The Trump administration’s proposed $859.7 million budget for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which it sent to Congress on Monday, chops funding for the agency by 21% for fiscal year (FY) 2019 compared with the FY 2017 omnibus bill (see Table 1), which was the most recent comprehensive spending bill passed by Congress.
The plan reduces appropriations for all major areas within USGS, except for the facilities line item.The plan reduces appropriations for all major areas within USGS, except for the facilities line item. Among the big losers—some by more than 30%—are the ecosystem, water resources, core science systems, natural hazards, and climate and land use change budget activities. The plan restructures funds formerly allocated to “climate and land use change” into the new “land resources” line item; the newly renamed activity is funded at 31% less than the current activity and focuses on a narrower set of scientific activities.
Notably, the budget eliminates some programs, including the USGS’s Environmental Health Mission Area and its Cooperative Research Units program, under which USGS currently partners with universities and others in 38 states.
The plan has some fiscal bright spots, however, such as increased funding for “mineral and energy resources” (increasing to $84.1 million, up from $73.1 million) and a new initiative on 3-D mapping to provide information for mineral resource development. The budget also supports a planned FY 2021 launch of the Landsat 9 Earth-observing satellite to replace the aging Landsat 7 and maintain the current Landsat program’s 8-day repeat coverage of everywhere on Earth. In addition, continued funding is included for the nationwide stream gauge network and many other core programs.
Table 1. Proposed FY 2019 Budget for USGSaProgramFY 2017 EnactedbFY 2019 President’s Budget RequestbChangebPercentage Change
Land Resources (formerly Climate and Land Use Change)c
Energy and Mineral Resources and Environmental Health
Core Science Systems
aSource: U.S. Geological Survey 2019 budget in brief.
bValues reported here in millions of U.S. dollars, rounded to the nearest hundred thousand for clarity.
cThe administration’s FY 2019 request renames and restructures the Climate and Land Use Change program, reappropriating its functionality into other areas, including a new Land Resources program. Source: USGS fact sheet for Land Resources Mission Area.
“The request emphasizes science supporting energy and mineral independence and security, hazard monitoring, and support of decision making by resource managers and policy makers,” according to USGS budget documents.
“At those levels, we are no longer able to support the full range of our scientific portfolio. We had to make some very, very tough decisions to actually cut out entire programs.”Nonetheless, with such a large budget cut, USGS acting director Bill Werkheiser acknowledged funding concerns during a budget briefing on Wednesday.
“At those levels, we are no longer able to support the full range of our scientific portfolio. We had to make some very, very tough decisions to actually cut out entire programs,” he said. “To face the prospects of not having that full range of [scientific] portfolios is very concerning,” Werkheiser said, noting that all of the portfolios “are important in their own right and each [has] a strong constituency.”
USGS is “hopeful that some other agencies will be able to help us out and pick up some of those activities that we are no longer able to do,” Werkheiser added. “We’ll have to see how that moves forward through the congressional process.”
Looking Toward Congress for Help
Scientists and constituents of USGS said the proposed budget cuts threaten the ability of USGS to do its work.
“The budget proposal and its cuts to science programs are concerning, as the need for science in public policy decision making has never been greater,” Elizabeth Duffy, chair of the USGS Coalition, an alliance of more than 80 organizations, told Eos. “While the President’s budget request sets the tone of the Administration’s priorities, it is hoped we can work with Congress to adequately fund the USGS to ensure the continuation of the vital role the Survey has in protecting the public from natural disasters, assessing water quality, providing geospatial data, and conducting the science necessary to manage the nation’s living, mineral and energy resources.”
“It’s hard to imagine that a 20% reduction in funds won’t hamstring the USGS’s mission.”“It’s hard to imagine that a 20% reduction in funds won’t hamstring the USGS’s mission to ‘improve the Nation’s economic well-being, reduce societal risks to hazards, and support and inform natural resource stewardship,’” Michael Conway, senior research scientist with the Arizona Geological Survey at the University of Arizona, told Eos.
Allyson Anderson Book, executive director of the American Geosciences Institute, told Eos that the proposed large cuts to USGS are troubling. Book called out the proposed elimination of the agency’s environmental health mission area, which would transfer a small fraction of its work to another budget area within USGS. She called the elimination of the mission area “regrettable and short-sighted. Studies of the fate, transport, and effects of contaminants and toxic substances in our water and environment are of critical importance as we try to understand how people are impacted by their surrounding environment.”
A Call for More Focus on Natural Hazards
A USGS geologist uses a laser range finder to measure the depth of the lava lake at the summit of Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano. Funds for natural hazards would drop 19% under the administration’s proposed USGS budget for FY 2019. Credit: USGS, CC BY 2.0
Book also expressed concern about cuts to geological mapping, the USGS library system, and the agency’s natural hazards mission areas. “Research in this mission area is a core USGS function that will only become more important to the nation as our population increases, particularly in more vulnerable regions,” she said.
During the USGS budget briefing, John Haines, the agency’s acting associate director for natural hazards, said that “the budget strategy is to preserve the essential functions that fall to the USGS in the areas of hazard warning and disaster reduction.” Haines said the highest priority is for USGS to maintain its current capabilities and capacities across its earthquake, volcano, landslide, and coastal marine programs.
“Funding for natural hazard mitigation in the U.S. should be commensurate with its status as one of the world’s most volcanically active and earthquake-prone countries.”However, volcanologist Simon Carn, an associate professor in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, told Eos that more needs to be done than what USGS can do with this budget. The proposed cuts to the USGS Volcano Hazards program jeopardize the implementation of the National Volcano Early Warning System to adequately monitor all high-threat U.S. volcanoes, he said.
Carn, who was a member of a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee that highlighted challenges and opportunities in volcano forecasting, added that the costs of responding to unanticipated, destructive events like volcanic eruptions are much more expensive than the costs of forecasting and preparing for them. “Funding for natural hazard mitigation in the U.S. should be commensurate with its status as one of the world’s most volcanically active and earthquake-prone countries,” he said.
In simple terms, drought is an absence of water, but it is actually a complex phenomenon and one of the most poorly understood natural hazards due to multiple causation factors operating on different temporal and spatial scales. A review article recently published in Reviews of Geophysics focused on the challenges of drought prediction. The editors asked the authors to explain different methods of drought prediction and describe what advances have been made in improving the accuracy of forecasts.
On a global scale, how significant is drought as a climatic hazard?
Drought is among the most disastrous natural hazards and occurs in virtually all climate regimes around the globe.
A truck delivers water to a rural area in southern Ethiopia during the severe drought of 2010-2011. Credit: Oxfam East Africa (CC BY 2.0)
Examples of major drought events during the last decade include East Africa (2011), central United States (2012) and California (2012-2015).
Effects include crop yield losses, reduced water availability, and increased wildfire risk.
While some drought events cause billions of dollars of losses, others may result in famine, mass migration and a humanitarian crisis.
What are the main causes of drought?
Drought is generally related to a precipitation deficit, known as a ‘meteorological drought’. One driver of this is anomalies in sea surface temperature which effect large scale atmospheric circulation and, in turn, influence precipitation. At the local scale, high temperatures may lead to increased evaporation and decreased soil moisture, resulting in an ‘agricultural drought’. In addition, precipitation deficit or human activities (such as groundwater extraction) can cause water supplies from rivers, lakes, or groundwater to become low, known as a ‘hydrological drought.’
How can droughts be predicted?
Statistical and dynamical methods are two commonly used types of methods for drought prediction.
The statistical method is empirically based, using historical records without consideration of physical mechanisms, and relies on the relationship between the drought indicator to be predicted and influencing factors (or predictors). It is easy to implement but falls short in modeling complicated hydroclimatic interactions that may lead to drought.
Dynamical methods are based on state-of-the-art general circulation models (GCMs) or hydrologic models and are capable of modeling physical processes of weather and climate systems. They are adaptable to predict unprecedented conditions (such as extreme drought) but require intensive investment in the model development and parameterization.
Recently the hybrid statistical-dynamical method has been developed to merge the forecast from both methods and has shown promise in improving drought prediction in certain case studies.
What are some of the challenges with drought prediction?
We need to be able to make reliable predictions with a long lead time. Currently, the ability of dynamic models to predict precipitation diminishes quickly after two weeks due to the inherent chaotic nature of the atmospheric system. This poses a challenge to the prediction of meteorological drought, as well as agricultural and hydrological drought.
Another challenge is the prediction of drought in a changing environment due to climate change and human activities. For example, hydrological drought is closely related to human activities, such as irrigation, thus accurate prediction necessitates the modeling of human activities. Current drought prediction efforts have mostly focused on natural aspects, while research in integrating human aspects is limited but growing.
What additional research, data or modeling is needed to improve drought prediction?
We need a better understanding of drought mechanisms and predictability in different regions and seasons.
Better data can improve prediction and in turn help governments and communities mitigate against the effects of drought, such as the loss of corn crop in Texas during summer 2013. Credit: USDA/Bob Nichols
Apart from efforts in generating reliable data products (for example, data assimilation), models need to be refined to incorporate key processes of drought such as land-atmosphere interaction, temperature, soil moisture, and human activities.
Based on ensemble forecasts from statistical or dynamical models, efforts are also needed for processing these forecasts, such as selection of ensemble members and combination of different forecasts, with proper quantification of uncertainties.
Can advances in drought prediction be applied to predicting other natural hazards?
The methods used for drought prediction based on certain drought indicators can be used directly to predict other hazards related to hydroclimatic variables, such as flood forecasting, although a difference may exist in the properties of variables of interest; for example, low quantile is of interest for drought prediction while high quantile is of interest for flood prediction.
Advances in drought prediction provide opportunities for other types of hazards too. For example, drought is an important contributing factor to the occurrence of wildfire, thus accurate drought prediction may provide useful information for wildfire risk mitigation.
—Zengchao Hao, College of Water Sciences, Beijing Normal University; email: email@example.com
Douglas D. Davis passed away unexpectedly on 26 December 2016, taking from us an invaluable atmospheric chemist. He was renowned for his creativity, leadership, and dogged pursuits of environmental issues.
Doug excelled in kinetics studies, pioneered a paradigm for airborne sampling, developed new measurement techniques, and enabled understanding of atmosphere-cryosphere interactions. He was one of the earliest atmospheric chemists, and he helped shepherd this field into the full-fledged discipline that it is today.
Doug was born in Madrid, Neb., on 23 February 1940. His bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees were from the University of Washington (1962) and the University of Florida (1966). Following a research fellowship at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), Doug spent 7 years (1969–1976) on the faculty of the Chemistry Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. He then moved to the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), where he was instrumental in establishing the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He retired in 2004 but continued as an emeritus professor until his death.
Advancing Our Knowledge of the Atmosphere
Doug established the rates of stratospheric and tropospheric reactions in the 1970s. He enhanced the flash photolysis technique that he had worked on at NBS as a postdoc so that he could use it study atmospheric kinetics.
His body of work in the 1970s was instrumental in improving our understanding of stratospheric ozone layer depletion and the formation of ozone pollution in the troposphere.His body of work on hydroxyl radical (OH•) and oxygen atom reaction kinetics in the 1970s was instrumental in improving our understanding of stratospheric ozone layer depletion and the formation of ozone pollution in the troposphere. Of particular note are his studies on the OH• reaction with hydrocarbons, which quantified the initial step in tropospheric ozone formation.
