Climate change is not just affecting what is happening on the surface of the Earth, but also what is taking place in the outer reaches of the atmosphere. An article published in the journal Nature Geoscience last week by the U.S Naval Research Laboratory’s Space Science Division described how global warming is affecting satellites and spacecraft orbiting the planet. With over 22,000 pieces of debris floating around the globe, even the smallest bit of junk jostled out of place could cause potential harm to information and communications systems.

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Satellites cruising around the Earth could potentially be in harm’s way thanks to global climate change. An article published in Nature Geoscience detailed how objects inhabiting the thermosphere, or the region 50 miles above the surface, could be affected by increased levels of CO2. In that area, emissions are causing cooling rather than warming, as carbon dioxide molecules collide with oxygen molecules and release heat into space. The resulting atmospheric contraction reduces drag on satellites and debris which could shift an already unstable collection of machinery traveling at speeds of 21,600mph in low-earth orbit.

The paper, which explains new methods of how to measure activity in the thermosphere, asserted that the most recent carbon measurements outpace previous computer models determining the effects of cooling on satellites. As the climate changes, the capture and removal of space refuse may become more and more important to the operation of the International Space Station, and vital communication, and information technologies.

+ U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Via The Los Angeles Times

Photos by NASA