Archive for the ‘Climate’ category

Event Horizon for the Human Race—Moving Beyond Our Own Boundaries

April 11, 2019

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) on Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea and Atacama’s Large Submillimeter Array (SMA) answered some cosmic prayers this week.

Event Horizon Discovery by Global AstroSci Team

Summit of Mauna Kea at 13,000ft has ideal microclimate for Harvard-Smithsonian Event Horizon 8-telescope array

The Submillimeter Array of eight radio telescopes alongside the James Clerk Maxwell Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i have sent earthling skywatchers skyrocketing with delight, as they released their first picture of Messier-87—a super-dense neutron region or ‘black hole’ in Virgo galaxy this week.

Hawai’i is crucial to Event Horizon (EHT)’s world network. Its high volcanic setting provides cloud-free receiving/bending of its own multiple signal—from three points in an array of eight new [radio]telescopes, top, with Mauna Kea Observatory’s James Clerk Maxwell 49-foot dish telescope, and reusing CalTech’s nearby CSO ‘redundant’ observatory.

Previously co-funded by Great Britain, Canada and Netherlands, EHT is presently co-sponsored by Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts with the Academia Sinica, and a consortium of astrophysics interests from Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea and Chile. EHT is in international partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea). Vital cooperation is the link with the Republic of Chile—where ALMA‘s 66 high-precision antennae are located on the Chajnantor plateau, at 5000 meters altitude/one mile high in northern Chile.
(ALMA)=Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

Event Horizon Telescope —EHT— world’s 1st super-array captures its first picture of ultra-dense neutron region M-57 in constellation Virgo

The Event Horizon Telescope—EHT—is a global array of radio telescopes involving dozens of institutions and astrophysicists round the world. Breakthrough discovery by the EHT is an image of Messier 87 (M-87)’s supermassive neutron black hole at the center of the Virgo galaxy cluster, 55 million light years away. This neutron-dense region contains 6.5 billion times the mass of our Sun.

Affectionately named ‘black holes’ are extremely compressed cosmic objects, containing extraordinary amounts of mass packed densely into a tiny region of space. This mass is shrouded by an event horizon—a boundary beyond which nothing—not even light—can escape its electromagnetic/gravitational pull.

They affect their surroundings in extreme ways, including warping spacetime and heating surrounding material to hundreds of billions of degrees. Albert Einstin in his 1915 Theory of General Relativity predicted that a black hole would cast a circular shadow on its bright, glowing material. The newly-released image of M87 from EHT reveals this shadow.

Light emitted from inside the event horizon can never reach the outside observer. Likewise, any object approaching the horizon from the observer’s side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon—its image becoming more and more redshifted as time elapses. This means that the wavelength of the light emitted from the object is getting longer as the object moves away from the observer. The traveling object, however, experiences no strange effects and does, in fact, pass through the horizon in a finite amount of ‘proper’ time.

As high as the Swiss Alps, Mauna Kea hosts climate-immune radiotelescope array for worldwide science cooperative

Black hole event horizons are widely misunderstood. Common, although erroneous, is the notion that black holes vacuum up material in their neighborhood, where in fact they are no more capable of seeking to consume than any other gravitational attractor. As with any mass in the universe, matter must come within its gravitational scope for the possibility to exist of capture or consolidation with any other mass. Equally common is the idea that matter can be observed falling into a black hole. This is not possible either.

Astronomers can detect only accretion disks around black holes, where material moves with such speed that friction creates detectable high-energy radiation. Matter from these accretion disks is forced out along the axis of spin of the black hole, creating visible jets where the streams interact with matter—such as interstellar gas—or if they happen to be aimed directly at Earth.
J.A.Peacock Cosmological Physics, 1999

A distant observer—or world-class telescope array—will never actually see something reach the horizon. Instead, while approaching its edge, the object will seem to go ever more slowly, while any light it emits will be further and further redshifted.

Earth-size Telescope Dish
In order to see a black hole for the first time, the Event Horizon Telescope team hooked up an array of radio telescopes in Hawai’i, Central and South America (Atacama), Europe, Greenland and Antarctica, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) dish in Cambridge, MA.

EHT signals from global telescope network create earth-size dish receiver, beamed Mauna Kea HI to Cambridge MA for image resolution by the EHT team

Using a technique known as very long baseline (vLBI) interferometry, the CfA-MIT team took precisely-timed data from each radio telescope, combining them to produce images comparable with what an Earth-hemisphere-sized dish would capture. The resulting virtual telescope has the highest resolution of any instrument ever built on earth, in orbit within the Solar System—or even beyond the Heliopause where Voyagers I & II entered Interstellar Space.

