NASA to Launch 4 Earth Science Missions in 2022

In Brief:

The missions, including two led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will help monitor our changing planet. Scientists will discuss them at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting.

NASA will launch four Earth science missions in 2022 to provide scientists with more information about fundamental climate systems and processes, including extreme storms, surface water and ocean, and atmospheric dust. Scientists will discuss the upcoming missions at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) 2021 Fall Meeting, hosted in New Orleans between Dec. 13 and 17.

NASA has a unique view of our planet from space. NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites provide high-quality data on Earth’s interconnected environment, from air quality to sea ice.

These four missions will enhance the ability to monitor our changing planet:

  • TROPICS will use six small satellites to provide improved and rapid measurements of tropical cyclones.
  • EMIT will trace the origin and composition of mineral dust that can affect climate, ecosystems, air quality, and human health with an imaging spectrometer aboard the International Space Station.
  • NOAA’s JPSS-2 will help scientists predict extreme weather conditions, including floods, wildfires, volcanoes, and more.
  • SWOT will evaluate the world’s ocean and their role in climate change, as well as monitor lakes, rivers, and other surface waters.
NASA has a unique view of our planet from space. NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites provide high quality data on different parts of Earth’s interconnected environment from air quality to sea ice. Take a tour of missions launching in 2022, including SWOT, TROPICS, EMIT, and JPSS-2. Credit: NASA

Measuring Tropical Cyclones

Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS)

The TROPICS Pathfinder satellite, pictured above, was launched on June 29. The satellite body measures approximately 10 cm X 10 cm X 36 cm and is identical to the six additional satellites that will be launched in the constellation in 2022. The golden cube at the top is the microwave radiometer, which measures the precipitation, temperature, and humidity inside tropical storms. Credits: Blue Canyon Technologies

NASA’s TROPICS mission aims to improve observations of tropical cyclones. Six TROPICS satellites will work in concert to provide microwave observations of a storm's precipitation, temperature, and humidity as quickly as every 50 minutes. Scientists expect the data will help them understand the factors driving tropical cyclone intensification and will contribute to weather forecasting models.

In June 2021, the first pathfinder, or proof of concept, satellite of the constellation started collecting data, including from Hurricane Ida in August 2021, that shows the promise of these small satellites. The TROPICS satellites will be deployed in pairs of two over three different launches, expected to be completed by July 31, 2022.

Each satellite is about the size of a loaf of bread and carries a miniaturized microwave radiometer instrument. Traveling in pairs in three different orbits, they will collectively observe Earth’s surface more frequently than current weather satellites making similar measurements, greatly increasing the data available for near real-time weather forecasts.

The TROPICS team is led by Principal Investigator Dr. William Blackwell at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, and includes researchers from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and several universities and commercial partners. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service.

“The coolest part of this program is its impact on helping society,” Blackwell said. “These storms affect a lot of people. The higher frequency observations provided by TROPICS have the potential to support weather forecasting that may help people get to safety sooner.”

Studying Mineral Dust

Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT)

Winds kick up dust from Earth’s arid regions and transport the mineral particles around the world. The dust can influence the radiative forcing – or the balance between the energy that comes toward Earth from the Sun, and the energy that Earth reflects back out into space – hence the temperature of the planet’s surface and atmosphere. Darker, iron-laden minerals tend to absorb energy, which leads to heating of the environment, while brighter, clay-containing particles scatter light in a way that may lead to cooling. In addition to affecting regional and global warming of the atmosphere, dust can affect air quality and the health of people worldwide, and when deposited in the ocean, can also trigger blooms of microscopic algae.

The goal of the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission is to map where the dust originates and estimate its composition so that scientists can better understand how it affects the planet. Targeted to launch in 2022, EMIT has a prime mission of one year and will be installed on the International Space Station. EMIT will use an instrument called an imaging spectrometer that measures visible and infrared light reflecting from surfaces below. This data can reveal the distinct light-absorbing signatures of the minerals in the dust that helps to determine its composition.

