Wildfire smoke ain’t like some family campfire, folks!


Daytime, Juniper Hills, California

The West Coast’s wildfire crisis is no longer just the West Coast’s wildfire crisis: As massive blazes continue to burn across California, Oregon, and Washington, they’re spewing smoke high into the atmosphere. Winds pick the haze up and transport it clear across the country, tainting the skies above the East Coast.

But what are you breathing, exactly, when these forests combust and waft smoke near and far? Charred trees and shrubs, of course, but also the synthetic materials from homes and other structures lost in the blazes. Along with a variety of gases, these give off tiny particles, known as PM 2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller), that weasel their way deep into human lungs. All told, the mixture of solids and gases actually transforms chemically as it crosses the country, creating different consequences for the health of humans thousands of miles apart. In other words, what you breathe in, and how hazardous it remains, may depend on how far you live from the Pacific coast…

As the smoke plume travels through the atmosphere, “the heavier particles are going to start to fall out as time moves on,” says Rebecca Buchholz, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “But then those sticky, partially burnt carbon gases are going to start to coagulate and become more particles again. So you’re losing particles out of the smoke, but you’re also gaining particles as the air processes through time.”

Another atmospheric nasty we’re all too familiar with forms as well: ozone, which inflames your airways. “Ozone requires carbon-containing gases, nitrogen-containing gases, and sunlight,” says Buchholz. “And so the more processing time you have, the more ozone is going to get created in that smoke plume.”

There are parts of the West where breathing the air has been evaluated as the equivalent of smoking 400 cigarettes! Today, wasn’t that bad in my neck of the prairie – here in northern New Mexico. But, after a morning try, I had to give up my usual regimen of exercise walking. My breathing, my eyes, just had too much of a bad thing to deal with.

The moment citizens in scrubs confronted fools


Click to enlarge — Alyson McClaran

People protesting against the stay-at-home orders in Colorado were confronted by a man and woman dressed in medical uniforms – apparently issuing a silent rebuke to participants…

Now the photojournalist behind the images tells the BBC what happened that day when “two worlds collided”…

They “stood their ground“, Ms McClaran said, even as some demonstrators shouted and hurled racist comments at the pair.

“It was honestly heartbreaking to see,” she said…

Yes, I’m aware the ignoranus brigade that fronts for Trump’s idiocy represents a small percentage of Americans. That doesn’t make their mob mentality any less dangerous.

A couple of brave folks.

Military warned about extremist violence at screenings of “JOKER” – no one warning civilians

❝ The U.S. military has warned service members about the potential for a mass shooter at screenings of the Warner Bros. film Joker, which has sparked wide concerns from, among others, the families of those killed during the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado…

In a September 18th email, service members were instructed to remain aware of their surroundings and “identify two escape routes” when entering theaters. In the event of a shooting…“Run if you can,” the safety notice said. “If you’re stuck, hide (also known as ‘sheltering in place’), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.”

RTFA for details, background – a copy of the Army email – and discussion of the Great American Pastime of mass murder.

Robot ATV carries firefighters’ gear

❝ In the fall of 2018, the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, along with wildland firefighters from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control worked with Honda in testing their Autonomous Work Vehicle in wildland firefighting support scenarios.

Located at the site of the Lake Christine fire, a destructive wildfire that took place the summer of 2018 in Eagle County, Colorado- CoE, DFPC and Honda tested the work vehicles using realistic scenarios that occur during a wildfire. The team focused on utilizing the vehicle to support wildland operations with the goal of enhancing safety and effectiveness. Three missions were tested including initial attack support for dismounted firefighters, support of active fireline development, and autonomous deployment of a communications repeater to a remote site. This evaluation was performed at the Lake Christine fire site after the fire was fully contained and controlled. The initial results of the tests were promising and the CoE looks forward to working with Honda to further this mission.

Yeah, the language is a little stilted, press release-English. The concept is smart and realistic, useful. Certainly, folks here in the Rockies concerned with wildfires would be pleased to see critters like this in use.