Doug also pioneered atmospheric chemistry measurement techniques. His ability to make use of new technology led to the measurement of OH• in the atmosphere using laser-induced fluorescence. Indeed, he was the founding father of this technique, and he developed one of the earliest methods for OH• detection in his pursuit to quantify this central radical in tropospheric chemistry. These efforts to quantify OH• in the troposphere were only partially successful. They paved the way for success a decade later, but these measurements remain a challenge even today.
With colleagues, Doug developed the two-photon laser-induced fluorescence detection of nitric oxide (NO). This innovation dramatically improved sensitivity by exciting NO molecules with two lasers of different wavelengths so that the fluorescence emitted would be blueshifted relative to the two pumping wavelengths, effectively enhancing the signal to noise ratio.
Airborne Measurements of Atmospheric Composition
Doug pioneered the use of multi-instrumented aircraft to examine the atmosphere. He installed instruments on a small research aircraft to make the first airborne sampling of a power plant plume in 1973. His work on this project was highlighted on the cover of Science magazine, which garnered him the honor of Maryland’s Outstanding Young Scientist of 1974.
This early success led to the ambitious Global Atmospheric Measurements Experiment on Tropospheric Aerosols and Gases (GAMETAG) project in 1977–1978. Doug and his colleagues packed an aircraft with a large number of complementary instruments provided by multiple principal investigators to characterize the composition of the atmosphere over the remote Pacific, between 0.5 and 6 kilometers above Earth’s surface at latitudes between 70°N and 58°S.
GAMETAG was truly the forerunner of modern aircraft sampling endeavors in the troposphere and the stratosphere, and it set the paradigm of using multiple instruments to sample the same air mass to decipher the chemistry of the atmosphere. GAMETAG is still emulated by airborne field studies today, albeit with more advanced airborne payloads.
Tracking the Human Influence
Over the next 2 decades, Doug led the design of airborne field studies. He examined various atmospheric phenomena, especially in the pristine atmosphere. He was a driving force behind NASA’s Global Tropospheric Experiment (GTE), and his collaboration with Reginald Newell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology led to the highly successful series of Pacific Exploratory Missions in the 1990s.
Doug and Reg conspired to measure the composition of air pumped through the intense convection of Typhoon Mireille, despite instructions from their NASA sponsors to avoid this storm.These campaigns documented clear signals of human activity in pristine areas, demonstrating the effectiveness of long-range transport and anthropogenic influences on ozone and oxidation cycles on a global scale.
During a campaign in 1991, Doug and Reg conspired to measure the composition of air pumped through the intense convection of Typhoon Mireille, despite instructions from their NASA sponsors to avoid this storm. True to Doug’s reputation for persistence, he continued to plan along with Reg and the science team to sample an “organized convective event,” which received no objection from sponsors and resulted in one of the most talked about flights in the history of the GTE project.
After the flight, Doug recognized the need to identify a compound to serve as an effective tracer of convected air. Building on his seminal work on the role of iodine in the troposphere, he proposed reanalyzing air samples taken during the flight for naturally occurring methyl iodide. This was the first time that methyl iodide had been used as a tracer for convection, which is now common practice.
Late in his career, Doug’s curiosity was rewarded by an unexpected finding that would consume his attention until his passing. He found that reactive nitrogen released from the Antarctic snowpack created a photochemical environment that bore no resemblance to the pristine environment that had been assumed previously. Although the release of nitrogen from sunlit snow had been recently observed in the Arctic, the effect was dramatically magnified in the Antarctic. Doug devoted himself to understanding the controlling factors and effects of the chemistry in this unique environment, which continues to be a stimulating area of investigation in atmosphere-cryosphere research.
A Great Teacher and Mentor
Armed with plenty of stories from the field, he delivered lectures that brought life to the subject of atmospheric chemistry.Doug’s scientific curiosity was accompanied by an energy and intensity of purpose that made him an effective leader, and he never missed an opportunity for gaining new insight. Doug brought the same energy and excitement to the classroom. Armed with plenty of stories from the field, he delivered lectures that brought life to the subject of atmospheric chemistry as he developed his own curriculum for a topic that was constantly evolving.
Doug was a consensus favorite among the graduate students, despite his reputation for being one of the hardest professors. His marathon exams were considered a rite of passage. He mentored a vast number of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, connecting him to an astonishing number of active scientists and leaders in the field today.
Doug is survived by Christine, his wife of nearly a half century. He is also survived by his daughter, Nicole; her husband, Brett; and their two daughters, Megan and Elizabeth.
An accomplished master gardener, Doug transformed his hillside home into a landscape recognized by the Atlanta botanical community. He also explored the world with Christine, visiting all seven continents, and he worked with prison inmates as a volunteer and mentor.
—Jim Crawford (email: James.H.Crawford@nasa.gov) and Gao Chen, Science Directorate, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.; and A. R. Ravishankara, Department of Chemistry, Colorado State University, Fort Collins
Geomagnetic storms produce large changes in the Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere that can impact communications, satellite orbits, and navigation systems, as well as electric power grids. The capability of numerical models to reproduce the ionospheric disturbance during a geomagnetic storm depends mainly on accurately specifying the spatial and temporal variation of the high latitude electric fields and of auroral charged particle precipitation. These forcing parameters are not known with complete owing to imperfect observational knowledge.
Pedatella et al.  explore, for the first time, the consequences of the uncertainty in the forcing parameters upon key ionospheric parameters at low and mid latitude using an ensemble of simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model.
Results demonstrate that, during geomagnetically quiet periods, the uncertainty of the high latitude electric field can lead to changes of electron concentration at low and mid-latitudes which is small (less than 20 percent). But the variability in electron concentration typically doubles during a geomagnetic storm. The uncertainty in the flux of auroral charged particle precipitation is much more modest at high latitudes and has little impact on the uncertainty of electron concentration at mid and low latitudes.
