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

Turn That Rainbow Upside Down


Don’t know about you, but I’d be rubbing my eyes if a upside down rainbow crossed my path. Who knew? Seems weather phenomena has an arsenal of tricks up her sleeve. Technically, upside down doesn’t qualify as rainbow. They’re known as circumzenithal arc or CZA, elite members of the halo family. Whereas rainbows form when light (most commonly sunlight, sometimes bright moonlight ) passes through low atmosphere water droplets, CZA require atmospheric ice crystals and just the right degree of sunlight.

A rainbow-like arc in the sky, with red on the bottom of the arc, behind a tree.

David Lamberti caught this circumzenithal arc in 2019. Notice the kite in the tree! He wrote: “It was a beautiful January day in southeast Michigan. I looked up, and there it was, a beautiful circumzenithal arc. It was enormous, and the colors were very deep. It faded within 5 minutes.” From – https://earthsky.org/earth/i-saw-an-upside-down-rainbow-circumzenithal-arc?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=2be56154d1-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-2be56154d1-393970565

Long parallel streamer-like clouds in a blue sky with very bright arc across them.

“A lovely circumzenithal arc amidst high clouds by Dudley Williams on December 18, 2011.” – Earthsky

Check out Atmospheric Optics for more – https://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/cza.htm

No nonsense rainbow primer – https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-is-a-rainbow-formed.html

Stratospheric Rarity


Rare polar stratospheric clouds known as nacreous or mother of pearl clouds were captured in timelapse by Adrien Mauduit of Night Lights Films. Stratospheric iridescence requires extreme cold, abundance of high altitude moisture and precisely timed low horizon sunlight striking ice crystals for a moment in time. Ponder stratospheric rarity –

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

When It Snows


A laughably inaccurate perception exists that all Canadians embrace snowstorms with rugged practicality indicative of life above the 49th parallel. Misconception oblivious to geography or temperate zones, woefully misinformed generalizations held by those who haven’t witnessed mayhem unleashed by a Vancouver snowstorm.

Want to freak out British Columbia Lower Mainland residents? Mention snow. Want to watch a preposterous comedic symphony of incompetence? Let it snow, let it snow. Trust me, it’s hysterical.

Snow paralyzes our transit system, schools close, public safety warnings urge residents to stay home, highways & major arteries aren’t plowed, ice bombs falling from suspension bridge cables assault commuters – Canada’s third largest city grinds to a halt! Abandoned vehicles dot city streets, slightest inclines defeat motorists while sidewalks turn into ice fields. Snow-wise Canadians beyond our delicate rainforest bubble must be shaking their heads. I’m shaking my head, wanting to scream – take a run at the hill, don’t slam on the brakes gear down, take your foot off the gas and steer into the slide. It’s insane! A spectacle so un-Canadian all I can do is laugh.

Best laugh of the week came after a mid-week dump of 10 Cm or so – organizers of a snowball fight at the University of British Columbia called it off due to snow!

A video from 2017 cracks me up. Granted, there isn’t a salt shortage this year but worth a watch to put Lower Mainland winter circus act in perspective –

As I write snow flurries fall without regard for Vancouver’s inability to cope. Giddy local meteorologists embrace one last round of fear mongering before warm Pacific air overtakes Arctic outflow. By morning I could wake to mounds of fresh snow, freezing rain or a steady downpour.

2020-01-15 17.59.52

A day from now icicles under my back deck will surrender to the great thaw. We’ll spend a few days complaining about gargantuan slush puddles, exhale relief over return to familiar patterns of dreary West Coast rain, pat ourselves on the back for surviving the storm of January 2020. The city won’t acquire more snowplows, residents won’t consider buying winter tires, public transit won’t implement snow event improvements, people won’t buy salt or snow shovels until panic stricken. Life goes on. Nobody learns a thing, let alone feels sheepish for exhibiting such a poor display of winterization. Sigh.

Hurricane Trump, Category 5 Disaster…


Behemoth Hurricane Dorian is something of a mystery to Donald Trump. Its anyone’s guess if he can spell hurricane, let alone fathom how they form or what they’re capable of. Heading into the weekend a flicker of presidential duty saw Trump cancel travel plans to Poland and meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenisky to monitor Dorian at home. Home being Camp David – no wait, seems he left Camp David on Marine One to play golf at his course in Sterling, Virginia. Trump crony, Senator Rick Scott of Florida told Fox News –

“We got updates while I was there,” Scott said. “He got updates, I know he played golf yesterday and got updates while he was playing golf.”

Today Trump said –

“We don’t even know what’s coming at us. All we know is it’s possibly the biggest. I have — I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some Category 4’s — you don’t even see them that much,” Trump said at a briefing with officials at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

“But a Category 5 is something that — I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard the term other than I know it’s there. That’s the ultimate, and that’s what we have unfortunately,” he added, in reference to Hurricane Dorian.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to media before boarding Maine One at the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, en route to Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Levels of Trumps’ flippant ignorance are staggering.  Dorian is the 4th category 5 storm to impact Americans since Trump blew into the Oval Office – Irma, 8 months into his presidency, Puerto Rico devastating Maria and Michael last October. Between landfalls of Irma and Maria, Trump said he “never even knew” they (Category 5) existed. The man is a category 5 disaster .

