Archive for April, 2009

earth day, reprise

First GOES-11 Image

First GOES-11 Image

Following last year’s earth day post I decided to do a short reprise of a few images of earth. Above is the first image sent back by the GOES-11 satellite on May 17th, 2000. You may not be familiar with the GOES satellites directly, but this type of satellite provides all of the visible cloud and water vapor imagery that gets shown during the weather section of the news. One of the most amazing things I notice in this image is the strong linear feature of clouds just north of the equator. This is called the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and is where the air from the northern and southern hemispheres meet and ascend. We write equations about it, talk about it in theory, but there it is!


Collapsed Larsen B Ice Shelf

Larsen B Ice Shelf

This next image shows the Larsen B Ice Shelf (on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula) during 2000 before its rapid collapse (over 35 days) in 2002. From NASA “[the shelf] lost 3,250 square kilometers (about 1,255 square miles) — an area somewhat larger than Rhode Island — sending a plume of icebergs into the Weddell Sea.” The collapse of such a large piece of ice in connection with the warming observed at these locations (about 3 degrees since the 1940′s) makes it a physical realization of the climate change I know is coming.
For more about Larsen B see “Fragment of its Former Shelf” from NASA earth observatory.

Climate Models

CCSM3 T341, November

CCSM3 T341, November - click to load video

My last image is not actually an image of the Earth directly, but a computer model simulation of the atmosphere calculated at very high resolution. I use this same model (at a much lower resolution) to run experiments to find how vegetation can influence climate. The videos have water vapor shown in white and rain shown in orange. I could watch these simulations all day…

Look at the Amazon and Congo rainforests for the orange pulse of the daily cycle in precipitation! There are even hurricanes! Last year I talked about how the complexity and heterogeneity of the earth’s surface makes me think it is impossible to write down in the form of equations. This year I’ll go with optimism. These results look like a real atmosphere. Amazing!

(I have limited video embedding skills (or desire to gain such skills) so please bear with me for the screen shot and link) To see more months or view the entire year go to the Community Climate Model.

People often ask me if I get depressed studying global warming, but in truth, I don’t. I guess I feel good about the fact that I’m trying to do something about it in the best way I know how. I hope you can all do the same. Happy earth day everyone!

A Tour

photo by DC

I’m feeling fairly overwhelmed lately. I’m not as stressed out as I was last fall but I don’t feel like I have much room to breathe. I haven’t touched my spinning wheel in more than a month. A while back I made some things for a baby shower (discussed in my last post) but since then it has been slow going. I want to make a quilt for the new family but I just haven’t had the brain power to think it through.

Part of this is my own fault, for two main reasons:
1. Two years ago I volunteered to help run a College Sailing National Championship. Now I’m getting endless emails and phone calls about something that is not part of my daily life anymore (it wasn’t part of my life when I volunteered either, but somehow I didn’t think that through). I just have to spend the next month and a half trying not to go insane with all the details and hope that the event goes smoothly.

2. I’ve been keeping up my pace of going on lots of trips. Some are work related, but a while back I invited myself to go along on a backpacking trip to Utah with an old friend. It made my schedule hectic but the trip was so fantastic that I have no regrets about it. In fact, I think I should make a point of going on more trips like it.

Here is a brief tour of my trip through photos, you can see the whole set here.
We walked up the virgin river in Zion National Park. I’ve only ever done this in the summer and there is a good reason why. Between the 40 degree water, the 40 degree air, and the reasonably quick current, it was a bit treacherous. It was fun though, and there were no casualties. The light was reflecting twice in this photo, once off the canyon wall around the corner and then again off the wet surface on the wall opposite me.

We came across this grotto up a side canyon during our backpacking stint. It is rare to see so much water in the desert. This place was very special indeed.

There is something about the landscape in the southwest that makes the space seem vast and empty. Here we are standing on the rim of the Escalante river canyon just after ascending out of it. The vertical scale may be smaller than other canyons in the area but the red sandstone walls are close and imposing. The whole experience is very impressive.

The Escalante region felt very remote compared to my usual life in the city, but there are constant reminders that people have been there even when none are to be found. Some of the reminders are modern, like the brand new composting toilet we came across in Coyote Gulch, but some are more ancient:

I think Southern Utah is my happy place. I usually tire of camping trips at about one week in, but this time I was ready to keep going. After I got home (and showered) I was ready to go back for more. It was sad that N wasn’t able to get a week off from work come on the trip but that seems to be the way things go in his line of work. I wish it wasn’t so far from home because I can’t wait to go back again.

April Showers

My friend and co-worker is having a baby. The fact in itself is not surprising at all, but what is more unusual is that this is the first time I feel involved. By involved, I mean that it has fallen to me to organize things like baby showers and post-birth food deliveries. The new parents are not American and their families live far away so I feel like it is our responsibility to provide a support structure. I should point out that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when to comes to babies or baby related things. I have no siblings, I never babysat while I was growing up and I don’t know the first thing about dealing with small children. I don’t know what is supposed to happen at a baby shower either, but there I was having one in my apartment.

The one part of this whole baby experience I do feel mildly comfortable with is making things. I started with my standard baby shower gift, a flannel blanket (monkeys above, tutorial here) but I wanted to make something more this time.

I decided on a baby sling. At the suggestion of collected orange I used this pattern as a guideline. I chose the most gender neutral fabric I could find in my stash (a waterbed sheet from my parents circa 1978?) and paired it with an undyed flannel. The result is cozy flannel on the inside, printed fabric on the outside.

I’m a little worried that I made it too big for Mom, but I think it should fit Dad. I have many other fabrics suitable for a mom-sling so if they like it I will plan to make another one a bit smaller.

I also wanted to knit some baby footwear. After 4 failed attempts (too small, too big, etc.) I settled on Saartje’s Bootees (rav link, web link see sidebar) and some Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere I had in my stash. The buttons are vintage from my grandmother’s button jar. I think the booties are adorable, I only hope that they will fit at some point!

The shower itself was fine, I made it a potluck and the new mom requested no games and no pink, so basically we sat, snacked and visited. I consider that a success.

Next up on my list is organizing some food for the new family post-birth. I don’t know if I should do this formally or just tell people about it and have a free-for-all of food getting dropped off. I have an extra freezer down the street lined up to help out but otherwise the only preparation I have done is to ask Mom what she wants and doesn’t want to eat. Does anyone have suggestions for me? What works well or doesn’t work well? I’d love to get advice from some people with firsthand knowledge!