Remote-controlled Israeli mini-laboratory reaches Int’l Space Station
Under global climate change, the dry, semi-arid regions are expanding into higher latitudes while the temperate, rainy regions are migrating towards the North and South Poles.
By discovering that mid-latitude storms are steered further toward the poles in a warmer climate, the researchers have provided new insight into this phenomenon.
The teams’ models of climate change predict that if average global temperatures rise by four degrees over the next 100 years, while storms will deviate poleward from their present tracks by two degrees of latitude.
Prof. Yohai Kaspi of the institute’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department said: “Although two degrees may not sound like a lot, the resulting deviation in temperature and rain patterns will have a significant effect on climate zones.”
The teams’ analysis, which also revealed the physical mechanisms that control this phenomenon, involved a unique approach of analyzing the storms’ dynamics that traced the progression of low-pressure weather systems both from the outside – in their movement around the globe – and from the inside.
Kaspi explained that the Earth’s climate zones roughly follow latitudinal bands. “Storms usually move around the globe in preferred regions called ‘storm tracks,’ forming over the ocean and generally traveling eastward and somewhat poleward along these paths.
“Thus, a storm that forms in the Atlantic off the East Coast of the US at about Lat. 40 degrees N. will reach Europe in the region of Lat. 50 degrees N.,” he said.
Until recently this phenomenon was not really understood. However, Dr. Talia Tamarin from Kaspi’s group has solved this fundamental question in her doctoral research.
“From the existing climate models, one can observe the average storm tracks, but it is hard to prove cause and effect from these,” explained Kaspi. “They show us only where there are relatively more or fewer storms. Another approach is following individual storms; but we must deal with chaotic, noisy systems that are heavily dependent on the initial conditions, meaning no storm is exactly like another.”
Tamarin developed a method that combines these two approaches. She applied a storm-tracking algorithm to simplify atmospheric circulation models in which thousands of storms are generated. This eliminated the dependence on initial conditions.
It also allowed her to understand how such storms develop over time, space and what controls their movement.
In the present study, to understand how the movement of storms may change in a warmer world, Tamarin and Kaspi applied the same method to full-complexity simulations of climate change predictions.
Their analysis showed that the tendency for tracked storms to veer in the direction of the poles intensified in warmer conditions.
They discovered that two processes are responsible for this phenomenon. One is connected to the vertical structure and circulation near the tops of these weather systems, while the second process is connected to the energy tied up in the water vapor in such storms.
Global warming studies have shown that hotter air will contain more water vapor, and thus more energy will be released when the vapor condenses to drops.
“The hottest, wettest air is circulating up the eastern flank of the storm – to the northern side – and releasing energy there,” said Tamarin. “This process pushes the storm northward (or southward in the southern hemisphere), and this effect will also be stronger in a warmer climate.”
The institute’s research shows that part of this shift will be due to the mechanism demonstrated, while the other part is tied to the fact that storms are born at a higher latitude in a warmer world.
A space lab developed by the Space Pharma Company in Israel and carrying four experiments in the field of life sciences arrived on Tuesday at the International Space Station after a successful launch. The lab, whose development is supported by the Israel Space Agency in the Science and Technology Ministry, is unique in that it will function without direct human contact but instead will be controlled by researchers from earth.
Two of the experiments were developed by US researchers, one by a Swiss scientist and another by an Israeli pharmaceutical company. The experiments on live biological cells are innovative and have not yet been carried out in space. The first experiment is expected to begin tomorrow.
According to Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis: “We are proud to see how Israeli entrepreneurs in a new and developing field of space start-ups are succeeding in breaching boundaries and registering achievements in space.”
The Nexus space laboratory, which was launched on Sunday, arrived along with three tons of supplies for astronauts living in the space station. The four experiments take up a space of only 10 cm. by 10 cm. by 20 cm. and weigh just 2.3 kg., thus minimizing the cost of the launch. The package includes a camera-microscope that takes samples according to the researchers’ instructions, unique in its technological ability to maintain a temperature similar to the human body of 37 degrees Celsius.
Allowing control of experiments by researchers from anywhere on earth, it will be run via a Web site through a computer or mobile phone application. The researchers will be able to intervene in the experiment, manage it, extract microscopic images and receive real-time data on radiation, temperature and more, without the involvement of an astronaut. Space provides an optimal experimental environment for testing the effects of sub-gravity conditions on chemical and biological materials to, for example, test their resistance to drugs.
According to the company’s founder, Yossi Yamin: “Meeting NASA’s tough standards is a significant milestone for the company. Work with the Americans was demanding, and we cannot take for granted the fact that the system was accepted.”
The lab is to be received at the space station by Italian astronaut Paolo Despoli who visited during Israel Space Week four years ago. He will connect it to the space station’s electrical system. The experiments will be completed within three weeks, and for the first time the laboratory will be returned to earth only a few months later for analysis by the researchers to speed up their investigation.
One of the experiments to be carried out is that of Dr. Sarah Walsh, whose study deals with the bacteria that cause infections, especially among people whose immune system is weak. Her experiment examines the effect of microgravity conditions on a molecule that causes bacteria to change.
AN EMPEROR PENGUIN in Antarctica jumps out of the freezing water.