We’re a melting pot of astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and engineers. That’s what it took to achieve something once thought impossible.
Katie Bouman, PhD CfA elec.engineer/computer sci
Co-author six papers in Astrophysical Journal Letters

EHT’s image reveals that this enormous black hole—large enough to engulf the solar system—anchors a jet that extends outwards for tens of thousands of light years.

Hawai’i’s Mauna a Wakea—white mountain—multiple telescope array at 13,803feet on the dormant volcano played crucial role in Event Horizon success

There are already plans to expand the EHT: to enable the team to make time-lapse movies of the dynamics of this (newly-discovered) living system, and to discover how the jet draws its energy from this negative source.

Creating the EHT was a formidable challenge which required upgrading and connecting a worldwide network of thirteen pre-existing telescopes deployed at a variety of challenging high-altitude sites. These locations included volcanoes in Hawai`i and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica.

All Very Baseline Interferometry
Event Horizon observations use a technique called very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) which synchronizes 13 telescopes around the world, using earth’s rotation to form one huge, Earth-size telescope observing at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. This lets EHT achieve an angular resolution of 20 micro-arc-seconds—enough to read a newspaper in New York from a sidewalk café in Paris.

From Chile’s Atacama high desert to Spain’s Sierra Nevada to Mauna Kea’s multiple array, telescopes worldwide combined to bring new images beyond human expectation and belief

Resolution of the EHT image depends on separation distance between the telescopes—the baseline—and the short-millimeter radio wavelengths captured around the world. EHT’s finest resolution is achieved by the longest baseline, which for M87 stretches from Hawai’i to Spain and Greenland to Antarctica. To optimize long baseline sensitivity—or make detection possible—the team developed a specialized system which combines all signals from Mauna Kea’s SMA dishes, letting Hawai’i act as a single EHT station.

Beaming-coordinating signals from night-time (western) half of the globe employs optimum use of precious telescope time when the other—Asian—hemisphere is in daylight.

After separately recording signals at all thirteen telescopes, data are flown to a single location and combined by computer to create an image by a virtual Earth-size telescope—first of its kind.

Petabytes, Raw Data and Red Shift
Lindy Blackburn, EHT data processing team leader and coauthor explains that EHT holds millions of gigabytes of data from many telescopes that weren’t originally designed to work together. ‘We developed multiple pathways to process and calibrate data, using new algorithms to stabilize the Earth’s atmosphere and to align the signals from all sites within trillionths of a second precisely.’

Rapidly spinning supermassive hole surrounded by its accretion disc of rotating leftovers from Sun-like star ripped apart by the hole’s tidal force, courtesy ALMA Large Array, Atacama

Telescopes contributing to this result were ALMA*, APEX, the Spanish IRAM 30-meter telescope, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano, the Submillimeter Array, the Greenland Submillimeter Telescope, and the South Pole Telescope. Petabytes of raw data from all telescopes were combined by highly specialized supercomputers hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Munich, and MIT Haystack Observatory, Cambridge, MA.
*Atacama Large Millimeter-Submillimeter Array in Andes high desert, Chile

Global teamwork meant a close collaboration by astrophysicists, technicians and researchers around the world—and a first for science.

Construction of the EHT and this week’s observations represent the culmination of decades of close technical theoretical work. Thirteen partner institutions worked together to create the EHT, using both pre-existing infrastructure and support from a variety of world agencies. Key funding was provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), EU’s European Research Council (ERC), and funding agencies in East Asia, above.

On a planetary level, we sci-fi addicts thank the team for rising above national barriers and creating something previously only dreamed of.

On a Cosmic level—look out—unlimited data incoming.
©2019 Siderealview

Whales, Nuclear ‘Wessels’ and Ocean Clean-Up

July 11, 2018

WHALES, NUCLEAR WESSELS AND OCEAN CLEAN-UP
ALAMEDA—Chequered History or Check-Mate?

Alameda—where they keep the Nuclear Wessels, according to Pavel Chekov, in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986

With a flourish of ceremonial shovels, construction began last week on the site of the (closed) U.S. Naval Air Station, on what will become Alameda’s first major market-rate multi-family development in four decades. Alameda Point sits on the North shore of San Francisco Bay, with strategic connections to Oakland, the Sacramento River and the Bay Area.

Manila Bay whale sculpture made entirely from plastic beach waste in Philippines, image courtesy Greenpeace

It will be familiar to vintage Star Trek fans for its connection with whales, nuclear generators and Space. Alameda has tolerated empty lot syndrome since the ‘nineties—vast spaces where appropriate development could enhance the former NAS site, but records of clean-up procedures are causing concern. The Navy contractor’s method of landfill and dumping radio-active soil and ground liquids has been questioned.

