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Blaze of Glory! Climate Science Takes Another Hit


by Bill Chameides | March 4th, 2011
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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The satellite Glory was to be an important part of NASA’s continuing researching into the amospheric forcings influencing climate change. Alas, it failed to reach orbit, raising the possibility that we’ll soon lack critical data on solar radiation. (NASA)

This time the hit’s not from refudiaters. It’s from the fickle finger of satellite fate.

I woke up this morning and raised my weary head to learn the news from NASA: the satellite named Glory went down.

In case you didn’t know, Glory was to be the newest addition to the Earth Observing System. But, alas, it failed to achieve orbit when the Taurus XL rocket carrying it failed its launch attempt. 

The failure to get Glory into orbit comes in the wake of the failed launch in 2009 of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO). (In fact, scientists believe Glory might have crashed into the ocean near Antarctica not too far from the OCO satellite.)

Glory would have launched into space key instruments, among them one designed to monitor the amount of energy coming from the Sun. This would have made it possible for scientists to maintain a continuous, uninterrupted dataset on the amount of solar energy impinging on the Earth — called the Total Solar Irradiance or TSI — that dates back 30 years.

Right now TSI data is gathered by the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) mission launched in 2003, but that satellite mission is already past its nominal lifespan. Should it fail before a replacement is launched, we’re gonna have to deal with a data gap — and that will make it more difficult in the coming years to figure out what’s going on climatically. I guess that’s what they call anticlimactic.

Further Reading

“Glory (Not To) Be,” March 4, 2011, Realclimate.org – More details on the key instruments aboard Glory that would have studied solar irradiance, aerosols, and clouds.

filed under: climate change, faculty, global warming
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1 Comment

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  1. Jim
    Mar 7, 2011

    Is it just me or does the Taurus launch system seem to have a lot of failures? They just had a complete review of the Taurus, and they still have a similar failure as the previous one. Part of the problem could be that this is a four stage rocket, more things that can go wrong.

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