Ponder storm clouds, three minutes of mesmerizing timelapse tonic to soothe your furrowed brow.
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.
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.
Morning cloud streets over Vancouver Island. Image via CTV News Vancouver Island.
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.
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.
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 –
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.
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
“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
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.