The Science of Climate and Weather, with Kathy Sullivan

Lightning, as seen from the ISS, photographed by the Expedition 38 crew. Credit: NASA.

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About This Episode

How do Earth’s interconnected systems of life, land, sea, and air interact to create weather and climate? It’s not an easy question to answer, so Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-host Scott Adsit have assembled an illustrious group of experts to explore the topic, including former NOAA administrator Kathy Sullivan, climate scientist Radley Horton, meteorologist Nick Gregory, paleoclimatologist Linda Sohl, and astrobiologist David Grinspoon. But first, you’ll hear about Kathy’s experience as one of the first class of female astronauts. Kathy, who flew on three Shuttle missions, including STS-31 which deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, was the first American woman to walk in space, and she shares what it’s like to view a lightning storm from low Earth orbit. Next, you’ll learn about NOAA’s mission statement, its oversight of the National Weather Service, and how NOAA “takes the pulse of the planet” and transforms it into reliable, useful data. Fox5NY weatherman Nick Gregory explains how he and his fellow meteorologists use that data to predict a blizzard, and our panel ponders the human fascination with deadly weather like tornadoes and hurricanes. StarTalk All-Stars host David Grinspoon stops by to help answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about Jupiter’s Red Spot and the most extreme climate in our solar system, on Venus. Paleoclimatologist Linda Sohl joins the crew to discuss ancient climates on Earth, including “snowball Earth.” All this, plus the science of lightning, the dangers of atmospheric carbon dioxide, melting glaciers, and global sharing of weather and climate data. Lastly, Bill Nye tells us what we can understand by studying ice, and Neil applies the cosmic perspective to help us take care of the only planet we’ve ever called home.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: The Science of Climate and Weather, with Kathy Sullivan, as well as Neil’s extended interview with Kathy Sullivan here.

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  • Andrew Hodgson

    Roger Waters of Pink Floyd says at the end of the song “Eclipse” on the album “Dark Side of the Moon” that: “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.” It’s the last thing that is said on the album. The Wikipedia article about “Eclipse” ( cites a documentary about the album and says that Waters did interviews in order to create dialogue to put in the background of some of the tracks. The full quote from the interview is “There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.” I thought it might make some people feel better about Pink Floyd to know that they were not under the impression that there is actually a dark side of the moon when they made the album.

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