14 November 2007

What water temperature looks like from orbit

This is what sea surface temperature looks like off the coast of the southeastern U.S. in the fall, as seen from space. The scalebar is in Celsius. Those +'s are a grid of U.S. Navy towers that used to be for flight training. We have sensors at the ones with squares. The red streamer is the Gulf Stream, which is a stream of warm water that comes from the Gulf of Mexico and goes in an enormous clockwise circle in the northern half of the Atlantic Ocean. While it's doing that, it moves a lot of fish around and keeps England warm.

Making this sort of picture is approximately half my job description (other half being that ton of cruise data that I've been banging together a SQL database for in the past several months). I also make them for chlorophyll levels, dissolved organic matter, light penetration, and a number of other more arcane things. It's fairly mindless work compared to learning how to code things, and the results are pretty.


John the Scientist said...

Do you keep track of the thermo-haline current?

MWT said...

Hmm. Short answer: no, not really.

Longer answer: My particular lab is mainly focused on stuff that happens on the U.S. southeast continental shelf. Which is a fairly tiny part of the world to be sure, but the world is a really huge place and just keeping track of our little piece of it keeps us pretty busy. :) (Feel free to convince the U.S. Govt to throw more funding our way though, maybe we'll be able to do more.) If you imagine that there are zillions of labs just like it all over the world, who all work on different pieces, you could say that indirectly we're all keeping track of those big global currents. However, you're not going to get a decisive authoritative answer about global warming out of the lowly data crunchers like me. I only see a small part of a small part of the whole puzzle, and I'm not the one with the PhD; thus I can't say anything about what the whole puzzle looks like.

bakho said...

The Gulf Stream looks pretty kewl. All warm and fuzzy.:D And it indeed looks much prettier than the coding. (all you programming freaks out there...I know there's beauty in codes, but I don't see it:P)

John the Scientist said...

"However, you're not going to get a decisive authoritative answer about global warming out of the lowly data crunchers like me."

You're not going to get it out of anyone else either, becuase there is only one thing certain about the current models, and that is that they are wrong.

BTW, I'm going to be in your (very)general neck of the woods tonight and tomorrow.

MWT said...

Most of the beauty in code is the inner kind. It's the process of writing it correctly that is the real art and the real "fun." I tried to describe the roller coaster aspects with my last post about coding.

So John, are you a physical oceanographer? That sounded pretty decisive for the "wrong" camp. Me, I'm quite certain I'm not sufficiently informed to say one way or the other.

If we're still chatting amicably a year from now, I'll ponder doing lunch sometime. ;)

John the Scientist said...

I'm in Hotlanta, not exactly close. I rarely get as far South as you, though, being based in the NE.

I'm a Physical Chemist, but I have extensive experience with Chemometrics and Monte Carlo Quantum simulations, and the modeling concepts are similar. My father was a meteorologist, so I have more than a passing familiarity with the specifics of the debate, though.

Note I didn't say which way the models are wrong. Could be under-predicting human effects. I'm an anthrogenic global warming agnostic - global warming is happening and has been since the end of the Little Ice Age, the question is how much weight do you put on the anthrogenic term in the model, and anyone who tells you he or she knows the answer to that is either a noob to modeling, or is lying.

What I object to are the people on both side throwing ad hominem attacks and talking about "consensus". Science does not work by consensus and with the exception of total whack jobs generally does not deal with ad hominems either. The Goreheads are talking out of their rear end on concensus. On the other hand you'd better have a pretty good argument to contracdict the prevailing thought (I'm thinking of the "HIV does not cause AIDS" people), since extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Science is better off when politics stays out of it.

Anne said...

Ooooh pretty!