Archive for July, 2019

Lunar Living: 9 Weird Aspects of Living on the Moon

Friday, July 12th, 2019
A lunar outpost on the rim of Shackleton Crater at the moon’s South Pole as envisioned by artist Jorge Manes Rubio (ESA).

Living on the Moon would be challenging, to say the least. A total of twelve Apollo moon-walkers between 1969 and 1972 spent a cumulative 80 hours walking around on the surface of the moon. Obviously, they had to bring their own food, water, and air to breathe.

NASA engineers did a good job of preparing the Apollo astronauts for what would be a very non-Earth-like experience. But the moon-walkers were there for only one to three days on each of the lunar landing missions, and were focused on getting historic stuff done as quickly as possible before coming home.

Let’s say you were traveling to an existing moon base as a tourist, with enough food, water, and air to spend a month there, and a round-trip ticket to get there and back home. What are some of the differences you would experience living on the Moon compared to Earth?

1) No atmosphere, no weather, no water, no life

One of the most obvious differences with Earth is that the moon has no atmosphere. No atmosphere means no blue sky, no air to breathe, no weather, and no life. Obviously, you could not simply “go outside”; you would have to have a pressurized space suit. And when you did go outside, there would be no trees, lakes, grass… just a barren grey desert with craters, rocks, and rolling hills.

Apollo-16 lunar panorama with astronaut John Young, April 21, 1972.

Walking around near the South Pole (a likely choice for a moon base, see below) would be treacherous because with the sun low on the horizon, and no atmosphere-scattered sunlight to help illuminate the landscape, any low spots would be almost totally black — some might look like bottomless holes. Venturing into larger craters would require artificial lighting.

2) Gravity: If you weigh 200 lbs on Earth, on the Moon you only weigh 33 lbs

As the Apollo astronauts found out, walking around with only 1/6 of Earth gravity takes some getting used to. They developed a “bunny hop” method of moving around that seemed to help keep them from falling over. Astronaut Harrison Schmitt (the last man to walk on the moon) compared it to walking on a giant trampoline. Without much gravity, your muscles would weaken and you would have to have a daily exercise plan to keep from becoming a couch potato.

3) Good luck sleeping, daytime on the moon lasts for 2 weeks

The moon takes 29.5 Earth days to rotate, so that means two weeks of daylight followed by two weeks of darkness for almost everywhere on the moon. To avoid the problem of a moon base being plunged into darkness for 14 days at a time, with temperatures falling to 280 deg. F below zero, a moon base would probably be located near the South Pole, where there are locations that are almost always sunlit, and temperatures remain more moderate. If that is where you spent your month, the sun would hug the horizon, and it would circle around you during your 1-month stay. You would probably still use a 24-hour (Earth time) clock to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

4) The day-night temperature range is over 450 deg. F

Because the lunar surface is relatively dark (about the same reflectivity as the open ocean), and because there are no clouds or weather to cool the surface, daytime temperatures soar to 250 deg. F at the lunar equator. The six Apollo missions were planned so that the sun would not be very high in the sky to limit how hot the astronauts and lunar module would get.

During Apollo-11, the sun’s elevation was only 15 deg. early on a lunar morning, so that lunar daytime surface temperatures were reduced. (This also explains why there is no shadow of the flag to the right; note the length of the “thigh gap” between the shadows of Buzz Aldrin’s legs.)

Just as dangerous is the fall of lunar temperatures to -208 deg. F at during the two-week long lunar night. This is probably too large of a temperature range for humans to cope with in terms of heating and cooling of buildings and spacesuits, which is partly why many believe a weakly sunlit site near the South Pole would make the best place for a permanent lunar outpost. Temperatures at the South Pole on solar-illuminated crater ridges hover around 32 deg. F (0 deg. C), and the sun shines for over 90% of the year at some higher elevation locations:

“Lunar Temple” at the moon’s South Pole, by artist Jorge Manes Rubio (ESA).

5) The lunar sky is always black, with almost no daytime stars

With no atmosphere, the sky would always appear black, even when the sun is shining. But because the sun shining on the moon surface produces considerable light, all but the brightest stars would not be visible during the daytime. It’s the same reason you cannot see stars next to the full moon.
The Apollo moonwalkers generally did not see stars, and neither do astronauts on the International Space Station when they are on the sunlit side of the Earth. Gene Cernan (Apollo 17) said he could see a few stars if he stood in the shadow of the Lunar Module to reduce the amount of sunlight being reflected from the lunar surface.

At night, though, the stars would be spectacular. I suspect at the South Pole, many more stars would be visible since the landscape would be only weakly illuminated by the sun, and your eyes would adapt to the twilight-like brightness.

