Global Air Quality Index – Vancouver B.C. Worst In the World


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/

See the source image
See the source image

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.

See the source image

https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-worst-air-quality-world-september-14-2020

Finding Polaris – Embrace the North Star


Ah Polaris, commonly known as the North Star – humanities guide since the dawn of time. Located directly above the north celestial pole, northern hemisphere skies rotate around this near constant pole star. Knowing where to find Polaris means you’ll always know which direction to travel. Face Polaris, stretch your arms out sideways – the right hand points due east, the left due west. About face and you’re pointed south.

Very many bright concentric circles in sky around a bright irregular dot, trees in foreground.

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. He wrote, “For the most common and often the most spectacular star trails, you want to locate Polaris and compose the image so it is centered horizontally and hopefully you can have a bit of foreground for reference.”

To find Polaris locate the Big Dipper, focus on Dubhe and Merak, two stars forming the outermost edge of Big Dipper’s bowl. In your mind’s eye draw a straight line to the tip of Little Dipper’s handle – voila, that’s Polaris the North Star.

Think of northern hemisphere skies as a clock with Polaris at the centre, the line from Dubhe and Merak to Polaris as the hour hand. The Big Dipper rotates once around Polaris every 23 hours, 56 minutes. A few minutes short of a day, equivalent to 361 degrees in 24 hours. As such the North Star moves ever so slightly with each passing day. What never falters is the hour hand from the outermost bowl of Big Dipper to Polaris. Find the Big Dipper, you’ll locate the North Star. Do that and you’ll never be lost in the woods.

Diagram: White sky with four black Big Dippers in a circle around Polaris.

If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you, always above the horizon. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu.

Cloud Streets


Cloud streets are long rows of cumulus cloud oriented parallel to the direction of wind. Cloud streets are a product of convection – rolling waves of rising warm air met by sinking layers of upper atmosphere cold air. Atmospheric science 101 – clouds form when water droplets contained in rising warm air condense on introduction to sinking cold air.

http://www.eumetrain.org/satmanu/CMs/ClStr/navmenu.php?page=2.0.0

Morning cloud streets over Vancouver Island. Image via CTV News Vancouver Island.

Thin parallel lines of clouds extending from ice shelf in black-and-white orbital photo.

The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these cloud streets over the Bering Sea on January 20, 2006. Image via Jesse Allen/ NASARead more about this image.

Cloud streets are technically called horizontal convection rolls. Typically observed from satellite eyes above, cloud streets generally form over vast expanses of ocean water. Unique to cloud streets are cloud free zones on either side created by sinking cold air.

Every cloud has a story, explanation and reason for being there. Next time you look up, remind yourself of exquisitely balanced natural forces responsible for life as we know it.

Kings of Pain


Resistance is futile. Trust me, I tried to avoid Kings of Pain airing on History Channel. Ignored promotional clips, balked at tuning in, ran for the hills when it appeared on the TV guide. Ultimately I caved, momentary weakness spawned inexplicable obsession. Kings of Pain is satisfying on SO MANY levels!

Overview – hosts Adam Thom  ( “wildlife biologist” ) and Rob “Caveman” Aleva ( “animal handler” ) travel the globe in search of venomous, deadly or cranky insects and animals. Their mission, to rank bites and stings on a 30 point scale in 3 categories – 10 points each for initial physical pain, duration of pain and after effects. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kings_of_Pain

Kings of Pain must be seen to be believed. Not for the premise, but for dialogue (seriously now, how many times can two men call each other “dude” in an hour), absurd ineptitude of on camera medics and hysterical observation of fore mentioned medics posing awkwardly when on camera. It’s so great!

 

 

 

 

Winning Dark Sky Images


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 –

Child with butterfly net containing several stars, star in deep blue sky just above net.

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 –

Milky Way above steep wooded valley with rocky stream in foreground.

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 –

A few stars visible in brightly lit night sky above hills with square tower in distance.

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 –

Milky Way arching over streaming waterfall in hills with nearby evergreen trees.

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 –

Milky Way over distant farm building past wide field of red paintbrush flowers and bluebonnet flowers.

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.”

View all winning and finalist submissions – https://darksky.app.box.com/s/yzvnppjej02asjtwvjsxmyr4twxr3e8g

Read more at – https://earthsky.org/earth/ida-2020-photo-contest-winners-night-sky-images?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=868f0bb18e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-868f0bb18e-393970565

Try To Live With Polite Spiders


Several months ago a tiny spider appeared on the bathroom windowsill. I said hello. Odd as this sounds, Spring doesn’t officially arrive until a polite spider homesteads on my bathroom sill. It’s been that way every year of twenty one lived in this house. Suffice to say welcoming spring spider, keeping her polite existence to myself is problematic. Mine is not a family of arachnid sympathizers. I clean around her, know that when startled she retreats through a vent in the aluminum window frame and hope for the best. In two months she’s doubled in size. Twice as large, neither a threat or concern – polite spiders know their place.

Arachnophobia is real, I get it. Expecting others to embrace polite house spiders is a big ask. That said it’s important to understand how vital spiders are to the balance of nature. Their prime directive is to control insect populations be it aphid, fly, moth or mosquito. Everyone needs to relax, understand house spiders are polite and predictable without a lick of animosity toward the human race.

Why is it I embrace the annual appearance of polite bathroom spiders while my family feels obliged to eradicate them with insecticide, wads of tissue or unceremonious suction of a vacuum hose? All because house spiders are demonized as vile marauders!  Oh my goodness, they’re not malicious, it’s so disheartening. I’m not asking you to hug spiders, I’m asking for restraint. Share your home with spiders, they mean no harm and conduct themselves with polite propriety if left alone. Sigh.

 

Cannibal Spiders


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?

Wolf spiders may turn to cannibalism in a warming Arctic

https://phys.org/news/2020-05-wolf-spiders-cannibalism-arctic.html

Phenomenon Needn’t Be Mysterious


Natural phenomenon needn’t be mysterious. Ponder Aurora Borealis, arguably one of nature’s greatest phenomenon, least mysterious spectacles. Aurora are offspring of space weather, nothing mysterious about that. On May 11, 2020 Earth is expected to cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. In less mysterious language – disruption of interplanetary space separating opposing magnetic polarities of Earth and Sun, briefly over riding Earth’s magnetic field, inviting solar energy to temporarily dazzle sky watchers with aurora majesty – consider yourself schooled in solar sector boundary crossing, a space weather basic.

Solar wind is the source of space weather. Just like Earth, the Sun has a magnetic field known as interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).  Whipped into spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction dividing into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along an ecliptic plane (  direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.

http://spaceweather.com/glossary/imf.html

Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact the field link causes partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).

Enough talk, time for dazzling aurora timelapse courtesy Adrian Mauduit at Night Lights Films –

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0CLzCpM6nuLSAi1JNBjkA

Zoonotic Ponder


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.

https://www.healthline.com/health/zoonosis#list-of-diseases

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.