Mechanisms involving neutral winds, electric fields and composition changes are responsible for the changes and uncertainties observed at mid and low latitudes but their relative importance changes as the storm evolves.
Understanding the impact of forcing uncertainty is significant for space weather since it can provide an estimate of the reliability of the simulations.
Citation: Pedatella, N. M., Lu, G., & Richmond, A. D. . Effects of high-latitude forcing uncertainty on the low-latitude and midlatitude ionosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 123, http://doi.org/10.1002/2017JA024683
Dune-like structures appear in the depths of Earth’s oceans, across its landscapes, and in the extremities of the solar system beyond. Dunes rise up under the thick dense atmosphere of Venus, and they have been found under the almost unimaginably ephemeral atmosphere of a comet.
Understanding how such similar bedforms (structures at the interface of a fluid and a movable solid) originate under such a wide range of environmental conditions is key to our comprehension of surface dynamics throughout the solar system. Because of the difficulty of observing the surfaces of other planets, researchers often study places on Earth where similar geologic processes occur. These places are called planetary analogues or analogue sites.
The fifth in a series of workshops focusing on planetary dunes brought together 65 terrestrial, marine, and planetary researchers, including students, from diverse backgrounds. Workshop participants agreed that inclusion of the terrestrial subaqueous research community, which studies underwater bedforms on Earth, in discussions about analogue sites was key to the workshop’s success.
Although the basic physics remains the same, fundamental environmental parameters may vary substantially between terrestrial dryland and subaqueous dune fields. Discussions included how the formation of the bedforms observed on comets may resemble Earth’s subaqueous processes more than dryland aeolian dynamics. Further discussions focused on how current in situ exploration of dune fields on the surface of Mars benefits from such terrestrial analogue developments and how these Mars exploration sites may provide a whole new set of geomorphic analogues for the rest of the solar system.
Along with modern analogue sites, the workshop also highlighted “fossilized dune fields”—sandstones that record the accumulation dynamics of ancient dune fields. Workshop participants discussed how ongoing exploration of these sites on Mars and Earth is providing new information about exotic environmental dynamics that have occurred in the past.
Participants agreed that aeolian processes seldom operate in isolation and cannot be fully understood outside the larger context of sedimentary systems. Discussion topics included sediment sources, transport, alteration, stabilization, and sinks, which occur through a long suite of diverse processes over the geologic and climatic history of the planetary body. Although each planetary system forms similar products, each operates within the confines of its own unique constraints and environment.
Attendees discussed the effect of prevailing wind directions and strengths in determining dune morphology. In general, winds that transport sediments in only one direction form barchans, or crescent-shaped dunes, whereas seasonally reversing transport winds form large, elongated longitudinal dunes. Other combinations of multidirectional winds form variations of these two extremes.
However, research presented at this workshop suggests that not only is the number of transport wind directions important, but so is the amount of variation that occurs within each prevailing wind direction. Participants agreed that a more complete understanding of these dynamics would enable us to interpret wind directions and dispersions from remote sensing images of planetary dune morphologies.
We acknowledge NASA’s Mars Program Office and Solar System Workings program for providing travel support for students and invited speakers.
—Timothy Titus (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; @USGSAZ), Astrogeology Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz.; David M. Rubin, University of California, Santa Cruz; and Gerald Bryant, Physical Science Department, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah
President Donald Trump has requested $19.9 billion for NASA’s 2019 fiscal year (FY), a $500 million increase from FY 2018’s budget request and $61 million below FY 2017’s funding level. If this budget passes Congress unchanged, experts expect it will signal big changes to NASA’s focus and direction.
Notably, the budget request calls for defunding the International Space Station, cutting a flagship space telescope mission, and sending humans back to the Moon for extensive exploration. The budget also carries over requests from 2018, including canceling several Earth-observing satellites and eliminating NASA’s Office of Education. For a breakdown of the budget request compared to 2017’s spending, see Table 1.
Table 1. Proposed Budget for NASA for 2019aProgramFY 2017 Spending LawbFY 2019 Budget RequestbChangebPercentage Change
Total exploration campaign
Deep Space Exploration Systems
Low-Earth orbit and spaceflight operations
International Space Station
aSource: NASA “FY 2019 Budget Estimates.”
bIn millions of U.S. dollars, rounded to the nearest million.
Congress has yet to fund NASA for FY 2018, so the agency has been operating with the 2017 budget under a series of continuing resolutions. But as the 2019 budget request was completed, Congress reached a deal that raised the FY 2018 nondefense spending cap (which includes money allocated to NASA) by $63 million and the FY 2019 spending cap by $68 million. As a result, Trump added an extra $300 million in his budget request for FY 2019.
“We are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye toward Mars,” said acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement. “NASA is called to refocus existing activities towards exploration, by redirecting funding to innovative new programs and support for new public-private initiatives.”
Here are five main takeaways from the FY 2019 budget request.
Astrophysics Gets the Axe
NASA’s astrophysics division would receive $1.19 billion in Trump’s FY 2019 budget. Although the requested budget continues to fund the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST; launching this summer), it also calls for canceling a next-generation telescope that was supposed to follow Hubble, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST.
The response from the astrophysics community was swift and overwhelmingly negative. As David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., tweeted,
US is abandoning its leadership in space astronomy. President budget declares “developing another large space telescope after JWST is not a priority for the administration” and zeros WFIRST
— David Spergel (@DavidSpergel) February 12, 2018
WFIRST was intended to have a wider view than JWST and would have followed in Hubble’s footsteps by observing deep space in the infrared. Simultaneously, WFIRST would carry a coronagraph, an instrument used to block starlight that helps scientists directly image planets outside our solar system.
