Wednesday, November 28, 2018

As we approach the solstice, days darken, skies go gray and so do spirits

Minimal decoration #1.
A friend of mine today was moaning about the dark days, overcast skies and general mild depression. Immediately I understood; I have been here before — when the short days approaching the solstice are complicated by continuously dark overcast skies. At this point, we have about 6 hours and 10 minutes of daylight along with about an hour at each end of what’s called civil twilight. It will get down to about five and a half hours at the solstice.
The year I discovered SAD I was working in a small office with three others and about this time in early December I noticed we had become irritated with each other and there was some sniping and shortness as we went about our tasks. At the time I didn’t know there was a term for it. On one such day I looked out the window and though it was daytime, the sky was dark, thunderstorm dark, and I said out loud: "Hey you know what? It's the weather. We go to work in the dark and we go home in the dark, we are indoors all day, and it's been overcast and gray for weeks. It's the weather, people." It was like a dawn broke. From that moment on just realizing it, we started to get along better.
Minimal decoration #2.
I didn’t know it at the time but it was my first realization about seasonal affective disorder. Later I learned the name and discovered the year I spent most of the available day outdoors on the deck of a crab boat and that coupled with clear, cold weather that there was something to it. Since then I know what happens and how to do something about it.
The first step is realization, knowing what it is and what causes it and how it affects a person. I think everyone suffers it, though to varying degrees. As for me I understand it and while it gets me down, I realize it is perfectly natural and do what I can to deal with it. Mostly it involves getting outdoors in the daylight hours, using full-color spectrum bulbs in light fixtures and possibly taking some vitamin D. Though I take it I’m not convinced about the vitamin.
In recent years I have spent this period of the year anxiously waiting for enough snow so I can go back to the East Pole for the winter. That’s a place I get outdoors every day. The delay seems longer this year but it hasn’t seemed to bother me as much. Today again I checked the snow cover at the cabin and was surprised to discover it is exactly the same as it was on this day last year — 2 inches. There is snow in the forecast through the weekend, so at this point patience is a virtue.
Chart shows daily snow cover near the East Pole. The red line marks this year; blue marks last year and green is the long-term average. For anyone looking for evidence of climate change, notice both recent years show 14 inches less snow than the average.
I am not saying I am unaffected, I am saying I am dealing with it in a rational manner, at least to my own satisfaction.
What has complicated things in the past couple of years is the holiday season has been less than celebratory for me, better in the woods, but not particularly joyous. But last night after a rather moving Christmas episode of 9-1-1 I actually dug through the boxes and put up two holiday decorations. No sense going overboard if I don’t plan to be here, but walking by them makes me smile so there’s that anyway. Then today I started organizing the packing for the trip to the Pole. A couple of more ways to lift the spirits above the gray mountain horizon. As for the future, by the end of January we have almost a full day of daylight to look forward to.

FYI: The episode of 9-1-1 was Season 2, Episode 10 on Fox 11/26/18 if you have on-demand access. Bring Kleenex.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It just keeps on fishing, and fishing, and fishing. and …

Crew members lift recovered gear from a skiff to the main deck.

     Over the past few years several articles have been published online and in other media about people rescuing whales tangled in fishing gear. You have to cheer for those people, for sure, but also try to find where that fishing gear, much of it discarded overboard by the world's fishing fleets. comes from. The problem isn't sporadic, it's massive and ubiquitous.
     In August of 2010, I spent the better part of a month in the Pacific gyre ostensibly attempting to quantify the amount of plastic in the ocean. By pure bulk and weight, most of what we recovered was discarded fishing gear, ghost nets pitched overboard that continue fishing into eternity.
     Given the recent publicity I thought it might be interesting to show the gear we found and collected. Mind you this is netting and rope and buoys that had outlived their usefulness or become so hopelessly damaged in one way or another that fishermen just pitched it overboard where it can float and keep fishing for centuries and entangling uncounted whales and other ocean critters in their tentacles.
These photos were taken during our 2010 trip.

Further reading

Tangled whale freed by Alaskans Thanksgiving Day 2018 Anchorage Daily News
Report finds 700,000 tons of fishing gear discarded and floating in the ocean
A single discarded net can keep fishing for centuries — Natural Resources Defense Council
Pacific garbage patch made mostly of fishing gear — National Geographic

Watch a whale show appreciation after being freed from fishing gear.

