PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 11/2002 - 18 January 2002
------------------------------


"While there is always the possibility we could be tremendously
unlucky and suffer an impact close to the time of a discovery, it is more
likely that many safe approaches will occur, over from decades to more
than millennia, before an actual impact. The real role of the search
programs is therefore in attempting to secure the safety of future
generations. If it does happen that we are tremendously unlucky and
experience an unanticipated asteroidal impact, we should therefore blame
past generations for not embarking on an adequate search. Much has
been written in the past couple of years to the effect that it is time
now to move on to more serious NEO surveys than the present shoe-string
effort provides. With a survey program along the new lines being advocated,
2001 YB5 could surely have been discovered already in 1998. And do we
really want future generations to blame us for shirking what really
should be our responsibility?"
--Brian Marsden, 18 January 2002


(1) THE REAL SITUATION INVOLVING 2001 YB5
    Brian G. Marsden <brian@cfaps5.harvard.edu>

(2) TWO HEFTY ASTEROIDS PASS CLOSE TO EARTH
    ABC News, 16 January 2002

(3) PUT MONEY INTO DEEP SPACE
    St. Petersburg Times, 16 January 2002

(4) NOW IS THE TIME TO LOBBY NASA TO WIDEN ITS NEO & SPACEGUARD PROGRAMMES
    The Planetary Society <tps@planetary.org>

(5) ROCKS ON YOUR HEAD
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(6) METEOR CRATER SPARKS INTEREST OF ATTORNEY
    Odessa America, 17 January 2002

(7) INTERNATIONAL CHARTER ON SPACE AND MAJOR DISASTERS' WEBSITE WHEN TIME IS
CRITICAL
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(8) ASTEROID 6178: A 2-KM CHUNK OF METAL
    Maximiliano Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

(9) GOOD NEWS AND BRAVO
    Andy Smith <astrosafe@yahoo.com>

(10) METEORIC IRON AND IMAPCTS
     Göran Johansson <swe99acad@tjohoo.se>


=================
(1) THE REAL SITUATION INVOLVING 2001 YB5

>From Brian G. Marsden <brian@cfaps5.harvard.edu>

Dear Benny,

Now that the 2001 YB5 media-hype is over, I am responding to your request
for information on the true situation involving this object.

The object was first detected on Christmas Night at the original Haleakala
site of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's NEAT program. Although Spacewatch
had been observing the previous night, it then had its customary ten-day
break around full moon, which was due to fall on Dec. 30.
LINEAR and LONEOS were also out of action. Alone among the world's NEO
search programs, NEAT was carrying out its mission as usual, interrupted by
neither Christmas nor full moon.

After inspection of the night's images in California early the next morning,
three positions of each of 41 fast-moving asteroids were transmitted to the
Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts, where they arrived around local noon,
intermingled with observations of a few fast-movers from the complementary
NEAT program at Palomar and preceding by five hours or so a batch of triple
observations of about 1000 presumed main-belt asteroids. As I noted in my
piece in the Jan. 7 CCNet, the entire MPC staff was technically on vacation,
one member being incommunicado in Hawaii, another (myself) in California but
communicado, and the third at home just a few km from the MPC offices. That
third member attended to these NEAT data, finding that one of the 41
candidates had already been judged a probable NEO and placed on the MPC's
WWW NEO Confirmation Page earlier and deciding that two more, including what
was to become 2001 YB5 under the hard-to-remember label PZNMNG, could
appropriately be placed there in the hope of securing further observations.

It was evidently cloudy the next night at the usual observatories in both
central Europe and central North America that specialize in follow-up
observations, and the next observations were picked out at the MPC in
another file of fast-movers sent some 23 hours after the first, the object
this time being in the NEAT Palomar list with the even more improbable
appellation PZY5GMB. In revising the NEOCP entry, the MPC staff member in
Massachusetts used the seven-letter code, rather than the earlier six-letter
code, and it was this change that later caused the object's official
discovery date to be changed from UT (Greenwich) Dec. 26 to Dec. 27.
(Contrary to some press reports, it was never Dec. 12.)

This time a lone European observatory, the one at Modra in the Slovak
Republic, did succeed in securing follow-up. Soon after those observations
reached the MPC, late in the afternoon in California, I computed a first
general orbit, decided the solution was good enough to remove the object
from the NEOCP, gave it the next available second-half-of-December
designation, 2001 YB5, and--at 2:17 UT on Dec. 28--issued MPEC 2001-Y51 with
the observations, orbital elements and an ephemeris showing the approach to
the earth on Jan. 7 at a distance of 0.0055 AU, or 820,000 km.

So how certain was this distance? From the consistency of the individual
observations in the three sets it seemed to me unlikely that the miss
distance could be much less than 0.0050 AU--so I slept well that night. Of
course, this was under the assumption that there was nothing grossly
wrong with any of the sets. Things _do_ go wrong with sets of observations,
usually because the observer has miscalculated the UT time by an integral
number of hours (or days). In this case I shared the confidence of these
particular observers that the times were correct, but what if, say, the
first set had really been made an hour earlier than had been stated? Well,
this would have both made the orbit more eccentric and brought the object
somewhat closer to the earth in January, perhaps to closer than 0.0040 AU.
As I say, this was not _likely_, but, in the absence of independent checks
on only three sets of data, it was _possible_.

But I _was_ a little relieved the next morning to see some observations made
in Eskridge, Kansas, that essentially completely confirmed the reliability
of all the earlier observations, as well as the most probable value of
0.0055 AU for the miss distance.

That was Dec. 28. And no more observations were made of the object at all
until Dec. 31.  One might surmise, I suppose, that potential observers
shared my conviction that 2001 YB5 would be sailing by at no less than twice
the moon's distance. It is more likely that the break was because the full
moon brightened the sky, rendering the object difficult to detect, but the
holiday period was also clearly taking its toll. Full moon is also the time
when the MPC prepares its monthly Circulars, a circumstance that does often
cause delays in the dissemination of less urgent data, as on this occasion.

Using the Dec. 26-28 observations, the NEODys group in Pisa, while
confirming that there was no danger on Jan. 7, did find that there were
earth-impact possibilities on other occasions during the next several
decades. 2001 YB5 was therefore placed on the NEO riskpage on Jan. 1, and a
message in the Minor Planet Mailing List very properly urged further
observations, not because it was believed this small danger would not go
away, but because they would help in planning the final observations before
the current approach, by which time the object would have moved into the
daytime sky. Indeed, further observations were sufficient to improve the
orbit computation to the extent that 2001 YB5 could be completely removed
from the risk page less than 27 hours later.

As it happened, a total of 398 observations were recorded of 2001 YB5, the
last of them from the Perth Observatory on Jan. 6, some 13 hours before the
closest approach (actually 0.0056 AU) a little before 7:40 UT on Jan. 7.
These should be sufficient to allow the object to be found again in the
future, perhaps in 2005 or 2009.