Do we give up? Scream? Hope he isn’t re-elected?  Here’s an idea – what if we put him in a wind tunnel with a golf club and bucket of balls? Never mind, he’d simper “fake” wind velocity, blame Hillary, Mexicans, eagle killing wind energy, climate change clowns and left wing media fear mongering. How about this, we reclassify meteorological cauldrons in terms Trump understands, no more F scale tornados, category 1-5 hurricanes. Lets lump all natural disasters together, rate them on the Golf Scale.

Oh man, see Trump smile. Thumbs up, now he understands.

 

Northern Hemisphere Aurora Alert


As I write, streams of solar wind advance at 594.5 Km/second. Commanded by CH58+, a impressive coronal hole poised to deliver rare auroral punctuation as far south as Washington State, Idaho, Montana, Michigan and Minnesota.

Auroras happen when electrons energized by acceleration collide with Earth’s upper atmosphere. Acceleration allows energized electrons to follow Earth’s magnetic field downward to the poles. Anywhere from 80 – 500 Km above Earth’s surface, electrons collide with oxygen & nitrogen atoms, spiking the atoms’ energy. Soon after, atoms relax to their former energy state – relaxation creates light known as aurora borealis. Initially light forms an arc from horizon to horizon, within a few hours arcs twist and sway in upper atmosphere wind.

A geomagnetic storm warning issued by NOAA, Space Weather Prediction Center, forecasts G1 (minor) activity August 31, increasing to G2 (moderate) September 1st as solar wind blows Earthward at 650 Km/second.

Its been years since space weather issued public alert of aurora over Greater Vancouver. Auroras are fickle, space weather makes no promises. That said, if you find yourself away from city lights with clear skies, don’t miss an opportunity for Aurora to wrap her arms around you. Once you meet Aurora, night skies become a source of wonder.

G1-G2 Watches 31 Aug-1 Sep, 2019

https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

 

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

Geomagnetic Storm Aurora Alert


Tonight into tomorrow, northern hemisphere sky watchers as far south as Iowa or Michigan to Washington State are on aurora alert. Auroras are caused by charged particles hitching a ride on solar wind, dark skies turn undulating curtains of mischievous colour when charged particles interact with molecules in our atmosphere. Usually, our magnetosphere acts as a planetary shield preventing geomagnetic interaction of charged particles. Every so often fast moving particles overwhelm our magnetic field, create an opening and light up night skies.

On May 12, a magnetic filament on the sun, seen here, became unstable and erupted. (NASA/SDO)

Since Monday, 3 additional solar eruptions sent fast moving charged particles our way. As a result the auroral oval (doughnut shaped ring around the pole where charged particles follow magnetic field lines, reason why far northern latitudes regularly witness geomagnetic storms), has shifted far to the south.

The northern lights as seen looking eastward from just east of Penzance, Sask., at 1:21 a.m. local time Tuesday morning. (Submitted by Notanee Bourassa)

The colour of that light depends on the kind of molecule and the altitude of the collision.

Green is the most common colour, produced when the particles collide with oxygen at an altitude of around 100 to 300 km. At about 300 to 400 km, the interaction with oxygen produces red. Pink occurs below 100 km when nitrogen atoms are struck.

This link – https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/solar-flares/index.html is worth a ponder. One of the best I’ve found in terms of understanding what makes space weather tick.

Bottom line – Space Weather Prediction Centre forecasters say there’s a 75% chance of geomagnetic storm activity tonight. If your skies are clear, go outside. If she’s willing, Aurora will find you. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day.

 

Chemically Enhanced Aurora


On April 5 NASA scientists launched sounding rocket mission AZURE (Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment) from Norway’s Andoya Space Center. Twin rockets deployed chemical tracers capable of allowing researchers to track the flow of neutral and charged particles during an active geomagnetic storm. Emergency service switchboards were inundated with UFO sighting hysteria – seems no one bothered to alert residents of AZURE’s chemical meddling.

Lights over Lapland  webcam operator Chad Blakely captured the first chemical puffs. Video below from Adrien Mauduit documents the spectacle.

 

Twilight


This evening, gloriously bruised skies created a twilight ponder. Twilight struck with realization most of us take her mesmerizing palette for granted. Far from a cosmic constant, twilight requires atmosphere to scatter rays of light in advance and conclusion of a visible Sun above the horizon.

Civil twilight falls when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. In the morning this is known as dawn, in the evening, dusk. This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under good atmospheric conditions in the absence of moonlight or other illumination. In the morning before the beginning of civil twilight and in the evening after the end of civil twilight, artificial illumination is normally required to carry on ordinary outdoor activities.


Nautical twilight begins when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. At the beginning or end of nautical twilight, under good atmospheric conditions and in the absence of other illumination, general outlines of ground objects may be distinguishable, but detailed outdoor operations are not possible, and the horizon is indistinct.


Astronomical twilight defines a Sun 18 degrees below the horizon. Before the beginning of astronomical twilight in the morning and after the end of astronomical twilight in the evening the Sun does not contribute to sky illumination; for a considerable interval after the beginning of morning twilight and before the end of evening twilight, sky illumination is so faint that it is practically imperceptible.

Civil, nautical, astronomical, three clearly defined twilights that forgot to mention – twilight is also a colour, emotion and source of cosmic wonder unique to our planet.