“EMIT will close a gap in our knowledge about arid land regions of our planet and answer key questions about how mineral dust interacts with the Earth system,” said Dr. Robert Green, EMIT principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Observing Earth’s Storms

Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)

In June 2020, the "Godzilla" dust storm traveled from the Sahara desert across the Atlantic Ocean, as seen in this true color satellite imagery from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite and the NOAA-20 satellite. Credits: NASA / Scientific Visualization Studio

Forecasting extreme storms many days in advance requires capturing precise measurements of the temperature and moisture in our atmosphere, along with ocean surface temperatures. The NOAA-NASA Joint Polar Satellite System satellites provide this critical data, which is used by forecasters and first responders. The satellites also tell us about floods, wildfires, volcanoes, smog, dust storms, and sea ice.

“JPSS satellites are a vital component of the global backbone of numerical weather prediction,” said JPSS Program Science Adviser Dr. Satya Kalluri.

The JPSS satellites circle Earth from the North to the South Pole, taking data and images as they fly. As Earth rotates under these satellites, they observe every part of the planet at least twice a day.

The Suomi-NPP (National Polar orbiting-Partnership) and NOAA-20 satellites are currently in orbit. The JPSS-2 satellite is targeted to launch in 2022 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Three more satellites will launch in coming years, providing data well into the 2030s. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service.

Surveying Earth’s Surface Water

Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT)

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission will help researchers determine how much water Earth’s ocean, lakes, and rivers contain. This will aid scientists in understanding the effects of climate change on freshwater bodies and the ocean’s ability to absorb excess heat and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service, which is targeted for November 2022. SWOT will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The SUV-size satellite will measure the height of water using its Ka-band Radar Interferometer, a new instrument that bounces radar pulses off the water’s surface and receives the return signals with two different antennas at the same time. This measurement technique allows scientists to precisely calculate the height of the water. The data will help with tasks like tracking regional shifts in sea level, monitoring changes in river flows and how much water lakes store, as well as determining how much freshwater is available to communities around the world.

“SWOT will address the ocean’s leading role in our changing weather and climate and the consequences on the availability of freshwater on land,” said Dr. Lee-Lueng Fu, SWOT project scientist at JPL.

The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency and the United Kingdom Space Agency.

News Media Contacts

Jane J. Lee / Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0307 / 818-354-2649 /

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New research: carbon fee and dividend would reduce poverty and inequality while strengthening the economy

New research: carbon fee and dividend would reduce poverty and inequality while strengthening the economy

New research: carbon fee and dividend would reduce poverty and inequality while strengthening the economy

By Dana Nuccitelli

On November 29, the prominent journal Nature Climate Change published two studies very relevant to CCL’s efforts. The title of the first paper nicely summarizes its key findings: Climate action with revenue recycling has benefits for poverty, inequality and well-being.

Carbon fee and dividend alleviates poverty and income inequality

The study considered a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend structure consistent with achieving the Paris agreement target of limiting global warming to less than 2°C hotter than pre-industrial temperatures. The carbon pricing structure in the paper is similar to that in the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA), with a few distinctions: 

  • starts at an earlier date (2015)
  • starts at a higher-level ($30 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution compared to the $15 starting point in EICDA)
  • rises more slowly (about 5% or $2 per year in the near-term, compared to the $10 per year increase in the EICDA)

New research: carbon fee and dividend would reduce poverty and inequality while strengthening the economy

As we know from the 2020 CCL Household Impact Study, the vast majority of low-income households benefit from receiving a net income as a result of a carbon fee and dividend policy that returns all of the revenue to households in equal increments per person. That’s because low-income households have smaller carbon footprints, and so the dividend is larger than their increase in energy and other product costs.

The new Nature Climate Change paper confirmed that finding and went further to assess how much poverty and inequality would be reduced as a result. The authors used their Nested Inequalities Climate Economy (NICE) model, which incorporates regional economic distribution data into the climate-economics integrated assessment model for which William Nordhaus won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Like the Household Impact Study, the paper then grouped populations by income quintile from the poorest 20% to the wealthiest 20%. The authors evaluated how each income group would be impacted by the carbon price if 100% of dividends were returned equally to individuals; by a carbon price with no dividends; and in a business-as-usual scenario without a carbon price.