Some commentators have been concerned that the astronomers were not on the
ball and that we might really have been in danger from this 200-400-m
asteroid, discovered only a matter of days before possible impact. Well,
given the very limited financial resources of NEAT, the MPC, and the
cooperation of a small international community of professional and amateur
astronomers, this was a job well done, with the quick establishment that
there was no danger--something that will almost always happen. NEAT could
not have discovered the object more than two or three days earlier than it
did, because it would have been too faint, and any immediate danger was
dismissed within 40 hours of the first observation, which is par for the
course. After all, an object might instead have been moving from the daytime
to the nighttime sky and therefore not even have been seen until after the
encounter.

While there is always the possibility we could be tremendously unlucky and
suffer an impact close to the time of a discovery, it is more likely that
many safe approaches will occur, over from decades to more than millennia,
before an actual impact. The real role of the search programs is therefore
in attempting to secure the safety of future generations. If it does happen
that we are tremendously unlucky and experience an unanticipated asteroidal
impact, we should therefore blame past generations for not embarking on an
adequate search. Much has been written in the past couple of years to the
effect that it is time now to move on to more serious NEO surveys than the
present shoe-string effort provides. With a survey program along the new
lines being advocated, 2001 YB5 could surely have been discovered already in
1998. And do we really want future generations to blame us for shirking what
really should be our responsibility?

Regards
Brian

===========
(2) TWO HEFTY ASTEROIDS PASS CLOSE TO EARTH

>From ABC News, 16 January 2002
http://abcnews.go.com/wire/US/reuters20020116_465.html
 
By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two hefty asteroids passed close to Earth on
Wednesday, with at least five more set to swing near by January's end, but
none are dinosaur-killers, scientists who track them said.

One of Wednesday's close-approaching asteroids measured between .6 and 1.8
miles in diameter, a big enough space rock to cause catastrophe if it
collided with Earth.

But asteroid 7341 (sic) 1991 VK got no closer than 7 million miles, nearly
24 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

The other asteroid, 2002 AO11, came much nearer -- about 3 million miles --
though at a relatively petite 246 feet across, posed no threat to Earth.

Both were considered near-Earth objects (NEOs) but not necessarily
potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

There are at least five more fairly big asteroids in line to get close to
Earth's orbit between now and Jan. 29, according to NASA's Near Earth Object
Program.

There was some mild consternation over a PHA known as 2001 YB5, a 1,000-foot
wide asteroid that got within 500,000 miles of Earth last week, having come
to astronomers' attention just after Christmas.

"In cosmic terms, it is close," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near
Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "There
was never any chance of this hitting. It's sort of nature's wake-up call,
saying there are a whole bunch of these things out there -- get on the
stick!"

It is Yeomans' job to calculate the orbits of NEOs and PHAs once they are
detected, and detection of these big asteroids has mushroomed over the last
decade, according to Steve Pravdo, a key investigator at NASA's Near Earth
Asteroid Tracking project.

564 BIG SPACE ROCKS

The project watches for asteroids .6 miles or more across that have the
potential to wreak havoc on Earth if they hit. Of the approximately 1,200
big dangerous asteroids believed to exist, scientists have detected 564. The
vast majority of those -- 471 -- have been discovered since 1990, Pravdo
said in a telephone interview.

If one of these struck Earth, Pravdo said, it would be what they call "a
continent embarrasser."

"If it landed in a metropolitan area, bye bye to that area ... (it) could
take care of a continent, but it wouldn't change the ecosystem the way the
one that killed the dinosaurs did."

Many scientists believe that an asteroid perhaps 3 miles across wiped out
the dinosaurs and many other species when it crashed to Earth 65 million
years ago.

Pravdo said there was at least one dinosaur-killer-sized rock among the
asteroids in the project's catalog: 2001 OG108, with a diameter of nearly 7
miles, about twice as big as the one that doomed the dinos.

But it is not considered hazardous, since it has no potential to come in
contact with Earth in the foreseeable future, Pravdo said. It does cross
Earth's orbit, but is not expected to get close to the planet, he said.

The chances of being killed by an asteroid are about the same as the chances
of dying in a commercial plane crash, not because serious asteroid
collisions are common but because their effects would be so far-reaching.

The worst crashes are capable of causing global climatic catastrophe,
kicking up a debris cloud that could ultimately lower temperatures and kill
plants, animals and people. These occur perhaps once every 100,000 years.

Most asteroids lie in a wide belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter,
but Yeomans and Pravdo keep watch on those near Earth. The National
Aeronautics and Space Administration and other astronomic organizations aim
to identify all the NEOs by 2008.

Copyright 2002 Reuters News Service.

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I have attached a list of all 58 "close approaches" of
NEOs to the Earth that will occur this year alone - and that's only those
objects we know about. BJP

CLOSE APPROACHES OF NEAR EARTH OBEJCTS TO THE EARTH IN 2002
http://www.nearearthobjects.co.uk/close_approaches.cfm?mode=table

 
Designation Encounter Date time Distance(AU) LD)
Size(m) MPC Ref.
 