Without this telescope, “we would lose the first in-flight demonstration of the technologies we will need for imaging Earthlike planets and for searching for life on them,” Alycia Weinberger, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in the District of Columbia, told Eos.
A decadal survey of astronomers and astrophysicists released in 2010 outlined WFIRST as one of the top priorities for the future of cosmology and exploring the deep reaches of the universe.
“If WFIRST is considered unaffordable, it is incumbent on the administration to demonstrate how it can pursue the top science recommendations of the astrophysics community absent this mission,” Casey Dreier, director of space policy at the Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif., told Eos.
Dreier acknowledged that the administration is emphasizing human exploration. However, he added, “a lot of work has gone into planning this mission, and we need to have a far better idea about what the consequences of cancellation are.”
Shooting for the Moon
A little more than 50% of NASA’s overall request is earmarked to develop and support research with the goal of sending humans back to the Moon.Human-driven deep-space exploration, starting with the Moon, is heavily emphasized in NASA’s FY 2019 budget request. A little more than 50% of NASA’s overall request—or roughly $10.5 billion—is earmarked to develop exploration technology and support research with the goal of sending humans back to the Moon. According to the request, the administration seeks to go back to the Moon to engage in a long-term exploration campaign.
“It is a good day for the geologic community,” David Kring, a geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, told Eos. Kring has studied lunar geology, including Apollo samples, for the past 30 years.
A more expansive exploration of the Moon could answer questions about its formation and how it acquired the water scientists have spotted at its poles, Kring said. Studying the Moon’s craters could give us a peek back billions of years to a period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, when debris from planetary formation was careening around the solar system like ping-pong balls. Scientists are curious about the role this period may have played in the origin of life.
Aside from pure intellectual pursuits, studying the Moon has applicable benefits, Kring said. One day, we might need its water reservoirs or the volatile elements deposited on its surface.
“We need to go to the lunar polar regions and map out locations of those deposits and assess their potential” for being used by humans, Kring said.
Within the $10.5 billion requested for exploration, $3.67 billion would support NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft development, along with crewed missions to the Moon by 2023. Of that, $889 million would support construction of a Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway—a place where future astronauts could work and have access to the Moon’s surface.
Good-Bye International Space Station?
One of the more controversial aspects of Trump’s FY 2019 budget request is to end governmental financial support of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025.
Rumors about the request circulated days before the budget’s release and were met with sharp criticism. In a conference on 7 February, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who heads up the space subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, reportedly said that he hoped “that those reports prove as unfounded as Bigfoot.”
ISS was launched in 1998 and cost nearly $100 billion. Since its launch, the station has served as a scientific laboratory for research into human spaceflight and studies of how organisms develop in zero gravity. The station is a test bed for new technologies to help future missions and serves as an international training ground for astronauts hoping to go to Mars.
“We have invested massively in the ISS. We should use that asset as long as it is technologically feasible and cost-effective to do so.”“We have invested massively in the ISS. It has produced enormous benefits to the United States and the world, and we should use that asset as long as it is technologically feasible and cost-effective to do so,” Cruz said. “As long as I’m chairman of the science and space subcommittee, the ISS will continue to have strong and bipartisan support in the United States Congress.”
However, this idea to defund ISS isn’t necessarily new, said Dreier. NASA has two spaceflight programs: ISS and the programs intended to send humans to the Moon and eventually to Mars. The government spends about $3–$4 billion on ISS every year, about half of its human spaceflight budget, Dreier said. Unless NASA’s budget gets a raise overall, the current budget for human spaceflight is “not enough money to fund human exploration on the Moon” while also funding ISS.
“NASA’s budget does need to grow to accommodate” both programs, Dreier continued, “or you’re going to have to make very unpleasant choices.” Dreier sees those unpleasant choices playing out in the defunding of ISS and the canceling of large missions, including WFIRST.
Privatizing Low-Earth Orbit
Trump’s FY 2019 budget requests $150 million to encourage development of commercial activities for low-Earth orbit, although details about this venture are slim, Dreier said.
“This budget proposes to stimulate commercial industry opportunities in low-Earth orbit, providing an off-ramp for government-led operations,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
NASA already partners with some private spaceflight companies, such as launching supplies to ISS using SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Continuing to privatize low-Earth orbit brings up a lot of new questions, Dreier said, like who would evaluate whether public-private partnerships are working and what that evaluation would look like.
“It’s hard to make detailed commentary on this,” he continued, beyond the fact that the debate over whether to privatize this region “is worth having now.”
Earth Sciences and Education in Last
Similar to Trump’s FY 2018 request, NASA Earth sciences take a hit with a requested FY 2019 budget of $1.78 billion, an almost 6.5% loss from the $1.92 billion allocated in FY 2017.
As in the 2018 request, the 2019 request also cancels five Earth science missions. These include the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3), which would observe carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere; the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Earth-viewing instrument (launched in 2015); and the not-yet-launched Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite. Also cut are the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory Pathfinder (CLARREO) satellite, which would be affixed to the ISS and would provide measurements on how climate systems respond to clouds, snow and ice albedo, and land albedo change, among other things; and the Radiation Budget Instrument, which would measure Earth’s reflected sunlight and emitted thermal radiation.
“By cutting these missions, there will be gaps in data, much of which are crucial to understanding how the Earth is changing.”“By cutting these missions, there will be gaps in data, much of which are crucial to understanding how the Earth is changing—whether or not you agree that it is changing as a result of man-made emissions,” Joyce Penner, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told Eos.
Although “the text in the budget announcement for Earth sciences states that the budget supports the ‘Earth and applications communities,’” she continued, “it is hard to see how they do this by terminating a number of important missions.”
