Google Earth recently added a timelapse feature, equal parts mesmerizing, sobering and incredible. Timelapse in Google Earth combines 24 million satellite photos captured between 1984 and 2020. That’s 37 years of deforestation, urban sprawl, shrinking glaciers, tar sands, agriculture, irrigation, mining and coastal erosion in high definition interactive timelapse. Choose a theme, play, pause on a given year, zoom in, scroll about – kudos Google, job well done. Google Earth introduced Timelapse as “longest video in the world”, 20 petabytes ( one petabyte equals a million gigabytes ), my head spins.
On March 19, 2021 Iceland’s Geldingadular volcano woke from a six thousand year slumber. A relatively minor eruption, more curiosity than threat by Icelandic standards despite being 20 kilometers from Reykjavik. Burping Geldingadular isn’t far from the Blue Lagoon, a man-made geothermal spa fed by water from a nearby power plant. Blue Lagoon (geothermal spa) – Wikipedia On March 31st, Wioleta Gorecka ran with a friend’s suggestion to capture the “big three” – volcanic eruption, aurora and the blue lagoon. Her whim took my breath away –
The mind’s eye likes to categorize images based on reference, circumstance and familiarity. Be it dark or daylight skies, we thrive on recognizable predictability. From contrails to crescent moon, ominous storm clouds to constellation Orion, familiar skyscapes fit like comfortable slippers. By virtue of our nature, everything we see is processed according to common knowledge. So what happens when perception defies instinctive categorization? When “I’ve never seen a cloud like that” or “that can’t possibly be an airplane” muddies reflexive comprehension? Void of immediate explanation some ask themselves, is it a UFO?
Ponder this image. How does your mind’s eye categorize eerie concentric circles punctuated with a tilted ascending beam of blue light? Extraterrestrial origin or definable illusion? In December 2009 a failed Russian ballistic missile test created this illusion in skies over Norway. Rings of light stem from spiraling trajectory following third stage missile failure.
UFO? No, it’s a Iridium flare. “Iridium” flare terminology stems from a constellation of communications satellites first launched in 1997 by Iridium Communications. Satellites generally appear as slow moving “stars” to the untrained eye. The original 66 Iridium satellites have been phased out, replaced by second generation SpaceX low orbit installations. That said, for the past 20 years momentary bright flashes occurred up to four times a day when reflective antenna caught sunlight.
From weather balloons, drones, funky clouds, upper atmosphere ice crystals bending light, low orbit satellites to bright magnitude planet Venus, the mind’s eye demands explanation. Is it a UFO? Probably not. 99.9% of the time there’s a perfectly logical explanation.
From Senja, Norway Adrien Mauduit of Night Lights Films captured ethereal timelapse of geomagnetic storms between September 25 – 28, 2020.
As I write Earth orbit passes through a stream of gaseous plasma erupting from a “hole” in the Sun. Solar wind rages at 610 km per second. Predicted to spew well into tomorrow, fair skies could see auroras as far south as Montana and Michigan.
Treat yourself to mesmerizing respite courtesy Adrien Mauduit. Five minutes of bliss guaranteed to soften furrowed brows, smooth jagged nerves and gawk at majesty of the cosmos.
A closed Canada/U.S. border is no match for invasive plumes of wildfire smoke blanketing the West Coast. For days, stinging brown haze has beset Vancouver, obliterating sunlight, vying with Seattle and Portland for worst air quality in the world. This morning Vancouverites woke to a staggering reality – official ranking as most hazardous air to breathe in the world. Link to worldwide air quality – https://aqicn.org/here/
I’m not crying in my maple syrup or diminishing the plight of countless thousand American lives impacted by the inferno. What I am is alarmed by unprecedented voracity of this disaster. Wildfire season is a fact of life, periodic stretches of regional forest fire smoke settle over Vancouver every few years. What I can’t recall is Vancouver ever having the worst air quality in the world. Nor air so hazardous Canada Post suspends mail delivery, If this is the face of climate disruption, we need to take notice.
Seems pandemic times directly impact accuracy of extended weather forecasts. Who knew commercial air traffic accounted for 700,000 meteorological reports a day? Few realize commercial airliners collect and relay data on air pressure, humidity, air temperature and wind speed as the fly their route. 50-75% fewer commercial flights a day translates to a huge gap in weather data available to forecasters. One – three day predictions remain relatively accurate. Notable inaccuracy plagues four – fourteen day forecasts.
In May of this year the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) held its first annual Capture the Dark photography competition. Tasked with capturing “meaning of the night”, participants were invited to submit images in one of five categories – Connecting to the Dark, International Dark Sky Places, Impact of Light Pollution, Bright Side of Lighting and Youth.
