Posts filed under ‘Nature’
I live in Boulder, Colorado, 30 miles northwest of Denver in an area that is tinder dry and ready to burst into flames at any minute. As I write, there are five uncontrolled wildfires burning here. The humidity is roughly 4%, the winds are blowing out of the west at 20 to 30 mph and the temperature is 100 degrees, the highest temperature recorded on this date since record-keeping began in 1878.
So, natch, this makes me feel a whole lot better:
Five wildfires in Colorado in one day, never mind what might be happening in SoCal or Arizona, and the Fores Service has ONE air tanker ready to help?
Oh. My. F–king. God.
I’m really tired of my tax dollars going to wars and defense contractors.
One of the most beautiful photos ever via astronaut Karen L. Nyberg. “Sunset:”
Look at this magnificence:
Being stuck out in the fields as these ominous clouds approach must be a terribly frightening experience. As the storm moves in, the rain pours down, and lighting strikes, 61-year-old German photographer Franz Schumacher doesn’t run for cover. Instead, he sets up his camera and photographs the experience for all to see. Harvest Time is a series of storms that roll in during the harvesting season in Strohgaeu Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.
Love all the brown and gray hues.
Wow. This is fantastic news, especially in light of the fact that I read something the other day about how President Obama is surrounded by pro-Keystone corporate types:
With President Obama preparing to return to California on June 6 for fundraising in the Bay Area, a crowd of major donors — including from California — have signed a strong letter urging his rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline extension.
The letter comes in a week when it appears Vice President Joe Biden may have tipped his hand regarding his opposition to the pipeline.
On June 6, the President will travel to the Bay Area for a DSCC event in the evening, White House officials have said.
On June 7, the President will travel to Los Angeles for a DNC lunch event.
The letter on Keystone includes signatures of major California deep pocketed donors who regularly write big checks to the Democratic party — folks like San Francisco Democrat Susie Tompkins Buell, one of the Party’s most generous donors, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, and CREDO Mobile’s Michael Michael Kieschnick, among many others.
Click on “More…” immediately above to read the letter and to see the huge list of signatories. Fantastic.
Carbon Dioxide Level Passes Long-Feared Milestone
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported on Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.
Scientific monitors reported that the gas had reached an average daily level that surpassed 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
The new measurement came from analyzers high atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide carbon dioxide trend.
Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.
I’m going to be dead before the effect of this really kicks in but for the life of me, I don’t know why parents of little kids all around the world aren’t marching in the streets over this. Well, yes I do know why. They’re trying to stay afloat in this dog-eat-dog world, but you know what I mean.
Wow, what an interesting project:
[I'm Kate Green and] I’m on the Big Island of Hawaii right now, but I’m not on vacation. I’m not honeymooning, nor am I attending a conference or visiting relatives.
I’m on the Big Island to find Mars.
Starting next week, I will begin a simulated Mars mission. For 120 days, my five crewmates and I will live on the red, rocky slopes of the Hawaiian volcano called Mauna Loa.
We will eat, sleep, work, exercise and relax inside a two-story dome that offers a little less than 1000 square feet of floor space. When we go outside, we will wear mock spacesuits. There will be very little sunshine, no fresh fruit, and no ocean breeze.
But there will be science.
In fact, the purpose of the Mars simulation, called HI-SEAS (Hawaiian space Exploration Analog and Simulation), is to study astronaut food for long-haul space missions. Developed by Jean Hunter at Cornell University and Kim Binsted at the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA, it boils down to these questions: Does it make sense to provide dehydrated, shelf-stable ingredients to astronauts on a mission to Mars? Does it make sense for astronauts to actually cook some of their meals?
Questions of food are more critical than you might think. On longer missions, astronauts tire of the just-add-water-and-heat meals that squirt out of pouches. They eat fewer calories, and they lose weight. Neither is good for performance and overall health, especially during a dangerous, multi-year trip to the red planet.
Here’s a short video introducing Kate Green and her five fellow “crew” members:
And here is the Hi-SEAS’ website.
I’m going to follow this project!
Ugh. Not a good sign for what might come this spring and summer (about 45 miles north of me):
All evacuees get to go home Saturday night, as fire officials say they’ve got a line on the south end of the Galena Fire in Lory State Park west of Fort Collins.
“I thought we were going to be out longer,” said Karen Post outside the evacuation center at Cache La Poudre Schools. She and her husband, Doug, were “relieved” to hear the news from fire officials Saturday afternoon, she said.
No substantial rain fell on the 750 to 1,000 acre wildfire since it started Friday, but the firefighting effort that included saving two homes and the visitor center has brought 45 percent containment, officials said. The Posts said the wildfire came within 1,000 yards of a home they own near the south end of the state park.