As in the FY 2018 budget request, the FY 2019 request also eliminates NASA’s Office of Education, which helps coordinate outreach efforts to attract more students into space.
After a leading U.S. scientific journal published a paper that claimed that Mark Z. Jacobson’s research on renewable energy was flawed, the Stanford University climate scientist sued the journal and the paper’s lead author for defamation. That lead author, Christopher Clack, CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy in Boulder, Colo., and the journal—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)—now are asking that the suit be thrown out.
The defendants, Clack and PNAS, say that the suit’s true aim is to suppress free speech and scientific debate. If that argument prevails, said Los Angeles attorney Kenneth White (who is not involved in the case but has litigated numerous First Amendment cases), it will indicate that suits like Jacobson’s can be successfully defended under “anti-SLAPP” laws, statutes intended to prevent people from using litigation as a tactic to intimidate and silence critics. A hearing on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit is scheduled for 20 February in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Anti-SLAPP laws—the acronym stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation—allow defendants to argue that a lawsuit should be dismissed on the basis that it’s intended to suppress their free speech.Anti-SLAPP laws—the acronym stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation—allow defendants to argue that a lawsuit should be dismissed on the basis that it’s intended to suppress their free speech. That avoids, or at least postpones, the more expensive process of discovery involved in arguing the substance of the claims themselves. “It takes away the litigation terrorism approach, where we’re just going to cost you tons of money by suing you,” said White, who writes about First Amendment issues at the blog Popehat. “Hopefully it will be [thrown out], and that will represent an early victory; it means this kind of thing can be fought back successfully.”
Attorney Paul Thaler, who is representing Jacobson in the case, told Eos that characterizing the lawsuit as an attack on scientific debate misrepresents the complaint. The suit isn’t asking a judge to determine which scientific argument is correct, he explained, but rather, whether Clack and PNAS lied in a way that damaged Jacobson’s reputation.
“We’re not litigating science, we’re litigating defamation claims,” he said. “To cloak it in science and say, ‘We’re protected because we’re talking about science,’ in our opinion, is not enough. You can’t lie about someone in the context of science, just like you can’t lie about someone in other fields.”
Mark Z. Jacobson in 2006. Credit: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
The events leading to this extraordinary legal case began with a paper that Jacobson and three colleagues published in PNAS in December 2015. Their article asserted that a low-cost electrical grid based on 100% wind, water, and solar power was possible. Clack, then with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., and 20 coauthors responded with a June 2017 article, also in PNAS, that laid out an exhaustive point-by-point critique of Jacobson and his colleagues’ work.
The following September, Jacobson sued PNAS and Clack, alleging that Clack defamed him by misrepresenting some of the data Jacobson reported in his paper and by claiming that Jacobson’s research contained modeling errors. (Defamation refers to damaging someone’s reputation by making false statements.) Major media outlets, including the New York Times, Scientific American, and Forbes, have reported on the dispute.
Jacobson asserts in court documents that he raised his concerns with PNAS editors in numerous emails over several months but that they refused his requests to retract the Clack paper or correct its errors. (PNAS published his response in the same issue.) His suit asks for the Clack paper to be retracted in full, along with $10 million in damages.
Jacobson’s original paper was frequently cited by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other clean-energy advocates.That eye-popping amount, along with the high-profile and political nature of the research—Jacobson’s original paper was frequently cited by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other clean-energy advocates—is part of the reason that the suit has garnered so much attention.
“I don’t take (the number) seriously or literally,” White said. It’s just a big number to scare people, he said. The amount of damages illustrates how important anti-SLAPP laws are, he added. Such laws provide “the only way you can really put on a full First Amendment defense early on, and only a handful of states have decent ones,” White said.
A Legal Outlier
Attorneys said Jacobson’s lawsuit is unusual. Scientists may file lawsuits if, say, they lose funding or get fired over what they believe are false accusations of fraud or misconduct, but it’s usually a last resort, said Callan Stein, a Boston, Mass., attorney who is not involved with this case but has represented scientists accused of misconduct.
“I’ve never heard of a case like this before,” he said. “If someone publishes an article that they know is false that specifically targets a scientist in a defamatory way,” that’s very different from a good-faith difference of opinion or a different interpretation of data, noted Stein. “That’s what Dr. Jacobson is alleging here.”
Christopher Clack. Credit: CIRES/NOAA
On the basis of his observations and experience, although he didn’t have hard evidence, Stein ventured that litigation involving scientists is on the rise. He attributes this to the growth of online review sites, which make it easier for scientists to publicly comment on and critique each other’s research. He noted a cancer researcher’s 2014 defamation suit against anonymous commenters on the website PubPeer, which is still in litigation, as one high-profile example of a scientist taking legal action.
“You have more researchers scrutinizing work, more researchers commenting, often anonymously,” Stein said. “You have more overall allegations of misconduct, more scientists in the crosshairs, more people who feel they’ve been wrongly accused.”
In the case of the Jacobson lawsuit, however, both of the clashing articles went through all the steps of the scientific review process, White noted. “Suing over peer-reviewed articles that are disagreeing with your peer-reviewed article is quite unusual,” he said.
Spurred to Action
Stein said that after looking at some of the media coverage of the dueling papers, he felt like he understood why Jacobson may have decided to take his dispute to court. At least 12 media outlets ran articles about the scientific clash. Jacobson’s complaint notes that the Forbes article ran under the headline “Debunking the Unscientific Fantasy of 100 Percent Renewables.”
“I understand why this spurred him to such a drastic action because, really, his integrity as a scientist was impugned by [Clack et al.’s PNAS] article, and by the media reaction to it,” Stein said. “The stakes were really high for Dr. Jacobson in a way they’re often not for other researchers.”
