Posts filed under ‘Nature’
It was 71º in Boulder today. I had brunch with a friend (h/t BG); I did some serious yard work (raking and weeding); I wore shorts and a T-shirt and I opened the windows and let the breeze blow through the house. It felt so good.
It’s a wonder anything grows around here anymore. The trees are in bud (this is our ash tree tonight),
but the buds will probably freeze and the tree won’t leaf out until June. That happened last year. Fingers crossed it’ll have the energy to do it again this year.
Bad. Really bad:
Despite a few late-season storms this winter, the situation has played out much the same, with areas once again running major precipitation deficits and water levels at reservoirs around the state ranging from about 20 to 50 percent of capacity — troubling numbers at the tail end of the wet season.
“Heavy rain and snow would have to fall throughout California every day for the remainder of April to reach average annual rain and snowfall levels, which is highly unlikely,” the state government’s weekly drought briefing said. “Even with such precipitation, California would remain in drought conditions, due to low water supplies in reservoirs from the two previous dry years.”
Because although those reservoirs were created with drought years in mind, California’s booming population — which rose by 4 million people from 2000 to 2010, when it reached more than 37 million — has eaten into that buffer.
“So it’s just adding up here; every year they have less and less,” said David Miskus, a senior meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It’s likely we’ll all suffer because of this drought; I’m seeing articles about food prices going through the roof (as if they aren’t already through the roof).
We humans are stupid to think we can outsmart bugs who have the ability to mutate and adapt much faster than we give them credit for:
One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification.
After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.
Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop.
First planted in 1996, Bt corn quickly became hugely popular among U.S. farmers. Within a few years, populations of rootworms and corn borers, another common corn pest, had plummeted across the midwest. Yields rose and farmers reduced their use of conventional insecticides that cause more ecological damage than the Bt toxin.
In the new paper, Gassmann describes further incidents of Bt resistance in other parts of Iowa. He also found rootworms resistant to a second variety of Bt corn. Moreover, being resistant to one variety heightened the chances of resistance to another. That means corn engineered to produce multiple Bt toxins — so-called stacked varieties — won’t do much to slow the evolution of rootworm resistance, as was originally hoped.
Shorter: Rootworms have figured out a way around Bt corn and they’ve begun destroying corn crops in Iowa again. Farmers don’t want to do the “hard” thing, i.e., rotate the fields they plant their corn on — i.e. crop rotation (Remember that old fashioned thing? Hello!) — which has been proven to work against rootworms:
Breaks in the corn cycle naturally disrupt rootworm populations, but the approach fell from favor as the high price of corn made continuous planting appealing. “Continuous corn is the perfect habitat for rootworm,” said Gassmann.
Greed rears its ugly head again.
I predict we’re heading toward more and “better” GMO corn. The thing is, rootworms will become resistant to that version too. We can alter this seed and that seed and pour chemicals on fields all we want but Mother Nature will win in the end. It’s about time we got off our high horse and accepted that. But will we? Sadly, probably not.
In celebration of International Happiness Day, I’m publishing this mesmerizing photo, with permission, by Ainur Arenova. Looking at it makes me very happy.
Here are more of Ms. Ainur’s photos on Facebook.
Ah, yes, We the Little People who live near fracking wells and drink water contaminated by them should be so lucky as to have pockets lined with $1000 bills so we can afford to fight against having our environment trashed by, wait for it, Exxon!
For an example of hyper-elitism, NIMBYism, and the arrogance of the corporatocracy and the 1%ers, you’ve gotta read this:
This is one impressive storm front and one gorgeous satellite image:
From the Space, Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Real-Time U.S. Composite Satellite Image page. Larger version here.
I just stumbled upon a dangerously interesting new site: Nature SoundMAP. I say dangerously interesting because I can see spending quite a bit of time there. I just spent about 15 minutes looking around and listening to the sound of a “groaning iceberg” in Antarctica.
Now I’m off to listen to some birds.
I guarantee you won’t see this on the corporate media tonight:
Happening today at 6:33 p.m. ET:
And there’s this tidbit about We the People having the right to assemble:
This is from the University of Maine, Climate Change Institute. Look how screwy the temperatures are. It’s deeply cold over much of the U.S. and it’s “hot” in northern Canada and the Arctic.
Via OMG Facts: What the Andromeda Galaxy would look like in our sky if it was brighter:
Wow. So beautiful. Too bad it isn’t brighter!
Not only that, if we looked at that every night we might not be so arrogant as to think we’re so, so special and likely the only planet with life on it anywhere. The Andromeda Galaxy is thought to contain one trillion stars. Surely there’s complex life on at least one of them.