6) The view of Earth would be amazing

Since the Earth is 3.7 times larger than the moon, it covers over 15 times as much of the sky as does the moon. This combined with the fact that the Earth is colorful would make the Earth a spectacular sight. A person with reasonably good eyesight would be able to identify the continents. You can get a good idea of the dramatic difference between how the Earth and moon look from this DSCOVR satellite image of the moon transiting the Earth:

The appearance of the Earth rising above the moon’s limb as Apollo-11 orbited the moon was greeted with amazement by the astronauts as they scrambled to change from black & white to color film to capture the sight.

Furthermore, since the Earth rotates over 24 hours, you would get to see different sides of the Earth, rather than just one side of the moon we are limited to here on Earth. There would be phases of illumination throughout the month, just like we see of the moon, but they would be reversed. A “full Earth” would occur during the “new moon” on Earth, while a “new Earth” from the moon would occur during the “full moon” here on Earth. Also, when there is a lunar eclipse on the Earth there would be a solar eclipse on the moon, and when there is a solar eclipse on the Earth, there would be an “Earth eclipse”, with the shadow of the moon falling on a portion of the Earth:

How a solar eclipse on Earth might appear from the moon (Pat Rawlings).

7) The Earth is always in the same part of the lunar sky

Because the same side of the Moon always faces the Earth, the Earth’s position in the lunar sky would always remain the same (or nearly so) as seen from the moon’s surface. There would be no Earthrise or Earthset the way we have moonrise and moonset. If you were near the moon’s South Pole (where sunlit locations stay relatively cool) the Earth would dramatically hang just above the horizon in one spot, while the sun slowly travels around the horizon over the course of one month. This would make the whole Earth viewing experience even more breathtaking.

8) Meteors : Bring your Kevlar vest

The moon is constantly being bombarded by tiny micrometeors. Rarely, one large enough to be seen from Earth hits the moon, such as this one captured by accident by an astrophotographer while photographing the lunar eclipse on January 20, 2019:

Without an atmosphere to slow the meteors down and burn up all but the largest of them, they hit the moon surface at astonishing speeds. For comparison, a bullet fired by a 30 caliber rifle travels close to 2,000 mph as it leaves the muzzle. Now imagine a small meteor travelling at 45,000 to 196,000 mph. A BB-sized meteor travelling at 100,000 mph would hit your space suit with the energy of 90 30 caliber rifle bullets slugs fired at point-blank range. All of that energy would be concentrated like a knife point in the tiny BB-size spot. Luckily, the probability of being hit by a meteor of even that small size is believed to be vanishingly low. But the possibility would always be in the back of your mind. The moon-walkers (like space-walkers) wore suits with protection against very tiny micrometeors; they just had to hope there weren’t any larger ones with their name on it.

9) Smelly, messy moon dust

The Apollo moon-walkers found that the lunar soil tended to cling to everything, and it has an odor somewhat like gunpowder or wet sand. Very fine and abrasive (like tiny shards of glass), it would probably present a long-term health risk in the pressurized buildings of a lunar base, and much effort would go into cleaning it off of space suits and equipment brought in from outside and filtering it from the air.

Lunar dust in a vial given to a woman by first moon-walker Neil Armstrong (photo Christopher M. McHugh).

I’m sure there are other unusual aspects of living on the moon I haven’t thought of. Just the daily routines of life would be difficult, and much effort would be expended on activities necessary to sustain life: food, recycling of water, waste disposal, oxygen generation and removal of excess carbon dioxide, energy generation and storage, etc. Here I’ve assumed all of that has already been taken care of for your month of leisurely lunar living.

Record High Temperatures in France: 3 Facts the Media Don’t Tell You

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

News reporting of the recent heat wave in France and other European countries was accompanied with the usual blame on humans for causing the event. For example, here’s the CBS News headline: Record-breaking heat is scorching France. Experts say climate change is to blame.

While it is possible that the human component of recent warming might have made the heat wave slightly worse, there are three facts the media routinely ignore when reporting on such “record hot” events. If these facts were to be mentioned, few people with the ability to think for themselves would conclude that our greenhouse gas emissions had much of an impact.

1. Record High Temperatures Occur Even Without Global Warming

The time period covered by reliable thermometer records is relatively short, even in Europe. Due to the chaotic nature of weather, record high and record low temperatures can be expected to occur from time to time, even with no long-term warming trend.

The question is, are the number of record high temperatures increasing over time? At least in the U.S., the answer is ‘no’, as the number of days over 100 and 105 deg. F have not increased (see Fig. 5 here). One would need to study the data for Europe to see if the number of record highs is increasing over time.