Eos reached out to Jacobson for comment, but Thaler said his client was not available to discuss the case. Clack’s attorney, Drew Marrocco, said that neither he nor his client would comment. The National Academy of Sciences does not discuss pending litigation, according to Jennifer Walsh, director of media relations for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
One of the journals published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which also publishes Eos, and Eos itself have included articles about Jacobson’s work. In October 2017, AGU’s Earth’s Future published a paper by Jacobson making arguments similar to those in his December 2015 PNAS paper for the feasibility of an affordable, all-renewable power grid. Eos subsequently published a Research Spotlight summarizing the paper.
Court of Public Opinion
Whether or not Jacobson wins in the courtroom following the scheduled 20 February hearing and beyond, Stein noted that pursuing a legal battle “can certainly backfire.”
The lawsuit has already led to widespread criticism of Jacobson in the scientific community, he noted. Moreover, Jacobson will find that the legal process “airs all of his and Dr. Clack’s dirty laundry,” Stein added. Worse, “if you lose, you double down on the publicity hit you’ve taken.”
Thaler, however, said that going to court made sense. “I don’t think…when all is said and done that he will come out of this in worse shape,” he said. “The way we look at it, he’s protecting his science and his reputation. You almost don’t have a choice if someone is attacking you in that sense.”
“The way we look at it, he’s protecting his science and his reputation. You almost don’t have a choice if someone is attacking you in that sense,” said Paul Thaler, the plaintiff’s lawyer.Rather than attempting to silence scientific debate, the lawsuit seeks to correct the record, Thaler asserted. “We’re not trying to impact anyone’s ability to speak,” he said. The fact that Jacobson’s critics have been vocal in arguing their case in both the scientific literature and the mainstream press shows that far from silencing or censoring them, the suit has led to more discussion and debate.
“We can still have a scientific debate,” Thaler said. “But you need to have a level playing field, and you can’t give yourself an unfair advantage by making false statements.”
In 2015, the United Nations launched a series of 17 so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be pursued in all countries by 2030. The goals include ending poverty, eliminating hunger, good health and well-being, high-quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, innovation in industry and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, taking action on climate, protecting life underwater, protecting life on land, peace and justice bolstered by strong institutions, and partnerships toward achieving the goals.
Within these 17 goals, there are 169 targets and 230 indicators designed to measure countries’ progress toward each goal. There has been a lack of comprehensive and quantitative research in this arena, however, especially in terms of how progress toward one goal affects another. In a new publication, Pradhan et al. seek to rectify this shortcoming.
The researchers compared indicators from the list in sets of two, using the official SDG data to help determine whether each pair had a positive correlation (a synergy) or a negative correlation (a trade-off). Synergies and trade-offs within and between goals were represented by percentages of the positive and negative correlations. The team then ranked synergies and trade-offs at both global and national levels to identify the most common SDG interactions.
The researchers found that for any of the 17 goals, there were more potential synergies than potential trade-offs; in other words, there were more positive than negative correlations. They were also able to trace more specific global patterns; for example, they found that the “no poverty” goal (SDG 1) has a synergistic relationship with most of the other goals, whereas “responsible consumption and production” (SDG 12) presented a trade-off scenario in most cases. The researchers recommend leveraging the synergies that they identified, as well as negotiating and strategizing further, to try to overcome the trade-offs.
As outlined, the Sustainable Development Goals have the potential to protect the environment and improve the lives of billions of people. This study shows, in greater quantitative detail, what it might take to actually achieve them. (Earth’s Future, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017EF000632, 2017)
Water ice on Mars is not currently stable in the near-equatorial regions of the planet, yet features hypothesized to require the presence of volatiles in the subsurface to form have been well-known for decades. Layered-ejecta craters (once termed ‘fluidized-ejecta craters’ and ‘rampart craters’) have distinct patterns of their ejecta produced during the impact event. These ejecta shapes appear to result from an impact into materials mixed with subsurface ice. Kirchoff and Grimm  investigate a subset of these craters and find that layered-ejecta craters near the equator of Mars have formed in each of the planet’s major time epochs, implying ice has even been present geologically recently. However, the authors also find that these layered-ejecta craters are interspersed with craters with more typical ejecta patterns not associated with subsurface ice indicating that the preservation of such ice has been heterogeneous in both location and time. Understanding the distribution and ages of these craters is an important step towards unraveling past climate on Mars and the ability of the surface to preserve that history through time.
Citation: Kirchoff, M. R., & Grimm, R. E. . Timing and distribution of single-layered ejecta craters imply sporadic preservation of tropical subsurface ice on Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 123. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017JE005432
—Steven A. Hauck II, Editor-in-Chief, JGR: Planets
The Trump administration’s proposed $4.4 trillion federal budget blueprint for fiscal year (FY) 2019 released on Monday will slash funding for some federal science agencies. It will also reduce or eliminate funding for a variety of science programs, including some related to climate change and renewable energy. However, the blueprint will spare other science agencies because of a bipartisan budget deal Congress and the administration reached last week for FY 2018 and 2019 that provides more money for both nondefense funding—including science funding—and defense funding.
If Congress approves the administration’s new budget proposal untouched, which is unlikely, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) each would take budget hits of more than 19% compared with the FY 2017 omnibus bill (see Table 1). That legislation was the most recent comprehensive spending bill passed by Congress.
Table 1. Proposed Federal Budget for Selected Earth and Space Science Agencies and Departments for FY 2019aFY 2017 OmnibusbFY 2019 President’s Budget Request (PBR)bChange FY 2019 PBR Versus FY 2017bPercentage Change FY 2019 PBR Versus FY 2017
DOE Office of Science
aSources: Budget of the U.S. Government: An American Budget, Fiscal Year 2019; American Geophysical Union Public Affairs Department analysis.
bIn millions of U.S. dollars, rounded to the nearest million.
cARPA-E = Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.
