Houston, We Have a Solution

It appears that humans may be returning to the moon much sooner than anticipated: Shaopeng Huang, a geophysicist at the University of Michigan, has called for the establishment of an international system of monitoring stations on the lunar surface to study terrestrial climate change. In an article published online in Advances in Space Research, Huang lays out his analysis of data obtained from an Apollo 15 experiment that showed that temperatures on the near side of the moon accurately measured information about Earth's climate system.

He argues that since global climate change is essentially driven by an imbalance between the incoming energy from the sun and outgoing energy from Earth, it is critical for scientists to gain a better understanding of the climate system's energy budget to determine the relative effects of natural and anthropogenic influences and to predict future climate change, information that he believes moon monitoring stations could provide.

Although NASA was able to acquire 41 months-worth of temperature records from the moon's surface through the Apollo 15 mission, Huang explains that the difficulties the crew encountered in drilling in the moon's soil, or regolith, prevented them from completing several of the expedition's objectives.

"One of the main scientific objectives of the Apollo 15 mission was to drill two boreholes about three meters into the lunar soil and insert specially designed probes," Huang said. "The point was to see how temperature varies with depth, in order to calculate the heat flow outward from the interior of the moon. The Apollo 15 crew overspent their precious time on the moon for this particular task, yet could only penetrate a little more than half the depth they wanted to reach. When the probes were inserted into the boreholes, several thermometers designed for measuring subsurface temperature ended up measuring surface temperature instead."

While he had originally been interested in using the borehole data to reconstruct the Earth's surface temperature history, he realized upon examining it that it could be put to better use providing information on the Earth's climate shifts. Through his analysis of the Apollo data, Huang was able to show that an amplifying effect caused even weak radiation from Earth to yield measurable temperature changes in the regolith that revealed unique characteristics in daytime and nighttime variations.

From this he discovered a lunar night-time warming trend from mid-1972 to late 1975 that accurately correlated with a global dimming of the Earth that resulted from a general decrease of sunlight over terrestrial surfaces. In essence, this confirmed Huang's hypothesis that variations in the Earth's energy budget could be detected on the moon and thus used to monitor and predict future climate change.

"As the sole natural satellite of Earth, the moon is an enduring platform without complications from atmosphere, hydrosphere or biosphere, and could provide records of Earth's radiation budget that would complement ground-based and man-made satellite records," Huang concluded. "Global warming on Earth is among the most profound scientific, social, economical and political challenges of our time. At the same time, countries around the world are racing to launch missions to the moon. The time could not be better to join forces to create a network of temperature and radiation observatories on the moon for the purpose of studying climate change on Earth."

::ScienceDaily: Shine On, Shine On, Climate Monitoring Station: Moon-based Observatories Proposed

See also: ::"Lunar Power" comes to New York, ::Fly Me to the Moon--I Need Unlimited Natural Resources, ::UFO's Can Solve Climate Change, Says ex Defense Minister, ::The Economist: Africa's Global Warming Challenge