I’ll say it again: I’m going to die at the right time. I knew the planet when it was relatively clean. Good luck to today’s kids. They’re going to need it. Oil/gas and coal companies (oh, and Monsanto) are destroying the only home we know, thanks to politicians who are owned by the corporatocracy.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park — a supposedly protected natural area containing thousands of reefs, which together are visible from space and attract nearly $6 billion a year in tourism — is a pretty terrible place to dump loads of silt. But it’s happening: The federal agency that governs the reef approved plans to dump up to 3 million cubic meters of silt that will be dredged from the marine park to help carve a superhighway for tankers ferrying coal to Asia.
It’s the final piece in Australian Prime Minister (and known climate denier) Tony Abbott’s already-approved master plan to dredge the shipping lane, expand an existing coal terminal, and extensively mine the northeastern state of Queensland for coal.
Reuters reports that backers of the coal export project, including two Indian firms and the heiress to an Australian mining empire, hope to deliver an estimated $28 billion of coal to Asian markets once it’s complete.
Oh, and to everyone who has a kid under 40: Get out there and make noise if you care what their life will be like when they’re your age, not to mention your grandkids. Geezus.
A Newly Detected Fracture Suggests That Tectonic Forces are Pulling the Continents Together Once Again.
Geologists mapping seismic activity and underwater topography off the coast of Portugal say the tectonic forces that once split and spread the ancient supercontinent Pangea across the surface of the globe appear to be shifting into reverse, setting our existing continents on an eventual collision course.
Just kidding! No, I’m not going to worry about this but I wonder what would cause the plates move back toward each other. Interesting.
Have you ever watched “Animal Planet” and had the feeling that what you were watching wasn’t, at its core, about animals? Me too.
Here’s an article Mother Jones published today about that very issue:
Which leads me to my quote of the day, even though I don’t have a quote of the day category here on ye ol’ blog:
“We’re not looking to be a natural history channel,” Animal Planet group president Marjorie Kaplan told the New York Times in 2008. “We’re looking to be an entertainment destination.” The network recently aired two documentary-style programs purporting to present evidence that mermaids are real.
I don’t look to Animal Planet to be “a natural history channel” but I do look to them to be a channel that cares about animals. Read the Mother Jones article. Not only don’t they care about animals, they’re willing to kill them in order to add drama to their shows.
I guess we should take them at their word: “We’re looking to be an entertainment destination” and here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., killing animals is entertaining. Check your local listings.
This morning I came across this:
ALEC Plans Massive Environmental Attack for 2014
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a big year ahead of them, as they attempt to dismantle a slew of environmental protections from state to state. More specifically, the corporate front group is hoping to pass dirty energy friendly legislation to ease the rules for electric utilities.
From state to state, ALEC is drafting legislation that would cut renewable energy, increase dependence on coal and dismantle energy efficiency standards.
And then I remembered reading about this a few days ago:
[Colorado's "Democratic"] Governor Hickenlooper has chosen Glenn Vaad, a former state representative from Weld County, as the newest of the three-member Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Mr. Vaad is no friend of clean energy for Colorado—his voting record allied primarily with the fossil fuel industry at the expense of Colorado’s clean energy economy. Mr. Vaad is also a former high-ranking member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful corporate lobbying group whose members include Koch Industries and others pushing state legislatures to turn back the clock on adoption of renewable energy in Colorado and elsewhere.
If a so-called Democratic governor is appointing “former high-ranking” members of ALEC to state boards — any board — we’re doomed. Seriously. It illustrates the fact that this isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats anymore — they’re all being corrupted — it’s about the corporatocracy and the monied class against the rest of us.
Maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed how the cable “news” networks cycle through so-called news stories roughly every eight, ten, 15 minutes and repeat themselves ad nauseam all day (unless there’s “breaking news” of course, like a high-speed police chase or an apartment fire)?
And maybe its just me but have you noticed how the right constantly screams about how liberal the U.S. media is?
Imagine how this country would change if the media really was liberal and they repeated this kind of thing every day, all day:
– Giving Employees Paid Sick Leave is Good for Business: A large majority of employers in Connecticut — where paid sick leave has been mandatory since January, 2012 — “reported that the law did not affect business operations and that they had no or only small increases in costs.”
– The NSA’s Sweeping Surveillance Programs Don’t Stop Terrorism: On June 5, 2013, the Guardian broke the first story in what would become a flood of revelations regarding the extent and nature of the NSA’s surveillance programs. Facing an uproar over the threat such programs posed to privacy, the Obama administration scrambled to defend them as legal and essential to U.S. national security and counterterrorism. Two weeks after the first leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were published, President Obama defended the NSA surveillance programs during a visit to Berlin, saying: “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany. So lives have been saved.”