About 110 firefighters were on the ground Saturday. Simons said predicted moisture didn’t materialize, but lower temperatures and higher relative humidity helped slow the fire’s growth between Friday and Saturday.
I have the local CBSDenver news on now as I’m making dinner and the weather guy is predicting high winds tomorrow: “25, 35, even 50 miles per hour.”
I’ve lived in Colorado since 1977. Fires in March aren’t the norm by any means. Fire season used to begin in July / August.
Wow. This is going to me quite a mess to say the least:
Japan has alerted the United States and Canada on possible clogging of their shorelines with some 326,000 tons of tsunami debris expected to reach there by next month.
Releasing the results of its third and more precise computer simulation on the debris on Friday, Japan’s Environment Ministry said tons of debris swept away by the March 2011 tsunami were expected to reach North America by next month.
The computer-generated report said major part of the drifting debris, mostly lumber and wooden materials, would start reaching North American shores in April, four months later than initially forecast. Some 105,000 tons is to arrive by June and 221,000 tons by October, the NHK public broadcaster reported quoting Ministry officials.
The Japanese government has provided $6 million to the United States and Canada to help them dispose of the debris.
I think Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States:
I’ll be dead thank goodness, happy to miss the worldwide panic and hysteria that will ensue if NASA’s prediction comes true:
In terms of a family car vacation, the ancient asteroid that flew by Earth Friday may have seemed far away — 17,200 miles.
In astronomical terms, however, Asteroid 2012 AD 14 was actually very close, much closer, for example, than the Moon’s 239,000 miles. And computer projections of that asteroid’s Earth-like orbit into the future currently forecast an upcoming earthly encounter of the explosive kind.
Based on current information, NASA scientists calculate the orbits of each known near-earth object out for the rest of this century.
Now, about that other bad news. According to the same computer calculations, in 2080 the orbit of 2012 AD 14, if unaltered in these next 67 years by some super-natural force like Bruce Willis, will slam into Earth at almost 18,000 miles an hour.
That explosive encounter, NASA says, will release about 2.5 megatons of energy into the atmosphere, causing “regional devastation.”
Hopefully, that will occur over a desolate area like Siberia. Or Detroit. [Ouch. Poor Detroit.]
I have a feeling the “liberal media” will conveniently leave this out of its “news” reports today, so FYI, 35,000 people are marching in Washington today urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and to get a move on when it comes to climate change.
I’m with them in spirit:
This morning we saw some scary video showing a meteor exploding over Russia last night and now we’re learning something about it. (Warning to science deniers: Facts ahead).
Russian Meteor Largest in a Century
Explosion Rivalled Nuclear Blast, but Rock was Still Too Small for Advance-Warning Networks to Spot
Despite its massive size [it wasn't "massive" -- it was about the size of a bus], the object went undetected until it hit the atmosphere. “I’m not aware of anyone who saw this coming,” says Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency’s space debris office at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
“Objects like that are nearly impossible to see until a day or two before impact,” says Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which tracks asteroids and small bodies. So far as he knows, he says, his centre also failed to spot the approaching rock.
Although there are reports of fragments of the meteor, or meteorites, striking the ground, Klinkrad says that he believes the vast majority of damage in the region was caused by shockwaves of the explosion, as the rock broke up in the upper atmosphere.
Klinkrad says it would have been hard to give warning of the blast. In addition to being relatively small in size, the rocky meteoroid was probably dark in colour, making it even harder to spot against the backdrop of space. “We just have to live with it,” he says.
Maybe we needed this — to be humbled just a bit and to be reminded that we humans (especially the 1%ers) aren’t all-powerful. Money can’t buy everything.
Imho, it’s cool we witnessed this. I mean, people come and go who don’t.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 is scheduled to pass by today at a distance of roughly 17,000 miles. According to PopSci.com, it will be closest to the Earth at 2:25 p.m. EST, roughly half an hour from now.
PopSci.com is providing two live video feeds of the fly-by, HERE.
Oh, wait. The PopSci videos aren’t working very well. Here’s a better spot to watch it.
I had never heard of the “barreleye fish” until five minutes ago. They’re bizarre but listen to the description and it makes sense they are the way they are.
Gotta love Mother Nature.
Far as I can tell, the Discover folks haven’t written anything more about it because the link in the tweet (above) redirects to this, which isn’t new.
Anyway, we now know they found bacteria and that they’re very excited about it. Now we wait to see if it’s a bacteria scientists recognize. Or not.
Again, I’ll continue to update on this cool real-life mystery.
53-year-old Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut. On December 21, 2012 he arrived at the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz for a “long duration stay.”
