Summary: Scientists at CU Boulder will soon pursue two fundamental questions around Earth’s connections with the sun: Can winds blowing over mountains in places like Boulder kick off a chain of events that might influence the orbit of satellites in space? And what makes a planet habitable?
Original author and publication date: Daniel Strain – March 17, 2020
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Earth and the Sun have been in a complex relationship for billions of years and we are now beginning to understand it. The Universe is even older and, therefore, it will take longer to begin to understand that relationship.
From the article:
NASA announced earlier this month that it would fund two new science centers to study those same questions at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).
They are among the nine projects launching at institutions nationwide through NASA’s Diversity, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate (DRIVE) Science Center initiative and will seek to explore the dynamics of the sun in all their complexities.
Professor Cora Randall and Associate Professor David Brain will lead the LASP centers, each of which will receive $1.3 million over two years. At the end of that time, both projects will also be eligible to apply for additional funding of up to $15 million.
“The centers led here at LASP will explore connections from the sun into Earth’s deep atmosphere and will also help us to understand the key role that global planetary magnetic fields play in the origin and sustenance of life,” said Daniel Baker, director of LASP. “It is immensely exciting that LASP research can push back the frontiers of knowledge with basic research programs like the DRIVE centers in harmony with major space flight missions for which LASP is also renowned.”
From the surface up
Lenticular clouds, which look a bit like a layer cake, form over Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
Lenticular clouds forms over Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. (Credit: NPS/Patrick Myers)
Your daily forecast for Boulder: windy with a chance of gravity waves.
Cora Randall, also in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, will lead a new center called Wave-induced Atmospheric Variability (WAVE). It will focus on a windy phenomenon that Front Range residents can observe in the layer cake-shaped clouds that form over the Rocky Mountains.
“As the air comes in, it goes up over the mountains. Gravity pulls it back down, but then air is buoyant, so it comes back up again. It winds up making this wave in the air,” Randall said. “We see the effect of this in the lenticular clouds that form over Boulder.”
Those squiggles, dubbed gravity waves, can also trickle up toward the top of Earth’s atmosphere. There, they may shift the interactions between our planet and its sun, creating a “space weather” environment that can degrade GPS transmissions, navigation and surveillance systems.
“This space weather is determined by things like the solar wind, solar flares and changes in Earth’s magnetic field,” Randall said. “But it is also driven by these gravity waves, so it’s all connected.”