Institute for Space Research

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Kiev, Ukraine
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News Article | December 2, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, or INPE, released new data on the ongoing deforestation of the country’s portion of the Amazon rainforest this week, based on satellite measurements. And the news is very bad. From August of 2015 through July of this year, the enormous forest lost nearly 8,000 square kilometers of area to clear cutting, representing a 29 percent increase over a year earlier (when 6,207 square kilometers were lost). That’s an area considerably larger than the state of Delaware. This means that since 2012, when deforestation hit a historic low after many years at high rates, it is now bouncing back again — and doing so at a time when researchers say protecting tropical forests, and allowing them to regrow, is one of the most effective short-term ways of fighting climate change. “This is a big deal,” said Daniel Nepstad, an Amazon expert and senior scientist at the Earth Innovation Institute. “It is the highest deforestation number since 2008. Compared to the lowest deforestation number, in 2012, it means an extra 150 million tons of CO2 went up into the air through forest destruction.” “It seems that we are facing a new trend of deforestation,” added André Guimarães, the executive director of Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM). “It has increased two years, it’s now close to 8,000 square kilometers. We left behind the level of 5,000 square kilometers, which was stable for three years.” The loss of tropical forests is a crucial factor in the warming of the planet. Deforestation and the degradation of forests accounts for between 8 and 15 percent of the globe’s total emissions. [The solution to climate change that has nothing to do with cars or coal] The causes of the uptick in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon aren’t fully clear, but experts like Nepstad suggest that it represents a decrease in enforcement on the part of the Brazilian government, which was not only in a state of political upheaval in 2016 but also has been facing a severe recession. “Suppression of Amazon deforestation is still highly dependent upon command-and-control measures–namely, law enforcement,” he said. “The cost to the government–to Brazilian taxpayers–of catching and penalizing people who are clearing forests illegally is huge and Brazil’s economic crisis has cut into the budgets of the federal environmental enforcement agency (IBAMA) and the state level enforcement agencies. In addition to a weakened enforcement effort, beef prices have increased, making it more lucrative to convert forests into cattle pastures.” Nepstad says the use of economic incentives to reduce deforestation is what’s currently missing, and that enforcement measures alone won’t be enough. In its pledge to the world under the Paris climate agreement, the government of Brazil laid out plans to halt all illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030 and to restore 12 million hectares (120,000 square kilometers) of forests by that year. It’s clearly moving in the wrong direction if it wants to achieve this goal. Moreover, the idea of waiting until 2030 to stop illegal actions is itself a way of sending “mixed signals,” said Guimarães. “The central government tells, ‘Look, we are going to stop illegal deforestation in 15 years.’ That means, keep on going with your illegal activities, because we’ll deal with that 15 years from now.” At least until fairly recently, Brazil was seen as a success story when it came to cutting back on deforestation of the Amazon. Deforestation totals in the 1990s and early 2000s were astronomical — averaging 19,500 square kilometers per year between 1995 and 2005. Yet with tougher law enforcement and other measures such as an international soy moratorium, it had plunged to a low of 4,571  square kilometers by 2012. The problem is that it is now clearly going up again. “The increase in deforestation rates can be linked to signals from Brazil’s government that it will tolerate the destruction of the Amazon. In recent years, public environmental protection policies in Brazil have weakened. For example, very few protected areas and Indigenous Lands have been created, and a new Forest Code was approved in 2012 that gives amnesty to those who committed illegal deforestation,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, Amazon campaigner with Greenpeace, in a statement. George Mason University professor Thomas Lovejoy, who operates a research project in a completely undisturbed part of the Amazon near Manaus, in collaboration with the Brazilian government, saw a recently deforested plot along a road close to the research area last December. He now says it was a “first indication” of the deforestation increase. “For our immediate situation we are cutting down road access,” he said by email from Manaus.