Developers for the project assure that testing and re-certification will continue, as old naval buildings and pavement are torn up to make room for the new 70-acre development, known as Site A: it will include 800 residential units, up to 600,000 square feet of commercial space and a ferry terminal that will connect to San Francisco—plus parks and open space.

According to U.S. Navy’s Environmental Coordinator for the Alameda cleanup, Cecily Sabedra:

“Tetra Tech was the contractor who performed environmental investigation and cleanup tasks throughout the former NAS Alameda, including Site A. The Navy’s internal-review safeguards and the regulatory-review process indicate Alameda data are accurate and the work completed to date at Alameda is protective of human health. Quality assurance and quality control measures, including field oversight and data review by Navy personnel and regulatory agencies, have been and continue to be in place at Alameda to verify data are representative of site conditions.”

From Cold War Seaplane Landing to Wildlife Reserve

Old Alameda Naval Air base runways for U.S. fleet flight deck and seaplane landings, now rare bird lagoon

Tetra Tech was deeply involved at another portion of the 2,800-acre Alameda Naval Air Station property, Site 2, which is deemed a toxic Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The station was an active military installation for fleet aviation activities from the 1930s to the 1990s. Former jet runways, and anchorage for Cold War sea planes and Navy submersibles can still be seen.

In Tetra Tech’s 200-page remedial action work plan, submitted to the Navy and other U.S. government agencies in 2013, Site 2 contained radium-226 and other radioactive materials. In the 1940s, workers coated instruments such as dials using a radio-luminescent paint containing the isotope. Rags and paint brushes were then discarded at the site.

Over a period of sixty years, the land had been a dumping ground for other materials like asbestos, pesticides, sandblasting grit, medical waste and tear gas agents. In ‘cleaning’ the area, Tetra Tech bulldozed in a multi-layer soil mix, to cover the old landfill.

Wilderness will Find a Way—Wildlife Move Back In

Osprey landing on rusty light-stand nest to feed young, in former Seaplane Lagoon

Site 2—owned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—will remain closed for the ‘foreseeable future’.

Since becoming redundant in the 1990s, Mother Nature has stepped in to reclaim such wasteland: now home to several endangered species of birds. Harbor seals have moved back into the lagoon and this is third year a pair of ospreys have nested on the old light stand at the entrance to Seaplane Lagoon.

After an impasse was reached in 2004 between the U.S. Navy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (aka Fish & Game) for creation of a national wildlife refuge, the property was offered to the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). The V.A. plans to build an outpatient clinic and columbarium on 112 acres of its land, but the other 511 acres of V.A. land will remain undeveloped. The undeveloped area is where egrets and endangered California Least Terns come to nest early April to mid-August each year.

Wild Mountain Lion Migrate Across 101

Baby cougar faces future from her den in Thousand Oaks, Santa Monica mountains

Megalopolis concerns are with a family of cougar kittens in Thousand Oaks, CA.—being monitored/tagged by National Parks Service researchers—where as grown wildcats they will have to cross Highway 101 to find new breeding grounds—the nearest wild forest being several hundred miles to the north. Cougar have had to adapt to urban sprawl before. Most famous is Parks’ Service favorite, “P-22” who crossed several freeways in Santa Monica, headed south into Los Angeles and took up residence in downtown Griffith Park.

He’s still there. What a Cool Cat.

San Francisco’s former military HQ, the Presidio, with its unparalleled view of the Golden Gate Bridge, has become a model for native plant species and habitat restoration since 1994. That year, the U.S. military machine turned its back on war and handed the land over to the National Parks Service. It subsequently created the Presidio Trust which now oversees 80% of the park. Here endangered and indigenous plant life is being nurtured back to profusion by Parks’ botanists, with a little nightly help from vole, gopher, racoon, fox and coyote. The bears left a long time ago—ages before it was a military stronghold.

Chernobyl nuclear hazard sign after April 26, 1986 explosion blanketed Europe in radio-active fog for a week


Encouragingly, wildlife in Chernobyl, a former 50,000-population density town in Ukraine within a 1,000-sq.mile forest (4300km2 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone) are moving through the irradiated landscape in droves, and showing little sign of becoming mutants. European research teams have been tracking population growth of wolves, bear, mountain lion and multiple migrating birds for over a decade, and proclaim so far no adverse genetic change.

Crop Circles Echo a Nuclear Warning

Nuclear warning by crop circle? Latest to appear in Wiltshire field near Stonehenge, drone shot courtesy Nick Bull

Even our crop circling Alien friends seem concerned for our welfare. The latest—July 8th, 2018—depicting a nuclear device—appeared overnight in unharvested wheat in Coneybury Hill, near Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Whereas Salisbury farmers were formerly stressed over public trespass and crop trampling, they now tolerate drone fly-overs and crop circle photography has taken an upswing.

