Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Five Planets in the Morning Sky (January and February 2016)

All five planets visible to the naked eye are in the morning sky. If you have a low eastern horizon, and a clear sky, here's what you might see at 5:50 to 6:10 am:

(UPDATE: I added a new composite photographed on 30 Jan)

Old composite: 

(Click the picture, if necessary, to enlarge it)

Mercury is below the house in this picture, but all others are shown. I labelled a couple stars too. Note the Antares looks like Mars, and that is the origin of its name (the opposite or rival of Ares/Mars). The moon will be waning and each day moving eastward approximately along the curve outlined by these planets.

And, of course, by visible to the naked eye, I'm not counting Earth.


Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ghost of Climate Future

It's Christmas day, and for many, we've opened our presents and now post-gift-giving depression is setting in. So why not read Part 3 of the Ghosts of Climate Past, Present, and Future?

This diagram is my favorite of the three I drew for this story, and it depicts a real tank that used to be parked in my neighborhood.

I love that I can finally use my neighbor's tank, though my memory of details is a bit faded because other neighbors found the tank an easy target of their complaints and had it removed the from street. I, however, loved the tank and thought it showed politeness from the owner: that is, among other neighbor's RVs and boats parked on the street, this neighbor was the only one attempting to camouflage his vehicle. (In case my joke isn't clear, the tank was painted army green with foliage-like splotches, colors you'd expect of a combat vehicle.)


Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Ghosts of Climate Past, Present, and Future

I had the opportunity of contributing a few illustrations to a three-part post on Skeptical Science. The post plays off of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carole and portrays an unnamed US politician being visited by the ghosts of climate past, present, and future.

This story shows a future under a plausible scenario in which humanity's greenhouse gas emissions continue the current trend resulting in a scenario labeled RCP 8.5, meaning the additional greenhouse gases increase the energy in the climate system by 8.5 watts per meter compared to pre-industrial conditions.

This figure is from a recent paper in Nature Climate Change by Fuss et al. the black line shows our historical emissions up to 2015. All lines after 2015 are hypothetical scenarios. Note that so far, we follow the red line leading to 8.5 watts per meter or global average temperature increases of 2.3 - 5.4 degrees Celsius.

From Betting on Negative Emissions, Nature Climate Change 4, 850–853 (2014)

As of today, 24 December 2015, Parts 1 and 2 of the series are released:

Ghost of Climate Past
Ghost of Climate Present
Ghost of Climate Future (to be released in the future)

My etchings:

Ghost of Climate Past accosts an unnamed United States politician

Ghost of Climate Present whisks our protagonist away to a collapsing Antarctic ice shelf


Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Letter to My State Assembly Representative, Melissa Melendez, regarding Planned Parenthood

Dear Assemblywoman Melendez:
I don't like to engage politicians over issues related to one's core values, but I feel you've made an error in your statements and position regarding the operations and funding of Planned Parenthood. On 29 July 2015 you released a request for an audit of Planned Parenthood. While you have that right, and the language in your audit request is within the realm of acceptable discourse, it is your public statements accompanying this release that are inflammatory, display ignorance, and show indifference to common values of our nation.
Your actions created three errors that I expect better from my state assembly representative:

  • One, your provocation was a privately-produced video. I shouldn't have to tell you that the video media is very easy to manipulate for the purpose of deceiving viewers. For example, videos argue that the Apollo moon landings were faked and that global warming is not real, and as a result many citizens believe these myths. You should have waited until a more careful review of the video's claims could be reported before taking action. Now, it's clear that extensive edits to the videos show that it is not an honest portrayal of any significant sequence of events. The video creator has also confessed to inserting fictional material.
  • Two: Your statements on 29 July 2015 that Planned Parenthood was engaging in "illegal" and "black market" activities dismisses the notion that in this country the accused is innocent until proven guilty.
  • Three: You've added accusations of "chop-shop", "illegal" and "black market" to an organization that is now enduring an increase in the severity of terrorism. These words coming from a state legislator are irresponsible. How can your words not affect people prone to committing arson and murder who believe they have a righteous cause and an elected official's support? Consider the arson on Oct 1, 2015 at the Thousand Oaks Planned Parenthood and now the murders on Nov. 27, 2015 at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

