Earth Passes a New Climate Milestone


Charlie Riedel/AP

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in May were 50 percent higher than during the pre-industrial era, reaching levels not seen on Earth for about four million years, the main US climate agency said on Friday.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed the threshold of 420 parts per million (ppm), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. PPM is a unit of measurement used to quantify pollution in the atmosphere…

Last May, the rate was 419ppm, and in 2020, 417ppm.

Global warming caused by humans, particularly through the production of electricity using fossil fuels, transport, the production of cement, or even deforestation, is responsible for the new high, the NOAA said…

Its warming effect is already causing dramatic consequences, noted NOAA, including the multiplication of heatwaves, droughts, fires or floods…

“We have known about this for half a century, and have failed to do anything meaningful about it. What’s it going to take for us to wake up?”

What will it take…indeed? Humans are great at passing the buck. And, then, we complain about the cost figures generated by the public and private bodies charged with providing solutions.

Time for excuses has run out.

A “California” solution to a legal problem


Stephen Ausmus/USDA

Bumblebees are eligible for protection as endangered or threatened “fish” under California law, a state appeals court held in a win for environmental groups and the state’s Fish and Game Commission.

The Sacramento-based California Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s ruling Tuesday for seven agricultural groups who argued that the California Endangered Species Act…expressly protects only “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants” – not insects.

While “fish” is “commonly understood to refer to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the Legislature … is not so limited,” Associate Justice Ronald Robie wrote for the appeals court…

“Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumblebee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species,” Robie wrote, joined by Acting Presiding Justice Cole Blease and Associate Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch.

Matthew Sanders of Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic hailed the decision as “a win for the bumblebees, all imperiled invertebrates in California, and the California Endangered Species Act.”

Of course. And it’s easier than trying to nudge California legislators into doing something useful.

Giant sinkhole has a forest at the bottom

A team of Chinese scientists has discovered a giant new sinkhole with a forest at its bottom…The sinkhole is 630 feet (192 meters) deep, according to the Xinhua news agency, deep enough to just swallow St. Louis’ Gateway Arch. A team of speleologists and spelunkers rappelled into the sinkhole on Friday (May 6), discovering that there are three cave entrances in the chasm, as well as ancient trees 131 feet (40 m) tall, stretching their branches toward the sunlight that filters through the sinkhole entrance.

George Veni (executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) in the U.S) said…The discovery is no surprise…because southern China is home to karst topography, a landscape prone to dramatic sinkholes and otherworldly caves. Karst landscapes are formed primarily by the dissolution of bedrock, Veni said. Rainwater, which is slightly acidic, picks up carbon dioxide as it runs through the soil, becoming more acidic. It then trickles, rushes and flows through cracks in the bedrock, slowly widening them into tunnels and voids. Over time, if a cave chamber gets large enough, the ceiling can gradually collapse, opening up huge sinkholes.

Fascinating article. I’m familiar with sinkholes here in the States; but, some of the examples found in southern China are seriously unique.

Fires we’re dealing with

“A time-lapse captured by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, shows two devastating events happening in the Western United States. The first is a wildfire outbreak in northern New Mexico that started last month and has intensified in the past two weeks, fueled by extreme drought and high winds. The second is a dust storm caused by violent winds in Colorado.
Seven large fires were burning in New Mexico as of Tuesday, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. The satellite image shows four of them. The westernmost is the Cerro Pelado fire, covering about 27,000 acres near the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The northernmost is the Cooks Peak fire, covering about 59,000 acres near Taos. Just south of that are the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, which merged around April 22 into one huge, 160,000-acre blaze.”

The Cerro Pelado fire is the one that smokes us. Days with a NW wind, I only get in an early morning walk before winds rise.

Smoky sunrise

Usually, this sunrise would be sharp and clear … not blurred. The distortion is the result of forest fires ravaging portions of New Mexico. Look to the left of the sun and you can see the layer of smoke that settled on the mountains – and our whole landscape – overnight.

The wind, today, is supposed to come from the SSW which will blow the smoke away from La Cieneguilla, west and south of the city of Santa Fe. Outdoor life in our portion of the county should return to something more like normal. Whatever that means?

ISS transiting the Sun


Wang Letian

It’s not uncommon to spot the International Space Station as a light moving across the sky just after sunset or before sunrise, when the Sun’s light reflects off it. The view you see here, though, is far from common. Chinese astrophotographer Wang Letian used a solar telescope and specialized camera to capture this series of photos, combined into a single image of the ISS passing in front of the Sun. You can see several gaseous prominences around the edge of the Sun as well as a dark sunspot.

A labor of love. Unique beauty the result.

Text describing the photo is from the Planetary Society newsletter, The Downlink.

Look! – There’s Edgar.

This is supposed to be a birdbath and a drinking dish for the smaller birds that populate Lot 4. However, Edgar – that’s what we call our favorite raven – has been showing up the past few days for an occasional drink.

We love his visits and this is the first time I was able to grab an iPhoto of him. Very sensitive to movement at the windows of the house.

Brave first flower

Walking the fenceline this afternoon … warmish, dry as bone – as it has been for months. Look what I found. All by itself, north side of Lot 4.

No, I haven’t any idea what her name is … no matter. Still below freezing at night. Hope she makes it to tomorrow.

Where is everyone?

That bottom bar in each infographic is children up to 4 years old. That portion will diminish ~38%. The infographic below these (switchable) two is interesting in how the researchers foresee response to modern alternatives – by country. They expect the GOUSA to continue to grow, albeit minimally. They expect the population of China to drop ~48%, Brazil ~28%, Japan ~58%. Consider what that means to per capita income, the overall stress on infrastructure, many other parameters.

And it’s only a beginning.