News Article | December 7, 2016
Site: www.nature.com

Illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has spiked since 2015, bringing the rate to its highest level in 8 years. The finding has raised fears that the country could lose a decade’s worth of progress in forest protection. In an analysis of satellite data released on 29 November, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in São José dos Campos estimates that 7,989 square kilometres of land — nearly the size of Puerto Rico — was cleared between August 2015 and July 2016. The total was 29% above the previous year and 75% above the 2012 level, when deforestation hit a historic low of 4,571 square kilometres (see ‘Going up’). The current trends illustrate a growing sense of impunity as well as betrayal among landowners who have yet to benefit from the sustainable-development agenda, says Daniel Nepstad, a tropical ecologist who heads the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental organization in San Francisco, California. “There’s been a lot of talk about improving the lives and the bottom lines of farmers and ranchers if they stop clearing the forest,” Nepstad says, “and they are still waiting.” Brazil basked in the international limelight for nearly a decade after deforestation began to drop in 2005, thanks in part to stronger government enforcement as well as high-profile commitments to halt deforestation by the beef and soya-bean industries. But the government’s success sparked a political backlash. The Brazilian Congress relaxed the country’s forest protections in 2012, and many Brazilian lawmakers are pushing to further relax environmental laws to promote development across the Amazon. Meanwhile, the country has been rocked by economic recession and ongoing political-corruption scandals. This has diverted both money and attention away from environmental enforcement, emboldening ranchers and illegal land traders to resume clearing land, says Paulo Barreto, a senior researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment, an activist group in Belém. Barreto notes that beef prices have risen, as has the size of the forest tracts that are being cleared — a sign that the major players are investing in illegal deforestation. With the Brazilian government as weak as it is, Barreto says that he hopes the beef industry in particular will bolster its efforts to prevent the sale of cattle from newly cleared land. This would be an act of self-interest, he adds, because the industry's public image, at home and abroad, depends on Brazil's continued success in protecting the Amazon. “In the end, this is bad for Brazil, not only in environmental terms but also in terms of agricultural markets.”


Luhmann J.G.,University of California at Berkeley | Ma Y.J.,University of California at Los Angeles | Villarreal M.N.,University of California at Los Angeles | Wei H.Y.,University of California at Los Angeles | Zhang T.L.,Institute for Space Research
Planetary and Space Science | Year: 2015

The Venus solar wind interaction is often regarded as the prototypical example of an induced magnetosphere. Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO) observations during a period of moderate to strong solar EUV fluxes led to a fairly detailed picture in which the currents in the conducting ionosphere produce a nearly impenetrable obstacle to the incident magnetized plasma flow, resulting in a classical draped field magnetosheath region and a comet-like magnetotail. Inspired by the availability of Venus Express (VEX) observations from the north polar region, and their sometimes unexpected behavior, we reanalyzed the observed Venus wake magnetic fields in the altitude range ~150 to ~450 km to determine whether some signature of a weak planetary field could have been missed. Our results suggest the presence of a small (few nT) but persistent radial field direction bias in the deep nightside, low to mid-latitude range sampled on PVO. The bias has a hemispheric dependence, with the more positive (outward) fields in the south and the more negative (inward) fields in the north. However the VEX counterpart of these data, obtained just nightward of the north polar terminator, shows no significant bias. This observation raises several questions about our understanding of the fields at the surface of Venus. We investigate whether the PVO radial field bias could be the subtle signature of a weak global dipole with, higher by ~10× than the previously established upper limits. A weak dipole solar wind interaction model produces results in the center of the low altitude wake that compare favorably with the observed field bias seen by PVO; however, the lack of agreement with the higher latitude and VEX observations suggests other explanations need to be considered. For example, effects related to previously observed convection electric field-controlled hemispheric asymmetries provide a possible alternative, as are external fields that diffuse into and through the interior. This work points out the need for better understanding the features introduced by species-dependent plasma processes, and the role of the planet itself, in deciphering weakly magnetized planet interactions. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Jain N.,University of Maryland University College | Sharma A.S.,University of Maryland University College | Zelenyi L.M.,Institute for Space Research | Malova H.V.,Institute for Space Research
Annales Geophysicae | Year: 2012