The study concluded that a carbon price without dividends slightly increases income inequality because, even though lower-income households spend fewer dollars on energy than higher-income households, they spend a larger proportion of their income on energy costs. However, when including the equal per capita dividend, the authors found that “climate action involves a synergy with poverty alleviation” and a reduction in income inequality. In the U.S., the study estimated that their modeled carbon fee and dividend structure would lift 1.6 million Americans out of poverty by 2030. It would have even bigger effects if implemented in China and India, as the figure below from the study illustrates. Note that the poverty line is set at different levels in different countries — around a $2 per day income in China and India compared to over $40 per day in the U.S.

New research: carbon fee and dividend would reduce poverty and inequality while strengthening the economy

The carbon fee structure in the study surpasses $60 per ton in 2030, meaning that the EICDA would lift approximately 1.6 million Americans out of poverty by its sixth year when the carbon price reaches $65 per ton. The authors also estimated that the carbon fee and dividend approach would reduce income inequality in the U.S. over the next several decades (until the dividends run out as carbon emissions fall to zero) by about 1%, as measured by the Gini index, with the poorest 20% of households getting the biggest net financial boost.

This study highlights the importance and benefits of pairing a price on carbon with dividends.

Build Back Better with a carbon price

The second study published in Nature Climate Change investigates the question: if we want to meet the aforementioned Paris agreement target, would it be better for the economy if climate policy were implemented more gradually or more aggressively in the near-term? For example, many scenarios envision that global temperatures overshoot the Paris target due to too-slow emissions cuts, but cool somewhat thereafter as humanity pulls substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere with as-of-yet unproven methods and technologies.

The study compares those types of pathways with scenarios that include more aggressive climate policies and emissions cuts in the near-term so that global temperatures always stay below the Paris target. This would require that countries reduce carbon pollution even faster than their current Paris pledges (a.k.a. “Nationally Determined Contributions,” or NDCs). The U.S. NDC pledges to cut our emissions 50–52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Using nine separate climate-economics integrated assessment models, the authors investigated how these different approaches would impact the global economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP). They found that the climate policy investment costs would of course be larger over the next few decades in the more aggressive scenarios, but the economy would be significantly stronger in the second half of the century. The authors concluded, “accelerating the transformation towards net-zero CO2 emissions would have benefits for the long-term GDP, even without considering the benefits of avoided impacts.”

The last part of that sentence is key, because we know from research led by Drew Shindell and others that climate policies like carbon pricing yield substantial immediate benefits in the form of healthier, longer lives due to cleaner air, and long-term benefits from a stable climate lessening extreme weather disasters. This particular study did not account for those benefits, but nevertheless found that implementing more aggressive climate policies today would make the economy stronger in the long-term.

As numerous analyses have shown, while the climate policies and investments in the House-passed version of the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package are historic, they are insufficient to meet the U.S. NDC. If the Senate is able to add a carbon price and dividend to their version of the package, it could allow the U.S. to meet or even exceed our Paris pledge. As the studies discussed here concluded, this would alleviate poverty, reduce income inequality, and strengthen the economy in the long-term while allowing Americans to breathe cleaner air and live longer, healthier lives and preserving a stable climate for future generations. 

Adding a carbon price to Build Back Better would be a win-win-win for the U.S. economy, Americans’ health, and the global climate.

Dana Nuccitelli is an environmental scientist and climate journalist with a Master’s Degree in physics. He has written about climate change since 2010 for Skeptical Science, for The Guardian from 2013 to 2018, and since 2018 for Yale Climate Connections. In 2015 he published the book “Climatology versus Pseudoscience”, and he has also authored ten peer-reviewed climate studies, including a 2013 paper that found a 97% consensus among peer-reviewed climate science research that humans are the primary cause of global warming.

The post New research: carbon fee and dividend would reduce poverty and inequality while strengthening the economy appeared first on Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Fact Check: The Real Truth About Tornadoes

Fact check piece below written in 2013, but points still valid in regard to the revisionist bad takes following the recent catastrophic outbreak in Kentucky. Among the authors was Noah Diffenbaugh, who I interviewed in 2015, above, and 2013, below. LiveScience: This open letter was written by six, leading tornado experts from research institutions across […]

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Music Break: Ariana Grande & Kid Cudi -“Just Look Up” Theme Song

“Don’t Look Up” is Leonardo DiCaprio’s new movie satirizing the media’s inability to deal with the reality of climate change. (or anything, really) Dave Roberts on Twitter: I didn’t get to it in the review, but it’s worth watching @ArianaGrande & @KidCudi performing this benefit song in the movie — it’s such a perfect simulacrum […]

Climate change likely played a role in this weekend’s deadly tornadoes. The question is how.

The post Climate change likely played a role in this weekend’s deadly tornadoes. The question is how. appeared first on Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

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Russia Blocks U.N. Move to Treat Climate as Security Threat

The Russian veto of a widely supported Security Council resolution pointed to the difficulty of achieving a unified response to global warming.

SolarCity: Reviews, Lawsuits & Tesla Acquisition

SolarCity began in 2006 as a residential and commercial solar provider, manufacturing and installing its own solar panels and equipment. The company was headquartered in Fremont, California, before being purchased by Tesla Inc. in 2016 for $2.6 billion.

SolarCity was widely considered one of the best solar companies in the years leading up to 2016, often finding itself in the limelight due to its ambitious technology, high-profile installations and close proximity to Tesla’s eccentric CEO, Elon Musk, who served on SolarCity’s board before the acquisition. SolarCity was co-founded by Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive, Musk’s cousins.

Even since the acquisition, SolarCity’s name has peppered news articles and social media sites in stories citing whistleblowers and defective products. But what happened to SolarCity? Is it still in business as a subsidiary of Tesla?

In this article, we’ll discuss the history of SolarCity, its products and services, Tesla’s 2016 acquisition and the investigations into the company as they stand today. For more information about Tesla’s current solar offerings, click here. Or, if you want to get a free quote from a local installer to compare with Tesla, you can start using this tool or the form below.

SolarCity Products & Services

So, what made SolarCity stand out in its heyday? The company specialized in high-volume installations of power purchase agreements (PPAs), popularizing a door-to-door solar sales structure similar to those in use today by companies like Sunrun. In addition to its installations, SolarCity manufactured a number of cutting-edge products such as advanced rooftop solar panels, a prototype for solar shingles and more.

Let’s take a closer look at SolarCity’s products and services.

SolarCity Products

Solar Panels: SolarCity’s panels were at one point among the most efficient solar panels on the market, topping even industry leader SunPower in 2015. Tesla continues to focus heavily on powerful solar panels, having recently unveiled 420- to 430-watt modules.

Electric Vehicle Chargers: A match perfect for Tesla, SolarCity’s EV chargers hit the market around 2010. Tesla planned to bridge the gap between SolarCity and Tesla Motors with its EV chargers that run on solar energy, a big part of its master plan to become a sustainable energy conglomerate.

Solar Roof: Though just a prototype at the time, SolarCity’s solar roof technology allowed homeowners to install solar shingles that appear no different from a conventional roof, yet generate electricity the same way as solar panels. This idea evolved into Tesla’s current Solar Roof tiles.

SolarCity Services

Energy Efficiency Upgrades: SolarCity offered energy efficiency audits, upgrades and technology along with its solar systems through partnerships with home energy firms.

Commercial Solar Installations: SolarCity completed a number of high-profile commercial solar projects spanning from eBay’s headquarters to Intel campuses.

SolarCity Power Purchase Agreements

A PPA is similar to a solar lease, wherein a solar company installs solar panels on your roof but retains ownership of the panels. In a PPA, you purchase the power those panels generate from the solar company at a fixed monthly rate. Most PPA contracts ensure that PPA customers will pay less per month than they were spending with their local utility company.

SolarCity deployed a widespread network of door-to-door sales representatives pitching solar PPAs to great success in the early 2010s. In 2015, a year before the acquisition, SolarCity was the leading national residential solar contractor, according to Solar Power World.

SolarCity Reviews

SolarCity’s old reviews offer a good glimpse into what went wrong. Early positive reviews mention the easy process of signing a solar PPA, while negative reviews cover poor customer service and expensive products as the company began to struggle.

Positive SolarCity Reviews

As mentioned, solar leases and PPAs allowed SolarCity to expand as quickly as it did within the residential solar market. For a few years, SolarCity led the nation in volume of residential solar installations. Here’s what one happy customer had to say in a 2014 SolarCity power purchase agreement review:

“Why pay for electricity when you can use the sun!? I got a lease program for my house in Pomona through SolarCity. Couldn’t be happier! Permitting was annoying, but that’s reasonable (psh, government and all). Anyway, 10/10 would recommend.” — Tom via Trustpilot

Negative SolarCity Reviews

The company’s ambitious pace of growth was ultimately its downfall. As reflected in the majority of SolarCity reviews, customer service struggled while prices soared in order to save the company’s slimming bottom line.

“I’ve never seen such pitiful customer service in my lifetime. Rude, condescending, and downright worthless with their help or concern. Had we known this originally, we would have never had Tesla/SolarCity come anywhere near our home. Being the biggest may have its advantages, but it all falls apart when your customer service is as lacking as it is at SolarCity.” — William via Yelp

“In summary, we were interested in going solar, but SolarCity’s pushy sales team and unacceptable behavior have turned us off from ever going with them. Their proposal was also much more expensive than other companies such as Sunrun, Sungevity or SunPower. I would not suggest getting your solar through SolarCity.” — Brad via Yelp

SolarCity Acquisition

As far as the story of SolarCity goes, this is where it ends. SolarCity entered 2016 crippled with debt and struggling to turn a profit. Its val
ue was near all-time lows. Tesla stepped in and purchased SolarCity in 2016 for a sum of $2.6 billion.

To Tesla, the acquisition of SolarCity made sense due to its low valuation, a mission that aligned with Tesla’s and an opportunity to become “the world’s only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.”

Tesla, which also manufactured solar storage technology at the time (the Tesla Powerwall 1 was unveiled in 2015), could now sell and install electric cars, EV chargers, solar panels and energy storage systems, interconnected under one corporate brand.

SolarCity Investigations

Though 85% of Tesla shareholders approved of the acquisition at the time, a few red flags waved in the years following it. In one instance, Walmart reported seven separate fires that began from poorly installed Tesla panels in 2019.

Most recently, a whistleblower stepped forward after claiming he was let go from Tesla last year for raising safety concerns after the acquisition. The SEC complaint read “Tesla and SolarCity, which it acquired in 2016, did not disclose its ‘liability and exposure to property damage, risk of injury of users, fire, etc. to shareholders’ prior and after the acquisition.” As of December 6, 2021, Reuters reports that the SEC has opened a probe into this aspect of the acquisition.

It didn’t help that the owners of SolarCity were relatives of Elon Musk, who was also a board member for SolarCity prior to the acquisition. Musk had to appear in court to defend the acquisition at one point during a separate lawsuit by shareholders who saw the purchase as more of a bailout.

To make a long story short, a number of questions emerged surrounding Musk’s true intent with the purchase, whether he misled shareholders as to the value of SolarCity and if Tesla products built with SolarCity’s influence are as safe as they claim.

Tesla Solar

Since the acquisition in 2016, the SolarCity brand has no longer been used; it now operates as Tesla Solar. SolarCity’s technology has evolved into the products we see offered by Tesla today. The most notable products include solar panels, EV chargers, the Tesla Solar Roof and the Tesla Powerwall 2.

Though Tesla’s solar panel sales haven’t flourished in the years following the messy SolarCity deal, its storage technology sets the industry standard for the best solar batteries. Tesla Powerwalls are flying off the shelves; the company can’t meet the mounting demand, resulting in months-long waitlists for its products.

As far as the investigations are concerned, analysts say that SolarCity remains a small part of Tesla’s overall clean energy and automotive operations, and the overall impact of any investigations could be limited.

If you’re looking for the best solar companies operating today, SolarCity is a dead end. If you’re interested in the recent history of solar and the companies that shaped it, however, SolarCity is a fascinating case study.

Frequently Asked Questions: SolarCity

Is SolarCity still in business?

SolarCity, as an entity, is no longer in business. Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016 for $2.6 billion and reorganized its business as Tesla Solar.

Is SolarCity now Tesla?

SolarCity and its technology, resources and staff are now Tesla Solar. Tesla continues to grow within the renewable energy industry and is annually ranked among the best solar companies in the country.

What went wrong with SolarCity?

In short, SolarCity was not turning a profit and had invested too much of its capital to repay its debts. At one point, SolarCity began offering its customers solar bonds in order to woo investment. SolarCity claimed these bonds were to spread awareness about clean energy. In any case, SolarCity extended itself too far at an opportune time for Tesla to purchase it.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.