This morning, April 22, 2014, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates Earth Day by unveiling a new Forever international rate stamp inspired by a simulation of sea surface temperatures from a NOAA model of the Earth’s climate. The round stamp depicts the globe with North America in the center, surrounded by vivid bands of blue, green and red, signifying the varying temperatures of sea surface waters.
"This stamp is a fabulous tribute to the NOAA scientists and partners who develop
models that help us understand changes in our climate and weather," said
Mark Schaefer, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. "These global models are key to understanding changes in our dynamic planet over both the short- and long-term, and they are major sources of the environmental intelligence NOAA provides each day. Armed with this kind of information, decision makers can help communities plan for and take action to become more resilient in the face of Earth's changing climate."
The image was chosen through the Postal Service’s public process that begins with suggestions from citizens to the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee.
New Forever International Stamp
NOAA's global climate model predicting sea surface temperatures inspired the new US Postal Service International Forever stamp. (USPS)
“Our citizen stamp advisory committee looks to the public for stamp subjects that celebrate people, ideas and events that are important to American history and culture,” said Joshua Colin, Eastern Area vice president for the U.S. Postal Service. “This year’s Earth Day stamp celebrates the important role that science is playing in our understanding of the Earth, the oceans and our climate.”
Several months ago, Postal Service representatives contacted scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., to ask about a sea surface temperature animation on NOAA’s Science On a Sphere® website. Science On a Sphere® was invented by NOAA scientist Alexander MacDonald to help the public view dynamic scientific information projected on a giant sphere.
The sea surface temperature image came from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., where teams of scientists have been modeling the behavior of the oceans and atmosphere since the 1960s. A writer from the Postal Service recently spoke with GFDL climate scientists Tom Delworth and Keith Dixon to learn more about how climate models are created and used. Here’s some of what Delworth and Dixon shared with the writer. The article is online at uspsstamps.com.
Dixon explained that global climate models are constructed by teams of scientists using a wealth of scientific information ranging from the composition of the atmosphere, ocean, and land, to the physics that govern movements of air and water, to how the Earth revolves around the Sun. The models, powered by some of the largest supercomputers in the world, simulate a virtual Earth with its own climate of the past, present and future. The particular image that inspired the stamp is based on a typical July day in the 1990s in the model’s virtual Earth. The full animation shows how the surface temperatures of the oceans vary seasonally and change over four years. The image also includes visible vegetation on the land masses, an element NOAA took from a satellite composite created by NASA.
Delworth explained that sea surface temperatures are important to model because they influence weather around the planet, sometimes for months and even years.
“The field of climate study is really moving toward trying to understand how climate change will impact weather on very regional and local scales,” Delworth said, “and how it will impact extremes like storms, droughts and floods that cause society a tremendous amount of damage.”
He pointed out that these climate models have been used by scientists to determine the causes of droughts, noting an example of a drought in the 1970s and 80s in sub-Saharan Africa that was linked to changes in sea surface temperatures that shifted rains southward from this part of Africa. NOAA climate scientists are also teaming up with fishery scientists to analyze how changes in the oceans will affect the location and abundance of fish species and thus the economies of coastal communities.
The Global: Sea Surface Temperatures Forever Stamp is being officially unveiled today at an Earth Day celebration in Washington. It will be on sale in post offices and online for mail sent around the world.
For more information contact Monica Allen, public affairs director at NOAA Research, by cell at 202-379-6693 or by email at email@example.com