An electron-magnetohydrodynamic model is used to simulate the structure of an electron scale current sheet during early phase of collisionless magnetic reconnection. The current sheet develops structures, viz. bifurcated, filamented and triple-peak structures at different locations in the current sheet. The reversal of the net out-of-plane electric field seen by electrons bifurcates the current sheet in the outflow regions, the individual peaks having scale sizes of a few electron skin depths. Secondary instabilities of the bifurcated CS lead to its filamentation in the outflow and separatrix regions while triple-peak structures form at reconnection sites. These structures have implications for the forthcoming NASA/MMS mission designed to resolve electron space and time scales in the magnetosphere. © 2012 Author(s).


News Article | November 30, 2016
Site: www.npr.org

Deforestation Of The Amazon Up 29 Percent From Last Year, Study Finds An annual study released by the Brazilian government estimates that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 29 percent over last year. That's the second year in a row that deforestation in the Amazon quickened; last year, the pace rose by about 24 percent. The estimated deforestation rate, released Tuesday by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), is based on satellite imagery. The institute found that from August 2015 to July 2016, the Amazon rainforest was deforested at an estimated rate of 7,989 square kilometers (more than 3,000 square miles). The year before, it was 6,207 square kilometers. Two years ago, it was barely over 5,000 square kilometers. INPE acknowledged the increase but noted that "the current rate represents a decrease of 71%, when compared with 2004." That was the year the government implemented a policy designed to curb deforestation; from 2004-2007, the rate of deforestation dropped rapidly. But the rate now detected is the highest for any year since 2008. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who has reported on deforestation in the Amazon, called it a "huge jump" in the deforestation rate. The Brazilian newspaper Estadão reports that many observers had been prepared to see an increase in deforestation, but not one this high. Here's more from the newspaper, translated from Portuguese by NPR's Martin Kaste: "Environmentalists working in the region had already been sounding the alarm, and in recent months the federal government had already been working on the assumption that the loss of forest would increase above the average of the last years, which has been below 6,000 km^2. But this number came as a surprise. ... "The policy director of Greenpeace, Marcio Astrini, says among the causes of the increased deforestation were actions taken by the federal government between 2012 and 2015, such as the waiving of fines for illegal deforestation, the abandonment of protected areas — that is, 'conservation units' and indigenous lands — and the announcement, which he calls 'shameful,' that the government doesn't plan to completely stop illegal deforestation until the year 2030." Estadão also notes that the rise in deforestation is raising concerns about Brazil's ability to meet its commitments as part of the international Paris Agreement on combating climate change. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, and Brazil's success in reducing deforestation from 2004 to 2014 was seen as a model for other developing countries, Estadão writes. Also on Tuesday, Reuters reported that a lack of funding has hampered the organization that's tasked with stopping illegal logging efforts. The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, has struggled with budget cuts as Brazil grapples with a recession, Reuters writes:


News Article | November 30, 2016
Site: www.npr.org

Deforestation Of The Amazon Up 29 Percent From Last Year, Study Finds An annual study released by the Brazilian government estimates that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 29 percent over last year. That's the second year in a row that deforestation in the Amazon quickened; last year, the pace rose by about 24 percent. The estimated deforestation rate, released Tuesday by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), is based on satellite imagery. The institute found that from August 2015 to July 2016, the Amazon rainforest was deforested at an estimated rate of 7,989 square kilometers (more than 3,000 square miles). The year before, it was 6,207 square kilometers. Two years ago, it was barely over 5,000 square kilometers. INPE acknowledged the increase but noted that "the current rate represents a decrease of 71%, when compared with 2004." That was the year the government implemented a policy designed to curb deforestation; from 2004-2007, the rate of deforestation dropped rapidly. But the rate now detected is the highest for any year since 2008. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who has reported on deforestation in the Amazon, called it a "huge jump" in the deforestation rate. The Brazilian newspaper Estadão reports that many observers had been prepared to see an increase in deforestation, but not one this high. Here's more from the newspaper, translated from Portuguese by NPR's Martin Kaste: "Environmentalists working in the region had already been sounding the alarm, and in recent months the federal government had already been working on the assumption that the loss of forest would increase above the average of the last years, which has been below 6,000 km^2. But this number came as a surprise. ... "The policy director of Greenpeace, Marcio Astrini, says among the causes of the increased deforestation were actions taken by the federal government between 2012 and 2015, such as the waiving of fines for illegal deforestation, the abandonment of protected areas — that is, 'conservation units' and indigenous lands — and the announcement, which he calls 'shameful,' that the government doesn't plan to completely stop illegal deforestation until the year 2030." Estadão also notes that the rise in deforestation is raising concerns about Brazil's ability to meet its commitments as part of the international Paris Agreement on combating climate change. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, and Brazil's success in reducing deforestation from 2004 to 2014 was seen as a model for other developing countries, Estadão writes. Also on Tuesday, Reuters reported that a lack of funding has hampered the organization that's tasked with stopping illegal logging efforts. The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, has struggled with budget cuts as Brazil grapples with a recession, Reuters writes:


