Category: Earth

Time-lapse video of volcanic explosion in Mexico

A mesmerizing time-lapse video shows a Mexican volcano’s explosive eruption — spewing ash high into the sky.

The Colima volcano exploded around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday and sent an ash column about 29,000 feet into the air.

More than five minutes of the vulcanian eruption, which ejects lava fragments and lots of volcanic ash, were condensed into 30 seconds for the clip…

Experts say Colima is one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes, with multiple eruptions in recent weeks alone.

Nicely done!

Quotes on climate change from Davos

Some key quotes from the session Tackling Climate, Development and Growth at Davos 2015:

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

“It’s a collective endeavour, it’s collective accountability and it may not be too late.”

“At this point in time, it’s macro critical, it’s people critical, it’s planet critical.”

“As I said two years ago, we are at risk of being grilled, fried and toasted.”

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

“Tackling climate change is closely linked to poverty alleviation and economic development; I would call them different sides of the same coin…”

“The first thing we need from the business community, and the business leaders themselves, is commitment. If you’re not committed, you’re more destructive at the table than if you’re really committed and you want to solve it…”

Michael Spence, William R. Berkley Professor in Economics and Business, NYU Stern School of Business, Italy

“…We have a choice: between a energy-efficient low carbon path and an energy-intensive high carbon path, which at an unknown point of time ends catastrophically. This doesn’t seem like a very hard choice.”

“We have to go very quickly… we have a window of a very small number of years… after which we cannot win the battle to mitigate fast enough to meet the safety goals… if this year goes badly it would be a massive missed opportunity.”

“This is the chance to do something we’ve never done before, to come together in a process of top down agreement, and bottom up energy, creativity and commitment. It will be a moral victory.”

I don’t think the Koch Bros. went to Davos. Their profits roll out from the fiefdom of the United States. What foreign holdings they rely on – are obedient.

I don’t think Jim Imhofe or Mike Huckabee were invited. I doubt anyone who is a serious player in the world of modern industrial, technology-driven capitalism would extend an invite to John Boehner or Mitch McConnell — or Mary Landrieu.

If you’re bright enough to be a world-class player in international commerce – including the governments actively trying to grow their national economies – you had better have modern science as part of your core skill set. Along with an understanding of political economy over the past seventy years.

No matter if your personal bent is conservative or liberal, denial of reality sufficient to get you elected to Congress from Kansas or Texas doesn’t aid global logistics or long-range marketing.

If you care to view the full session Tackling Climate, Development and Growth at Davos 2015, it’s available to watch.

400ppm CO2 milestone already passed in the start of 2015


NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite photo

The new year has only just begun, but we’ve already recorded our first days with average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million, potentially leading to many months in a row above this threshold, experts say.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography records of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels show that Jan. 1 was the first day of the new year above that concentration, followed by Jan. 3 and Jan. 7. Daily averages have continued at this level or higher through Jan. 9, though they could continue to dance up and down around that mark due to day-to-day variations caused by weather systems. But even with those fluctuations, 2015 will likely see many months above 400 ppm, possibly starting with the very first month of the year…

The 400 ppm mark was first passed on May 9, 2013. In 2014, it happened two months earlier, in March. The average CO2 concentrations for March, April and June 2014 were all above 400 ppm, the first time that has been recorded. The peak CO2 measurement of 2014 was just shy of 402 ppm in May.

While the 400 ppm mark is somewhat symbolic (as the increase in warming between 399 ppm and 400 ppm is small), it is a large increase from pre-industrial CO2 concentrations, which were around 280 ppm. The progressively earlier occurrence of these high CO2 levels — not seen in somewhere between 800,000 and 15 million years — points to the inexorable buildup of heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere as human emissions continue unabated.

That increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases has raised Earth’s average temperature by 1.6°F since the beginning of the 20th century. Some scientists say that to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, that warming needs to stay under 2°C, or 3.6°F…

The world’s plants can only pull so much CO2 out of the atmosphere in a given season, while human emissions keep rising. This is leaving an excess of about 2 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere every year, meaning the 400 ppm mark will keep occurring earlier and earlier. In just a year or two, carbon dioxide levels will likely be about 400 ppm year-round.

But, hey, Congressional Republicans, Tea Party Know-Nothings and other intellectual failures keep telling the world, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” Corporate profits are up. The four or five biggest banks in America need new wheelbarrows to truck their cash around.

And nothing else matters.

Idaho fines Feds thousand$ over missed radioactive cleanup deadline


Shiny

State environmental regulators are cracking down on the U.S. Department of Energy over continued delays in the treatment of 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste located at the department’s desert site.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality officials said…the agency will fine DOE $3,600 per day for missing a state-mandated Dec. 31 cleanup deadline. If the liquid waste still isn’t treated or removed from three 50-year-old stainless steel tanks by July 1, the amount will increase to $6,000 per day…

The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit was built more than five years ago in order to treat the liquid sodium-bearing waste stored in the tanks. The treatment process is supposed to turn the liquid waste into a more manageable powder, similar to laundry detergent.

