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:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dyson's Sphere of Influence, Part 2

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

I've been looking at climate modelling studies with a renewed vigor since reading Dyson's statement that projections of global warming are based on flawed climate models. It's not only Dyson's comment that provokes me. The climate models fallacy is promoted by many private interest groups trying to influence the COP21 climate talks in November. For example, the Cornwall Alliance is a group of faith-based, pro-fossil fuel, evangelicals:
Many fear that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use endanger humanity and the environment because they lead to historically unprecedented, dangerous global warming....
Computer climate models of the warming effect of enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide are the basis for that fear. -- An Open Letter on Climate Change to the People, their Local Representatives, the State Legislatures and Governors, the Congress, and the President of the United States of America. Cornwall Alliance, 2015. 
This letter also cites a lot of inaccurate and outdated information on the instrumental record, and credits the Judeo-Christian Heritage with the rise of the modern scientific method and dismisses computer modelling as not a reliable avenue of research.

So, I want to share what fictions climate models help us to maintain, and I didn't have to dig deep for good example, rather, just open my mailbox. My most recent issue of Nature (15 Oct. 2015) reports on modelling the loss of continental ice from Antarctica:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dyson's Sphere of Influence (Part 1)

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

I've been asked to comment on an essay by Freeman Dyson written in 2007 in which Dyson proposed some heresies about climate science. It seems unfair to criticize an essay from 8 years ago, but some of what he said was demonstrably wrong in 2007 and a recent interview from 2015 suggests his opinion hasn't evolved since then. A physicist with his reputation has the potential to influence a lot of people, so it's worthwhile to examine if his sphere of influence should extend to the realm of climate science. The recent interview with Dyson coincides with a release of a report by the special interest group The Global Warming Policy Foundation in which Freeman Dyson wrote the introduction. The latter two items appear to be in preparation for the upcoming climate talks in Paris, possibly with the goal of influencing public opinion.
This is part 1 of two or more posts in which I'm commenting on the following:
Part 1
  • Dyson should acknowledge the entire scope of climate science before downplaying it's conclusions. 
  • The greenhouse effect is often described inadequately, even by physicists.
  • Ocean acidification, a result of our rate of CO2 emissions, is a well-acknowledged problem and missing from Dyson's commentary.
Part 2
  • It's dangerous to use regional climate change to justify global climate change.
  • What does land-use management and genetic engineering offer for mitigating our CO2 emissions? 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Super harvest killer blood moon

I'm enjoying hyperbole in the title. Last night was the lunar eclipse at perihelion and harvest moon. I was able to get photos with my 3-inch refractor by running back and forth along the front sidewalk to dodge my neighbor's trees.

First presentable photo after moon rise:

A little adjustment to the exposure brought out a double-red effect: red from lunar eclipse and red from being low in the sky.

First blood, that is, the first photo that shows the moon completely red with a hint of an airplane in the lower left:

At this point, I started noticing stars in the picture:

Here, I painfully discovered that in the rush to find a clear view between trees, I hadn't polar aligned my scope suitably for a 15-second exposure. I captured a plane in that time, but the stars and moon moved in picture, leaving them blurry:

Polar alignment was corrected in this photo exposed long enough to bring the stars out:

And this one:

The minutes before or after totality are under-rated in my opinion. This is the best time to image a band of purple on the umbra's edge.

All of these photos were made possible by my neighbor's kind attention to good lighting.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Astronomy Night at Marna O'Brien Park, Wildomar

This Saturday, Sept. 19, is another astronomy night in Marna O'Brien Park, 20505 Palomar Road, Wildomar, CA. Events include pizza sales starting around 6:00 pm, a telescope giveaway, a presentation around 7:30, and star gazing through telescopes till 10:00 pm.

The telescope giveaway is a free raffle of Galileoscopes, a 50 mm telescope that must be assembled. The assembly is a rewarding learning experience. At last year's event, a child assembled his scope during my 30-minute presentation. The Galileoscopes are provided by a sponsor, whose identity I don't know yet, but will be announced at the event.

Highlights of the evening are the crescent moon, Saturn, Ring Nebula, and the Milky Way.

The presentation is for kids of all ages and adults. The presentation will occur even if clouds scuttle the observing. Rain and severe weather will cancel the whole event, but neither is forecast for Saturday.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Small notice on CNN

On July 22, 2015, CNN posted an article about the University of Queensland's free online course called Denial 101. The course is developed by John Cook, creator of the website Skeptical Science and to which I contribute illustrations and articles. Many of my illustrations were used in the course and a few of them appear in the video samples included with the CNN article here:

The course required some new illustrations and animations from me, and I'll be adding these to the Skeptical Science climate graphics resources:

A shortened link to my illustrations is here:

From Denial 101, lecture


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Life in the Zone, a presentation at the Temecula Library, July 14, 2015

On July 14, 2015, I will be presenting with my fellow Temecula Valley Astronomer Chuck Dyson at the Temecula Library. Our topic is Life in the Zone, a look at the search for life in our stellar neighborhood. The library kindly made this flyer for the event:


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Antikythera Device, modelling its elliptical motion

The Antikythera Mechanism is a hunk of metal fragments found in the Mediterranean Sea over 100 years ago. Numerous scholars have demonstrated that it is the corroded remains of a calculator of celestial motions, built around 2000 years ago.

I've dabbled with a few illustrations of the object and its origin in my show The Astro Time Machine. Since creating this show, I've worked a little on my animation of how this device was thought to portray the motion of the moon's elliptical orbit.

The journal Nature published a description of the use of a pin and slot mechanism to create elliptical motion. I've created an animated version of the pin and slot mechanism on my website (Pin and Slot):

My model is simplified. I'm showing only the pinned and slotted gears, which is enough to show how this arrangement produces elliptical motion.  The actual device would have had a minimum of four gears for the same motion, similar to this exploded diagram:

And using four gears would have allowed the modeling of additional motions, such as the change in axis of the moon's orbit.

I don't claim to accurately show the arrangement of gears used in the Antikythera device. My animation is meant only to show how two wheels with a pin and slot produce the motion of an elliptical orbit. My animated model could easily be replicated with real wheels for a classroom project. Gears could be replaced with wheels connected by belts of elastic cord. With the correct tools, I think it would be easier to build a real elliptical motion mechanism than to program a model, at least for me.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Worst community safety lighting ever

A community near me endures the worst street lighting I've ever seen. It ranks worse among stiff competition by being the primary lighting for the community.

From an distance, the light fixtures are attractive.

And a close-up shows the ornamentation:

But at night, they turn into glare bombs. Their placement at every corner ensures that every direction a motorists looks includes glare to obstruct a safe view of the street.

Glare bombs, looking west

Glare bombs, looking east (before a car approached). 
Notice the strong shadows, now imagine the same 
shadows between parked cars.

While documenting these lights, a car intruded into my photo, making for a good comparison. Notice how the light and glare from the approaching car is comparable to the glare from the streetlights:

Car approaches from one block away

Car reaches the nearest intersection 
and appears as bright at the street light 
that is a block away.

I know of no one who sees better while in the beam of car headlights. (That's why we have low-beams). Yet, people don't question the same quality of light when mounted for "our safety and protection".

Watch out in these neighborhoods. You may not see the child or pet that foolishly enters the street or the rock or nail that can break your tire. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rattling a Snake

When I climb through places that could harbor a rattlesnake, I make loud claps to improve the chance that a rattlesnake might hear me and start moving away, or start rattling. Yesterday I had the opportunity to test this method. I encountered a dozing rattlesnake, so I recorded before and after making a loud clap to wake it. The loud clap didn't disturb it in the slightest. I conclude that one shouldn't be confident that making noise will help avoid a rattlesnake encounter.

I will add that most of my snake encounters fall into two categories: One, like this one, where the snake makes no motion or sound, and two, where the snake quickly hides and rattles. These responses appear to have more to do with the mood of the snake than with anything proactive that I can do.


Update: A closeup, as the video didn't capture the snake clearly:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pluto System Animation (Pre-New Horizons)

I had trouble finding an interactive model of the Pluto system on the Web. There are either two many static illustrations that clutter up search results or not enough of the interactive kind, so I created my own, which is available on my website here:

Interactive Pluto system animation

I used the now archaic Flash to program to effect the animation. I respected the orbit distances and speed of revolution, but didn't attempt to scale the sizes of Pluto and it's moons.

Most important, I wanted a way to compare Pluto to our Earth-Moon system. Buttons will scale to the Earth-Moon system size and display our Moon. You can also tilt the orbits to get an aesthetically pleasing view.

Regrettably, the animation doesn't work on most mobile devices. I'll be working on version that does. The delay in producing the mobile device version will be advantageous in that I can build in any new discoveries made by the New Horizons space probe. Now, my animation may look like an old map of Europe before a world war. In one month, this may be the archaic pre-New Horizons map of the Pluto system.