News Article | September 12, 2016
Site: phys.org

Researchers from the University of Exeter will survey the largest rainforest in the world, in collaboration with the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, using the remotely piloted aircraft to find out more about how people thousands of years ago used these forests. They hope to answer questions about the impact of past humans on the Amazon forest. It is not yet known how the small bands of hunter-gatherers who have lived there transformed the landscape, or how complex their society was. The Amazon plays an essential role in global climate and carbon cycle regulations. Humans have lived there for 13,000 years. It has previously been assumed they had a negligible impact, but there is growing evidence to suggest this was not the case. The results of the project will reveal the nature and scale of changes made by ancient humans on the Amazon. A team will fly a fixed-wing remotely piloted aircraft around the Amazon basin next month. They have worked with aerospace experts, engineers, and technicians to construct one of the first fixed-wing drones attached with a high quality, survey grade laser device. The laser will scan the landscape, collecting 3-D data which will show how humans altered the landscape. The 3-D images will help identify where archaeological digs should take place, otherwise a difficult task because the lush vegetation of the Amazon obscures the landscape. The equipment has been built and tested successfully during the last year in Brazil, and the drone flights will take place this October. Remote Sensing experts from University of Exeter built and tested the equipment with the expertise of the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research and the RPA manufacturers XMobots. The project, called PAST, Pre-Columbian Amazon Scale Transformations, will not only give valuable information on how resilient the Amazon is, but also inform policy on how the rainforest can be used in a sustainable manner. Dr Salman Khan, from the University of Exeter, a remote sensing expert on the team, said: "We have been testing the drone in Sao Paulo state in Brazil and it can fly and collect data for two and half hours covering an area of roughly 60 square km. "We believe it has not been possible until now to attach a survey quality laser scanner on a drone that can fly for such a long time, so this is a feat of engineering which will allow us to collect data of huge significance over the vast Amazon. "The laser scanner sends signals to the ground, and records the reflections, which allows us to produce a 3-D model of the terrain. We can then remove the covering of vegetation using sophisticated algorithms to reveal the ground below. "We are ready to go to the Amazon this October to to find out how the ancient humans lived."