I come from a family that is majority women, any of which could need Planned Parenthood's services, ranging from contraception, cancer screening, prenatal services, adoption referrals, STI/STD testing, and abortion. What medical services they seek is their business. However, you've helped make it the business of would-be terrorists and witch-hunting politicians.
So please, walk back your public statements. Undo the damage, and show that you

  • Recognize that propaganda should not form the basis of legislative action,
  • That you recognize the American value of innocent till proven guilty,
  • And that you denounce erroneous statements that can be the antecedents to criminal and terrorist actions.

Thank you,
John Garrett

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Moon dog

On Oct. 24th, 2015, I saw my second ever moon dog. A moon dog is the same phenomenon as a sun dog but the light source is the moon instead of the sun. Moon dogs are more rare than sun dogs:

  • The moon is dimmer, so the effect is less noticeable.
  • At least half the time, the moon is in a phase that is less than half full, so it provides too little light to observe the prism effect
In the following photos, the moon is on the right and is over-exposed. The moon dog is the splash of light and color near the tree. Also visible in the pictures is the 22-degree ice halo that is commonly seen around the sun and moon:


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Plume and Gloom: A Trident II missile makes a mysterious blue blob in the southern California sky

Around 6:10 pm on Saturday evening (7 Nov 2015)  I got a call from my cousin in San Diego wondering if I could see and if I knew what the great green blob in the western sky was. I think I suggested a rocket launch or noctilucent cloud but would have a look. I was surprised to see what appeared to be a green blob high in the west. It didn't look like previous rocket trails I'd seen, so I began photographing:

I was surprised by the blue color and the lack of a clear trail. (However on the following morning modified the output levels of my photos and could clearly see the trail on the left of the blob.)

I entertained a variety of explanations. I googled noctilucent clouds, vaporized meteors, and circular aurora. Of course, the most obvious, a launch that had been announced in the news and was the reason that the LA Airport had stopped outgoing flights, was pointed out to me though the wonders of social media. In my defense, it was hard to see a trail which lacked the mother-of-pearl tendrils common in launches.

The effect reminds me of comet Holmes from 2007. This comet expanded greatly over a month, but by virtue of it's orbit and Earth's, it remained in the same area of the sky for a month. Thus, we were looking at it from behind and therefore seeing a plume but no tail.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dyson's Sphere of Influence, Part 3: The Garden of Eden

(This is part 3 in a series of posts Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4)

One thing that scientists and conservative Christians may agree on is that there was a garden of Eden six thousand years ago; however, they may not agree on it's location nor its size. The garden I speak of is what is now the Sahara Desert. Ray Pierrehumbert describes the mid-holocene climatic optimum as a time in which forests extended farther north in Europe and rivers flowed in the Sahara (Principles of Planetary Climate, Chapter 1). The wet Sahara was probably a climate response to Earth's orbital precession, Earth's wobbling top-like motion that determines how the sun's energy is distributed globally.
Regarding the wet Sahara, Dyson said:
Six thousand years ago seems to have been the warmest and wettest period of the interglacial era that began twelve thousand years ago when the last Ice Age ended. I would like to ask two questions. First, if the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is allowed to continue, shall we arrive at a climate similar to the climate of six thousand years ago when the Sahara was wet? Second, if we could choose between the climate of today with a dry Sahara and the climate of six thousand years ago with a wet Sahara, should we prefer the climate of today? My second heresy answers yes to the first question and no to the second. It says that the warm climate of six thousand years ago with the wet Sahara is to be preferred, and that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may help to bring it back. I am not saying that this heresy is true. I am only saying that it will not do us any harm to think about it. (Dyson 2007, Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society)
The statements in this passage struck me as odd. I've perused many Holocene climate reconstructions and I didn't recall any prominent global spikes in temperature from this period, but my knowledge is incomplete. As a check on my memory, I consulted some graphs of ice core data plotted for Greenland and Antarctica and confirmed that nothing exceptional affected Greenland and Antarctica: