Weather and Climate and Space Lasers

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q – Georgia) postulated that Jewish bankers Rothschild, Inc. connived with Pacific Gas & Electric to shoot lasers from space, thus igniting the apocalyptic wildfires to clear space for California’s high-speed rail project. While Rep. Greene’s inanities were garnering headlines, real scientists confirmed that space hurricanes are a real thing.

Scientists had previously warned about the likelihood of space hurricanes, and their potential to wreak havoc on satellites. Now a real space hurricane has been documented. Researchers took satellite images from August 20, 2014 and used 3D imaging to recreate how the hurricane formed and behaved. A 600-mile-wide torrent of plasma had hovered in the Earth’s upper atmosphere over the North Pole. The storm spun counterclockwise for about eight hours, generating spiral-shaped arms, spewing electrons instead of water, before it finally dissipated.

Scientists conjecture that space hurricanes are caused by an “unusually large and rapid transfer of solar wind energy and charged particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.” Researchers studying these phenomena say the resulting storms are not uncommon and should be monitored in real time, not six years after the fact. They foresee increasing interference with satellites, disrupting GPS and other communications.

Meanwhile, here on earth, scientists have been measuring the Gulf Stream, known formally as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), since 2004. The Gulf Stream’s powerful ocean current brings warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean, past the east coast of the United States, and on to western Europe, altering the climate along its way. It even affects the weather on the western coast of Africa. The current keeps temperatures in these areas warmer during the winter months and helps to cool and regulate heat during the summer.

Using “proxy data” (everything from ships’ logs, to records of ice cores, ocean sediments, and corals collected over time) they can reconstruct the behaviors of the stream back as far as the year 400.

A new study tells us the Gulf Stream is rapidly weakening. It’s now the weakest it’s been in a thousand years.

The reason? Yep, you guessed it: human-caused climate change. Researchers say before the year 2100, melting ice floes will weaken the current and likely will result in rapidly rising sea levels on the U.S. east coast and more intense weather events in Europe, as in increasingly extreme heat waves, and a decrease in summer rainfall.

So here’s another something to worry about. You’re welcome.

Dolly Fights the Pandemic

Dolly Parton is a country-music superstar and living legend. She is also widely regarded as a generous and all-around nice person. She made the news briefly in April last year for her $1 million contribution to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s COVID-19 research work. She also encouraged her fans who could afford it to donate to the Vanderbilt project.

A few months later she learned that some of the donated money went to fund development of the Moderna vaccine. Her name had appeared with other sponsors in a preliminary report on the vaccine. “I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world,” she said.

Dolly Parton received her Moderna vaccine a few days ago. She appeared appropriately stylish in a dress open at the shoulder as if designed to make the injection easier.

Writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr (not to be confused with Republican Senator Roy Blunt) once said of the singer/songwriter’s performances, that “Dolly Parton makes me want to stand on my chair and wave my hat.”

Nap Time

In my college days, decades ago, I was a regular napper. Usually in the afternoon, before dinnertime. Or if there was a break after an early-morning class following late-night socializing. My sleep patterns were more irregular and bed time—often after midnight—was generally later than now. The only consistency was sleeping until late on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

It’s good to learn that my erratic sleep habits, well, the afternoon nap anyway, were beneficial to good health. Recent research concludes that a regular afternoon nap helps mental agility, memory and verbal fluency in adults.

  • Studies show that a “power nap” of ten-to-twenty minutes is the most beneficial. This provides restorative sleep without drowsiness after waking.
  • Nap early in the afternoon. A late nap may be counterproductive, affecting your ability to sleep during the night.
  • Try to let go of stressful thoughts. Instead, reflect on why you’re napping.

Keep in mind that all these good things result from an afternoon refresher snooze of twenty minutes or so. Napping for an hour or more will likely leave one groggy for a while after awakening. So set your alarm if you need to.

Coping with sheltering-at-home or quarantine by trying to sleep the day away likely makes things worse and may result in difficulty sleeping at night. Long naps have been linked to increased susceptibilities to diabetes, heart disease and depression in older adults.

As with many things, a little is good; a lot, not so good.

View from/to Alcatraz

The first operating lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast was on Alcatraz Island. Isolated in San Francisco Bay, the storied Alcatraz is better known as the site of the infamous prison. It was a federal maximum-security facility for only twenty-nine years, from 1934 until 1963. For a century before, it had been various iterations of military fortifications and military prisons.