However, our review of the government’s claims about the role that NSA “bulk” surveillance of phone and email communications records has had in keeping the United States safe from terrorism shows that these claims are overblown and even misleading. An in-depth analysis of 225 individuals recruited by al-Qaeda or a like-minded group or inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology, and charged in the United States with an act of terrorism since 9/11, demonstrates that traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations, provided the initial impetus for investigations in the majority of cases, while the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal.
Climate change will complicate the Philippines’ efforts to become self-sufficient in rice, the country’s economic planning secretary said Monday.
Arsenio Balisacan said preliminary data showed that 74% of the estimated damage from natural disasters in the country last year came in the farm sector, primarily affecting rice. The natural disasters include extreme weather caused by global warming, he said.
“We expect these extreme events and unpredictable phenomena to become the new normal,” Mr. Balisican told a workshop on efforts to address the impact of climate change in agriculture.
No government regulation! Woo hoo. A Libertarian paradise (unless you need to take a shower, drink water, wash your clothes, make dinner or wash your face).
Why am I posting this picture from Amazing Species? Just because. Because I’m in love with the orange/red color of this little Red Rock crab and that, mixed with the beautiful blue shade on its back and front legs, knocks me out. Throw in a dash of yellow and wow.
Thank you Mother Nature for another gorgeous paint job.
Great idea: Name extreme storms after policy makers who deny climate change:
Tongue-in-cheek but dead serious:
The growing fracking industry is “yielding gushers” of campaign donations for congressional candidates—particularly Republicans from districts with fracking activity—according to a new report from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The report, “Natural Cash: How the Fracking Industry Fuels Congress,” examines data compiled by MapLight covering a period spanning from 2004 to 2012. In that time, CREW finds, contributions from companies that operate hydraulic fracturing wells and fracking-related industry groups rose 180 percent, from $4.3 million nine years ago to about $12 million in the last election cycle.
Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, was head and shoulders above his fellow candidates in donations from the fracking industry. Barton accepted more than half a million dollars—$100,000 more than any other candidate. In the past, he chaired the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and he sponsored legislation in 2005 to exempt the fracking industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Check out Barton’s Wikipedia page. Scroll down and read the paragraph titled: “Barton Family Foundation.” What a piece of work this guy is. He probably thinks of himself as a good Christian too.
One of our Christmas traditions is to plant an indoor Amaryllis bulb late in November so it will bloom right around Christmas.
When I shop for the bulbs I’m always a little leery that the picture on the little tag won’t turn out to be what the bulb I plant looks like; partly because I think growers tend to embellish and partly because I don’t know if the bulb I picked out was inadvertently put into the wrong bin by a careless, browsing customer. (I.e., a white flower bulb put back into a red bulb bin.)
This year, everything worked perfectly. This is the double-flowering “Cherry Nymph” by DigDropDone.com. The flowers are easily 7″ across. I was lucky to have two stalks, each with four flowers so the bulb has been blooming for a good two to three weeks. What a treat.
The orange/red color is just spectacular and in the sun there appear to be sparkles in the petals.
After probably 20 years, this has got to be my favorite:
Four days from now the buds will begin to fade which is why we love flowers. They’re fleeting and they force us to appreciate them and soak in their beauty before they’re gone.
Hey, I’m thinkin’ we could learn a thing or two from flowers.
Anyway, gorgeous or what, huh?
This is not a flower. It’s a Pink Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus). It lives in the rain forests of southeast Asia.
Not a bad camouflage job, huh? Mother Nature is brilliant.
The most destructive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ever, after which people and animals are still suffering is mesmerizingly beautiful?
Really? Is that where we are? Is that what we’ve become? People who see beauty in oil spills?
The electricity has been off at my house for roughly three hours today. (That’s what it’s like in Baghdad.)
This is Al waiting for it to come on:
Xcel’s gas was out at my brother’s house for roughly 48 hours over the weekend. The temps were in the below zeros.
Xcel doesn’t want to invest in infrastructure and nobody’s saying it should. It wants to steer its profits to the execs and shareholders and our tax laws are structured such that they can; they encourage them to do that (thanks bought-and-sold congress).
Meanwhile, Al and I wait…
Pray tell I’ll have time to look into the subsidies I’m paying for this piece of shit “public utility.”
Love how that label has stuck.
What a lie.
Imagine spending $8 trillion on solar power here in the U.S. which we wouldn’t have to spend billions “guarding” every year:
It has cost the United States $8 trillion to provide military security in the Gulf since 1976. According to Roger Stern, a Princeton economist, the US has spent as much on Gulf security as it spent on the entire Cold War with the Soviet Union! In recent years through 2010 it has been $400 billion a year, though the US withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011 and the gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan this year and next presumably means that the figure is substantially reduced. Still, we have bases in Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere, and a Naval HQ in Bahrain, none of which is cheap. If it were $200 billion a year, that is a fair chunk of the budget deficit the Republican Party keeps complaining about. And if we could get that $8 trillion back, it would pay down half of the national debt.
