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?
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.
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 –
On April 29th behemoth asteroid 1998 OR2 will make closest approach to Earth at a safe distance of approximately 6 million kilometers. Traveling through the cosmos at 31,320 km/h, 1.8 km wide, 4.1 km long 1998 OR2 reigns as largest near Earth asteroid flyby of the year. There’s no chance of planetary impact and sadly no chance of seeing it without a telescope. Fear not, the Virtual Telescope Project hosts free online viewing starting April 28, 2020.https://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/
Radar image of asteroid 1998 OR2, acquired April 18, 2020. According to current estimates, this space rock is probably at least a mile wide (1.8 km) and maybe 2 1/2 times that long (4.1 km). Image via Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
First glimpses of large asteroid due to pass soon
A compilation of 1,200 images taken over four days by Mars rover Curiosity resulted in this 1.8 billion pixel resolution panoramic postcard from Mars. Struggling to express how remarkable this is, I’m acutely aware of how happy it makes me.
Folklore in North America regards the April full moon as Pink, Grass or Egg Moon. When the full moon coincides with perigee ( closest point in elliptic lunar orbit to Earth ) it’s called a Supermoon. Tonight’s pink supermoon boasts closest lunar perigee of 2020, a mere 356,909 km distance from Earth.
Year’s biggest and brightest supermoon on April 7-8
Moments ago I ushered my husband and son outside to the telescope. Nothing short of joy describes their reaction. A Moon so full and bright my son grabbed sunglasses to fully appreciate jaw dropping resolution. Can’t remember the last time anything made me as happy.
Lost track of how many times I’ve posted this video. Without hesitation, here it is again – three minutes of cosmic wonder guaranteed to evoke childhood wonder and imagination.
Couldn’t let this Pink Moon set without a nod to Nick Drake –
Allow yourself momentary respite from pandemic storms with Starlight:Deserts of Chile by Adrien Mauduit at Night Lights Films.
STEVE ( Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement ) might look like an aurora, but it’s not. STEVE is an atmospheric phenomenon characteristic of northern hemisphere spring and fall. The result of uppity solar wind messing with Earth’s magnetic field. Meddling which allows ribbons of super heated gas travelling at speeds exceeding 13,000 mph to create observable arcs of soft purple hues. STEVE favours latitudes between +50N and +55N. Go STEVE! Hope to meet you one day.
Photo credit – Jocelyn Blanchette
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – otherwise known as five widely recognized stages of grief. Make no mistake, our pandemic world is mourning disruption of life as we know it. So where are you? Personally, denial and anger expired days before losing my job, bargaining served no purpose. Unemployment was met with pragmatic inevitability. So where am I a week after realizing I had no job? No indication when life might return to normal, no assurance employment insurance benefits could arrive in timely fashion? Have to admit I’m depressed.
Stay at home orders needn’t be defined by endless hours of television or Netflix. Consider using free time to embrace space weather, specifically Aurora Borealis. Start with https://spaceweather.com/ familiarize yourself with solar wind, sunspot numbers and current auroral oval. If favourable conditions suggest uppity auroras, find yourself a Aurora Cam.
List of aurora cam links below –