Tipsheet: Environmental Story Ideas

es according to plan, the first of NASA's Earth Observing Satellites (EOS) will sweep into a polar orbit 900 miles above the Earth. Aboard will be MODIS, the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, a device whose capabilities are now being tested at UW-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center.

MODIS will enable scientists to study such things as ocean currents, clouds and land formations from space. Measuring clouds and the energy they reflect back into space or help trap in the atmosphere, for example, is an essential element in the study of climate change and global warming. MODIS will provide a new long-term record, in unprecedented detail, of such phenomena.

To learn more about MODIS and the insight it may provide on issues of climate, contact Paul Menzel at 608-263-4930, or Steve Ackerman at 608-263-3647.

Solar Power: Renewable Energy On The Cusp Of Renewal?

Whatever happened to solar power? After a burst of interest in the 1970s, solar energy applications have never reached more than a fraction of their potential in America.

William Beckman, director of UW-Madison's Solar Energy Laboratory, says the relative cheapness of fossil fuels through the 1980s and '90s has reduced interest in renewable energy sources. But it shouldn't: Beckman says that increasing solar usage could have a greater impact on reversing global warming than almost any other remedy.

For example, Beckman says a third of the country uses electricity for home water heaters. If those homes switched to a combination electric-solar water heating source, it would produce more carbon dioxide-reduction than it would to double the gas mileage of every American car.

Beckman says the UW's Solar Energy Lab, opened in 1954, is the oldest such center in the country. For more information, contact Beckman at 608-263-1590; or beckman@engr.wisc.edu

Keeping An Eye On The Mercury

UW-Madison's Water Chemi

Contact: Brian Mattmiller
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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