There are positive aspects to our human concern for proliferating the planet with our own waste. As we become aware of our past destructive habits, like dumping plastic in the ocean—the city of New York only stopped dumping municipal waste by barge into the Atlantic in 1992—we discover alternative methods of clean-up.

Within the last five years Woods Hole, Massachusetts marine microbiologists have recorded a reduction in marine plastic waste in world oceans.

They are convinced it is being eaten.

Leave it to the Micro-Plankton
NOAA has recorded a massive 90% drop in ocean pollution statistics worldwide since 2011, declaring there is no Pacific garbage patch.

Marine bacteriologists are convinced, however, that, as plastic degrades through sunlight and the wave action of salt water into the tiniest fragments, this plastic confetti becomes the preferred diet of micro-organisms who attach to such clustered ‘reefs’ of food, extracting toxins in their digestion.

Casualty on Huntington Beach—at least he pecked his way through the bag

”Plastic-eating bacteria help explain why the amount of debris in the ocean has levelled off, despite continued pollution. But researchers don’t yet know whether their digestion produces harmless by-products, or whether it might introduce toxins into the food chain.”
Tracy Mincer, Marine Microbiologist Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

If NOAA’s “missing 90%” of microscopic plastic fragments in the oceans is being eaten—mostly by bacteria and other microbes—these little microscopic helpers will continue to eat the plastic. If we can reduce the amount of plastic going into the oceans, via our beaches, they may eventually eat it all up.

Wouldn’t that be a world initiative worth achieving?

Seattle and Starbucks have banned the use of plastic utensils and cups; and Hawai’i has agreed to ban all commercial sunscreens as of January 2021, to help slow coral reef decay.

If we continue with responsible water cleanup worldwide—as some humanitarian philanthropists are currently showing the way—we ‘oldies’ may emerge from the “Plastic Age” unscathed, sooner than our grandchildren predict.

Then we, the guilty, messy generation, can turn the tables on our former selves and become our own success story.
©2018 Siderealview

Legacy of Goldrush—California’s Water Crisis

March 7, 2017

CONTROLLING THE FLOW
California’s Water Supply Eroding under Pressure

Water trickles down massive failure in Oroville spillway February 8, 2017, causing town to be evacuated

Water trickles down massive failure in Oroville spillway February 8, 2017, causing town to be evacuated

Building a dam spillway—theoretically for excess water release in storms—can have its engineering headaches, especially when material chosen for landfill is a legacy of California’s 1849 Goldrush.

Silt built up during 19thC. gold-panning days was used in early 1960s, alongside local sandstone, to construct a backup system for California’s second-largest [electricity-generating] dam at Oroville, despite knowledge that sand and silt from river erosion takes years to settle. And preferably a series of dry years, without rain storms. When it rains, the emergency—earth sluice—is expected to handle any excess.

This year at Oroville both main spillway and emergency failed.

Dammed if we Do and Damned if we Don’t

Oroville Dam, California's 2nd largest, overflows February 2017

Oroville Dam, California’s 2nd largest, overflows February 2017

Department of Water Resources has charge of maintaining an adequate water system for agriculture in the adjacent Central Valley, but it is also responsible for maintaining water aqueducts and two pipelines to supply 3.8million households in Southern California.

In addition to the bonus of the Dam’s production of hydro-electric power for the State.

But background to this important water resource reveals shaky foundations.

Despite a crucial rainstorm flood over Christmas 1964, the incomplete dam was launched by Gov.Ronald Reagan in May 1968, during a week-long festival in Oroville attended by 50,000 visitors.

Ten years later, a massive series of earthquakes hit Oroville in August 1975.

Lori Dengler, Professor Emeritus of Geology at HSU, then a graduate student at UC Berkeley, was obsessed with the seismic ‘swarm’ that shook the dam and its surrounding “surface faulting”—a cluster of fault lines—similar to Petrolia. To her, earthquake reaction came after water levels were dramatically changed.

During the winter of 1974-1975, the lake was drawn down to its lowest level since inauguration, to repair the intakes to the power plant. It was then rapidly refilled and followed by the earthquake sequence of 1975.