Connecting to the Dark winner –
View larger | Mihail Minkov captured this photo, which is titled Star Catcher. The photo is from the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria. It’s the 1st-place winner in 2020’s IDA photo contest, in the Connecting to the Dark category.
International Dark Sky Places winner –
iew larger. | Jean-Francois Graffand captured this image at the Pic du Midi International Dark Sky Reserve in France. It’s the winner in the International Dark Sky Places category. The photo is titled Dark Night in Pyrénées Mountains.
Impact of Light Pollution winner –
View larger. | Petr Horálek captured this image at the Great Wall of China. It’s the winner in the Impact of Light Pollution category. The photo is titled Remembering the Old Times.
Bright Side of Lighting winner –
View larger. | Jean-Francois Graffand captured this photo at the Pyrénées National Parc in France. It’s the winner in the Bright Side of Lighting category. It’s titled The Celestial River.
Youth winner –
View larger.| Nayana Rajesh, age 16, captured the winning entry in the Youth category. The photo is set in Ennis, Texas. It’s titled “The Barn.”
Music is a powerful elixir, tonic capable of lifting spirits with inexplicable harmonic energy. Tonight’s quarantine playlist started with Casual Viewin’ by iconic Canadian band 54-40, a curious choice considering their vast catalogue and undeniable place on my top ten list of favorite bands. 54 40 could sing the phonebook and I’d be happy, Casual Viewin’ makes me smile, if that’s not quarantine tonic I don’t know what is.
Next played Over Everything by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile. Two fav artists joining to produce a song that makes me feel good –
For no discernible reason I turned to old school hip hop. Beatie Boys and Salt N Pepa –
Currently I’m digging Who Will Save Your Soul by Jewel –
Quarantine playlists are fascinating. What we listen to speaks volumes about our mindset.
I doubt spiders come to mind when pondering impacts of global warming at northern latitudes. Climate change has had a profound effect on Arctic Wolf Spiders, nobody cares because spiders are easily dismissed. Fun fact – in terms of biomass, wolf spiders in the Arctic outweigh that of regional wolf populations by 80 – 1. That’s a lot of spiders – thanks to longer, warmer summers they’re getting bigger and producing more offspring.
Nature has a uncanny ability to adapt when challenged with brief periods of climatic change. In 2009 researchers predicted warmer Arctic seasons would boost wolf spider size and numbers. Springtails, their prey of choice are wingless fungi eating hexapods. “Science’s Michael Price explains that springtails subsist on a diet of fungi, which consume decomposing plants and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But when wolf spiders keep the springtail population in check, the insects consume less fungus, which triggers faster decomposition of the tundra’s dead plant matter—and more greenhouse gases.” – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-wolf-spiders-evolving-diet-keeping-arctic-cool-180969735/
Science expected dense populations of wolf spiders to initially cannibalize their own, consume anything smaller than themselves while sorting out territory. They thought more wolf spiders meant fewer fungus nibbling springtails, but that hasn’t happened. Seems climate enhanced hoards of wolf spiders developed a taste for their own, ignoring springtails, favouring opportunistic ambushes of smaller spiders.
Science can’t explain why cannibal wolf spiders no longer fancy springtails. It can state as fact – higher springtail populations mean less fungus, slower decomposition of organic material, thus significantly less greenhouse gas released by the process of decomposition. Are cannibal wolf spiders Mother Nature’s way of mitigating the mess we’ve made?
Zoonotic ( zoonoses ) refers to infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans. Hard fact – over 60% of infectious disease contracted by humans are zoonotic, 75 % of new emerging diseases have zoonotic origins. From mosquito, rodent, bat, flea, beaver, to water contaminated courtesy cow dung, nature doesn’t blink at inflicting humanity with respiratory or gastrointestinal disease. Zoonotic encompasses viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic human infection.
Chances are COVID-19 is zoonotic, so why all the conspiracy jibber-jabber? The SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 is widely accepted as zoonotic transmission from cave dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan Province, China to humans via intermediary civet cat hosts. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak (and if you believe China is actually cracking down on farmed wildlife destined for sale as meat ) exotic wildlife for human consumption never raised a brow in China. Have conspiracy theorists forgotten viral videos of Chinese foodies chomping the head off bats in high end restaurants, or annihilating live baby mice in a bowl of broth? By what stretch of imagination did conspiracy ignore zoonotic covid-19 infection in favour of some nefarious bio-weapon laboratory goof?
I’m tired of conspiracy theorists pointing hysterical fingers at everything from Bill Gates to secretive new world orders, biological warfare or targeted population purge. I get it, people are upset, they’re in denial, searching for something to blame. Anything is possible, but until evidence proves otherwise – COVID-19 is zoonotic. Everyone needs to chill.