Landmark: Colorado residents win the right to store energy

❝ Colorado is among the first states in the country to grant residents the right to store energy without discrimination in rates or excessive barriers in connecting to the power grid…

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the landmark Senate Bill 9 into law Thursday, which declares “that consumers of electricity have a right to install, interconnect, and use energy storage systems on their property, and that this will enhance the reliability and efficiency of the electric grid, save money, and reduce the need for additional electric generation facilities.”

❝ Energy storage, or battery, system prices have dropped within the price range of some households and businesses, allowing them to capture surplus energy generated from renewable sources.

Utilities in other states opposed to battery systems, which lessen their control over the grid, have moved to block or establish different rates for customers who use them.

The Free Market in the Land of the Free.

Colorado Legalized Weed — Opioid Deaths Fell

❝ “Marijuana legalization in Colorado led to a “reversal” of opiate overdose deaths in that state, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years…”…

The authors stress that their results are preliminary, given that their study encompasses only two years of data after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014.”

❝ Pretty clear:

Even if one doesn’t replace the other there is no medical doubt the cannabis effect aids anxiety, withdrawal symptoms of lots of addictive substances. Probably helps rid your mind of political sophistry. 🙂

Who Would Pay to Hear Mike Pence? Not Many Republicans

❝ The Colorado Republican Party has slashed prices for Pence’s keynote address by 45 percent after failing to sell enough of the $275 tickets to the October 26 speech in Denver…

❝ The Party said…that the Vice President will still draw “our expected attendance of 400 supporters,” but spun the ticket price cut as a tip of the hat to low-level campaign workers.

❝ Colorado GOP officials maintain that Trump enjoys broad support in the state, but it is unclear if that’s the case. Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton beat the president 47 percent to 42 percent in the state in 2016. And Barack Obama crushed Mitt Romney in the state in 2012 in a 51 to 47 percent vote. The demographics of the state have been changing for decades; Hispanics now comprise 21.3 percent of population, up from 17 percent in 2000…

But, then, Republican statistics have depended for a long time on [1] declining voter turnout across the board to go along with their voter suppression efforts – and [2] Democratic Party unwillingness, inability to do a damned thing about [1].

National Weather Service offers up radar images of migrating butterflies

Seen lots of butterflies lately? Radars have, too, and their behavior isn’t exactly typical.

The National Weather Service out of Boulder posted two radar images on their Twitter Tuesday showing a giant blob of blue and red to the uneducated eye.

But meteorologists could tell that these images showed the migration of what was first believed to be birds, but later determined to likely be butterflies after the agency received several reports about the flying insects…

The flurry of activity started around sunrise Tuesday and continued throughout the day, he said. Migrating birds with their big wings and need to fly together in the same direction as the wind commonly produce a coherent radar signature like the one seen. It’s rare for insects to do that but a high quantity of migrating butterflies could…

Better than watching manmade chaff on the radar screen. Any day. Any night.

The Light from Coal begins to Flicker and Die in Colorado


Valmont Power PlantPaul Aiken/Daily Camera

❝ Xcel Energy Colorado has closed several coal plants over the past decade, usually to address air quality concerns in metro Denver. Those early closures have typically resulted in higher electricity rates for its customers.

But last week, the state’s largest utility made an economic argument for shuttering two of its coal-burning units in Pueblo a decade ahead of schedule, saying the move would address public demands for cleaner energy, significantly reduce air pollution, and lower electricity costs.

❝ Xcel Energy submitted its Colorado Energy Plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, including a request to shut down two units at the Comanche Generation Station in Pueblo with a capacity of 660 megawatts.

Bids will go out to replace that generation later this year, part of a much larger request for up to 1,000 megawatts of wind, 700 megawatts of solar and 700 megawatts of natural gas generation.

“We expect the Colorado Energy Plan portfolio will come in lower than current costs. It will significantly reduce customer bills,” said Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel at Western Resource Advocates, one of 14 groups involved in working out the agreement with Xcel.

As as the cost of producing electricity becomes cheaper and cheaper, the arguments for switching away from internal combustion engines to drive private transport and commerce will die along with the ideology of fools who advocate for suffocation and stillbirth. Profits rooted in unsound technology will drive profit only for fools and those who think they need fools to govern.