Cluster of seismic fault lines, with epicenter at Oroville, CA

Cluster of seismic fault lines, with epicenter at Oroville, CA

August 1, 1975 a Mag.5.8 earthquake hit Oroville. Quakes of this size can occur anywhere in the state, so its size was no surprise. This had been a seismically quiet area, however, and those of us working in the lab noticed when seven earthquakes in the Magnitude-3 range occurred in a tight cluster near the lake. On August 1st, the seismicity ramped up—a Mag.4.7, a Mag.5.8 and 35 additional tremors in the Magnitude-3 range. Vigorous aftershocks continued with over 200 earthquakes in the magnitude-3 range recorded over the next 18 months. Then things quieted down and no earthquakes of Magnitude-3 or larger have been recorded near Oroville since 1992.

It’s not unusual for an earthquake sequence to pop up out of the blue, but the difference in Oroville was two factors linking the earthquakes to the filling of the reservoir. The first was the proximity to the lake, the location of surface faulting and the tightly clustered epicenter locations. The second factor was that the earthquakes followed an unprecedented seasonal fluctuation in lake levels.
Lori Dengler, Prof. Emeritus, Humboldt State University

Time Travel to the Tertiary

Taking a time machine back to 1975 and 1968, Oroville might never have been built

Taking a time machine back to 1975 and 1968, Oroville might never have been built

The Foothills Fault System—which includes faults like Cleveland Hills, Spenceville, Deadman, Maidu, Prairie Creek, Swain Ravine and Willows—skirts east of Folsom Lake and runs through Auburn, Placerville, El Dorado Hills and Shingle Springs. The system runs from Mariposa to Chico. The 1975 Magnitude 6.1Richter Oroville earthquake was caused by movement along the Cleveland Hills fault.

For more than a century, the Foothills were considered seismically inactive. That changed with the 1975 Oroville earthquake. The temblor did not cause much damage outside the sparsely-populated Oroville area, but it did have a major impact.

The scientific community had to reassess the large Sierra Foothills area as seismically active, according to the California Geological Survey.

Sutter Butte extinct cinder cone, foreground, overlooks valley of Sacramento River channeled, top, east to Oroville dam along Sierra Foothills Willows fault-line

Sutter Butte extinct cinder cone, foreground, overlooks valley of Sacramento River channeled, top, east to Oroville dam along Sierra Foothills Willows fault-line

“The Auburn Dam was being built at the time and for design purposes we were asked to estimate how large an earthquake the system could generate. We estimated a Magnitude-6.5 Richter, capable of displacing the dam’s foundation by about three-quarters of a foot. That sent the dam back to the drawing board. The cost multiplied over time, and the dam was never built.”
Michael Reichle, Asst. Director Dept. of Conservation
California Geological Survey


Oil and Gas Wells in Sunken Bedrock Add Instability

Data from a number of (USGS) sources indicate that the Willows fault is far more extensive and complex than previously thought and that Tertiary deposits in the Foothills are in motion. The first clue that the Willows fault branched into a multistrand fault system was provided by an analysis of seismicity of the northern valley and Sierra foothills after the Oroville earthquake. USGS (in 1978) located a number of small-magnitude earthquakes along a zone that originated near the Marathon “Capital Company No. 1” well in the Willows-Beehive Bend gas field and extended north, rather than following the northwest trend of the Willows fault. A slew of seismic events suggested that a north-trending fault splayed off from the main stem of the Willows fault and passed west of the Corning domes.

On the east side of the valley, Upper Cretaceous sandstone and shale rest uncomfortably on metamorphic and plutonic rocks of the Sierra Nevada.

These bed companions are not made any more comfortable by the instability of the great seismic rift which stretches from Mariposa (Yosemite) in the south to Chico and Cottonwood, just S of Redding, in the north. The bedrock first went through onset of marine sedimentation (W to E) in the late Mesozoic era, and through intermittent periods of uplift and subduction the sand and shale—along with their mountain bedfellows—tilted to south and west. In late Cretaceous the reverse occurred and the sand/shale deposits slid westwards—’marine regression’ (E to W).

During these upheaval and subsidence cycles, four submarine canyons developed—cut and then filled, rifting and then flooded with sediment. Where they meet, near Sutter Butte cinder cone, above, movement both east and west continues.

Riverbank Collapse on Dam Shutdown Leaves Salmon Floundering

Riverbank collapse after dam spillway shut off March 3, 2017 leaving salmon hatcheries & farmers floundering

In the Corning gas fields, analysis of well records by the Sacramento Petroleum Association (1962) showed an anticlinal fold in the area of the Corning domes, with about 121m of maximum closure on the base of the Tehama Formation in the north dome and a steeply dipping southeast-trending fault located at the north end of south Corning dome, but it did not identify a fault west of them.
California Geological Survey

With a new gap in the main spillway now stretching like a fifteen-lane freeway across the cement foundation, immediate closure of Oroville Dam was announced this week. Such a drastic move is in part attributed to safety of those displaced valley residents who have since been allowed to return to their homes and orchards.