Update: A great visual summary by Nature:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Coleman Is Synonymous with Glare Bomb

A few years ago when the company Hostess was in crisis, a problem acknowledged by the company was that their two most well known products, Twinkies and white bread, had become objects of derision. That is how I always felt about Coleman's contribution to the outdoors. Coleman brings to mind an obnoxiously bright light that takes away the enjoyment of camping and the night sky. The typical Coleman lantern is designed to throw light everywhere, compromising the night vision of it's owners, so they require more light, and creating glare for the neighbors. With a Coleman lantern, you can harass fellow campers hundreds of yards away in all directions. Most of my dark sky adventures are impaired by such lanterns because they lack appropriate shielding and are too bright for their task.

It never occurred to me the Coleman would want this association, such that when you think "Coleman" you think "glare bomb",  but recently, I noticed the branding on a Coleman easy-up.

The tarp seems to say, "Remember that obnoxious light? That is our brand".

I'd recommend a slogan to go with it, "Coleman: keeping the outdoors urban" or "Coleman: bring the glare with you".

The solution is so simple: create a lantern that directs light downward and sell a mounting pole accessory to hold the lamp at chest or eye level for adequate illumination of one's campground while preserving the ability for all to see.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Rock Rings (from December 2014)

I have a new puzzle to sort out. Last December, I examined some rocks in a nearby canyon that where covered by silt, but had rings at various former water levels. The rings are levels on the rock that got cleansed, while the rest of the rock is covered with a fine layer of sediment as the water receded. What mechanism would cause the selective cleaning?

My guess is that as the water slowly receded, it would deposit sediment on the rocks. Then, if the rain resumed, we might get a freshened surface layer of water that would cleanse the rocks. The puzzle is how an increase in rain would remain less silty than the rest of the flow. It seems logical: the first rains loosen most of the material that becomes silt, and later rains loosen less. But the water has to flow down the canyon, so any turbidity would be stirred up by the freshened flow. But it seems reasonable that an increase in flow with fresher water at the surface could clean the rocks and leave clean rings.

Other photos:

Suds formed, a presume from natural elements.

Typical muddy flow as canyon drains and water levels drop.

More rings with debris deposits.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ace Hardware Out of Touch

I like my local Ace Hardware store, but their recent mail advertisement is out of touch with Californians and with my community. Below is the flyer I received in the mail yesterday, plus my annotations.

Corporations do not have to be insensitive to make money. The flyer could have advertised low-flow shower heads, more efficient sprinklers, or other products urgently needed to help cut water use. Their concept of a green, fertilized, and chemically treated yard is also outdated, primarily, for being water dependent. Our water utility is offering help with removing lawns, while Ace is saying make them greener. Why? So they yards will be more valuable as sod?

The last item missed another opportunity. Wildomar is trying to preserve our dark sky for our own enjoyment as well as to help preserve research at nearby Palomar Observatory. Ace could be promoting lighting that provides safety and security without creating glare, cluster, light trespass, and light pollution.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lighting in Wildomar: Glarebombs slip though the cracks

A new building in Wildomar has installed lighting that violates Wildomar's municipal code and creates a safety hazard near a public school.

The Wildomar City Council has taken action on lighting violations in the past, and so this presents another problem-solving opportunity. It may be difficult to correct this building, as so much lighting has already been installed. The parking lot lighting needs to be of a lower color temperature (no higher that 3500 k). The wall-mounted glare bombs are useless, and need to removed or replaced. Even the decorative post lamps fail because they aren't adequately shielded.

These glare bombs are on Bundy Canyon Road across from Elsinore High School, a route that is frequently tread by youth showing poor judgment when crossing roads. The area is fairly dark, but now a motorist will have to see the students' dark silhouettes against the glare from the building.

This is how a community loses its dark sky.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lunar Eclipse, 3 April 2015

I've been in the desert for a couple days chasing the eclipse but caught a few other gems as well. Photo 1 is the eclipse, which makes me want to draw a distinction between total visual and total photographic. This eclipse skirted the edge of the earth's inner shadow and though it appeared completely in shadow, none of my photos show a completely shadowed moon.

These photos show one of those scenes not seen in nature, except when it is seen in nature. You will never see a setting crescent moon with the lit side of the crescent up, unless of course, it's a partial eclipse that is setting with the shadow conveniently on the bottom side. 

Below is a sun pillar that greeted me on sunrise (the vertical column about the point of sunrise). 

Last is the kind of thing perhaps only I like: a contrail being replaced by it's own shadow.