(4660) Nereus 2002-Jan-22 12:28 0.02902 11 1040
- MPO 18123
2000 AZ93 2002-Jan-27 20:9 0.1598 62 470
- E2001-Y08
(3361) Orpheus 2002-Jan-27 20:38 0.1695 66 600 - MPC 32296
1998 SU27 2002-Feb-6 23:31 0.1411 55 830
- MPO 15599
2001 SK162 2002-Feb-17 20:9 0.1818 71 1650
- E2002-A02
2000 BM19 2002-Mar-2 16:19 0.14 54
1440 - MPC 39586
1999 JT6 2002-Mar-9 15:50 0.1907 74 3310
- MPO 18845
1999 HF1 2002-Mar-11 2:9 0.1765 69 7280
- MPO 18205
1999 OR3 2002-Mar-15 0:0 0.09229 36
1580 - E2001-Y53
2000 GD2 2002-Mar-16 4:19 0.07279 28
1730 - MPO 1266
2001 ED18 2002-Mar-22 15:50 0.07945 31 80
- MPO 20837
2001 FC58 2002-Mar-25 3:35 0.07398 29
520 - MPO 13832
2001 VB76 2002-Mar-30 6:43 0.07345 29
650 - E2001-Y24
2000 AG6 2002-Apr-3 9:21 0.1816 71
50 - MPC 38174
2001 FR85 2002-Apr-5 1:26 0.1180 46
70 - MPO 12329
1999 LT7 2002-Apr-10 6:43 0.1379 54 650
- MPC 35386
2000 EE104 2002-Apr-12 4:19 0.1260 49 500
- MPO 13661
1999 TF5 2002-Apr-16 8:24 0.1587 62 990
- MPC 36926
2000 SL 2002-Apr-18 22:47 0.1694 66 1440 -
MPO 7563
1999 GU3 2002-Apr-19 17:31 0.08151 32 720
- MPC 35447
2001 CC21 2002-Apr-30 14:9 0.1837 71 1250
- E2001-Y39
2000 GE2 2002-Apr-30 15:7 0.1306 51 430
- MPO 750
2001 TN41 2002-May-5 5:15 0.1696 66
3410 - E2001-Y53
2001 FZ57 2002-May-5 21:50 0.1763 69 1040
- MPO 14422
2001 VG5 2002-May-8 6:43 0.1244 48
2850 - E2002-A02
1999 JZ10 2002-May-8 17:16 0.07525 29
250 - MPC 35101
2001 VC2 2002-May-12 12:0 0.1560 61 470
- E2001-X27
2001 WK15 2002-May-24 22:47 0.08523 33 360
- E2002-A01
1999 KW4 2002-May-25 21:50 0.08893 35 2950
- MPO 16040
1998 HT31 2002-May-27 1:40 0.1552 60 390
- MPO 7464
2001 CQ36 2002-May-28 13:40 0.1463 57 190 -
MPO 13811
1998 XN17 2002-Jun-9 6:14 0.1876 73
190 - MPC 39287
1997 VM4 2002-Jun-22 2:52 0.1889 74 1310
- MPC 31149
1992 FE 2002-Jun-22 6:14 0.07680 30
2510 - MPO 13523
(2101)Adonis 2002-Jun-29 17:45 0.1610 63 990 - MPC 24887
2001 HY7 2002-Jul-11 3:50 0.1043 41 540
- MPO 16095
2000 BF19 2002-Jul-23 5:45 0.1377 54 790
- MPC 39585
2000 PH5 2002-Jul-25 19:55 0.01231 5 190
- MPO 18285
2001 TE2 2002-Jul-26 0:43 0.1807 70 590
- MPO 20417
2000 RV37 2002-Jul-29 4:47 0.1628 63 940
- MPO 16088
2001 EB18 2002-Aug-29 2:24 0.03397 13
960 - E2001-Y02
2000 OK8 2002-Sep-14 11:16 0.1691 66 540 -
E2001-R50
2001 WT1 2002-Sep-25 0:43 0.1651 64 680
- E2001=X21
1998 RO1 2002-Sep-29 17:31 0.1838 72 1570 -
E2001-Y02
2001 SH276 2002-Oct-1 1:12 0.09880
38 710 - E2001-Y53
1998 UP1 2002-Oct-7 0:43 0.1203 47
490 - MPO 20707
1998 OX4 2002-Oct-8 9:7 0.1457 57
310 - MPO 9714
2000 ED104 2002-Oct-9 9:7 0.1657 64
2530 - MPO 2417
2001 GP2 2002-Oct-17 4:19 0.1725 67 20
- MPO 13848
1998 WT 2002-Oct-17 12:14 0.1071 42 1920 -
MPO 10099
1989 VA 2002-Oct-25 9:35 0.1771 69 1600
- MPC 36876
1999 LU7 2002-Oct-27 3:35 0.1467 57 1110
- MPC 36906
1997 XF11 2002-Oct-31 0:43 0.06360 25
2870 - MPC 39530
2000 WN10 2002-Nov-17 5:31 0.1905 74 640
- E2001-Y24
2001 XX4 2002-Dec-8 21:7 0.02534
10 230 - E2001-Y30
1999 KV4 2002-Dec-12 21:50 0.1815 71 3220 -
MPO 12590
(3362) Khufu 2002-Dec-25 2:9 0.1498 58 1300
- MPO 8362

============
(3) PUT MONEY INTO DEEP SPACE

>From St. Petersburg Times, 16 January 2002
http://www.sptimes.com/2002/01/16/Opinion/Put_money_in_deep_spa.shtml
 
By MARTIN DYCKMAN, Times Associate Editor

An asteroid some 1,000 feet wide -- about the size of a very large shopping
center -- crossed Earth's orbit at not quite twice the distance of the moon
last week. Astronomers consider it a very near miss, too close for comfort.
Had it hit land, it could have taken out an area the size of France, Texas
or the entire Northeastern megalopolis. On impacting at sea, it could have
flooded lowlands around the world, killing millions.

That's the good news. The bad news is that astronomers who watch for
potential killer asteroids didn't detect that one until two weeks before it
grazed us. Had it been on a collision course, there would have been hardly
enough time to evacuate hundreds of millions of people, let alone to make
some sci-fi attempt to destroy it or nudge it aside. Significant asteroids
have hit Earth before; one of them is considered to have exterminated the
dinosaurs.

The $3.5-million that NASA spends annually to search the sky for dangerous
asteroids wouldn't make a decimal place in the federal budget and doesn't
look deep enough into space. Florida Today quoted astronomer David Morrison,
a NASA expert, as explaining that as potentially lethal asteroids are easily
seen only close to Earth, they will either be discovered decades in advance
of impact, as they cross Earth's orbit, or much too late. "We would have
either have decades of warning, or we would see the flash of light in the
sky and feel the Earth start to shake," he said.

This is not a hypothetical danger. It is real. The question is when.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration proposes to spend unknown billions of
dollars preparing a defense against the largely hypothetical threat of a
missile attack from China, North Korea or some other nation that,
inconceivably, would be undeterred by our existing capacity to annihilate it
in retaliation. Wouldn't a few of those billions be better spent in deep
space?

-- Martin Dyckman is an associate editor and editorial writer for the Times.


© St. Petersburg Times

==============
(4) NOW IS THE TIME TO LOBBY NASA FOR WIDENING ITS NEO & SPACEGUARD
PROGRAMMES

>From The Planetary Society <tps@planetary.org>

NEWS RELEASE

The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106-2301 (626) 793-5100 Fax (626)
793-5528 E-mail: tps@planetary.org  Web: http://planetary.org

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2002
Contact: Susan Lendroth

The Planetary Society Asks the Public to Speak Up About NASA Missions

Think NASA's on the right track or do you think the agency needs a change of
direction? The Planetary Society seeks public input for the Planetary
Decadal Survey being conducted by the National Research Council.

At NASA's request, the National Research Council is conducting a planetary
science community assessment of the priorities for U.S. planetary research
programs for the next 10 years. The Planetary Society has been asked to
assist this "decadal survey" by seeking input from the general public about
planetary exploration.

Respondents can access the survey questionnaire at the Society's website,
http://planetary.org. But hurry, the deadline for completing the form is
January 31, 2002.

"This is an exciting and rare opportunity for the public to provide input to
NASA's planning for the next ten years of planetary exploration," said Bruce
Betts, Director of Projects at The Planetary Society. "We encourage everyone
to take advantage of this chance to be heard."

NASA selects its missions and scientific objectives based on many
considerations, including the anticipated scientific return, cost,
feasibility, and public interest. This is the public's opportunity to tell
NASA what they consider the priorities should be for planetary exploration
and how they would like to be informed about the results from missions. All
individual views expressed in the survey will be kept anonymous.

The brief survey includes sections on prioritizing the ultimate purpose of
US planetary exploration, selecting the most important missions (i.e. Pluto,
the Moon, Saturn, etc.), and whether it is preferable to mount missions to
new bodies not previously visited by spacecraft or missions to explore
previously visited objects in greater detail.