News Article | October 22, 2015
Site: www.techtimes.com

Stars: Watch out. There's a black hole out there, waiting to eat you alive. You've heard of black holes. They are places in space where the gravity is so intense, nothing can get out, not even light. Hence, the term "black hole." We know they exist, but we can't actually see them, because they swallow all the light around them. So, the best way to spot them is to look for objects that are acting like they are near a black hole. Say, a star. When a star gets near a black hole, it's sucked in by what are called "tidal forces," which can rip that star into pieces. That process is called, appropriately, a "tidal disruption," which is kind of an understatement. Nothing is quite so disruptive as getting pulled apart. When the stars are clobbered in this way, it causes a solar flare that can last for years, giving astronomers evidence that the star was there. This week, a team of astronomers from the University of Maryland announced that members have observed a tidal disruption in a galaxy 290 million light years from Earth. It's the biggest tidal disruption they've seen in a decade. They gave it the foreboding name ASASSN-14li. The "assassin" was spotted because of its distinctive X-ray gases. The X-rays are created when pieces of the star are pulled into the black hole, heat up, and bubble out in X-ray gases. Once the scientists had identified the X-rays, they tapped colleagues at NASA and the European Space Agency to get a clearer picture of what was going on. "We have seen evidence for a handful of tidal disruptions over the years and have developed a lot of ideas of what goes on," said lead author Jon Miller, a professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan, in a press release. "This one is the best chance we have had so far to really understand what happens when a black hole shreds a star." Although we think of black holes as eating everything in sight, they actually do have a limit to what they can swallow, so they end up repelling some of the debris headed their way. This includes gases and winds that are prime for studying. "The black hole tears the star apart and starts swallowing material really quickly, but that's not the end of the story," said study coauthor Jelle Kaastra, an astronomer at the Institute for Space Research in the Netherlands. "The black hole can't keep up that pace so it expels some of the material outwards." By studying these black hole survivors, the scientists can get a better picture of what actually happens in the mysterious death traps. The surviving gases are, in a sense, ambassadors for the pieces of planetary debris that will never return. The research is described in a paper published in the Oct. 22 issue of the journal Nature.


Fedorenko A.K.,Institute for Space Research | Kryuchkov E.I.,Institute for Space Research
Geomagnetism and Aeronomy | Year: 2011

The peculiarities of the distribution of medium-scale acoustic gravity waves (AGWs) in polar regions according to the data of measurements on board the Dynamics Explorer 2 satellite are studied. Over polar regions of both hemispheres at heights of 250-400 km, wave variations in neutral atmospheric parameters were systematically registered. These variations were identified as AGWs with horizontal wavelengths of 500-650 km. The relative amplitudes of polar AGWs in a neutral concentration reach 10%. Wave trains extend over the polar caps to thousands of kilometers and show a distinct spatial relationship with the auroral oval. A systematic direction is found in AGW propagation from the nighttime sector of the oval into the day-time sector, where wave activity is strictly limited. An assumption is formulated that this restriction is caused by dynamic interactions between AGWs and the zonal wind in the daytime sector of the auroral oval. © 2011 Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.


News Article | September 13, 2016
Site: www.treehugger.com

We mainly think of the Amazon as the world's largest rainforest and home to a remarkable amount of biodiversity, but humans have been living in and shaping the lush jungle for thousands of years. While we have a good understanding of how modern Amazonian peoples live and use the rainforest, evidence of how ancient Amazon tribes impacted the forests has been scarce. Researchers at the University of Exeter are turning to drones to uncover the secrets of how those people affected modern vegetation in the rainforest. Partnering with the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, the team will survey the forests using remotely operated drones to figure out how hunter-gatherer communities transformed the jungle and how complex their societies were. As part of the project called PAST (Pre-Columbian Amazon Scale Transformations), the team will fly fixed-wing drones equipped with a survey grade laser device around the Amazon basin in October. The laser will scan the ground below, collecting 3-D data that will be made into images that point to where and how the landscape has been changed. Any sites that show evidence of being altered will be tagged for archaeological digs. Figuring out where to dig has been almost impossible because the thick layers of vegetation hide any evidence of past humans. "We believe it has not been possible until now to attach a survey quality laser scanner on a drone that can fly for such a long time, so this is a feat of engineering which will allow us to collect data of huge significance over the vast Amazon," said Dr. Salman Khan from the University of Exeter. "The laser scanner sends signals to the ground, and records the reflections, which allows us to produce a 3-D model of the terrain. We can then remove the covering of vegetation using sophisticated algorithms to reveal the ground below." The special drone equipment, which was a worked on by aerospace experts, engineers and technicians specifically for this task, successfully completed a round of tests last year where it was able to fly for 2.5 hours at a time and cover roughly 60 square km. The researchers hope to not only find out how these ancient people lived, but also see how to use the forest in sustainable ways.

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