But the first-of-its-kind treatment facility has encountered numerous problems and has yet to get beyond the testing phase.

So the liquid waste – leftovers from reprocessing of high-level radiation spent nuclear fuel – continues to sit in the aging tanks, which are located inside a concrete vault at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center…

Your tax dollars at work.

Think things might move faster if they moved the storage tanks filled with radioactive waste to the front lawn of the White House.

Photographer captures ice halo phenomena in Red River, NM


Click to see original

A photographer from Texas, Joshua Thomas, recently captured a photo in New Mexico of a rare ice crystal halo phenomenon.

In order to point out the interesting details in the photo, the US National Weather Service of La Crosse, Wisconsin made the photo into a diagram that shows the different aspects of the halo.

The phenomenon occurs when minuscule ice crystals in the atmosphere reflect and refract light in a certain way. The halos can be created by light from the sun or the moon, and seeing one often means there will be some kind of precipitation within the following 24 hours.

Delightful. A good reason to go outdoors in the winter. :)

Pic of the Day

Eagle_nebula_pillars
Click to enlarge

Star forming pillars in the Eagle Nebula, 7,000 light years from Earth, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope’s WFPC2. January 5th, 2015 High-resolution version

This image shows the pillars as seen in visible light, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.

Beam me up!

Mysteries of the CoyWolf


Click to enlarge

Coywolves are canid hybrids of wolves and coyotes. They have recently become common in eastern North America, where they have been considered eastern coyotes, eastern wolves, or red wolves. Apparently their habitat now includes northern NM.

Many eastern coyotes (Canis latrans “var.”) are coywolves, which despite having a majority of coyote (Canis latrans) ancestry, also descend from either the gray wolf (Canis lupus) or the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus, formerly Canis rufus). They come from a constantly evolving gene pool, and are viewed by some scientists as an emerging coywolf species. The genetic composition and classification of the eastern coyote is debated among scientists.

A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine, 22 had half or more gray wolf ancestry, and one was 89 percent gray wolf. A theory has been proposed that the large eastern “coyotes” in Canada are actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and gray wolves that mated decades ago as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges.

Coywolves have the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and the coyote characteristic of lack of fear of human-developed areas. They seem to be bolder and more intelligent than regular coyotes.

…Unfortunately for this beautiful animal very few people truly understand them. Spending time with them and watching their true behavior shows us they are an extremely social and intelligent wild canine species. The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.

I have a special spot in my heart for CoyWolves. I knew them as Adirondack coyotes – and folks automatically presumed they were a cross between coyotes and wolves.

I did a fair piece of design and testing early in the creation of mountain bikes. Mostly in the Catskill Mountains and the Adirondack range. Had a couple of favorite trails I rode well beyond the boundaries of good sense and safety. Testing designs for future production being the excuse. In hindsight, not too bright.

But, on one of those favorite trails in the Catskills – on a downhill stretch where I flew about 30+mph for quite a distance – one autumn afternoon I had a big auburn CoyWolf join me side-by-side full bore down the mountain trail for a quarter-mile or so – felt like leagues of speed. We glanced at each other from time to time, maintaining a gap of 3 or 4 feet between us.

Then as the trail started to level off and my speed dropped she gave a final look at this crazy two-legger on two wheels and made a sharp right angle turn away into the trees.

I can still feel the rush of sharing that trail that way, that day.

Let’s go to the beach and play in the radioactive water from Japan!

12/30/14 — Radioactivity from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors has turned up off the British Columbia coast and the level will likely peak in waters off North America in the next year or two, according to a Canadian-led team that’s intercepted the nuclear plume…

The radioactivity “does not represent a threat to human health or the environment,” but is detectable off Canada’s west coast and the level is climbing…The team’s seawater measurements reveal Fukushima radioactivity first showed up 1,500 kilometres west of British Columbia in June 2012, more than a year after the Japanese nuclear accident.

By June 2013, the “Fukushima signal” had spread onto the Canadian continental shelf off the B.C. coast, and by February 2014, it was detectable “throughout the upper 150 metres of the water column,” says the report, showing how the Pacific currents are carrying the radioactive plume slowly across the ocean. It says the Fukushima’s radioactive signal off the B.C. coast is now double the “background” radiation in the ocean from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing…

The scientists predict the Fukushima radioactivity off North America will continue to increase before peaking in 2015-16 at levels comparable to those seen in the 1980s as a result of nuclear testing. Then levels are expected to decline and, by 2021, should return to levels seen before that Fukushima accident — considered one of the most serious nuclear reactor accidents…

A huge earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that flooded the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants. Loss of backup power led to overheating, nuclear meltdowns and evacuation of the Fukushima site. Land and farms around the nuclear plants were severely contaminated and a large radioactive discharge washed into the Pacific…

While the Cesium-134 from the accident will disappear within a few years, Cesium-137 can linger for years.

