EARTH'S FUTURE

Humanity is at a critical stage in the transition to a more sustainable planet and society. Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective path forward. Our Future on Earth 2020 aims to tell the story of where we are on our collective journey by connecting the dots between what society is currently experiencing – from fires to food shortages to a rise in populism – with recent developments in the research community.

Feb 22, Sikkim, India
The Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) – Sikkim Chapter (inmi.in) in association with Eco-Tourism & Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS), Gangtok; World Wildlife Fund, Sikkim and Darjeeling; and Sikkim University in partnership, with the Future Earth South Asia office at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change (DCCC) organized a launch event for students, policy representatives and the non-profit sector. The event was covered by the local media. The counselor of IMI Sikkim, Mr P.D. Rai, former Member of Parliament (Lok-Sabha, India) and member of the Future Earth South Asia Governing Council convened the event and published an opinion article in the Sikkim Express and Summit Times.

Feb 27, Dakar, Senegal
A French-language event was organized by Editorial Board member David Akana  in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the agricultural non-profit CORAF. The event welcomed about 60 participants, (UN agencies, NGOs, media, scientific and diplomatic community) and featured a video address by Robert Blasiak, lead author of the Ocean chapter. Media coverage of the regional launch include articles in Scidev, Seneweb, All Africa.com, APS, Afrique Actu and Sud Quotidien.

Feb 13, Bengalaru, India
The Future Earth South Asia Regional Office, Divecha Center for Climate Change (DCCC), and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) hosted an event open to nearly 300 students and faculty from colleges in and around Bengalaru. It featured contributions from K. Kasturirangan, former Chariman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), among other distinguished regional scientists and politicians, and resulted in local media coverage.

This Is What Planet Earth's Ultimate Fate Will Be

It took the Universe 13.8 billion years to create planet Earth as we know it, but we won’t last forever.

Many catastrophic events await our world in the future, but Earth will survive most of them.

After another ~6 billion years, the Sun will swell, devouring Mercury and Venus, but Earth will persist.

Our red giant will die after ~9.5 billion years, with Earth continuing to orbit the Sun’s corpse indefinitely.

Random mergers, collisions, or gravitational ejections are all possible, but represent unlikely outcomes.

Instead, Earth’s eventual demise occurs when our orbit decays via gravitational waves.

This Space TV Startup Plans To Stream Live Videos Of Earth’s Surface From Space In 2021

A startup company that hopes to provide real-time video streaming of Earth from space has announced it will launch its first satellite in 2021, with four further satellites set to launch in 2022.

 

Sen, based in the U.K., said it had contracted Lithunia-based NanoAvionics to build the five satellites, together called EarthTV, which will be equipped with cameras to beam ultra-high definition (UHD) video to Earth from space. The satellites will be among the first to watch events on Earth unfold in real-time, enabling a wide range of services for companies and consumers.

“Sen’s vision is to become a space video company, to stream real-time video from space with a focus on environmental events and human movement,” says Charles Black, founder and CEO of Sen. “[There are already] companies capturing still imagery at different resolutions. What we’re doing is introducing a new type of data to the market, which is video.”

The satellites will be launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit, one that remains constantly in sunlight, about 500 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Each so-called nano-satellite, less than two meters across, will have use its camera to view Earth in a variety of resolutions, ranging from 250 meters down to just 1.5 meters.

“As people expand to the Moon, Sen wants to be telling that story,” says Black. “We believe society needs an independent media that can tell that story of both government agencies and private companies that explore the Moon. We’re aiming for the Moon in the mid-2020s at the earliest, and Mars in 2030 onwards.”

For now though the focus is very much on Earth. And with the launches beginning next year, the company hopes to deliver unique views of the planet from space. “With the real-time capability we believe there is very little similar data available at the moment,” says Black.

You might take a casual look at images like these and scoff at the idea that this would have any amount of practical importance. After all, a quick look at Raikoke island shows that it’s just one of a large number of similar, uninhabited volcanic islands connecting Hokkaido, Japan to Kamchatka, Russia and enclosing the Sea of Okhotsk. The Kuril islands, which Raikoke island is a part of, consist of 56 islands; only 8 are inhabited.

