It has been a couple weeks since I last looked at the U.S. Drought Monitor. Given that we have had nearly zero precipitation since then, you would think the drought situation would have gotten much worse. So far it hasn’t, but I expect this recent dry spell to show up big time in the drought calculation before the end of the month. So far we have only seen a slight increase in the moderate drought category. It certainly is dry and if it continues then we might have a slightly early fall color season. I have read in the past that a little extra stress on the trees causes them to turn a bit early.
Across the rest of the country, things are looking pretty good. Even the exceptional drought in south Texas is improving. The worst impact from drought continues to be in California, where environmental water restrictions implemented to protect the Delta Smelt fish, has caused crops to die off and unemployment to rise up to 40% in some central valley communities.
Special Note: I forgot to bring my digital pictures from my trip to Europe to post here in the blog today. Will have to wait until early next week.
Now some follow up stories on exciting happenings in space exploration and travel. Many of you are probably aware that the Spirit Rover is stuck in some soft sand on Mars. Engineers on earth have been trying different extraction methods with a test rover here on earth. They seem to have a couple moves planned out but are still unsure if they will work because they can not simulate all of the conditions on Mars. After all, the red planet has about one third the gravity of earth. The first attemps to move the rover will be in October. Engineers are now admitting that the rover might be permanently stuck. If so, no need to cry. Spirit has out-lived its life expectancy by several years.
Closer to home, there has been some trouble with recent lunar craft and the accompanying sicence experiments but good data is still coming in. A couple weeks ago the LCROSS orbiter unexpectedly burned up a significant portion of its fuel. Also around the moon there was some international cooperation. India’s Chandrayaan-1 paired up with the LRO from NASA in order to explore the surface and find water. Unfortunately it did not last too long. Chandrayaan-1 had been in orbit much longer and failed. The LRO continues to function normally and is returning data and images that suggest the presence of water on the moon. One thing nice about the incident is that it is very nice to see international cooperation in space.
Speaking of images, how about some eye-candy for all you space aficionados out there? Here is a link to a new composite image of the entire Milky Way galaxy. Also, a new high resolution UV image of the Andromeda galaxy is available.
In the arena of competitive prizes, it probably comes as little surprise that Team Armadillo has won cash in NASA’s lunar lander challenge. They have shown great dedication and engineering skill in winning the prize after faltering a couple times in the beginning.
Have a nice weekend! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on September 18, 2009