Content Gazette - September 2019 - 1

in front of the Swedish parliament asking for action on climate change after a
string of heat waves and wildfires swept
through Sweden. This past January 2019,
she attended the Davos meeting in Switzerland, after traveling for 32 hours by
train, determined to reduce the carbon
footprint of her journey, while more than
1,500 private jets and limousines carried
a long list of luminaries and delegates
to the meeting including, among others,
heads of state and some of the world's
most influential government, academic,
and business leaders. She told her audience that "adults keep saying: we owe it
to the young people to give them hope.
But I don't want your hope. I don't want
you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I
want you to feel the fear I feel every day.
And then I want you to act. I want you to
act as you would in a crisis. I want you to
act as if our house is on fire. Because it
is." She sounded the alarm.
The purpose of the youth protests
is to call attention to the serious effects
of global warming on climate change.
Global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect. The word greenhouse is
borrowed from the analogy with the
glass building that is used to protect
plants from cold weather. For our planet
Earth, the greenhouse effect refers to
the phenomenon by which gases in the
atmosphere trap heat from escaping into
space. Among these gases are carbon
dioxide (arising, for instance, from the
burning of fossil fuels), nitrous oxide
(arising from the use of fertilizers), and
methane (arising from the decomposi-

sulator of some kind is widely recogtion of waste and animal livestock). At
nized as the first proposal of what is
normal levels, the greenhouse effect is
now known as the greenhouse effect..."
helpful. However, at higher concentraFourier went on to write a treatise on the
tions, these gases trap more heat than
Theory of Heat, where he introduced the
necessary and lead to rising temperanow-popular Fourier series technique to
tures at a global scale.
solve the heat equation. Today, Fourier
I was struck by the two images exanalysis and the Fourier transform form
tracted from NASA's Global Climate
the backbone of many signal analysis
Change website (Figure 1) [2]. Figure 1(a)
methods. Our signal processing discishows the distribution of global surface
pline should also take pride in enabling
temperatures in 1970 and Figure 1(b)
a good part of the
shows the same distechnology that monitribution almost 50
Our signal processing
years later in 2018,
discipline should also take tors and tracks climate
change patterns and
where the dark red
pride in enabling a good
brings them to life
color refers to areas
part of the technology
through remote satelthat are warmer than
that monitors and tracks
lite imaging, distribaverage. What a reclimate change patterns.
uted sensing, data
markable transforanalysis, and infermation! Anyone can
ence and prediction methodologies.
deduce that something real is happenWallace Broecker, a long-time proing, whether we call it global warming
fessor at Columbia University, popuor not should not matter.
larized the term global warming in
Interestingly enough, our signal
modern times and predicted its dangerprocessing discipline has a significant
ous effects in an article published back
historical connection to the greenhouse
in 1975. That was nearly half a century
effect. The French mathematician Joago! Broecker was awarded the Naseph Fourier (1768-1830) of Fourier setional Medal of Science by President
ries fame is credited with the discovery
Clinton in 1996 and was a member of
of the effect in 1824, although he never
the U.S. National Academy of Scicalled it by this name [4]. According to
ences. Days before his recent passhis entry on Wikipedia, Fourier "calcuing in February 2019, he recorded a
lated that an object the size of the Earth,
video message to top climate scienand at its distance from the Sun, should
tists urging them to "examine more
be considerably colder than the planet
extreme solutions to the climate crisis"
actually is if warmed by only the effects
including geoengineering. That is the
of incoming solar radiation...Fourier's
mark of a true scientist: he faced his
consideration of the possibility that the
own mor tality while still thinking
Earth's atmosphere might act as an in-

1970

2018

(a)

(b)

Figure 1. The change in global surface temperatures over the last 50 years: (a) temperatures in 1970 and (b) temperatures in 2018. (Source: NASA's
Global Climate Change; https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/.)

www.signalprocessingsociety.org

[1]

SEPTEMBER 2019


https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/ http://www.signalprocessingsociety.org

Content Gazette - September 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Content Gazette - September 2019

Content Gazette - September 2019 - Cover1
Content Gazette - September 2019 - Cover2
Content Gazette - September 2019 - 1
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Content Gazette - September 2019 - Cover3
Content Gazette - September 2019 - Cover4
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