Green Dragon in the Sky over Iceland


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A gargantuan green dragon hisses in the sky over Iceland. Either “Game of Thrones” really upped its production budget for its final season, or the sun belched a barrage of charged particles into our atmosphere again.

As much as any of us would like to see a real dragon breathe flames into the winter sky, buzzkill NASA blames solar activity — as usual — for the writhing, “fire-breathing”- aurora that loomed over Iceland earlier this month.

Of course, I like the GAME OF THRONES scenario.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Ravens are probably smarter than your four-year-old


birdsandblooms.com

❝ We’ve long known ravens aren’t your typical bird brain: Myths featuring the wily black bird extend from Aesop’s fables to Native American folklore.

In more recent times, experiments testing the problem-solving capabilities of ravens and their corvid kin, the jays and magpies, have shown these birds have cognition on par with people and some other great apes…

❝ [Swedish researchers] Kabadayi and Osvath designed a series of experiments with five captive birds to see if ravens can plan for an unseen future…

In almost identical experiments on four-year-olds, the ravens were technically more successful in planning ahead…than toddlers.

❝ The researchers also set up an experiment to test the birds’ bartering skills.

They instructed the ravens how to exchange tokens to get their favorite foods at a later time. Again, the birds passed these tests with flying colors over 90 percent of the time.

I admit to being crazy about ravens. That started decades ago watching the genetically-older, bigger versions common to places I spent camping, hill-walking, in Europe and the UK. RTFA for details of the experiments and where this all may lead.

NASA discovers massive hole melted away under Antarctic glacier

❝ A gigantic cavity – two-thirds the area of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall – growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries reported in a new NASA-led study of the disintegrating glacier. The findings highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change.

❝ Researchers expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at Thwaites’ bottom where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below. The size and explosive growth rate of the newfound hole, however, surprised them. It’s big enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years…

❝ About the size of Florida, Thwaites Glacier is currently responsible for approximately 4 percent of global sea level rise. It holds enough ice to raise the world ocean a little over 2 feet (65 centimeters) and backstops neighboring glaciers that would raise sea levels an additional 8 feet (2.4 meters) if all the ice were lost.

RTFA. Nice of the French and Germans to help us out with this research. Our government thinks we need more aircraft carriers and the beginnings of a whole new project to redesign rifles for the whole US Army.

Seals occupy California beach as a result of Trump’s Shutdown


Click to enlargeJohn Dell’Osso/AP

❝ Across the nation this week, returning federal workers slogged through backlogs of voicemails, sifted through bursting email inboxes and tried to remember the name of the childhood pet at the beginning of their log-in passwords.

At Drakes Beach, part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, employees had a much bigger problem. Literally. Some of the elephant seal squatters weigh as much as a car.

Before the shutdown — Park officials…used a decidedly low-tech method to enforce an armistice between the mammal species: They waved blue tarps to annoy the seals away from the areas most popular with Homo sapiens.

But the federal government apparently does not regard the tarp-wavers as essential federal employees, so the workers who did it were among the 800,000 furloughed.

❝ During that time, according to the Chronicle, high tides and storms battered the seals’ normal habitat.

So the seals showed up at the suddenly deserted Drakes Beach, and they brought friends and apparently family, too. Seals give birth during winter, and the unoccupied Drakes Beach appears to be an excellent place to raise pups.

Hilarious. Unintended consequences abound throughout the administration of our first fake president.

Melting glaciers reveal Canadian land hidden for 40,000 years


Southern Baffin IslandKike Calvo/AP

Melting ice is exposing hidden landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that haven’t been seen in more than 40,000 years, new research published in Nature Communications reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the study suggests climate change is the driving force behind this record-breaking glacial retreat and with Arctic temps rising at increasing speed thanks to strong positive feedback loops in the polar regions, we can expect things to heat up even quicker in the near future. According to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Canadian Arctic may be seeing its warmest century in as many as 115,000 years…

❝ Simon Pendleton and colleagues’ research is based on plants collected at the edge of ice caps on Baffin Island, the fifth-largest island in the world. The landscape is dominated by deeply incised fjords and high-elevation, low-relief plateaus. The latter conserves lichens and moss in their original position in the ice for periods of time lasting thousands of years — a little like a cryogenic chamber.

RTFA to learn why scientists like Pendleton have to be hot on the spot to gather samples of vegetation as it becomes exposed.

Blood Moon Tonight


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❝ The viewing circumstances for the eclipse of the full moon tonight will be as good as they can get for much of the United States and Canada. The eastern side of the continent has the best view, but the spectacle of the moon completely immersed in Earth’s shadow will be readily visible from coast to coast. The duration of totality will be longer than normal, too: It will last 1 hour and 2 minutes.

❝ The total phase of the eclipse will be visible from the Western Hemisphere, Europe and the western part of Africa, as well as the northernmost portions of Russia. In all, assuming good weather conditions, this shady little drama will have a potential viewing audience of some 2.8 billion people.

Everyone in our wee Santa Fe County Compound is reminded to remind me to get my butt outside to check this out, tonight.