Friday, December 6, 2013

From Childhood to Stockholm and on to JWST, Stories from a Real Life

How do you get to Stockholm? Bill Cosby would say, "I started out as a child." In his Maniac Talk, John Mather talks about special people and key events that led to his Nobel Prize in Physics, from the Hayden Planetarium and the Sputnik "crisis" to his failed thesis project, the COBE team, the re-work of the COBE satellite after the Challenger loss, and experiences during the data analysis. He also describes his work with the James Webb Space Telescope, what makes it special and how it is now possible to build the JWST when it was totally impossible not so long ago.
(Note, this is the final Maniac Talk of the 2013 season.)   

Dr. John Mather, Nobel Prize Winner in Physics (2006), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jeep Accident, Sea Ice Anomalies and Global Warming

Growing up in a religious town in northern Philippines, Dr. Josefino "Joey" Comiso's early involvement in science was relatively modest, but a jeep accident and the advent of the jet era changed his career path. He did a few years of particle physics research before joining the cryosphere group at NASA/GLAS and got involved in the analysis of satellite data, field programs and process studies that led to many breakthroughs in our understanding of the role of sea ice and the polar regions in our climate system. In his Maniac Talk on Nov 5th, he also discussses his recent experiences as a coordinating lead author in the upcoming IPCC/WG1/AR5 report and the educational outreach he has been doing in the Philippines.   

Dr. Josefino Comiso, Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Radiative Transfer Journey: from Pure Math to Aerosols and Clouds with Stops at Nuclear Reactors, Vegetation & Fractals

Dr. Alexander Marshak came to GSFC as a radiative transfer scientist in 1991 following a lengthy journey through many aspects of transport theory: he started with math at Tartu (Estonia) then learned about nuclear reactors in Novosibirsk (Russia), vegetation back in Tartu and Goettingen (Germany), and finally atmosphere at Goddard. In the talk, as he goes through the journey, he focuses on the specifics of atmospheric radiative transfer compared to other radiation fields and how studies in these fields can help to better interpret remote sensing observations of aerosols and clouds.   

Dr. Alexander Marshak, Climate & Radiation Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

70 Years in Meteorology

Dr. David Atlas, a.k.a. The Founding Father of the Earth Sciences at NASA Goddard, shares his personal reflection on meteorology in the last 70 years. His talk focuses on the advances in radar for atmospheric probing since WWII and the institutions and people that played major roles. His journey features Air Force Cambridge Research Labs, Imperial College, London, University of Chicago, McGill University, NCAR, and NASA Goddard.   

Dr. David Atlas, Earth Sciences, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Why I Came to NASA & Why I Left

Dr. Lorraine Remer, Research Scientist with JCET at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, shares her experiences with the decision to join and then later leave NASA Goddard. In her own words, she was "32 years old, a wife, a mother of two little boys, living in Sacramento, California, and finishing her Ph.D. dissertation, when she accepted a post-doc position with a contractor at NASA GSFC. So, she negotiated a starting date in mid-summer, packed the family and their camping gear into the car and drove across the country to Maryland. Twenty-one years later, she was at the top of her game. She headed a successful research group, was the MODIS aerosol algorithm lead, had publications and citations up the wazoo, and held a tenured job for life. Then she left, because girls just wanna have fun!   

Dr. Lorraine Remer, Climate & Radiation Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Friday, August 2, 2013

From Great Expanses of Grass to Great Expanses of Marine Phyto-plankton (or “OK, Now What Do I Do”)

In this Maniac Talk, Dr. Charles McClain discusses growing up in a rural Missouri agricultural community, (i.e., wheat, soybeans, corn, alfalfa), and how his becoming a scientist and an employee at NASA Goddard for 35 years with a focus on remote sensing of marine ecosystems was essentially by happenstance.  He focuses on some of the scientists and educators with whom he has worked, and the early years at Goddard, leading up to the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWIFS) project.   
Dr. Charles McClain, Ocean Ecology Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Exoplanets are being discovered at an accelerating rate since the first one around a Sun-like star was confirmed in 1995. Beginning with Jupiter-sized and larger planets, the exoplanet zoo has enlarged to include super-Earths (1.2 to 2x the radius of Earth) and bodies smaller than Earth as well. There are no less than five different methods used to detect exoplanets. The transit method, exemplified by the Kepler space telescope, gets the most press and has bagged by far the largest number of ex-oplanet candidates (4300+), but the Doppler or radial-velocity method still has the most confirmed detections. The evolving theme in exoplanet research has become "we can predict nothing" since many of the discoveries like hot Jupiters have defied traditional theories and given us new insights into our own solar system, in particular about migrating planets. Categories of exoplanets have been discovered that "should not" exist, for example planets around binary stars. This talk shall attempt to overview the methods used to detect exoplanets, a few of the important and most fun discoveries, and what lies ahead.   