The questionnaire also asks how people prefer to learn about the results of
exploration missions, though the internet, lectures, magazines or some other
source.

One question relates solely to educators, asking what NASA products they
prefer for classroom instruction about planetary exploration.

THE PLANETARY SOCIETY:
Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in
1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With members in over 140 countries, the
Society is the largest space interest group in the world.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
For more information about The Planetary Society, contact Susan Lendroth at
(626) 793-5100 ext 237 or by e-mail at susan.lendroth@planetary.org.

The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91106-2301
Tel:  (626) 793-5100
Fax:  (626) 793-5528
E-Mail:  tps@planetary.org

===========
(5) ROCKS ON YOUR HEAD

>From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

[ http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4337489,00.html ]

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Rocks on your head

Meteorite collectors are up in arms, and all over a dead cow. Duncan Steel
explains why.

The Guardian

Each day about 100 tons of cosmic detritus arrives from space. Most burns up
high in the atmosphere. But every so often a rock makes it through.

Asteroid impacts are dangerous because such behemoths hit the ground at
phenomenal speed, releasing a vast amount of energy when they do so: an
explosion that could kill millions, even billions. Just ask the dinosaurs.

Smaller rocks from space are decelerated by the atmosphere and reach the
ground at the same terminal velocity as a heavy object dropped from an
aeroplane. These we call meteorites. And the community of those who collect
and study meteorites has been much perturbed of late by a
particular lump of space rock.

Meteorites could be hazardous, if you were unfortunate enough to be hit.
Only a handful of meteorites reach the ground each day, and human bodies
cover a tiny fraction of the planet's surface. A decade ago, a boy in Uganda
was struck but not badly hurt. In 1954 one punched through the roof of a
house in Alabama and severely bruised a woman's arm. The casualty rate is
low.

There are many records of buildings and cars being struck. This is no bad
thing for the owners: the value of the meteorite may be greater than that of
the damaged car. A car that was damaged by a fall near New York in 1992 was
sold for a considerable sum as a museum exhibit.

Stories of meteorites hitting animals are legion, attaining mythological
status. One story is that a dog was killed by the Nakhla meteorite, which
fell in Egypt in 1911 (and is one of the 16 meteorites known to have come
from Mars). Recent investigations seem to show that the story is apocryphal,
rather than apocalyptic. A meteorite that fell at Ohio in 1860 reportedly
killed a colt or a pony. Again the story has never been validated.

But now a "death by meteorite" rumour has been confirmed, a Venezuelan cow
having been the victim in 1972. The meteorite fell on a farm to the east of
the town of Valera, and in consequence takes that as its name, as is the
norm. It is almost three decades ago but the object has only just been
listed in the Meteoritical Bulletin, the standard publication, because the
eyewitnesses thought little of it at the time. Only through later detective
work were the circumstances pieced together.

On the evening of October 15 that year a bright light was seen in the sky,
and a loud noise heard. The next morning three people found a dead cow, one
of its forequarters crushed by the impact, with three fragments of the
broken meteorite next to it on the ground. These weighed about 50kg
altogether: enough to kill any animal, if dropped from a great height. One
of the three -- a physician -- believed the rock had fallen from the sky and
caused the cow's death. The two smaller fragments were taken indoors, the
larger left outside, the people having no idea of the potential value of
their find. The cow was eaten.

Recently, Dr Ignacio Ferrin, an astronomer at the University of the Andes,
traced the witnesses and the pieces of the meteorite. Bits have been
distributed to professional meteoriticists. Much is now in private hands,
with collectors clamouring for good samples. You could buy a slice
(meteorites are often sawn into thin samples to be displayed), a typical
cost being about £5 per gram. That gives the original 50 kg a value of
£250,000.

The value of the Valera meteorite comes from its new reputation as a
cow-killer, and samples come with a copy of an affidavit vouching for its
validity, signed by the medic involved, Dr Arginiro Gonzales. Some meteorite
enthusiasts observe that Valera's value has been boosted 10-fold by the
connection with the cow, and suggest that a different type of killing might
be being made.

There is another twist. Many meteorite collectors possess samples of a large
fall found in the Atacama Desert in Chile, in 1861. More than 80 fragments
have been identified, many in recent years. These weigh about four tons, so
there has been plenty to go around. These pieces were strewn around a dry
riverbed called Vaca Muerta, giving this meteorite its name.

Vaca Muerta means "dead cow" in Spanish. So the Venezuelan meteorite is
being called Vaca Muerta II by some. The cynics see a more invidious
connection, thinking the name of the famous meteorite from the Atacama may
have provided the inspiration for a bit of money-making further north in
Latin America.

[Duncan Steel teaches space and astronomy subjects at the University of
Salford.]

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

===============
(6) METEOR CRATER SPARKS INTEREST OF ATTORNEY

>From Odessa America, 17 January 2002
http://www.oaoa.com/news/nw011702b.htm

By Ruth Friedberg
Odessa American

For most of his life, Tom Rodman has been interested in a 50,000-year-old
hole in the ground - the Odessa meteor crater.

His family moved to Odessa in 1932. They had land near the crater, located
south of town.
"The crater is just an interesting thing," said Rodman, who is an Odessa
attorney. "We used to go down there in high school. It was timbered with
ladders connecting different floors and levels" allowing people to get down
to the bottom of the pit.

"Unfortunately, in the early '50s, the timbers burned or were set on fire
and are now covered with charcoal," he said.

The University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology did research on the
crater site looking for the mass of the meteorite from September 1939 to
September 1941, Rodman said. The work was a cooperative venture that also
involved federal, state and Ector County agencies.
Glen Evans was the chief geologist for UT Bureau of Economic Geology, which
investigates and reports on geological features.

"But they know now with so much heat and energy generated, the meteorite was
vaporized," Rodman said.

The family that owns the meteor crater in Arizona also came to Odessa trying
to find the meteorite mass in the 1950s. It is speculated that the crater in
Arizona and the one in Odessa were made by the same meteor fall, Evans said.

The UT Bureau of Economic Geology found four small craters buried under
sediment, according to the Occasional Papers of the Strecker Museum, put out
by Baylor University. When first formed, the craters were funnel-shaped
depressions, the largest of which was about 550 feet in diameter and 100
feet deep.

More than 100,000 cubic yards of crushed rock was spewed from the crater
after the impact of the meteor, according to a pamphlet on the crater. The
main crater was eventually filled to within six feet of the level of the
surrounding plain.

Evans said when the meteor originally got into the Earth's atmosphere at
very great height and "incredible velocity," the pressure of the atmosphere
caused it to break up.

The crater now looks like a shallow nearly circular depression surrounded by
a low, rock-buttressed rim. The smaller craters were "so completely buried
that their existence was not suspected until they were exposed" by the UT
group, the pamphlet said.