And shame on our so-called leaders for not talking about cutting some of this expense instead of food stamps for the poor.
Oh, and this is what just one trillion dollars looks like. Multiply this by eight and you have an idea how much we’re spending guarding our oil.
Geezus can we please, please, please ween ourselves off of oil already:
BP is leading an industry-wide push to develop technology that can retrieve oil from formations that are so deep under the sea floor, and under such high pressure and temperature, that conventional equipment would melt or be crushed by the conditions.
One BP field in the Gulf of Mexico, called Tiber, makes the Macondo field that the Deepwater Horizon rig was probing look like simple puddle of oil. It is thought to hold twenty times the amount of oil as Macondo. At 35,000 feet below the sea floor _ 6.6 miles into the earth’s crust _ it is about twice as deep.
There’s an extraordinary amount of oil in similar discoveries around the world, several of which are controlled by BP. But BP first must figure out how to get it. New equipment, including blowout preventers far stronger than the one that failed on the Deepwater Horizon, must be developed. Then BP must convince regulators it can tap this oil safely.
Another disaster could threaten BP’s existence, but success could restore the company’s fortunes _ and perhaps its reputation. “There’s 10 to 20 billion barrels of oil just for BP in this,” says Kevin Kennelly, who runs BP’s global technology operations. At today’s prices, that’s worth up to $2 trillion.
$2 trillion and the potential destruction of the environment but oh well, money’s all that matters.
We are insane.
Hey humans, it’s time to foster a respect for our fellow travelers on this planet, from forests to shrimp:
Northeastern regulators shut down the Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery for the first time in 35 years Tuesday afternoon, worried by reports of what researchers called a fully “collapsed” stock that could be driven to near extinction with any 2014 catch.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section, a subset of the multistate agency that oversees North Atlantic shrimp fisheries, met Tuesday in Portland to set guidelines for the coming season.
The 11-person section decided by consensus to wipe out the 2014 season, denying a 175-metric-ton catch limit recommended by its Northern Shrimp Advisory Board.
The panel made its decision against a backdrop of plummeting shrimp populations off the coast of Maine, according to researchers with the commission’s Northern Shrimp Technical Committee.
“There are very few, if any, shrimp left,” Whitmore told section members. “It just seems like we’ve reached the bottom. There’s probably no such thing as a ‘do no harm’ fishery at this point.”
One of the most beautiful YouTube videos I’ve ever seen. Enjoy.
Where’s Pat Robertson when you need him to explain all this? It’s the gays!
In June, 2012 we had fire. In September this year we had a 1000 year flood (this was the scene a block from my house) and now we’re getting near-hurricane force wind and the coldest temperatures in 15 years.
Needless to say, the puppies and the hubby and I are hunkering down:
High Wind Warning in Northeastern Colorado
Gusty Downslope winds persist in and near the front range Foothills this evening, then taper off late tonight. The strongest winds will be possible in the foothills of Boulder and Jefferson counties.
High Wind Warning remains in effect until 5 am MST Tuesday.
Timing: After a lull early this evening, occasional strong and gusty west winds may again develop overnight.
Winds: west winds of 25 to 40 mph can be expected with a few gusts to around 75 mph.
Me neither. Here’s a short blurb from November 30 from ScienceMag.org. It requires a subscription so this is all I can grab but amazing isn’t it, that we didn’t hear a peep about this in the U.S.
corporate liberal media? They were too busy tracking Obama’s “plunging” poll numbers and the supposed demise of Obamacare I guess.
Featuring the first lunar rover in 40 years, Chang’e-3 is seen as an important milestone on China’s quest to send a crewed mission to the moon by 2030. Its premier scientific instrument is a wide-angle extreme ultraviolet camera that will continuously observe Earth’s plasmasphere and the tail of comet ISON.
Oh, and for the most part, we just don’t do science around here.
UPDATED: Here’s more:
For the first time in more than three decades, the moon may soon see some soft-landing, human-made visitors. China launched its first moon rover—and third moon mission—at 1:30 am today, local time.
The Chinese rover should land December 14 or 15, Space.com reports. The last soft lander to visit the moon’s surface was a Russian craft in 1976. The last people on the moon were Americans, in 1972. Since then, space agencies have sent instruments purposefully crashing onto the moon’s surface, but nothing designed to remain intact after landing, which is more difficult to do.