Thus, the scientists predict the Cesium-137 levels off the North American coast will not return to the levels seen before the Fukushima accident until 2021.

The level of Cesium-137 in the water is far below levels seen in the 1960s and 1970s from nuclear weapons testing and “well below Canadian guidelines for drinking water quality,” they say.

I recall the response from many scientists in the 1960s and 1970s. They campaigned to stop the nuclear weapons testing exactly because it was contaminating Earth’s air and water. Now, we’re supposed to believe everyone passed through that era without harm so radioactive contamination at those levels are safe.

I worked with materials used in nuclear reactors in the 1950s and 1960s and recall many occasions when we were notified that the level of radiation previously declared safe – was no longer considered safe. Sorry, folks.

I have to ask the arch-typical question of the scientists and politicians who say we needn’t worry. Any of you live on the seashore – and let your kids play in that water?

Are we approaching EOL? The end-of-life for the Rio Grande?


Click to enlargeLaura Paskus

PILAR, NM — From his cabin on the Rio Grande, river runner Steve Harris watches the flows of the river ebb and peak throughout the year. When the water runs clear, he glimpses northern pike below the surface. In winter, bald eagles nest along the river. And throughout the year, foxes and beavers, bears and badgers traipse through the yard.

“This is my retreat to go back to after foraying out into the water wars,” he says, only half-joking. “Uncle Steve” has been running the Rio Grande, in one place or another, for about 35 years. And he’s been defending the river about that long, too.

As drought has intensified over the past few years, however, trying to protect what’s left of the river has gotten harder and harder…

That’s a chronic problem: For instance, as New Mexico reinitiates a statewide water-planning process dating back to the 1980s, officials have said they’re not incorporating the effects of climate change into the equation.

Yet less precipitation and higher temperatures seem to be colliding with the river’s future…

The push-up dam outside Harris’s cabin is the first diversion structure on the Rio Grande in New Mexico. It diverts water into a small acequia that sustains a few acres of pasture and a garden in the village. “Once you get below here, the river’s been diverted to some degree or another,” he says, ticking off the biggest dams and reservoirs downstream: Cochiti, Elephant Butte and Caballo. “And on this same river, if we drove a thousand miles downstream, it would be dry.”

Traveling through an arid landscape susceptible to drought, the Rio Grande has often flowed in fits and starts. But until its waters were tamed in the 20th century—by dams, canals and increasingly sophisticated irrigation ditches—the river would also overflow its banks and swell across the wide floodplain.

Those floods could wreak havoc on settlements and inundate farmland. But they also nurtured native fish species, gave birth to the cottonwood forests and helped push the river toward the sea. Today, the river is constricted and controlled, sucked dry by the demands of irrigators and cities and prevented from navigating new channels.

As drought continues and climate change ramps up, the “Big River” is on its way to being the first of many climate casualties in New Mexico. And unless we all reconnect to Rio Grande—recognize its importance as a living river—our grandchildren might not know it as a force of nature…

The numbers are sobering. But they shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. Climate scientists have long been warning that the southwestern United States will experience warmer temperatures.

Authors of the National Climate Assessment’s 2013 report noted that in the Southwest, the period since 1950 has been warmer than any period of comparable length in at least 600 years and that recent flows in the four major drainage basins of the Southwest, including the Rio Grande, have been lower than their 20th century averages. The report predicts continued warming, a decrease in late-season snowpack and continued declines in river flows and soil moisture.

From the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the New Mexico Environment Department, everyone has been issuing warnings about New Mexico’s water future.

During the Bill Richardson administration, the New Mexico Environment Department released a report detailing the potential effects of climate change on water resources, infrastructure, agriculture, natural systems, outdoor recreation tourism, environmental quality and health, low-income communities and communities of color and Native American communities.

Now, we’re starting the new year with the second term of a Republican governor owned lock-stock-and-two-loaded-barrels by the Oil Patch Boys. She cares more about engineering a gerrymandered electorate with a predictably complex photo ID system that satisfies both Homeland Insecurity and the Koch Bros.

Lip service is about as close as New Mexicans can get to acknowledgement of climate change from Governor Susana. Especially since she’s probably hoping to be the first Hispanic woman vice-presidential candidate.

The Democrats who remain in charge of the State Senate aren’t likely to be any more courageous than their cousins in Congress.

RTFA, though. It offers a detailed and well-described look along the course of the Rio and its decline.