Although UT officials found no meteor mass, many nickel-iron meteorites were
found in an area of about 100 miles around the crater, according to the
Occasional Papers of the Striker Museum.
"We thought it was a terribly exciting spot," Evans said.

Over the years, Rodman said the area has been "pretty well cleared out with
metal detectors." At the time the meteorite hit, it was a wet period.

"Fifty-thousand years ago, it was probably wet and marshy," Rodman said.
When UT drilled, they hit what they thought was the meteorite's main mass at
165 feet. They got to what Evans realized was the bottom of the crater and
found a "real hard conglomerate."

When Rodman got interested in the crater, he contacted Evans, who was living
in Midland at the time.

Rodman said about half the meteorites were put in a small museum at the
crater site. The museum survived until vandalism got so bad the museum
couldn't be maintained.

He said half the collection was stolen, so the remainder was moved to the
Ector County Library where it would be safe.

The one-story concrete structure that had been the museum was replaced with
a picnic bench when the county took over. The land was deeded to the county
by T.P. Land Trust in November 1978.
Through the years, Rodman said he has worked through the Chamber of
Commerce's meteor crater committee and tried to get the state to take it
over as a park.

In 1999, State Rep. Buddy West (R-Odessa) got a $500,000 state appropriation
to build a museum and caretaker's quarters on site, Rodman said.

Construction started in June 2001 and is supposed to be finished in early
February. Rodman said an estimated 9,000 people a year visit the site.

Rodman said a lot of material from the Odessa meteorite will be on display,
along with numerous other meteorites.

Copyright 2002, Odessa American

============
(7) INTERNATIONAL CHARTER ON SPACE AND MAJOR DISASTERS' WEBSITE WHEN TIME IS
CRITICAL

>From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

Canadian Space Agency
St. Hubert, Quebec

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters' Website when Time is
Critical

Paris, January 17, 2002 -- As part of the efforts dispatched to assist
rescue teams dealing with the most severe disasters, space agency members of
the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters have launched today
an innovative Website at the Charter Evaluation Workshop in Paris.

The address of the Website is:
     http://www.disasterscharter.org

"This Website is an important step forward in the way we provide rescue and
civil defence authorities with the information they need to help teams on
the ground when time is critical," said Jean-Luc Bessis on behalf of the
International Charter's Executive Secretariat.

"As host of this Website, we are proud to contribute to this collective and
international action," said Surendra Parashar, Director of Satellite
Operations at the Canadian Space Agency and International Charter Board
representative. "It will enable all satellite planners to accelerate the
immediate tasking of space-based resources including CNES' SPOT, ESA's ERS,
Canada's RADARSAT-1, and soon from Indian and US satellites to acquire new
images to assist humanity."

This means that requestors based in areas where major disasters strike will
be better prepared when sending their request to the on duty operator via
authorized users. The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters'
Website provides guidelines concerning the procedures
for the request and delivery of data.

All information pertaining to rescue and civil defence bodies will be
available at the click of a mouse including updates in procedures, disasters
covered and pertinent links to non-governmental organizations, civil
protection agencies, international organizations involved in disaster
mitigation and humanitarian assistance, and individual partner agencies.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is the expression of
a collective resolve to put space technology at the service of rescue
authorities in the event of a major disaster. Its current members are the
Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the French
space agency (CNES), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the
US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This Charter was set up in the framework of the UNISPACE III conference of
the United Nations in 1999 and has been in force since November 1, 2000.
Among its most significant operations, assistance was provided to rescue
organisations following a series of earthquakes in El Salvador
in January and February 2001.

About ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international intergovernmental
organization whose task is "to provide for and to promote, for exclusively
peaceful purposes, cooperation among European states in space research and
technology and their space applications". Canada takes part in some projects
under a cooperation agreement.

About the French space agency (CNES - Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales)

As a national space agency, CNES is in charge of conceiving, directing and
implementing the French space policy. It is actively engaged in developing
the use of space to meet the civil and military needs of public authorities
and satisfy the requirements of the scientific community and fostering the
development and dissemination of new applications designed to create wealth
and employment. CNES also drives space science policy, particularly in the
field of Earth sciences.

About the CSA

Established in 1989 and headquartered in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, the Canadian
Space Agency coordinates all aspects of the Canadian Space Program. Through
its Space Knowledge, Applications and Industry Development business line,
the CSA delivers services involving: Earth and the Environment; Space
Science; Human Presence in Space; Satellite Communications; Generic Space
Technologies; Space Qualification Services and Comptrollership and
Awareness. The Canadian Space Agency is at the forefront of the development
and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and
humanity.

About ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) under the Department of Space,
Government of India, is responsible for the implementation of the Indian
space program involving the development and operations of the satellite,
launch vehicles and ground systems, for carrying out research and
applications related to communications, remote sensing, meteorology, space
sciences, etc.

About NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was established
in 1970, under the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA provides and ensures
timely access to global environmental data and information services from
satellites and other sources to promote, protect, and enhance the Nation's
economy, security, environment, and quality of life.

For information:

ESA
Simonetta Cheli
ESA-ESRIN
Tel.: + 39 06 94180350
Simonetta.cheli@esa.int

CNES
Sandra Laly
Tel.: + 33 1 44 76 77 32
Sandra.laly@cnes.fr

NOAA
Levin Lauritson
Tel.: +1-301-457-5120
Levin.Lauritson@noaa.gov

Canadian Space Agency
Monique Billette
Tel.: + 1 450 926 4370
Monique.Billette@space.gc.ca

Indian Space Research Organization
K.V. Venkatachary
Tel./fax: +91-80 34 15408
Chary_55@isro.ernet.in
 
============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(8) ASTEROID 6178: A 2-KM CHUNK OF METAL

>From Maximiliano Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

Dear Benny:

So far, there are only two M class asteroids (metallic) among the NEAs
population: 1986 DA (Amor) and AMUN (Aten). Bellow you will find a review
about the first. As before my work-review remains unpublished.

thanks you!: max

ASTEROID 6178: A 2-KM. CHUNK OF METAL.
M.C.L.Rocca-Mendoza 2779-16A,Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
(1428DKU), maxrocca@hotmail.com

INTRODUCTION.

Amor asteroid 6178 ( 1986DA ) is one of the few metallic objects known among
the Near Earth Asteroid population. It was discovered by M. Kizawa at
Shizuoka, Japan, on 16 February 1986.

ORBIT

Semimajor axis = 2.811 A.U. , e = 0.585 , I = 4.29º
It is not a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid ( PHA ).

COLOR, PHOTOMETRY AND RADIOMETRY

Broadband colorimetry ( 0.36 to 0.85 micrometers ), visual photometry,
near-infrared ( JHK ) photometry , and 10 and 20 micrometers radiometry of
this object were obtained dur-ing March and April 1986. Photometric
observations were made on the UBVR system on 20 March 1986 using
the Kitt Peak National Observatory 1.3 m reflector and, observations in 5
bands of the Eight-Color Asteroid Survey ( ECAS ) system were obtained on 5
April 1986. Infrared JHK photometric observations were obtained at the NASA
Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on 24 April 1986. Radiometric
observations were obtained at the NASA IRTF on March that year. Broadband
UBV color and visual geometric albedo are ob-servable properties that can be
used to constrain the composi-tional characteristics of an asteroid.