Then, even if they are increasing, one needs to determine the cause. Most of the warming since the Little Ice Age (up to about 1900) occurred before greenhouse gases could be blamed. We have no temperature measurements during the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago. How hot were some of the summer days back then? No one knows. Weather changes, which leads me to my next point.

2. Summer Heat Waves are Weather-Related, and Unusual Cold is Usually Nearby

The recent excessive heat in Europe wasn’t caused by summer air sitting there and cooking in a bath of increased human-emitted carbon dioxide. It was caused by a Saharan Air Layer (SAL) flowing in from that gigantic desert to the south.

This happens from time to time. Here’s what the temperature departures from normal looked like at ~ 5,000 ft. altitude:

Fig. 1. GFS model depiction of the 850 hPa level (about 5,000 ft. altitude) temperature departures from normal at midday 29 June 2019, showing a hot Saharan air mass that had flowed north over western Europe, as a cold arctic air mass flowed south over eastern Europe. (Graphic courtesy of

The SAL event flowed north from the Sahara Desert to cover western Europe while a cold air mass flowed south over eastern Europe. As evidence of just how large natural weather variations can be, the full range of temperature departures from normal just over this small section of the world spanned 25 deg. C (45 deg. F).

Meanwhile, the global average temperature anomaly for June (from NOAA’s Climate Forecast System, CFSv2 model) at the surface was only +0.3 deg. C (0.5 deg. F), and even for one day (July 1, 2019, from remains at +0.3 deg. C.

Do you see the disparity between those two numbers?: weather-related temperature variations of 45 deg. F versus a climate-related global average “warmth” of only 0.5 deg. F.

Here’s what the situation looked like at the surface:

Fig. 2. As in Fig. 1, but for surface air temperature.

The range in surface air temperature departures from normal was was 32 deg. C (about 58 deg. F), again swamping (by a factor of 100) the global “climate” warmth of only 0.5 deg. F.

Thus, when we talk of new temperature records, we should be looking at normal weather variations first.

3. Most Thermometer Measurements Have Been Spuriously Warmed by the Urban Heat Island Effect

I am thoroughly convinced that the global thermometer record has exaggerated warming trends due to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. When natural vegetation is replaced with buildings, pavement, and we add spurious heat sources like air conditioning units, cars, and ice cream trucks, the microclimate around thermometer sites changes.

Many of us experience this on a daily basis as we commute from more rural surroundings to our jobs in more urban settings.

For example, Miami International Airport recently set a new high temperature record of 98 deg. F for the month of May. The thermometer in question is at the west end of the south runway at the airport, at the center of the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metroplex. Only 120 years ago, virtually no one lived in Miami; in 1896 it had a population of 300.

The UHI effect is so strong and pervasive that it is now included in the GFS weather forecast model, and in the case of Miami’s recent hot spell, we see the metroplex at midnight was nearly 10 deg. F warmer than the rural surroundings:

Fig. 3. GFS surface temperature analysis for around midnight, 28 May 2019.

When a thermometer site has that kind of spurious warming at night, it’s going to produce spuriously warm temperatures during the day (and vice versa).

The most thorough analysis of the UHI effect on U.S. temperature was by Anthony Watts and co-authors, who analyzed the siting of hundreds of thermometers around the U.S. and showed that if only the best (most rural) sited thermometers are used, U.S. warming trends are roughly cut in half. Curiously, they found that the official NOAA-adjusted temperature data (which uses both urban and rural data) has even more warming than if no UHI adjustments were made, leading many of us to conclude that the NOAA UHI adjustment procedure has made the rural data look like urban, rather than the other way around as it should be.

How does this impact the recent record high temperatures in France? There is no question that temperatures were unusually hot, I’m only addressing the reasons why high temperature records are set. I’ve already established that (1) record high temperatures will occur without global warming; (2) weather variations are the primary cause (in this case, an intrusion of Saharan air), and now (3) many thermometer sites have experienced spurious warming.

On this third point, this MeteoFrance page lists the temperature records from the event, and one location (Mont Aigoua) caught my eye because it is a high altitude observatory with little development, on a peak that would be well-ventilated. The previous high temperature record there from 1923 was beat by only 0.5 deg. C.

Some of the other records listed on that page are also from the early 20th Century, which naturally begs the question of how it could have been so hot back then with no anthropogenic greenhouse effect and little urban development.

The bottom line is that record high temperatures occur naturally, with or without climate change, and our ability to identify them has been compromised by spurious warming in most thermometer data which has yet to be properly removed.

UAH Global Temperature Update for June, 2019: +0.47 deg. C

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for June, 2019 was +0.47 deg. C, up from the May, 2019 value of +0.32 deg. C:

The linear warming trend since January, 1979 remains at +0.13 C/decade.