Dr. Warren Wiscombe, Climate and Radiation Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

From a Love of Nature to a World of Earth Observations

NASA climate scientist (emeritus) Dr. Michael D. King, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado Boulder, discussed his early unsuccessful pursuits in atmospheric electricity to more rewarding research in radiative transfer and remote sensing of aerosols and clouds. In his Maniac Talk titled "From a Love of Nature to a World of Earth Observations", he described this evolution, addressed key aspects of success as a well-rounded scientist, and briefly addressed his crystal ball view of the future of Earth science.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Measurements, Modeling, and the Jump to Three Decades of Global Satellite Data

There is no question that satellite derived vegetation indices, such as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), have been most successful in studying vegetation dynamics globally. Their continuity since the early 1970s and 1980s has been a major accomplishment of NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth, providing an indispensable understanding of the role of vegetation in the climate system. This was undreamed of when Compton J. Tucker came to NASA GSFC in 1975 as National Academy of Sciences postdoctoral fellow. He will share experiences and lessons learned over three decades while studying global land vegetation.

Compton J. Tucker, NASA/GSFC

Monday, May 6, 2013

Urbanization in the Anthropocene: What's Ahead for Energy, Climate, and Food Security?

Rapid urbanization, population growth and increasing per capita consumption is putting immense pressure on our planet's biological capacity in specific ways and influencing Earth's biogeochemical and climate systems in ways we don't fully understand.  As our economies, actions, and understanding become global in scale we inevitably wonder if the Earth can keep up. With all the different appraisals of humankind's future ranging so widely from planetary overshoot in ecological footprint assessments to socio-ecological collapse predicted by the Club of Rome models, how do we sort through it all to get a more useful, scientifically robust, and balanced appraisal of what the future will bring? In his talk, Marc Imhoff, will introduce new approaches for addressing these issues using satellite data and new Integrated Modeling Approaches that couple socio-economics, climate and energy. These new tools are opening the way for more balanced, useful, and potentially optimistic appraisals of our future by enabling us to use our best technologies and skill sets to identify pathways for moving forward in the face of change.  

Marc Imhoff, Deputy Director, Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory/University of Maryland.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Satellite Observations - the Touchstone of Atmospheric Modeling

Anne Douglass (Code 614, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory) gave a Maniac Talk on March 27th titled “Satellite Observations - the Touchstone of Atmospheric Modeling”:  “I came to GSFC (Atmospheric chemistry and dynamics branch) in 1981 following a lengthy graduate school career that featured two universities, experimental work, development of a primitive atmospheric model and a growing family.  The maze I call my scientific career is filled with unexpected twists and turns and even a few blind alleys, but most of the time satellite measurements of ozone and other trace gases have been my touchstone (metaphor - means of establishing the relative merits of a concept).  This talk will feature examples that show how modeling grounded by observations continues to advance.”

Also, GESTAR congratulates Anne Douglass as the recipient of the 2013 William Nordberg Memorial Award for Earth Science, GSFC's highest award in the area of Earth science. This prize is in recognition of Anne's many years of leadership of satellite missions studying atmospheric composition, and her pioneering work in using measurements to test models.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Falling Snow Detective

NASA climate scientist Dr. Gail Skofronick Jackson presented a Maniac Talk entitled "Falling Snow Detective." Gail talked about her experiences growing up with hurricanes in Florida and how that shaped her excitement in the science of detecting falling snow from space. Using paper snowflakes and audience help, she explained why snow is important on Earth and why scientists love and hate snow.