6178's colors alone were suggestive of an M classification: U - B = 0.21 , B
- V = 0.70
Then, JHK and albedo of this object were distinctly those of an M class
asteroid too:  J - H = 0.4 , J - K = 0.60 , Albedo = 0.12
The spectra of sunlight reflected from the surfaces of iron meteorites
exhibit no peaks and valleys, the diagnostic ab-sorption features of mineral
species. A sloping, almost linear, spectra are characteristic of them. The
only variation within these spectra is a decrease in slope with increasing
nickel content. This is the typical spectral characteristic of M class
asteroids. There is therefore no doubt that 6178 is an M class asteroid
composed of  metallic FeNi. The thermal observations were combined with the
visual data to compute model radiometric albedo and diameter for this
object: Albedo = 0.14 , Diameter = 2.3 km. [ 1 ]

RADAR STUDIES

Radar measurements and studies of 1986DA during its March-April 1986's close
encounter (0.20A.U. ) with the Earth were made from Arecibo Observatory,
Puerto Rico, USA. The 305-m antenna was used to run radar experiments in
2380 MHz. Bimodal radar spectra occurred within two phase intervals roughly
one half of a rotation apart, wich is the signature of an object with a
bifurcated mass distribution. The remaining radar spectra were unimodal. The overall
pattern indicated 1986DA was extremely irregular, highly nonconvex and,
possible bifurcated. Sidereal period  was estimated in 3.5 Hours. Diameter =
2.3 km. The asteroid's surface was found to be smooth at centimeter to meter
scales. The very high radar albedo of this object ( 0.58 ) demanded a
surface dominated by metal to be explained. 1986DA is very reflective to radar
waves!. It was concluded 1986DA is a 2-km. chunk of gleaming Iron-Nickel
with hardly  any regolith. [2]

CONCLUSIONS

6178 (1986DA) is a piece of FeNi metal derived from the interior of a much
larger asteroid that melted, differentiated, cooled, and then was disrupted
in a violent impact event. Parent body was member of the Main Belt.

REF.:
[1]: Tedesco E.F. and Grady J. : Astron. J. 93 (3) : 738-746, 1987.
[2]: Ostro S.J. et al.: Science 252 : 1399-1404, 1991.

==========
(9) GOOD NEWS AND BRAVO

>From Andy Smith <astrosafe@yahoo.com>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

A Great Start for 2002

We're really off to a good start, in the vital global NEO hunt. Only 2 weeks
into the New Year, and we have almost 50 new discoveries (more than 3 per
day). At this rate, we could pass the 1,000 mark this year and more than
double last year's record. LINEAR is out in front and NEAT, SPACEWATCH and
LONEOS are following and moving-up. Congratulations to all of you and we
hope you can continue, for many, many months. The lives we save may truly be
our own. Once again, billions of people may owe more than they will ever
know, to a very few.

Help Needed

We hope MPC and NEODys can keep up with the data flow. Unfortunately, our
global team early-warning effort is still not very productive (less than 15%
of capacity). This is because so many good facilities are not yet
contributing. Also, the large telescopes are still not doing much. Even at
this great new daily discovery rate, it will take more than a century to
complete the critical NEO inventory....and we need to do it in less than a
decade.

Prayers Wanted

If you believe in prayer, as we do, please pray that we will have the time
we need to do this vital job and that we will get the very modest funds we
require. We congratulate our brothers and sisters, in the U.K., for the
progress they are making and we are trying to raise the level of awareness
and activity, in Canada and the U.S. We also hope our friends in Russia,
Japan, Australia and elsewhere will be adequately funded to continue their
important work. We are all looking forward to the adding of the Newton (La
Palma) to the hunting teams....the sooner the better

Cheers
Andy Smith

=========
(10) METEORIC IRON AND IMAPCTS

>From Göran Johansson <swe99acad@tjohoo.se>

The Coming of the Age of Iron, Yale University Press, 1980, New Haven, ed.
T.A. Wertime & J.D. Muhly. On pages 69-98 is an article by J.C. Waldbaum. 12
iron objects analyzed of 22 known from the period 3000-2000 BCE, 6
meteoritic, 6 terrestrial. 2 analyzed of 8 known from 2000-1600 BCE, both
terrestrial. 18 analyzed of 74 known from 1600-1200 BCE, all meteoritic.

Sorry for poor data and an old reference, but it is the best I have. Should
we guess that there was a large iron meteorite impact in the middle of the
second millennium BCE? Perhaps, but it must be remembered that it was the
percentage of nickel which was measured. Contrary to what many believe,
terrestrial iron objects can have a high percentage of nickel.

But let us continue.

It was found by Photos (World Archaeology, volume 20, pages 403-421,
1988-1989) that a black stone found in Hagia Triada Palace on Crete was not
a meteorite even though that had been believed by everybody. Well, it is
still interesting because during the middle of the second millennium (it is
believed the stone comes from that period) iron was more expensive than
gold. So it would make sense to sell an iron meteorite which had just
arrived on our planet and then keep a fake as a "memory".

And I have some evidence for an impact from this period. There is no room
here to discuss all my arguments, but please read on. Marmor Parium 11
mentions that iron was found on Crete in the same year that Minos first
became king of Crete. The chronological statement is damaged, but I would
prefer to interpret the year as 1431/0 BCE. A rationalistic interpretation
of this would be that an iron meteorite fell down not long before the
Minoan-Mycenean transition. And the date would then be late in the reign of
Thutmosis III, around regnal year 50.

>From year 47 during his reign we have the Gebel Barkal monument which
mentions a meteor. Exact time is not given, except that it was in the night.
With the middle chronology this meteor should had been visible in 1432 BCE
or not much earlier (we don't know if the event was from the same year as
the inscription or if it occurred a little earlier).

If the meteorite impact was a few years before the Minoan-Mycenaean
transition, then we have chronological agreement. We can imagine the
following situation. A large impact of meteoritic iron would be wealth
beyond imagination. So the Mycenaeans would probably love to take it. Due to
the impact, they may have organized an invasion as soon as possible. That
took a few years.

Yes, I admit one problem. The event on the Gebel Barkal monument happened in
Syria, located far from Crete. So it is only marginally possible that the
Egyptian soldiers could see a thunderbolt who hit the ground far away.

I think a few items from the Greek myths are related to this event. Pliny
7.56.197 has a reference to Hesiod, the forging of iron and mount Ida on
Crete. This is also the place where Zeus was born. Perhaps the impact was
around this mountain. The distance between Hagia Triada and mount Ida is
less than 20 kilometres.