You can find other stories by searching "whales rescued from tangled fishing gear"

Climate report author responds to critics in massive tweet thread

One of the authors of the Fourth US National Climate Report took to twitter today to respond to the wave of ignorant criticism of the report coming from conservative pundits and politicians. It is wothe the read,

Here is a link to the entire thread

Friday, November 23, 2018

The new federal Climate report

Over the weekend (when news interest is at its lowest) The Fourth  National Climate Assessment was released. It tells an alarming story about the progress of climate change and general global warming. I have pulled some of the generalities from it here and posted the Alaska chapter at the bottom. Follow links to the full report or any other sections that might interest you. My apologies, apparently I have no control over formats for these copies and pastes.

Fourth National Climate Assessment
Volume II
Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States

In August 2018, temperatures soared across the northwestern United States. The heat, combined with dry conditions, contributed to wildfire activity in several states and Canada. The cover shows the Howe Ridge Fire from across Lake McDonald in Montana’s Glacier National Park on the night of August 12, roughly 24 hours after it was ignited by lightning. The fire spread rapidly, fueled by record-high temperatures and high winds, leading to evacuations and closures of parts of the park. The satellite image on the back cover, acquired on August 15, shows plumes of smoke from wildfires on the northwestern edge of Lake McDonald.
Wildfires impact communities throughout the United States each year. In addition to threatening individual safety and property, wildfire can worsen air quality locally and, in many cases, throughout the surrounding region, with substantial public health impacts including increased incidence of respiratory illness (Ch. 13: Air Quality, KM 2; Ch. 14: Health, KM 1; Ch. 26: Alaska, KM 3). As the climate warms, projected increases in wildfire frequency and area burned are expected to drive up costs associated with health effects, loss of homes and infrastructure, and fire suppression (Ch. 6: Forests, KM 1; Ch. 17: Complex Systems, Box 17.4). Increased wildfire activity is also expected to reduce the opportunity for and enjoyment of outdoor recreation activities, affecting quality of life as well as tourist economies (Ch. 7: Ecosystems, KM 3; Ch. 13: Air Quality, KM 2; Ch. 14: Tribal, KM 1; Ch. 19: Southeast, KM 3; Ch. 24: Northwest, KM 4).
Human-caused climate change, land use, and forest management influence wildfires in complex ways (Ch. 17: Complex Systems, KM 2). Over the last century, fire exclusion policies have resulted in higher fuel availability
in most U.S. forests (CSSR, Ch. 8.3, KF 6). Warmer and drier conditions have contributed to an increase in the incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Interior Alaska since the early 1980s, a trend that is expected to continue as the climate warms and the fire season lengthens (Ch. 1: Overview, Figure 1.2k; CSSR, Ch. 8.3, KF 6). The expansion of human activity into forests and other wildland areas has also increased over the past few decades. As the footprint of human settlement expands, fire risk exposure to people and property is expected to increase further (Ch. 5: Land
Changes, KM 2).
Fourth National Climate Assessment
Volume II
Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States