Oakdale Heights school children release Chinook hatchlings into Feather River last fall

Salmon young and riverine residents are now without a river bed, as most of the banks have collapsed. Almond, peach orchards and fruit farms, dependent on a seasonal flow of water, were unprepared for such extreme measures, their irrigation systems now high and dry. Salmon fingerlings and immature Chinook die in stranded pools, life-expectancy zero.

Children from Oakdale Heights school, above left, releasing babies last fall into the river, expected their hatchlings to have at least a one-percent chance of survival, on their return from the ocean, are now dismayed by the zero percent outcome for the salmon after dam failure.

Governor Jerry Brown has pledged financial help for storm-affected communities, but the state of California has already unmet infrastructure costs of $187 billion, not including roads. While $2.7 billion has been approved [Prop.1, 2014] for new water storage, that doesn’t cover old dams.

Remembering the warning of seismologists Reichle and Dengler, above, against any sudden changes in water body movement—which can trigger volcanic fault movement—we await the outcome of the shutdown decision with anxiety. It’s not only the salmon spelt, rescued manually from puddles, it’s the water supply for most of the Great Valley.

At times of flood and deluge like these, the slow approach to dam containment—like that of the Klamath River tribal community, with four Atlas Copco dams to maintain until they are dismantled and removed—seems preferable to acting on impulse.

Where Mother Nature rules, we mortals are still fallible.
©2017 Siderealview

Our Earth Climate—Going with the Flow or Shifting the Goalposts

February 29, 2016

YEAR 2015 BEAT HISTORICAL RECORDS

2015 hottest & most active on record. Can we take it? Or will we break it?

2015 hottest & most active on record. Can we take it? Or will we break it?


Last December’s climate conference in Paris set a goal—agreed on by the Earth’s most powerful mid-East, West and Southern nations—to hold our combined increase in the global average temperature to two degrees Centigrade (2ºC) /Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit—above pre-industrial levels.

Now February 2016 has already reached world temperature limit, see below.

Climate-speak—no time for fairytale flowery language: do or die

Climate-speak—no time for fairytale flowery language: do or die

If we continue at the rate we’ve been going, NASA’s climatology computer model shows dramatic swings happening in world temperature, volcanic activity, and rainfall—not in twenty years, but in two.

As the predicted temperatures rise, the same group of scientists admit that ‘model uncertainty’ grows: that means it becomes increasingly more likely that we will experience “unforeseen, often disastrous” events. Hurricane Katrina? Just a fond memory.

It’s doubtful we’ll hold the line at two degrees Centigrade, but we need to give it our best shot. With anything that exceeds that target, we’re talking about enormous changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns, huge impacts on water and food security, and significant sea level rise
NASA Goddard Climatologist P.Sellers

2015 hottest, wettest, & most active on record. Can we take it? Or will we break it? The Earth, that is.

Climate Summit—The Science View: We Submit—or Else

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions—”by 2050″ or a similar approximation is no longer acceptable. We are being asked to step up and be counted—to right some of the wrong we are/have been doing—and mend our ways.

Bite the Bullet or Die

We outgrew killing whales. Maybe now we can stop killing ancient redwood groves

We outgrew killing whales. Maybe now we can stop killing ancient redwood groves

‘I believe future generations will look back on 2015 as an important but not decisive year in the struggle to align politics and policy, with science. This is an incredibly hard thing to do. On the science side, there has been a steady accumulation of evidence over 15 years, that climate change is real’
Piers Sellers, NASA physicist/climatologist 1/17/16

Upper limit 2ºC or 3.6ºF

Upper limit 2ºC or 3.6ºF

Piers is convinced that if we continue unabated on this trajectory—i.e. make promises and do nothing—we could lead ourselves into a very uncomfortable, even dangerous, place.

Climate Ceiling Reached
The hottest on record is no joke in NASA and NOAA kingdoms. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Goddard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration take their newest computer science statistics seriously.

Tropospheric-stratospheric effects, exaggerated in El Niño years, produce increasing warm/wet summers

Tropospheric-stratospheric effects, exaggerated in El Niño years, produce increasing warm/wet summers


In perfect (space) timing, January 17th was launch date for Jason-3, the Space people’s answer to their weather-prediction prayers.

For this beauty*, NASA and NOAA cooperated with the French space agency to get their baby strategically placed in orbit—understandably—to monitor North American shores—impacting both Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Their data will also serve wider world systems on other shores.

Jason-3 adds to a twenty-three-year satellite monitoring of global sea surface maximum height levels—a measurement with scientific, commercial and practical applications related to climate change.
It is essentially a record of world currents and weather. Jason-3 data will be used for monitoring global sea level rise, researching human impacts on oceans, aiding prediction of hurricane intensity, and has marine navigation capability.