Unfortunately, the only method to determine the size of the impact (and
determining the size of the crater) is to calculate how much iron was
recovered. As far as I know, nobody has tried to calculate the annual iron
consumption during the bronze age. Taking into account the price, how many
iron objects have been found and how often iron is mentioned in ancient
texts, I would prefer to believe that the annual consumption was something
like 100 kilograms and that the recovered amount of iron was something like
10,000 kilograms. But large iron meteorites are definitely rare, so this may
be too much. And I have no idea if the crater would still be visible on
satellite photos. But of course, if somebody would be willing to let me go
through some satellite photos without paying for it, I would definitely like
to know.

Göran Johansson
swe99acad@tjohoo.se

MODERATOR'S NOTE: To link the use of meteoric iron during the Bronze Age
with an impact during the same period of time is rather unconvincing.
Naturally occurring metals, such as meteoric iron, which do not require
smelting or even melting, are obvious candidates for the earliest sources of
metal. They are rare and thus became insignificant sources once smelting was
developed. BJP

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DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the articles
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*

CCNet CLIMATE SCARES & CLIMATE CHANGE, 18 January 2002
------------------------------------------------------

ANOTHER ECO-SCARE BITES THE ICE: ANTARCTICA'S ICE GETTING THICKER


"Even as scientists work to make their climate models more accurate
in the light of the new data, political opponents of the proposed
Kyoto Protocol - which would limit human activity thought to cause
atmospheric warming - are likely to pounce upon the results. The studies
will likely be seen as vindication of their argument that the Kyoto treaty
shouldn't be ratified until more is known about the science of climate
change."
--Peter N. Spotts, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 January
2002


"It will be a long time, if at all, before we are really good at
predicting climate change."
--Richard Alley, National Research Council


"The trouble with these claims stems from a fundamental problem at
the heart of today's discussions about climate science. Any scientific
theory, in order to be considered legitimate, must be "falsifiable" in
some way. That is, the theory must contain within itself the
possibility that, if certain conditions and circumstances are met that
produce results that contradict the theory, then the theory will be
considered untrue or false. As it stands now, a CO2-caused global warming
theory is non-falsifiable."
--Willie Soon, Tech Central Station, 17 January 2002



(1) WEST ANTARCTIC ICE GETTING THICKER
    Associated Press, 17 January 2002

(2) POSITIVE MASS BALANCE OF THE ROSS ICE STREAMS, WEST ANTARCTICA
    SCIENCE, VOL 295, 18 JANUARY 2002, pp. 476-479

(3) GUESS WHAT? ANTARCTICA'S GETTING COLDER, NOT WARMER
    The Christian Science Monitor, 18 January 2002

(4) SCIENCE PRIORITIES AFTER 9/11
    Tech Central Station, 17 January 2002

========
(1) WEST ANTARCTIC ICE GETTING THICKER

>From Associated Press, 17 January 2002
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20020117/sc/antarctic_ice_1.html

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - New measurements show the ice in West Antarctica is
thickening, reversing earlier estimates that the sheet was melting.

Scientists concerned about global warming had worried that higher
temperatures could melt the massive ice sheet, causing a rise in sea levels
worldwide.

But new flow measurements for the Ross ice streams, using special
satellite-based radars, indicate that movement of some of the ice streams
has slowed or halted, allowing the ice to thicken, according to a paper in
Friday's issue of the journal Science.

If the thickening is not merely part of some short-term fluctuation, it
represents a reversal of the long retreat of the ice, say researchers Ian
Joughin of the California Institute of Technology and Slawek Tulaczyk of the
University of California, Santa Cruz.

Their finding comes less than a week after a separate paper in Nature
reported that Antarctica's harsh desert valleys - long considered a
bellwether for global climate change - have grown noticeably cooler since
the mid-1980s.

Air temperatures recorded continuously over a 14-year period ending in 1999
declined by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the polar deserts and across the
White Continent, that paper said.

The cooling defies a trend spanning more than 100 years in which average
land surface temperatures have increased worldwide by about 1 degree
Fahrenheit. The scientists said Antarctica is the only continent that is
cooling. They could not say why.

In their paper, Joughin and Tulaczyk suggest the West Antarctic ice streams
may be undergoing the same transition from shrinking to growing that appears
to have occurred on a neighboring stream 150 years ago.

The results, they add, suggest a reduced possibility of the feared massive
collapse of the ice field.

``Perhaps, after 10,000 years of retreat from the ice-age maximum,
researchers turned on their instruments just in time to catch the
stabilization or re-advance of the ice sheet,'' Richard B. Alley of
Pennsylvania State University, wrote in a commentary accompanying the
Science paper.

But he warned that coastal property owners should not become too optimistic
about the findings, since the instrumental record is short and coastal ice
streams have changed periodically over the centuries.

Copyright 2002, AP

===============
(2) POSITIVE MASS BALANCE OF THE ROSS ICE STREAMS, WEST ANTARCTICA

>From SCIENCE, VOL 295, 18 JANUARY 2002, pp. 476-479

Ian Joughin 1* and Slawek Tulaczyk 2*

We have used ice-flow velocity measurements from synthetic aperture radar to
reassess the mass balance of the Ross Ice Streams, West Antarctica. We
founnd strong evidence for ice-sheet growth (126.8 gigatons per year), in
contrast to earlier estimates indicating a mass defcit (220.9 gigatons per
year). Average thickening is equal to 25% of the accumulation rate, with
most of this growth occurring on Ice Stream C. Whillans Ice Stream, which
was thought to have a
significantly negative mass balance, is close to balance, reßecting its
continuing slowdown. The overall positive mass balance may signal an end to
the Holocene retreat of these ice streams.

1 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Mailstop
300-235, 4800 Oak Grove
Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA.
2 Department of Earth Sciences, A208 Earth and Marine Sciences Building,
University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.
*E-mail: ian@radar-sci.jpl.nasa.gov, tulaczyk@es.ucsc.edu

Copyright 2002, AAAS

================
(3) GUESS WHAT? ANTARCTICA'S GETTING COLDER, NOT WARMER

>From The Christian Science Monitor, 18 January 2002
http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0118/p02s01-usgn.html

New data may affect political debate over global warming.

By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The Earth's polar regions long have been considered canaries in the coal
mine on climate change - the first places to look, many scientists said, to
learn whether the planet's temperature is, in fact, rising. Indeed, climate
models generally predict that the heating of the atmosphere - precipitated
by global warming - will cause the vast layer of ice that covers Antarctica
to melt, raising sea levels and changing regional climate patterns by
altering ocean currents. This week, that widely held presumption is being
challenged.

Two studies of temperatures and ice-cap movements in Antarctica suggest that
the Southern Hemisphere's "canary" isn't going down without a fight - key
sections of the ice cap appear to be growing thicker, not thinner, as
previously believed. And the continent's average temperature appears to have
cooled slightly during the past 35 years, not warmed.

Even as scientists work to make their climate models more accurate in the
light of the new data, political opponents of the proposed Kyoto Protocol -
which would limit human activity thought to cause atmospheric warming - are
likely to pounce upon the results. The studies will likely be seen as
vindication of their argument that the Kyoto treaty shouldn't be ratified
until more is known about the science of climate change.