Link to the report in brief

Chapter 26: Alaska

Alaska is the largest state in the Nation, almost one-fifth the size of the combined lower 48 United States, and is rich in natural capital resources. Alaska is often identified as being on the front lines of climate change since it is warming faster than any other state and faces a myriad of issues associated with a changing climate. The cost of infrastructure damage from a warming climate is projected to be very large, potentially ranging from $110 to $270 million per year, assuming timely repair and maintenance. Although climate change does and will continue to dramatically transform the climate and environment of the Arctic, proactive adaptation in Alaska has the potential to reduce costs associated with these impacts. This includes the dissemination of several tools, such as guidebooks to support adaptation planning, some of which focus on Indigenous communities. While many opportunities exist with a changing climate, economic prospects are not well captured in the literature at this time.
As the climate continues to warm, there is likely to be a nearly sea ice-free Arctic during the summer by mid-century. Ocean acidification is an emerging global problem that will intensify with continued carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and negatively affects organisms. Climate change will likely affect management actions and economic drivers, including fisheries, in complex ways. The use of multiple alternative models to appropriately characterize uncertainty in future fisheries biomass trajectories and harvests could help manage these challenges. As temperature and precipitation increase across the Alaska landscape, physical and biological changes are also occurring throughout Alaska’s terrestrial ecosystems. Degradation of permafrost is expected to continue, with associated impacts to infrastructure, river and stream discharge, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.
Longer sea ice-free seasons, higher ground temperatures, and relative sea level rise are expected to exacerbate flooding and accelerate erosion in many regions, leading to the loss of terrestrial habitat in the future and in some cases requiring entire communities or portions of communities to relocate to safer terrain. The influence of climate change on human health in Alaska can be traced to three sources: direct exposures, indirect effects, and social or psychological disruption. Each of these will have different manifestations for Alaskans when compared to residents elsewhere in the United States. Climate change exerts indirect effects on human health in Alaska through changes to water, air, and soil and through ecosystem changes affecting disease ecology and food security, especially in rural communities.
Alaska’s rural communities are predominantly inhabited by Indigenous peoples who may be disproportionately vulnerable to socioeconomic and environmental change; however, they also have rich cultural traditions of resilience and adaptation. The impacts of climate change will likely affect all aspects of Alaska Native societies, from nutrition, infrastructure, economics, and health consequences to language, education, and the communities themselves.
The profound and diverse climate-driven changes in Alaska’s physical environment and ecosystems generate economic impacts through their effects on environmental services. These services include positive benefits directly from ecosystems (for example, food, water, and other resources), as well as services provided directly from the physical environment (for example, temperature moderation, stable ground for supporting infrastructure, and smooth surface for overland transportation). Some of these effects are relatively assured and in some cases are already occurring. Other impacts are highly uncertain, due to their dependence on the structure of global and regional economies and future human alterations to the environment decades into the future, but they could be large.
In Alaska, a range of adaptations to changing climate and related environmental conditions are underway and others have been proposed as potential actions, including measures to reduce vulnerability and risk, as well as more systemic institutional transformation.


Adaptation Planning in Alaska

The map shows tribal climate adaptation planning efforts in Alaska. Research is considered to be adaptation under some classification schemes.1,2 Alaska is scientifically data poor, compared to other Arctic regions.3 In addition to research conducted at universities and by federal scientists, local community observer programs exist through several organizations, including the National Weather Service for weather and river ice observations;4 the University of Alaska for invasive species;5 and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for local observations of environmental change.6 Additional examples of community-based monitoring can be found through the website of the Alaska Ocean Observing System.7 From Figure 26.9 (Source: adapted from Meeker and Kettle 20178).

Observed and Projected Changes in Annual Average Temperature

Figure 26.1: (a) The graph shows Alaska statewide annual average temperatures for 1925–2016. The record shows no clear change from 1925 to 1976 due to high variability, but from 1976–2016 a clear trend of +0.7°F per decade is evident. (b) The map shows 1970–1999 annual average temperature. Alaska has a diverse climate, much warmer in the southeast and southwest than on the North Slope (c) The map shows projected changes from climate models in annual average temperature for end of the 21st century (compared to the 1970–1999 average) under a lower scenario (RCP4.5). (d) The map is the same as (c) but for a higher scenario (RCP8.5). Sources: (a) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and U.S. Geological Survey, (b–d) U.S. Geological Survey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Patience, my dear, patience

 This meme showed up on facebook a day or so ago. For anybody who writes it certainly rings true. It reminded me of an event in my own life.
     Some years ago I was walking with a woman friend in downtown Anchorage. This was in the days of the Book Cache of Fifth Avenue, I believe. We passed the book store's window and stopped for a moment. It was dedicated to a single book and I recall saying in a low under-confident voice, "someday I am going to have that window."
    Her response was less than enthusiastic. I don't recall her saying anything, just giving me a "yeah-sure" glance.
     Four years later I walked past that same window, alone this time. And guess what: the only book in that window was one I wrote.
     A few years later I was walking by the same window: same book, different woman. As we
stopped to look at it a fellow we knew walked up. He asked what we were looking at. "Tim's book," she said.
In a challenging tone he demanded to know what I had to do with that book. "He wrote it," she said. The surprised expression on his face looked more like an insult than an compliment, but …
… sometimes the medicine does work.

Memorable quotations

“A poem is an egg with a horse inside” — anonymous fourth grader

“My children will likely turn my picture to the wall but what the hell, you only get old once." — Joe May

“Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignorance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

"It was like the aftermath of an orgasm with the wrong partner." – David Lagercrants “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.”

Why worry about dying, you aren't going to live to regret it.

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

Normal is how somebody else thinks you should act.

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

I realized today how many of my stories start out "years ago." What's next? Once upon a time?"

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve