Satellite data shows Mesosphere is contracting up to 650 feet per decade: Study

In a recent study, scientists have found that the parts of the upper atmosphere are gradually contracting because of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Published in the peer-reviewed journal called Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, the research is based on the data collected by three National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellites.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this photo from the International Space Station on Tuesday morning, 2 September 2014. Image credit: NASA/Reid Wiseman

Speaking about their findings, the lead author of the study Scott Bailey who is an atmospheric scientist at Virginia Tech said that one needs to look at several decades of data to understand the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and solar cycle changes.

The data collected from three satellites over 30 years shows that the summer mesosphere over Earth’s poles is contracting at a rate of 500 to 650 feet per decade and it is cooling by four to five degrees Fahrenheit.

Previously, researchers have been able to determine that the mesosphere is cooling, however, it is for the first time that the contraction of the upper atmosphere has been observed using data collected from longer periods.

According to a blog on NASA, the effects on the mesosphere do not directly impact human beings. However, it is a region of importance because the coldest atmospheric temperatures are found in this layer. The transition of the neutral atmosphere into the ionosphere is also observed in this region.

While the impact of greenhouse gases in our layer of the atmosphere, the troposphere, is that we experience warming, the mesosphere is thinner and thus reacts differently to the increasing greenhouse gases.

Commenting on the difference, co-author and atmospheric scientist James Russell from Virginia’s Hampton University said that the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface is thick and that carbon dioxide traps heat, similar to how a quilt wraps heat around the body.

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