Sure, it might be interesting to scientists in general and to biologists and geologists in particular, as a large sea lion rookery exists there and it is a formidable stratovolcano. But beyond that, it doesn’t stand out in any particular way. It’s roughly circular, rising to a height of 550 meters (1,800 feet) above sea level, with a central, steep-walled crater that’s 200 meters (660 feet) deep.

Raikoke island sits along the proverbial Ring of Fire, which has more volcanoes and hot springs along it crammed into a smaller space than any other region on Earth. If you followed the Pacific coast of Russia down the Kamchatka peninsula, it would extend down along the Kuril islands, including Raikoke island.

In fact, hundreds of volcanoes can be found along this tiny portion of the Ring of Fire, with about 10% of them being currently active. Again, monitoring these islands from space is the only way to know, in a continuous fashion, which ones are erupting at any given time and where the ash and volatile gas from those eruptions is headed at any moment.

Volcanic eruptions do more than just alter flight paths or human activity, though; they can also temporarily change our planet’s climate. Volcanic eruptions are sulfur-rich, as anyone with a working nose who’s been to a site of volcanic activity like a geyser field can tell you (from the telltale smell of rotten eggs). The eruptions will alter the land and water around them for tens of kilometers, but the drops of sulfuric acid that reach the stratosphere which reflect sunlight, modifying clouds as they fall, and produce an overall cooling effect from the emitted aerosols.

Global monitoring of volcanic eruptions has taught us this, with the particular eruption of Mount Pinatubo contributing greatly to our understanding of this topic. As far as geoenginnering solutions to climate change go, deliberate creation of stratospheric sulfur aerosols is among the leading contenders.

The satellites are launched in batches of 60, with SpaceX aiming to launch roughly two batches very month – although they haven’t quite achieved that frequency yet.

Each time the satellites are launched, on the company’s own reusable Falcon 9 rockets, they are placed into orbit about 290 kilometers above the surface of Earth.

The satellites then use their onboard ion engines to raise their altitude up to their operational orbits of between 340 and 550 kilometers. This can take several months to do.

During these months, the satellites can appear very visible in the night sky when they fly over your location because of their reflective surfaces.

After dusk and before dawn, when the Sun has dipped just below the horizon, the satellites reflect the Sun’s light back onto the ground, making them shine quite brightly.

Another concern is that the satellites are very bright, outshining 99 percent of all other satellites in the night sky.

Because of this, astronomers have reported that the satellites are hampering their ability to study the universe. The satellites can appear as bright streaks in telescope images, ruining observations of galaxies and stars.

With many more satellites set to be launched, astronomers have raised concerns about the number of satellites that will be visible in the night sky.

By some estimates, hundreds of Starlink satellites could be constantly visible in the night sky from any location on Earth. This could ruin the natural beauty of the night sky, and make astronomy much more difficult.

Currently there are no laws or regulations that protect the aesthetic of the night sky. But some people are looking to change that, and potentially take legal action against SpaceX.

So far SpaceX has launched 3% of its initial planned constellation of 12,000 satellites, and 0.9% of the potential 42,000 satellites it might launch.

There are some arguments that many of the problems with the satellites should have been sorted out before SpaceX started launching them.

However, for the time being, there are no rules or regulations stopping SpaceX from launching more and more Starlink satellites into orbit.

Before the coronavirus pandemic emerged, the company planned to launch about 1,500 Starlink satellites by the end of 2020, bringing its service online in the U.S. and Canada first. That may now change.

But for the time being, you will likely continue to see these trains of satellites in the night sky. You can use websites like Find Starlink or this handy tool to see when they will be visible above your location.

SpaceX’s next Starlink launch, its seventh, is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, April 22 from Cape Canaveral in Florida.      GO TO PART 5

Feb 13, Pretoria, South Africa
The Future Earth Regional Office for Southern Africa (FEROSA) Secretariat hosted a launch event during its Stakeholder Platform meeting held at the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The Africa Launch was attended by over 70 delegates from eleven 11 countries across the continent;

Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The launch began with Professor Robert Scholes, a member of the report’s Editorial Board, provided an engaging account of the report’s purpose and origin.

This was followed by a presentation from Dr Odirilwe Selomane, a co-author on the report’s Biodiversity chapter. 

The launch was also attended by Professor Richard Calland, Politics Chapter lead author, and Coleen Vogel,

Transformations Chapter co-author. Professor Calland also published an article in the Conversation Blog and in local media (South Africa Saturday Star), highlighting the report and his chapter’s message for the need to face climate denialism and right-wing populism.

Feb 21, Bucharest, Romania
The Romanian National Committee of Future Earth presented the report during their annual meeting at the Romanian Academy. The meeting was attended by 21 members and colleagues from diverse research institutes and universities. The topics raised in the 11 chapters of the report were concisely exposed by Dr. Diana Dogaru, while Dr. Mihaela Sima focused her talk on the Future Earth survey of the scientists’ perception regarding global risks. Acknowledging the multidisciplinary character of climate change topics and the fact that business as usual cannot be a solution for sustainability, and consenting on the key topics of the Our Future on Earth Report 2020, the participants evoked the need for continuity for collaborative and transdisciplinary projects in Romania for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Feb 19, Taipei, Taiwan
Future Earth Taipei and the Center for Sustainability Science, Academia Sinica held a panel discussion gathering 40 participants including scientists, experts, government officers and funders to discuss the report’s findings.

Nothing humanity can do, from triggering global climate catastrophes to thermonuclear war, will truly destroy the planet.

After 2 billion years, increased energy output from the Sun will boil Earth’s oceans, but the planet itself will survive.

In about 4 billion years, Andromeda and the Milky Way will merge, but gravitational ejection and stellar collisions affecting us are disfavored.

After 1015 years, our white dwarf will cool completely, yet Earth will remain undisturbed.

1019 years from now, gravitational interactions between galactic masses will likely eject the remnant Solar System.

We’ll ultimately be swallowed by our remnant black dwarf after some 1025 years.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the scientific story of an object or phenomenon in this Universe in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.

Events that will be observed will include environmental disasters, such as flooding and wildfires, along with the movements of large groups of people. “We feel that video data will help organizations help displaced people by providing real-time or very timely information,” says Black.

Each steerable satellite will be able to focus on these events unfolding on the ground below, and stream them in real-time. Companies will be able to pay Sen to access the service, while members of the public will be able to watch the stream and get a live glimpse of Earth’s surface through an app. “That will enable individuals to watch and track events,” says Black.

Sen has already demonstrated its capabilities on a satellite launched by the Russian organization RSC Energia in February 2019, highlighting the impressive quality of their video footage. But the ultimate goal is to operate a fleet of spacecraft in orbit, providing large amounts of video of Earth’s surface.

“I would like to target something like 100 [satellites in orbit],” says Black. “So it’s not going to be a ‘mega constellation’. But it’s going to be one where we have real-time video of pretty much any place on Earth.”

Sen’s goals do not just extend to Earth orbit, as the company hopes to also eventually send some of its video spacecraft to the Moon or even Mars. The goal here is to have spacecraft in place to watch the arrival of future human missions, planned by organizations like NASA and SpaceX, and stream video back to people on Earth.

On June 22, 2019, a volcano that had been dormant and inactive for nearly a century suddenly sprang to life. Raikoke volcano, more commonly known as Raikoke island, has only two recorded eruptions in history: in 1924 and in 1778. But around 4:00 AM local time, a vast plume of ash and volcanic gases erupted from its central crater.

Although it’s an isolated island that’s part of a chain near the extremely active Kamchatka peninsula in eastern Asia, the new and unexpected volcanic activity was first discovered not by terrestrial monitoring, but by spaceborne satellites (and ISS astronauts) committed to observing Earth from space. While the arsenal of satellites that NASA has to monitor our planet are in constant danger of being defunded, this eruption highlights the essential need for remote Earth observing.

The 1778 eruption destroyed the upper third of the island, and the only other known eruptions occurred in 1924 and just a few days ago in 2019. In 1924, when it was still uninhabited, this wasn’t a big deal. But in today’s modern world, knowing where volcanoes are erupting, what they’re discharging, and monitoring where the material launched into the atmosphere goes is of paramount importance for a wide variety of reasons.

Even in uninhabited regions, volcanoes pose a tremendous threat to human activity. As populations increase, areas that are in the proximity of volcanoes are continuously being developed; more than 10,000 people live in the Kuril islands, for example. In addition, aviation routes are increasing, and planes are dramatically put at risk by volcanic eruptions. It’s only by monitoring every potential volcano, both active and inactive, that we can hope to keep humanity safe.

Take a look at the above animation, stitched together from the Japanese geostationary satellite Himawari 8. You can clearly see that the eruption occurs in pulses spanning many hours, and that the plumes of ash and gas rise extremely high: far above the typical cloudtops. In fact, from this remote imaging, we can determine that the plumes reached altitudes ranging from 13,000-17,000 meters (43,000-56,000 feet), which means they went beyond the troposphere and entered into the stratosphere.

The injection of ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere poses a set of substantial risks to any human inhabitants that may encounter it for a simple reason: volcanic ash isn’t actually ash, but is composes of rock, mineral, and glass fragments as small as 4 microns (μm) apiece. These solidified, microscopic fragments are hard, abrasive, corrosive, and do not dissolve in water. They can clog machinery, vents, pipes, and mammalian lungs, among numerous other hazards.

But as beautiful and breathtaking as volcanic eruptions are, they are at least as destructive. Eruptions often force people living nearby or even downwind of ashfall to abandon their homes, sometimes permanently. The long-term and long-ranging effects can include damage from ash, flooding, tephra and other volatiles. This damage can affect agriculture, urban areas, industrial plants and any type of machinery, transportation systems and flight paths, and even electrical grids.

The biggest weapon humanity has against them? Volcanic monitoring, which can give us the greatest amount of lead time in determining how to best mitigate the damage to human populations and communities. In situ monitoring is a start, but nothing compares to the power of continuous Earth observing from space.

Volcanoes are some of the most fascinating but also dangerous and deadly natural disasters. Fortunately, with appropriate monitoring, they’re one of the most easily mitigated classes of disasters as well. There are approximately 1,500 potentially active volcanoes on Earth at any time, which doesn’t include undersea volcanoes that have not reached the surface or inactive ones that might surprise us.

Only by continuously monitoring the entire Earth at the appropriate resolutions and cadences can we hope to truly minimize the risk to human life and property. Attempts to cut back on this endeavor harm and endanger us all, while an awareness and appreciation for what Earth observing brings us is our greatest asset. May the beauty of these pictures point the way to the most important truth: that comprehensive knowledge and more information are absolutely key to optimally navigating the challenges of being human on our living planet Earth.

SpaceX’s goal with Starlink is to beam high-speed internet to every single location on Earth, from London to Antarctica. People will then pay a fee to access the service, with speeds estimated to be slower than fibre broadband but faster than existing satellite internet services.

However, people have raised concerns about the number of satellites SpaceX is launching. Today only about 2,000 active satellites orbit Earth; SpaceX will increase this by six times, and possibly by 21 times.

This poses a considerable risk for satellites colliding in Earth orbit. If two satellites collide, they can explode and produce thousands of small pieces of debris. This happened in 2009 between a U.S. and Russian satellite.

Each of these pieces of debris can then also impact other satellites. This could lead to a worst-case scenario where parts of Earth orbit become unusable, known as the “Kessler syndrome”, and popularized in the movie Gravity.

Regarding collisions, its says each of its satellites is equipped with an automated system to dodge other satellites. However, in September 2019 this system failed, leading to a close call with a European science satellite.

The company also says it is trying to make the satellites less bright. In January 2020, it launched a Starlink satellite that had been coated in a darkened paint, to try and lower its reflectivity.

Early results suggest that, when it reached its operational orbit, this satellite did appear dimmer than other Starlink satellites. However, it still appeared bright in the months it took to reach this orbit.