Since his arrival he has been posting absolutely gorgeous photos to his Twitter account, which you can find (and follow) here. If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, click on the photos on the left to begin looking at them.
Here are a few of my favorites. Incredible:
Again, go here to follow Commander Hadfield, to see more pix, or both!
A few days ago I posted about: Scientists Reach Subglacial Lake in Antarctica That Could Contain One Million Year Old Water.
What microbes and sediments might be in that ancient water isn’t the only fascinating thing about this project. There’s also the dirt at the bottom of the lake. Who knows what that dirt holds? Soot from ancient fires? The remains of long-extinct bugs or sea creatures or plants?
Anyway scientists pulled some of that dirt up today:
Hello, Dirt!Sediment from subglacial Lake Whillans, including mud, clay and rocks, makes its first supraglacial appearance on the multicorer instrument retrieved from the borehole. Reed Scherer (right) speeds the tray of sediment to the lab as Alex Michaud (center) and Ross Powell stabilize the multicorer above the borehole. The multicorer was successfully deployed to the bottom of Lake Whillans three times on January 30, providing abundant samples for chemical, physical and biological analysis.
Three or four months ago I read about this project and now it’s finally done. I can’t wait to hear what scientists find in this virgin water that could be as old as one million years. Wow.
Scientists have peered for the first time into the interior of a lake hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Subglacial Lake Whillans, located less than 400 miles from the South Pole, had sat isolated under the ice for hundreds of thousands of years—perhaps up to a million years. But over the last week a team of ice drillers has used a jet of hot water to melt a narrow hole into the lake through 2,600 feet of ice.
The drilling of the hole represents only the beginning of the work. This narrow, 20-inch aperture into the subglacial world will gradually freeze shut over the next few days. Twenty researchers are now working round the clock to take advantage of this opportunity that they have waited years for.
A variety of instruments will be dropped into the lake—as many as time allows. Bottles lowered on cables will sample lake water. That water will be analyzed for dissolved minerals and living cells. Water currents will be measured. Sediment cores will be punched out of the lake floor; the layers of sand or mud could provide clues to the history of the lake—and perhaps, an idea of how long this spot has been covered by ice. The researchers will also scrutinize these sediments for microbes. If Lake Whillans contains life, then most of it will probably reside in the mud at the bottom of the lake: in this world devoid of sunlight and photosynthesizing plants, the ultimate source of energy will most likely be minerals, which bacteria chew on in the dark.
Don’t do it!
Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West.
If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some Key West residents worry, though, that not enough research has been done to determine the risks that releasing genetically modified mosquitoes might pose to the Keys’ fragile ecosystem.
The trial planned by mosquito control officials and the British company Oxitec would release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a birth defect that kill their progeny before reaching maturity.
Oh great. The males “pass along a birth defect…” What could possibly go wrong?
Filmmaker Casey Neistat shot some footage of Hurricane Sandy that Al Gore’s team bought for $500.00. They are going to use it to help in their effort to educate people about climate change.
Neistat turned around and spent the $500.00 on sweatshirts and sweatpants and drove out to Staten Island to donate them.
This is his story:
There are times when I’m so overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world I want to take my head off, set it down, and walk away for a while.
That’s one way to be.
Here’s another. My Tweet of the Day:
In the end, I’d rather be me than her.
Oh, and BTW, Ms. Lohan endorsed Mitt. If she wants to do away with negativity and to have peace, she’s got a whole lot of prayin’ to do.
On a windy night in September, whilst most people were sleeping, wind power reached a record of 64.2% of Spain’s electricity demand.
The vast majority of Spain’s power that night came not from fossil fuels but clean, renewable energy generated by wind turbines on the Spanish hills.
And what couldn’t be used in Spain wasn’t wasted.
Some was exported via giant cables linking Spain to the rest of Europe and some was used to pump water uphill so it could be allowed to flow back down later, when demand was higher.
Pumped storage and interconnectors are just two of the way Spain has found to make sure wind works.
And there’s this:
Germany continues to outstrip the rest of the world in solar power capacity, and is adding new solar faster than any other country as well.
The US energy corporatocracy wants to believe that drilling for oil, fracking and transnational pipelines are the key to energy independence. Believe that at your children’s and your grandchildren’s peril.
Countries like Germany and Spain (despite their financial difficulties) are moving ahead with clean energy yet the US is held hostage by companies who wouldn’t mind destroying the entire planet to make a profit.
Food for thought tonight (warning to those who are science and fact adverse):
From a stretch of rocky shoreline on this tiny island [Tatoosh Island, Washington], one can, on any given morning, watch otters floating on their backs, elephant seals hauling out of the water and a bald eagle flying past murres huddled along a cliff face. The startled birds perform a synchronized dive into the sea, their ovoid black-and-white bodies resembling miniature penguins.
