering crucial science data.

The mission is being carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in collaboration with a number of research institutions, including Arizona State University. artist’s impression of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft in orbit around Mars An artist’s impression of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft in orbit around Mars, where it will arrive in February 2021 after launching in July from Japan. Credit: MBRSC Download Full Image

The orbiter, named "Hope" ("Al Amal" in Arabic), carries three science instruments, including the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS), an interferometric thermal infrared spectrometer developed by Philip Christensen of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration with Christopher Edwards of Northern Arizona University’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science, in a partnership with the MBRSC.

EMIRS will provide a unique view of the lower and middle atmosphere of the planet, measuring the distribution of dust particles and ice clouds while tracking the movement of water vapor and heat through the atmosphere.

The scientific goal of the mission is to provide an unprecedented global view of the Martian atmosphere. Such a perspective is necessary to understand the connections within and between the upper and lower atmospheres and how those connections help to drive atmospheric escape. This escape has helped to shape Mars’ evolution from a warm, episodically wet world in the ancient past to the cold, dry planet we see today. Unique to Hope is its orbit, which enables near-complete daily and geographic coverage, providing a weather-satellite style view of all layers of the Martian atmosphere from the surface on up to space.

This mission will give scientists greater insight into how our own planet may have evolved, as well as enable greatly improved weather forecasting to help support the future human missions to Mars. Importantly, Hope addresses several key goals of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (representing the consensus of the international Mars community) in regard to both science and human exploration. 

“It has been a wonderful experience to work with the UAE team on this unique international partnership,” said ASU Regents Professor and planetary scientist Christensen. “Only a very small number of nations have sent missions to Mars, and it is a real honor for ASU to have been invited to participate in this exciting adventure.”

In addition to EMIRS, the orbiter includes a multiband camera called the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) and a far-ultraviolet imaging spectrograph called the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS). The EXI camera is capable of taking high-resolution images and will measure properties of water, ice, dust, aerosols and ozone in Mars’ atmosphere. The EMUS spectrometer will measure global characteristics and variability in the thermosphere and hydrogen and oxygen coronae. Both were developed at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at University of Colorado, Boulder.

The spacecraft, which is about the size of a small car, was constructed at LASP by a joint MBRSC/LASP team led by project director Omran Sharaf from MBRSC and deputy program manager and science lead investigator Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri. The overall team working on the mission comprises some 200 staff from MBRSC, 150 from LASP and 100 from other partners, as well as an international science team.

“Collaboration and knowledge transfer have been key to the development of the Emirates Mars Mission,” said Sharaf. “Our partners at ASU and NAU have been key to ensuring the success of the mission, delivering an extraordinary instrument in almost half the time of conventional missions but also in providing the resources and knowledge we need to drive our own development of space systems engineering and planetary science.”

The mission’s name, Hope, was chosen to send a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs, according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai for whom MBRSC is named. The resulting mission data aims to make major advances in our understanding of the Martian climate system and will be shared freely online with more than 200 institutions worldwide.

“The science enabled by the Emirates Mars Mission will be second to none, but the goals of the mission don’t stop there,” said Edwards, who is the instrument scientist for EMIRS. “The collaboration developed through this project has helped train the next generation of engineers and scientists in the UAE through professional and student opportunities. It’s been an amazing experience and has cultivated lifelong colleagues and friendships that will endure beyond the Hope Mission to Mars”

Live launch coverage

Visit the Emirates Mars Mission page for updates on the launch status and to watch live coverage of the launch.

About the Emirates Mars Mission

Announced in July 2014 by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, the Emirates Mars Mission was developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre working in conjunction with its knowledge-transfer partners and funded by the UAE Space Agency.

EMM was conceived to disrupt and accelerate the development of the UAE’s space sector, education and science community, and will send the Mars Hope probe to orbit Mars in February 2021. Hope aims to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year.

EMM and the Hope probe are the culmination of a knowledge-transfer and development effort started in 2006, which has seen Emirati engineers working with partners around the world to develop the UAE’s spacecraft design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

The Mars Hope probe will reach Mars orbit in 2021, the 50th anniversary of The Emirates, which became an independent nation on Dec. 2, 1971.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration

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