Its initial 2016 mission—is planned to last a minimum of three years.

*Sadly the Falcon-9 rocket, planned after re-entry to be recycled in the best Space Shuttle tradition, failed to land on its target—an unmanned platform in the Pacific—exploded and destroyed the platform. Oh well, another $1million down the tubes. Back to the drawing board for Vandenberg air base buffs.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

After Trinity National Forest fires devastated half a county, natural regrowth has been encouraged

After Trinity National Forest fires devastated half a county, natural regrowth has been encouraged

What can we back on Earth do?

Instead of multiple repetitive wars among ourselves, it’s been suggested we combine our intelligence for a war on emissions.

Early 2016 has been a hard year for Earth-First proponents, particularly in the Pacific NorthWest where the lungs of the planet—the Giant Redwoods, Bristlecone Pine and Douglas Fir—reside. This ‘carbon storage unit’ of age-old trees has been functioning well until quite recently. Then some of the lumber companies—instead of respecting the tradition of replant, restore, regenerate—succumbed to the old dollar bribe:
success in any industry, it seems, is measured by the bottom line of the balance sheet.

Local so-called environmentally-friendly forestry interests—some calling themselves ‘Resource’ companies—have, over a generation, acquired tens of thousands of acres of ancient trees illegally from original California settlers, and are systematically felling them in the name of ‘harvest’.

CLEAR-FELLING OUR WAY TO OBLIVION

Pictish Calgacus leads 30,000 Caledonians into battle with Romans at Mons Graupius, modern Aberdeenshire, AD83, where 10,000 Caledonians died

Pictish Calgacus leads 30,000 Caledonians into battle with Romans at Mons Graupius, modern Aberdeenshire, AD83, where 10,000 Caledonians died

The Caledonian Forest in Scotland is a prime example of successive raiders, decimating or razing to the ground every living thing—in the name of war—or progress. Sadly, while we may have learned how, we seem unable to implement our new knowledge: that wildlife—especially tree forms—maintain a balance which we humans have difficulty grasping: that our life on Earth would be a devastation—a vast wilderness—if we were to continue, to run amok, clear-felling our way to oblivion.

It happened to the precursor of the Sahara Desert. Now Namibia. And it’s occurring all over Brazil. More shocking, it’s happening in our own backyard—in the midst of the most-politically-correct university community in North America. And we seem blind to the signs, the gradual erosion of what was once a flourishing planetary breathing system—healthy ancient trees.

Our attitude to forests—their vibrancy, and consequently our own continuing existence—seems faulty.

In Europe during both world wars, all participating countries felled trees to build with, and to burn—as part of the ‘war effort’.

France decimated the Alsace region and felled throughout the Loire valley, regardless of ‘aspect’—the term used in gardens of great houses, when meshing planting with a pleasant view. In Germany—while many southern forests were left untouched—e.g. Schwarzwald, Poland, Eastern bloc, northern trees suffered in an endless drive for more war fuel.

Hill of Barra, Aberdeenshire, showing rear route taken by Bruce's troops to quell local Comyn opposition, 1308

Hill of Barra, Aberdeenshire, showing rear route taken by Bruce’s troops to quell local Comyn opposition, 1308

Scotland suffered heavily. Deterred from obliterating millennium-old giant yews in their own home counties, the English pounced on (what was left of) the Caledonian Forest in Aberdeenshire, Kincardine and Forfar, and finished off what raiders had begun centuries before.

Most ‘recently’, Robert the Bruce, self-crowned king of Scots, began his march a.k.a. tree-burning at the Battle of Barra, 1308, in central Aberdeenshire and burned his army’s route thirty miles to the North Coast. The Caledonian forest—pine in particular—never recovered.

The Caledonian Forest had only just revived after Roman burning!

North Britain Conquest and Retreat

Regenerating the Caledonian Forest—author with Tacitus' Mons Graupius in background

Regenerating the Caledonian Forest—author with Tacitus’ Mons Graupius in background


In November of AD83, as winter began its icy grip, Roman general Agricola pushed for one more battle in North Britain, before retiring to the comfort of Rome. It is said he took the Caledonians by surprise, but it is more likely Roman foot soldiers had more leverage on steep mountain terrain than the antiquated wooden chariots of the Picts. Rallied by the piercing cry of their battle-horn, the fearsome gold boar-headed carnyx, thirty thousand Caledonians gathered on the slopes of Bennachie. Ten thousand bodies were left dead after the battle.