Under the administration’s proposal, NASA’s budget would rise 1.22%, with a 20.1% increase for planetary science but a 7.1% drop for Earth science. Funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science would barely nudge upward 0.39% from $5,392 billion to $5,413 billion. However, funding for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would dive 66.7%, from $2.09 billion to $696 million.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) funding in FY 2019 would hold steady with what Congress enacted for FY 2017, or $7.4 billion, “and will reflect Administration priorities,” NSF spokesperson Aya Collins told Eos. “Additional details are forthcoming this week, but we are pleased that this level of funding will be able to support basic research across all fields of science and engineering that benefits the Nation and allows us to invest in various priority areas.”
Some Democratic lawmakers said the budget was dead on arrival (DOA) to Congress. “It’s impossible to reconcile this dead-on-arrival budget with the bipartisan funding bill Trump just touted last week,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney dismissed the claims that the budget proposal was DOA at a budget briefing Monday, saying that the president’s proposal “is a messaging document. The executive budget has always been a messaging document.”
Eleventh-Hour Course Change
“Several geoscience agencies fare better than expected in the Administration’s FY 19 budget request, largely due to the increased spending levels provided by last week’s budget deal.”“Several geoscience agencies fare better than expected in the Administration’s FY 19 budget request, largely due to increased spending levels provided by last week’s budget deal,” Kasey White, director for geoscience policy for the Geological Society of America, told Eos. She said that although most geoscience programs show up with large cuts in agency budget documents, an addendum to the budget request would mitigate those proposed decreases at NSF, NASA, and DOE. According to budget documents, NSF, for instance, would have been cut $2.2 billion, 29.5%, without the budget addendum. See Figure 1 for how the proposed funding compares (in percentage) to the FY 2017 omnibus bill.
Fig. 1. Percentage change in funding of administrative divisions of the National Science Foundation under the Trump administration’s proposed FY 2018 (purple) and FY 2019 (gold) federal budgets compared with actual funding enacted under the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill.
“The administration was going to, again, leave a major hole in the basic research budget until circumstances intervened,” Matt Hourihan, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told Eos. “The administration deserves some credit for changing their mind and attempting to preserve basic science, even if it took a major spending deal and an 11th hour course change to do it.”
EPA Would Get Hammered
EPA’s science and technology budget would drop 40.6% from $713.82 million down to $424 million, whereas its $2.62 billion environmental programs and management budget would be cut to $1.69 billion.
EPA “is grossly underfunded and understaffed. At this rate, the Trump Administration cannot guarantee clean air, land or water for anyone in the United States, except the rich.”Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement that the administration’s budget proposal “is a blueprint for a less healthy, more polluted America. A budget shows your values—and this budget shows the administration doesn’t value clean air, clean water, or protecting Americans from toxic pollution.”
EPA “is grossly underfunded and understaffed. At this rate, the Trump Administration cannot guarantee clean air, land or water for anyone in the United States, except the rich,” John O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, which represents about 9,000 EPA employees, told Eos. “There will be fewer U.S. EPA employees assisting the states, tribal authorities, and municipalities, and there will be less science, fewer facts, and more pollution.”
Problems for NOAA and USGS
“Drastic reductions proposed to the majority of functions within USGS are deeply troubling.”Allyson Anderson Book, executive director of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), told Eos that AGI is pleased that the addendum to the administration’s budget proposal would result in essentially flat funding for NSF and for DOE’s Office of Science rather than reductions. However, she added that AGI is “very concerned about the initial decision to cut these programs.” In addition, she said that “drastic reductions proposed to the majority of functions within USGS are deeply troubling.”
Book also raised alarms about proposed cuts at NOAA. Those include zeroing out of the National Sea Grant College Program, coastal management grants, the NOAA Office of Education, and many climate, weather, and air research programs. However, Joel Widder, cofounder and partner of Federal Science Partners, a government relations consulting firm based in Washington, D. C., told Eos that NOAA’s budget is a classic Washington budget because it proposes cuts to popular programs that the agency hopes influential constituencies and congressional champions will restore.
Figure 2 shows how funding for NOAA divisions fares in the Trump administration’s FY 2018 and FY 2019 budget proposals compared to the FY 2017 omnibus bill in terms of percentage change from 2017.
Fig. 2. Percentage change in funding of divisions, offices, and services of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 (purple) and FY 2019 (gold) federal budgets compared with actual funding enacted under the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill.
“Investing at such a rate that gets us level with 2017 doesn’t sound like the thing you ought to be doing if China and India and Korea are nipping at your heels in terms of leadership for R&D.”Tony Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), noted in a statement that although Congress agreed last week to increase spending levels, the administration’s budget proposal contains significantly lower spending levels in some areas. “While it is not yet clear what the government’s investment in science will be, UCAR’s message will not change. We believe it is essential that cuts do not occur in important research areas that could put U.S. scientific leadership at risk.”
Widder said the administration’s budget proposal is OK in some regards because it would bring select science agencies back to their FY 2017 funding levels. However, he questioned whether the blueprint is good enough. “You look at what science indicators has been telling us for the last two or three weeks that it has been on the street,” he said, referring to the National Science Board’s 18 January Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 report that examined U.S. and global research and development (R&D). “Our international competitors are closer and closer to catching up to us in a variety of different parameters. Investing at such a rate that gets us level with 2017 doesn’t sound like the thing you ought to be doing if China and India and Korea are nipping at your heels in terms of leadership for R&D.”
—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: Christine McEntee, CEO and executive director of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the publisher of Eos, writes in AGU’s From the Prow blog that the Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget “would damage the scientific enterprise and the nation.”
Please check Eos later this week and in the coming weeks and months for further coverage of the federal budget.
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.