As a federal prison, Alcatraz was designed to hold troublemakers from other federal prisons. It became home to notorious bank robbers and murderers, including Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. Rafael Cancel Miranda, who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party’s armed attack on the United States Capitol building in 1954, also spent time at Alcatraz.

The panoramic view of the close-by city of San Francisco is said to have intensified the misery of being incarcerated in Alcratraz Prison. “Baghdad by the Bay” sits only a mile-and-a-half away but is an unobtainable swim through cold, swirling currents.During its time as a federal prison, Alcatraz claimed there had been no successful escapes. Thirty-six men tried in fourteen escape attempts. Twenty-three were caught; six were shot and killed; two drowned; five were listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”

In normal current times, Alcatraz is a popular tourist site, managed by the National Park Service. In these COVID lockdown days, one can intuit the reverse of a penitentiary inmate. Sheltering in place in San Francisco, you can see Alcatraz, but you can’t get there.

As this is being written, zillow.com lists twenty homes for sale with views of Alcatraz Island. Asking prices range from $1.225 million (839 sq ft condo) to $25 million (7,000 sq ft house).

(Thanks to Mi Ae Lipe for the inspiration.)

Rescued Film

What to do with that old roll of undeveloped film you found in the back of a drawer. Take it to Costco or your neighborhood drug store? A few years too late for that.

Send it to Levi Bettwieser in Boise, Idaho. He will process the film and post digital copies of all discernible photos for you to download. You will not receive negatives. (Maybe you’re not old enough to know what negatives are.) There is no charge, but you do agree to relinquish all rights. (He does accept donations.)

Bettwieser started his Rescued Film Project in 2013 after developing 140 rolls of film he had accumulated over years of rummaging at garage sales. He was taken by the images that came to life. Photographs of family and friends, dogs and cats, holiday celebrations and vacations, birthday parties, including lots of pictures of cakes.

Rescued Film Project has about 16,000 images in its archive. A one-person operation, Bettwieser has a backlog of 2,000 rolls to process. It’s a labor of love; he holds down a regular job, so Rescued Film is a night and weekend project. If you send film to him, it could be months before you receive a response.

In the meantime, browse through the archives. If you recognize anyone in the photographs, Bettwieser would like to hear from you. Occasionally he is able to reunite a person with long-lost snapshots.

It’s the Water

After a couple years in the ocean, coho salmon head for home, to the fresh water where they were spawned. The trip can be thousands of miles and is fraught with danger from fishermen and orca whales.

Meanwhile… as we go about our lives on land, motoring from place to place, our tires wear down and leave tiny particles of rubber on the roads. The tires’ rubber is laced with a preservative containing the chemical antioxidant 6PPD-quinone. When we drive, our tires shed the chemical-laced rubber dust onto the roadway. Rain eventually washes it into streams and lakes along with other debris. 6PPD-quinone is one of 2,000 identified chemicals in road runoff.

Scientists estimate the forty percent of the waterways in the Puget Sound area are tainted with 6PPD-quinone. When coho salmon encounter the chemical, it’s usually fatal within a few hours, long before the fish are able to spawn. Depending on proximity to heavily-traveled roads, somewhere between fifty to ninety percent of returning salmon succumb to the chemical.

Meanwhile… to the east, the outlook for salmon is brighter. Salmon have laid eggs in the upper Columbia River for the first time since the Grand Coulee Dam blocked their return to spawning areas eighty years ago. Native American tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began working together in 2014 on a project to provide access and improved habitat.

In a test, salmon released above Grand Coulee in 2019, found their way back a year later to their spawning area, an eight-mile stretch of the Sanpoil River, a tributary of the Columbia. The next phase of the testing is to record how many of the newly-hatched fish find their way back.

Dams constructed down river on the Columbia, built after the Grand Coulee, provided fish ladders that gave salmon a route to swim past, although with great difficulty. Salmon further down the Columbia also faced the hazard of hungry sea lions who immigrated all the way from California to gorge themselves on the tasty fish.

Meanwhile… in other water news, Wall Street has begun trading in California water futures. After eight years of drought and annual wildfires ravaging the state with increasing ferocity, municipalities, farmers and, yes, hedge funds can hedge against future shortages with contracts for future delivery of water. The contracts can be bought and sold, like bonds and stocks, as the price of water fluctuates.

“Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” said one analyst.

Trading water futures is surely safer than trading sub-prime mortgages.