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NOAA Research's top 5 stories from 2019
Katie Valentine

NOAA Research's top 5 stories from 2019

From filming elusive creatures of the deep to journeying to the far reaches of the Arctic, 2019 has been a year of scientific discovery for NOAA Research. As the year draws to a close, we’re looking back at the stories that defined 2019. Here are five of the most popular stories on NOAA Research this past year. 

MOSAiC Expedition sets sail

MOSAiC Expedition sets sail

NOAA/CIRES researcher Matthew Shupe, co-lead of MOSAiC talks with Thomas Krumpen, from the Alfred Wegener Institute on Sept. 19, 2019 in Tromso, Norway, as the mission prepares to launch. Photo: Sara Morris, NOAA/CIRES

1. Scientists take to the Arctic
Adventure, intrigue...and way below freezing temperatures. The MOSAiC Expedition launched in September, an unprecedented, international research effort that’s brought more than 400 scientists from 19 countries to the Arctic. These scientists, which include researchers from NOAA and CIRES, are spending 13 months gathering data and conducting experiments on the physical, chemical, and biological processes that drive the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, and ecosystem. Stay tuned in 2020 for more news from the German icebreaker RV Polarstern!

Giant squid

Giant squid

In summer 2019, scientists on a NOAA-funded expedition captured a giant squid on film.

2. The storied giant squid is captured on film
“There’s something instinctual about these animals that captures the imagination of everyone — the wonder that there are these huge animals out there on our planet that we know so little about, and that we’ve only caught on camera a couple of times.” That’s what Nathan Robinson, one of the scientists on a NOAA-funded expedition to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, said about capturing rare footage of a giant squid on film in June. The footage is helping teach scientists more about this elusive creature, as well as providing more proof that the ocean - including the waters close to home - holds many surprises.

3. Carbon dioxide levels reach a new high
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued to rise in 2019, with average levels for May peaking at 414.7 parts per million (ppm) at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory. The Mauna Loa observatory is an important site for CO2 monitoring. It’s perched high atop a volcano in Hawaii, a remote spot with air that’s been undisturbed by local pollution or vegetation, which makes it ideal for tracking atmospheric CO2 levels. CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa began in 1958, and monthly CO2 values at Mauna Loa first breached the 400 ppm threshold in 2014.  

Mauna Loa observations

Mauna Loa observations

NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography independently measure carbon dioxide levels from NOAA's Mauna Loa observatory. The full data record is here: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/full.html Credit: NOAA

4. NOAA data, now on your phone
Science On a Sphere, NOAA’s room-sized animated globe that displays engaging visualizations of earth and atmospheric data, expanded its reach in 2019 with the SOSx mobile app. The app, which launched in August, allows educators, students and the general public to explore data animations of ocean, atmosphere, space, and land observations on their personal devices. Want to see a set of climate models predicting Earth’s temperature through 2100 for different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, or the entire 2017 hurricane season as captured by NOAA weather satellite? SOSx has you covered. 

5. Time machines exist!
...Weather time machines, that is! In 2019, a NOAA-funded research team published an update to the weather time machine, otherwise known as the 20th Century Reanalysis Project. The update allows researchers to estimate what the weather was for every day back to 1836. It might sound impossible, but researchers used surface pressure readings and observations from archival records (such as old ships’ logs) — some of which were transcribed by citizen scientists — to create the reconstruction of the earth’s climate. The time machine opened up a “treasure trove” of weather data, a gift that should keep scientists merry well into the new year. 

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