"This shows we really don't understand the climate dynamics of Antarctica,"
says Peter Dornan, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at
Chicago. It was Dornan's team of scientists whose research highlighted the
temperature trend as part of a broader study of cooling's effect on the
microscopic plant and animal life in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

Decades of Antarctic cooling

Dr. Dornan's study points to an average cooling of 0.7 degrees per decade
from 1986 to 2000 at the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research
Station. Using estimates from British data taken since 1966, the team
calculates that the cooling trend has been under way since at least that
date.

The report, published in the current issue of the journal Nature, appears to
confirm a study published last year in the Journal of Climate by Josephino
Comiso, an atmospheric scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Using
satellite data for the months of January and July from 1979 to 1999, he
reported a drop in the continent's average temperature that amounted to 0.4
degrees per decade.

A mere blip in global warming trend?

Yet Dr. Comiso cautions that his results were uncertain to within 0.6
degrees, a margin that swamps the result itself. That uncertainty, he says,
may shrink with new data he's been analyzing.

Dornan holds that any cooling down south comes as cold comfort in the face
of climate-change predictions because Antarctica's temperature record "is
already included in the global averages that show the climate is warming."

Indeed, David Vaughn, a scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, notes
that if it's real, the continental cooling trend may be a relatively brief
departure from a longer-term warming trend. The average temperature trend
for all Antarctic stations from 1959 to 1996 point to an average warming of
1.2 degrees C.

He adds that while early climate models pointed to broad-scale warming at
both poles, improved models suggest the heating will be uneven at high
latitudes and more pronounced in the north than in the south. That effect,
he says, is evident in the greater-than-average warming that has occurred in
Alaska, northern Siberia, and Greenland.

Modelers also will be poring over results from studies of the west
Antarctica Ice Sheet, conducted by Ian Joughin of CalTech's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory and Slawek Tulaczyk at the University of California at Santa
Cruz.

Better Satellite data

Using satellite-borne radar and ice cores, the scientists calculate that the
Ross ice streams are gaining ice, not losing it, as previous studies
suggested. The new data, published in yesterday's edition of the journal
Science, shift the region's crystalline balance sheet from losses of 20.9
billion tons of ice a year to gains averaging 26.8 billion tons a year.

The difference is due to the more comprehensive nature of satellite
information. In the past, scientists have had to place a relatively small
number of markers in the ice and traced their movements over time, first by
shooting the stars with a sextant, and later using satellites.

Ironically, as the sheet thickens and slows its push to the sea, it could
affect the region's climate by allowing the Ross Ice Shelf, which sits over
water, to thin and break up. That breakup might not affect sea levels much,
since the shelf ice is already in the water. But a breakup would expose some
400,000 square kilometers of the sea surface to solar warming, adding heat
to the region's climate system and generating a pulse of fresh water to the
oceans that could alter the flow of currents there.

"We're trying to understand the physical controls on an ice stream, which
will place tighter constraints on models," says Robert Bindschadler, a
glaciologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center who has spent a great deal
of his career gathering west Antarctic ice-flow data the old-fashioned way.
"It's wonderful to catch it when it's changing, because it helps us
understand the physics more. No one expected us to be blessed with these
kinds of results."

Copyright 2002, The Christian Science Monitor

=============
(4) SCIENCE PRIORITIES AFTER 9/11

Tech Central Station, 17 January 2002
http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/envirowrapper.jsp?PID=1051-450&CID=1051-011702B

By Dr. Willie Soon

The annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) held late last
year in San Francisco gathered over 8000 scientists in the year's largest
and most important meeting on earth science. Research on climate change was
front and center.

But there was a clear mismatch between the results of actual research last
year and the sensational news reported from the conference. The outpouring
of news sounded more frantic and panicked than usual, and such hysteria
makes bridging the gap between research and reality on climate change more
difficult.

Consider the fear-inducing quotes reported by Tom Clarke in the prestigious
journal Nature that "the rise in levels of greenhouse gases has halted an
oscillation of air pressures over the Arctic [known as the Arctic
Oscillation], bringing warmer, wetter winters to Northern Europe, Siberia
and Alaska. The shift could get worse with increasing CO2 emissions ..."
Another AGU-related press release from Richard B. Alley, a geoscience
professor from Pennsylvannia State University, claimed "expected future
warming also might bring short-lived or local coolings, floods or droughts,
and other unexpected changes."

The Need for Falsifiability

The trouble with these claims stems from a fundamental problem at the heart
of today's discussions about climate science. Any scientific theory, in
order to be considered legitimate, must be "falsifiable" in some way. That
is, the theory must contain within itself the possibility that, if certain
conditions and circumstances are met that produce results that contradict
the theory, then the theory will be considered untrue or false. As it stands
now, a CO2-caused global warming theory is non-falsifiable. More
importantly, the proper scientific stance for all serious scientists should
be to work very hard to falsify the CO2-global warming theory. That posture
would yield much stronger science and analysis.

Consider fears over future abrupt climatic change. Now, the ability to
predict climate change accurately would be proof that the theories we hold
about how or why climates change are true. But as Richard Alley, the
chairman responsible for the soon-to-be-published National Research
Council's report on Abrupt Climate Change, put it succinctly: "[I]t will be
a long time, if at all, before we are really good at predicting climate
change." In other words, fashionable scientific theories and the reality of
our current scientific knowledge are not yet aligned.

So what, then, accounts for the hysterical rhetoric that emerged from the
meeting? Perhaps the geosciences community is beginning to recognize
changing scientific research priorities after September 11.

9/11 and After

The new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association administrator, Vice
Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, promptly reminded the AGU audience that the
U.S. national priorities for scientific research are now likely to rank
national security and homeland defense at the top with areas like climate
change, environmental stewardship or even fishery ecosystem managements
secondary or tertiary concerns.

Even more revealing is Vice Admiral Lautenbacher's statement that the
post-September 11's atmosphere means "no new money" for funding pure climate
research. (Despite that, the fiscal year 2002 budgets for three major U.S.
Science Agencies -- NASA, National Science Foundation and the US Geological
Service -- just signed by President George W. Bush, have all seen healthy
increases over 2001.)

Could that, then, be the primary reason for the frantic up-tick of alarming
climate change news over the last four weeks: searching for more research
dollars for more climate change research programs? Would all the scientific
uncertainties and unknowns be solved or reduced by making more monetary
resources available for climate research?

The recent George C. Marshall Institute report "Climate Science and Policy:
Making the Connection" concluded that "a large amount of money is already
available for climate related activities. It is a question of using these
funds as effectively and productively as possible."

While the mere act of asking about the funding realignment of today's
climate change research is a deadly taboo in some circles, the scientific
method must prevail over all politically motivated worries if genuine
problems concerning climate change are to be resolved.

Copyright 2002, Tech Central Station

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