People and Planet - Technology Advances Advance Knowledge

As technology improves, our understanding of the universe and its components increases. Simply stated, technology helps us know more.  The more we know, the better we are able to predict future outcomes. Following are some examples of how technological advances have increased human knowledge and improved our ability to predict how changes will affect Earth’s systems.

SATELLITES
Weather satellites have been increasingly important sources of weather data since the first one was launched in 1952. Weather satellites are the best way to monitor large-scale systems, such as storms. Satellites are able to record long-term changes, such as the amount of ice cover over the Arctic Ocean in September each year. Weather satellites may observe all energy from all wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light images record storms, clouds, fires, and smog. Infrared images record clouds, water and land temperatures, and features of the ocean, such as ocean currents (Figure below).


Infrared data superimposed on a satellite image shows rainfall patterns in Hurricane Ernesto in 2006.

An online guide to weather forecasting from the University of Illinois is found here.

RADAR
Radar stands for Radio Detection and Ranging (Figure below). A transmitter sends out radio waves that bounce off the
nearest object and then return to a receiver. Weather radar can sense many characteristics of precipitation: its location,
motion, intensity, and the likelihood of future precipitation. Doppler radar can also track how fast the precipitation falls. Radar can outline the structure of a storm and can be used to estimate its possible effects.


Radar view of a line of thunderstorms.

Source: Open Education Group Textbooks - Earth Science 

SEISMOMETER
Seismometers are instruments used to measure ground movement, particularly seismic waves.   By measuring seismic waves scientists are able to map the interior of the Earth, locate Earthquake epicenters, and predict volcanic eruptions.

DEEP SEA OCEAN PROBES
Deep sea ocean probes allow scientists to study things found far below the ocean’s surface.   Probes reveal information about sea vents, record deep water temperatures, and sample sea life that would otherwise be unobservable.