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Tue, 19 Oct 2021
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Magnet

Northern lights are quietest in decades

Fairbanks - Ester photographer LeRoy Zimmerman made the switch to digital cameras this year to better capture the phenomenon known as the aurora borealis.

Now he just needs some aurora to work with.
Aurora Borealis
© Bob Martinson / The Associated Press
Aurora Borealis near Palmer, Alaska, on Feb. 29, 2008.

"There's nothing; it's really disappointing," Zimmerman said. "I've got my digital camera. I'm ready. Let's go."

Zimmerman isn't the only one wondering where the aurora borealis, commonly referred to as northern lights, are this winter. The Interior's normal wintertime light show has been noticeably absent this winter.

"I talk to people in town and everybody who knows what I do asks me, 'Where is the aurora? What's happening?'" said Dirk Lummerzheim, a research professor who studies the aurora borealis for the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

It's a legitimate question, and Lummerzheim has the answer.

"We are at the solar minimum," the UAF professor said. "When solar activity dies down like this, the aurora activity also diminishes in the north."

Hourglass

Chile's Chaiten volcano spews molten rock, ash

Chaiten Volcano
© Reuters/Cristian Brown / Intendencia Region de los Lagos/Handout
The Chaiten volcano spews a cloud of ash in Chaiten, some 1,220 km (760 miles) south of Santiago February 19, 2009.

Santiago - Chile's Chaiten volcano, which erupted spectacularly last year, spewed a vast cloud of ash as well as gas and molten rock on Thursday in a partial collapse of its cone, prompting a fresh evacuation.

Television footage showed a cloud of ash billowing into the sky over the town of Chaiten, which lies about six miles from the crater.

Authorities evacuated 160 people from the area. Around 7,000 nearby residents were evacuated last year after the volcano, dormant for thousands of years, erupted. The government is planning to relocate the town.

Officials from Chile's national emergency office, Onemi, flew over the volcano and saw a kilometer-long crack in the cone of ash that has steadily grown in the crater, part of which has collapsed.

"Large quantities of gases and pyroclastic material were observed," Onemi said in a statement, adding that rains in the area combined with the ash could cause flooding in and around the town of Chaiten, located 760 miles south of the capital Santiago.

Network

Ice Ages and Sea Level

The Earth is currently in an interglacial period of an ice age that started about two and a half million years ago. The Earth's current ice age is primarily caused by Antarctica drifting over the South Pole 30 million years ago. This meant that a large area of the Earth's surface changed from being very low-albedo ocean to highly reflective ice and snow. The first small glaciers were formed in Antarctica perhaps as long ago as 40 million years. They expanded gradually until, about 20 million years ago, a permanent ice sheet covered the whole Antarctic continent. About 10 million years later, glaciers appeared on the high mountains of Alaska, and about 3 million years ago, ice sheets developed on lower ground in high northerly latitudes.

Better Earth

Basic Geology Series - CO2 in the Atmosphere and Ocean

Ice cores clearly demonstrate the close relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature, as seen below.
Ice cores and co2
© unknown

This relationship has been well understood by geologists for longer than Al Gore has been alive.

As ocean temperatures rise, the solubility of CO2 in seawater declines. Thus increasing ocean temperature moves CO2 from the ocean into the atmosphere, and decreasing ocean temperatures move CO2 out of the atmosphere and back into the ocean. As you can see in the graph below, a 10C shift in temperature causes about 30% reduction in dissolved CO2. Closely corresponding to what we see in the measured ice core graph above.

Better Earth

Basic Geology Series - Vacationing on Venus

Magellan radar imaged Venus
© NASA
Magellan radar imaged Venus

In some ways, Venus is similar to earth. It is about the same size as the earth, has a nickel-iron core, and has volcanic activity due to radioactive heating in the interior. But that is where the similarities end. Venus has some serious problems as a vacation spot - mainly that it is extremely hot and the atmosphere is a thick cloud of sulfuric acid, CO2 and other unpleasant chemicals.

So how did Venus get to be like that, and why is the earth different?
  1. Venus is closer to the sun, which makes it hotter and prevents formation of oceans due to excessive evaporation.
  2. Venus suffered a traumatic collision in it's early days, which causes it to rotate very slowly and parallel to the ecliptic. This makes for long afternoons (thousands of hours long) which get extremely hot.
  3. Because of 1 and 2, Venus was never able to sequester CO2 in limestones like the earth.
For the last few billion years, volcanoes on earth have been spewing out the greenhouse gases H2O, CO2 and CH4, as well as, H2SO4, SO2, H2S, HCl and Cl2. If not for the oceans and limestone sequestration, we would have a very thick, hot acidic atmosphere like Venus which could not support life. Fortunately, temperatures and other conditions on earth were just right to allow huge volumes of CO2 to move into the oceans and precipitate carbonate rock layers, where the CO2 became sequestered. This makes earth the pleasant place which we all enjoy.