But for over four decades, with the blessing of Makah leaders, Tatoosh has been the object of intense biological scrutiny, and scientists say they are seeing disturbing declines across species — changes that could prove a bellwether for oceanic change globally.
Cathy Pfister and Timothy Wootton, both biology professors at the University of Chicago, have been trekking to the island since the 1980s, often accompanying their former graduate adviser, Robert T. Paine, a nominally retired zoology professor from the University of Washington. At 79, Dr. Paine still returns to Tatoosh several times a year to continue the ecological research he began in the 1960s.
Among the declines the researchers are noticing: historically hardy populations of gulls and murres are only half what they were 10 years ago, and only a few chicks hatched this spring. Mussel shells are notably thinner, and recently the mussels seem to be detaching from rocks more easily and with greater frequency.
Goose barnacles are also suffering, and so are the hard, splotchy, wine-colored coralline algae, which appear like graffiti along rocky shorelines.
While not entirely understood, the declines are not entirely mysterious. Biologists suspect that the shifts are related to huge declines in the water’s pH, a shift attributed to the absorption of excess carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in ever-greater amounts by the burning of fossil fuels for energy.
“You can predict change,” Dr. Paine said, “and most of the changes are going to be in a direction we don’t want.”
Why does the New York Times think “Mitt Romney Shifted to the Right on Energy” is news? He’s been “shifted to the right” on almost everything for six years.
When, oh when, will we have a better media?
Why is the sky dark at night? The answer seems obvious, but it isn’t. (WARNING: Not for people who think science is hooey.)
The Royal Observatory Greenwich, in association with Sky at Night Magazine, is out with the nominees for the 2012 Astronomy Photographer of the Year. See all of the photos here.
If I were in charge, this would be the winner:
If you Google “overfishing” or “depleted fish” you get a ton of hits containing words like threat, crisis, alarming and ever-greater danger. And it’s no wonder. Who knew there were monster ships out there capable of catching — get this — 275 tons of fish per day.
Environmental campaigners have attempted to stop one of the world’s largest trawlers reaching Port Lincoln in South Australia.
The Greenpeace campaign group has launched an online petition to stop the Dutch registered FV Margiris from being allowed to trawl for fish off southern Australia, saying the vessel is too big and will cause damage to the environment.
A Greenpeace video showed a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) attempting on Thursday to tie up alongside the 143 metre-long trawler before a pilot launch pushed it out of the way.
At nearly 9,500 tonnes, the group says the Margiris will be the largest vessel ever to fish in Australian waters and says it can catch and process 275 tonnes of fish per day.
The operators of the vessel, Seafish Tasmania, say its size allows it to process and freeze its catch storing it on board for weeks at a time.
It also says so-called bycatch is minimal. Greenpeace says dolphins, seals and sharks will also be caught in its net.
One can only imagine what this planet is going to look like in 50 years.
My friend Kathy E. sent me this NASA animation the other day. I had no idea there were so many fires burning on this planet at any given time. Incredible.
Fascinating NASA Earth Observatory animation shows the annual pulsing of fires (number, not size!) around the world. The space agency’s description:
On Earth, something is always burning. Wildfires are started by lightning or accidentally by people, and people use controlled fires to manage farmland and pasture and clear natural vegetation for farmland. Fires can generate large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and unintentionally degrade ecosystems. But fires can also clear away dead and dying underbrush, which can help restore an ecosystem to good health. In many ecosystems, including boreal forests and grasslands, plants have co-evolved with fire and require periodic burning to reproduce.
The fire maps show the locations of actively burning fires around the world on a monthly basis, based on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The colors are based on a count of the number (not size) of fires observed within a 1,000-square-kilometer area.
No, it wouldn’t look good for Republicans to be whooping it up in Tampa while New Orleans floods and gets blown away by Hurricane Isaac so this is what they’re faced with:
With Isaac headed toward New Orleans, Republican National Convention officials are considering a number of worst-case scenarios including a quick roll call and a truncated speech by Mitt Romney, National Journal reports.
“Officials conceded on the record for the first time Monday that plans for an already shortened three-day convention were in doubt… A senior GOP official said no decision had been made and none was likely Monday, but said the convention conceivably could be as short as a single day.”
Republicans can thank George W. Bush for backing them into this corner. If Isaac hits New Orleans, they must shorten their convention to atone for Bush ignoring the city for something like nine days after Katrina hit and then trying to show concern by flying over in a helicopter, as if he didn’t want to get too close to Those People.