In plain below Bennachie-Mons Graupius, 5thC Pictish Picardy Stone shows Caledonian lineage

In plain below Bennachie-Mons Graupius, 5thC Pictish Picardy Stone shows Caledonian lineage

Solitudinem faciunt Pacem appellant
They create a Wilderness and call it Peace—Calgacus exhorting his Caledonian tribes to battle at Mons Graupius

Tacitus could not possibly have known what Calgacus said to his troops before the battle of Mons Graupius—GRAMPIAN mountain range in Aberdeenshire—even the Chieftain’s name fails to appear in any Kinglist. Yet this one particular phrase from his speech has a genuine feel about it, as if Tacitus had heard it himself from the lips of captured Pictish warriors, and was moved to write it down. Publius Cornelius Tacitus’s job on the march was that of recording the exploits of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola (AD40-93), on the British campaign. They returned to Rome long before the snows took hold, leaving devastation behind.

Heartland of the Caledonian Forest—Aberdeenshire—was historically hit hardest. Unlike Westcoast Scotland, soil and climate here are receptive, rich and varied. The balmy Gulf Stream circles the Orkneys and Ultima Thule and then streams towards these ‘lowland’ hills, bringing balanced seasons to an already rich environment.

Climate, soil and people are more fertile/kindly than in rocky west coast ravines. Caledonian Scots pine, pinus sylvestris thrives. So does farming.

19thC tree-felling was kinder on California Redwoods, leaving more natural gaps for regeneration

19thC tree-felling was kinder on California Redwoods, leaving more natural gaps for regeneration

IMG_8075When the Romans burned their way north, they were looking for gold. They found rebellious tribes and left them for dead, along with their forests. Robert the Bruce, in the summers of 1308-1310, burned the hunting (pine) forests of his rival for the throne, Comyn Earl of Buchan, and left nothing behind.

Two world wars finished off what was left of minimal remaining Caledonian pine stands.

Now, centuries on, Scotland’s Forestry Commission helps smallholders and landowners to replant oases of indigenous forest—pine, birch, oak and hazel—with maintenance grants to keep them sheep-and-deer-free—not an easy task in what are now (2000 years later) rich agricultural rolling meadows.
Other private agencies—like Trees for Life Scotland—have initiated their own planting programs, restoring pine, birch and aspen in deer-free ‘exclosures’, to encourage regeneration of natural understorey. Pine marten, snowy owl, crossbill, goldfinch and crested tit have all returned to such reclaimed woodland.

Biomass—Use or Abuse of Alternative Fuel

Trinidad Pier in whaler days, now a Northern Humboldt fishing village and resort

Trinidad Pier in whaler days, now a Northern Humboldt fishing village and resort

Controversially, Humboldt State University—seen by many academic institutions as a forerunner of enlightened attitude to use of technology within the natural environment—has mistakenly taken up the cudgel of biomass—as a back-door entry into the thorny climate problem. Unfortunately, their research has not been completely transparent and investigation reveals ‘substantial’ funding from forestry interests which are not impartial to the outcome of the University’s plan.

Biomass, seen as waste from a single campfire, may be relatively harmless to our atmosphere. Big business biomass, however—the University declares it will run its whole energy program on biomass fuel, instead of conventional statewide power sources—comprises woodland waste: milling detritus, forest-floor leftovers, mixed in a suitably nice cocktail of machine oil, sawdust sweepings, with an occasional drop of diesel—to go.

Local Earth-First activist group Climate Crisis Humboldt spoke in forum last week with HSU Senate, suggesting they reconsider their plan, and deliberation is underway within the hallowed halls.

The Humboldt climate group’s cry has not gone unheard. They are supported by European and international interests, embodied in Friends of the Earth, who are pushing for cancellation from the (higher—U.S.) Senate!

There is hope—if the state’s most northern university changes, the rest of California’s campuses will follow their lead. There is already considerable antipathy in the county towards the underhanded way in which funding from a local forestry giant has been offered as bait.
After it was pointed out to them that more carbon is stored by older/larger trees, than by acres of smaller young saplings, the company’s tree-felling operations have been temporarily halted by popular demand.

Global Temperatures Already Rising

Now statistics for February 2016 already show a marked upward trend, with unprecedented temperatures in both hemispheres.

February 2016 global temperatures already reached top limit

February 2016 global temperatures already reached top limit

As March brings spring growth, the climate question will come up again and again. Earth Day—April 20th—celebrating John Muir‘s birthday and his “wilderness America”—is targeted by tree sitters, EarthFirsters and volunteer forest guardians in Pacific NorthWest, in their march for the trees.

Earth Mother is indeed listening to our cries this spring. And if we choose to mend our ways, she might even forgive us and bring back her beauty—or her Beast.

It’s our choice. Our future.
©2016 Siderealview


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