Sun

The heliospheric current sheet as solar cycle proxy

Heliospheric current sheet
© Public Domain
Heliospheric current sheet

Many readers are familiar with a number of solar proxies used to gauge the activity of the sun, the most familiar being sunspot counts and type. However they aren't the only metric you can use to determine when one cycle ends and another begins. The Heliospheric Current Sheet sounds a bit like a "newsletter" and in a sense it is, because it can announce the true end of solar cycle 23.

From Wikipedia:
The heliospheric current sheet (HCS) is the surface within the Solar System where the polarity of the Sun's magnetic field changes from north to south. This field extends throughout the Sun's equatorial plane in the heliosphere.The shape of the current sheet results from the influence of the Sun's rotating magnetic field on the plasma in the interplanetary medium (Solar Wind). A small electrical current flows within the sheet, about 10−10 A/m². The thickness of the current sheet is about 10,000 km.

The underlying magnetic field is called the interplanetary magnetic field, and the resulting electric current forms part of the heliospheric current circuit.[4] The heliospheric current sheet is also sometimes called the interplanetary current sheet.

Syringe

Manila to slaughter 6,000 pigs to stop Ebola spread

The Philippines will slaughter 6,000 pigs at a hog farm north of the capital Manila to prevent the spread of the Ebola-Reston virus, health and farm officials said on Monday.

But the government has lifted a quarantine on a second hog farm after tests by experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and the Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed no more signs of the disease.

The country has more than 13 million heads of swine and the discovery of Ebola-Reston on two hog farms north of Manila was isolated, the government said.

Sun

Now well over 30 days without a cycle 24 sunspot

The last time we saw would could have been a cycle 24 sunspot, was on January 20th, 2009, but it was an oddball, and not clearly part of cycle 23 or 24. Spaceweather.com wrote that day:
A new sunspot [1011] is emerging inside the circle region - and it is a strange one. The low latitude of the spot suggests it is a member of old Solar Cycle 23, yet the magnetic polarity of the spot is ambiguous, identifying it with neither old Solar Cycle 23 nor new Solar Cycle 24. Stay tuned for updates as the sunspot grows.
The last time we had a true cycle 24 spot was on January 10th thru the 13th, with sunspot 1010, which had both the correct polarity and a high latitude characteristic of a cycle 24 spot. But since then no other cycle 24 spots have emerged.

Attention

Heavy Snows Across Europe

Up To 2m of New Snow In Seven Days for Austria And Switzerland

Image
© Ski Info

It is still snowing heavily in Austria, German and Switzerland with many resorts receiving more than a metre of new snow in the past week. Switzerland had the largest falls of all with Sorenberg reporting an incredible 210cm (seven feet) of snow falling in the past seven days (the biggest fall of 60cm/two feet yesterday, February 17th). St-Cergue La Dole came close with 200cm (6.6 feet), 50 cm of which also fell yesterday. Zermatt continues to have the biggest snow depth in Europe and probably the world with 7.12m (24 feet) on the glacier.

In Austria the greatest snowfall of the past week has accumulated at the Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald which reports 135cm (over four feet) of new snow. Salbach Hinterglemm Leogang added 80cm (nearly three feet); the SkiWelt (including Söll and Going) 70cm (over two feet) and St. Anton am Arlberg 55cm (nearly two feet). The Kleinwalsertal area on the boarder between Austria and Germany received 65cm (Over two feet) of new snow in the past week, which according to Ralf Koberle of Kleinwalsertal Tourismus is, "Natural snow of the best quality - so our snowmakers take a break." The resorts with the most snow in the country now have nearly four metre (13 feet) depths.

Binoculars

Calls Mount for Obama to Fire NASA Climate Chief

Calls are mounting for President Barack Obama to fire James Hansen, the controversial figure in charge of climate studies at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Hansen has a record of allegedly doctoring temperature data to hype his argument that global warming is a crisis. The new calls for his resignation or termination come following his appearance in a video calling for civil disobedience at a protest at a power plant in Washington, DC.

"It is plainly improper for someone on the U.S. government payroll to advocate civil disobedience on behalf of a non-government advocacy group," said Dan Miller, executive vice president of The Heartland Institute and former chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission. "As long as a public official is on the public payroll, his first loyalty is to his constituency, not to some outside pressure group calling on people to break the law," Miller said.