Various regional LT departures from the 30-year (1981-2010) average for the last 18 months are:

2018 01 +0.29 +0.51 +0.06 -0.10 +0.70 +1.39 +0.52
2018 02 +0.24 +0.28 +0.21 +0.05 +0.99 +1.21 +0.35
2018 03 +0.28 +0.43 +0.12 +0.08 -0.19 -0.32 +0.76
2018 04 +0.21 +0.32 +0.09 -0.14 +0.06 +1.01 +0.84
2018 05 +0.16 +0.38 -0.05 +0.01 +1.90 +0.14 -0.24
2018 06 +0.20 +0.33 +0.06 +0.12 +1.11 +0.76 -0.41
2018 07 +0.30 +0.38 +0.22 +0.28 +0.41 +0.24 +1.49
2018 08 +0.18 +0.21 +0.16 +0.11 +0.02 +0.11 +0.37
2018 09 +0.13 +0.14 +0.13 +0.22 +0.89 +0.23 +0.27
2018 10 +0.20 +0.27 +0.12 +0.30 +0.20 +1.08 +0.43
2018 11 +0.26 +0.24 +0.27 +0.45 -1.16 +0.67 +0.55
2018 12 +0.25 +0.35 +0.15 +0.30 +0.25 +0.69 +1.20
2019 01 +0.38 +0.35 +0.41 +0.36 +0.53 -0.15 +1.15
2019 02 +0.37 +0.47 +0.28 +0.43 -0.02 +1.04 +0.05
2019 03 +0.34 +0.44 +0.25 +0.41 -0.55 +0.96 +0.59
2019 04 +0.44 +0.38 +0.51 +0.54 +0.50 +0.92 +0.91
2019 05 +0.32 +0.29 +0.35 +0.39 -0.61 +0.98 +0.38
2019 06 +0.47 +0.42 +0.52 +0.64 -0.64 +0.90 +0.35

The UAH LT global anomaly image for June, 2019 should be available in the next few days here.

Lower Troposphere:
Lower Stratosphere:

The “Freak” Guadalajara Hailstorm wasn’t So Freakish

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Recent news events regarding heat waves, record high temperatures, and even yesterday’s hailstorm in Guadalajara, Mexico, are commonly presented as evidence of a changing climate system. The trouble is that making such an association is a stretch, at best, for a number of reasons.

Today I’ll deal with the Guadalajara “freak” hailstorm, which is claimed to have “dumped up to 6 feet of ice” on portions of the city.

The Mountains of Northwest Mexico are “Hail Central”

The high elevations of northwestern Mexico are notorious for hailstorms during the “Mexican monsoon” season, when warm moist air flows in from the Pacific and is forced to rise over the mountains. This old hand-drawn map of global hail frequency shows the area clearly, and Guadalajara is in the middle of it.

While most of that part of northwest Mexico is only sparsely populated, rarely a significant hailstorm will happen to hit a city as large as Guadalajara, simply because eventually every place gets hit. This is the same issue as Hurricane Sandy hitting New York City… it was not an exceptional hurricane (Cat 1 at landfall), but it is rare for one to make a direct hit of a major metropolitan area (and at high tide, from the worst possible angle, etc.).

The historical hail problem at the higher elevations of western Mexico is so bad that a Volkswagen assembly plant there once resorted to using unproven ‘hail cannons’ to try to protect its inventory. Ironically, the local farmers then blamed the hail cannon for working too well, and supposedly causing drought conditions. Hail cannons were more popular in the early 20th Century, as evidenced by the 3rd International Congress on Hail Shooting being held in Lyon, France, way back in 1901.

No, “Feet” of Hail Didn’t Fall

I’m sorry, but “6 feet of ice” was not dumped on the city. When a major hailstorm like this hits, especially with a lot of small hail and heavy rain, the flooding deposits the hail into current-driven drifts. Rivers of floodwaters containing the hail caused localized piles of hail to accumulate.

For example, look at this hailstorm aftermath in Denver, CO. See all of the ice in the street, but not in the yard?:

I did not see any hail dents in the video and photos accompanying the news reports; the storm had an abundance of small hail in it.

A Moister Atmosphere from Global Warming Wasn’t to Blame

So, was the intense storm from more moisture in the atmosphere due to global warming?

No, there was actually less water vapor than normal. Here’s the GFS weather forecast model total precipitable water (basically, how much water is available in the lower atmosphere to feed precipitation systems) forecast only 6 hours into that model run, which was about the time of the hail storm. The water vapor available to the storm was actually below average.

GFS 6 hour forecast of total precipitable water at the time of the Guadalajara hailstorm of June 30, 2019 (forecast graphic from

I’ve seen a few news reports with quotes about this hailstorm being exceptional and so caused by climate change. There is no evidence that this is the case.