Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Questions

A rescue during Hurricane Harvey. Click for photo credit.
A friend of mine sent me an interesting piece from Scientific American on the science of Hurricane Harvey. As everyone knows by now, the storm is proving to be one of the most significant natural disasters in the history of the country.

Each hurricane is different, but Harvey is rather unusual in recent history. What makes it so unique is its extreme rainfall and subsequent flooding. The damage was not from a major storm surge like we saw with Superstorm Sandy in my region or from wind as was the case in Hurricane Andrew. Instead, it was from days and days of rain in the Houston area. There was no where for the rain to go.

There are two interesting questions that I found particularly interesting in the Scientific American article: Why did the storm stay in place so long? and Why was there so much rain?

It turns out that the storm stayed in place due to distinct high pressure systems that kept the low pressure hurricane from moving. As to why there was so much rain, there are many reasons, two which I will highlight. First, the Gulf of Mexico was unusually warm. Certainly climate change plays a part here, but the Gulf here can get rather warm naturally without the addition of anthropogenic oceanic warming. Second, due to all the flooding across southeast Texas, there was a plentiful supply of water that could reenter the atmosphere as evaporation occurred. The flooding essentially created an extension of the ocean which normally feeds hurricanes their moisture.

Many people have asked me if climate change was responsible for the storm. That is a simple question with a complex answer. Climate and individual weather phenomena like hurricanes are complex and have multiple inputs. Certainly warmer temperatures in air and oceans add more energy to earth systems. But there is no direct line where one can say global climate change is responsible for Hurricane Harvey. Yet it would also be incorrect to say that global climate change did not influence the storm. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

National Monuments May Shrink

This rock art is in Bears Ears National Monument, one of the sites that is
likely going to shrink so that it can be used for economic purposes by private
organizations and individuals. The main reason that many of the monuments
that are under review for shrinking were created in the first place was to
preserve Native American cultural resources. A horrible amount of looting
of grave goods and other materials has occurred in many of the areas that will
soon be up for leasing for private use. To many in the region, the shrinking
of the monuments is a significant environmental justice issue and part
of a pattern of racial discrimination. Click for photo credit. 
Last week there were a number of reports that several national monuments that were under review by the present administration were going to shrink in size. According to Reuters, this "...cheered energy, mining, ranching and timber advocates..."

I think what some in the public get wrong about the national monuments is that they think that they are created from private land. This is not the case. They are created from public land typically under management by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The BLM leases some of the land that it manages to private organizations and individuals including those involved with ranching, energy, mining, and timber production. When the BLM land becomes a national monument, the leases end and land is typically converted into solely public use, often under management by a different agency. Those who have been against the creation of the national monuments are angry because they can no longer rent public land at a cheap cost for their own economic gain.

To see my latest posts on the national monuments, click here.


As an aside, posting on this blog has been a little light lately because I am trying to finish off a large book project. More on that project another time. Also, I tend to get relatively light blog traffic in late summer as everyone is enjoying summer and the out of doors.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Circumnavigating Long Island Part 10: Astoria to Long Island City

To many, Long Island has a very strong sense of place. In this series, I seek to highlight the distinct regional character of the place by posting photos taken while walking its circumference starting from my home in Port Washington, heading west toward Brooklyn along the shore, around the west end of the island, east to the southern shores to Montauk and Orient, and then back across the north shore to Port Washington. Since I have a day job and do not relish suburban and urban camping, I break these walks into pieces. 

For each segment, I stay on public roads, trails, and/or beaches that get as close to the shore as possible. I don't go on dead ends and I avoid dangerous stretches where walking is problematic due to traffic. Hopefully, the series of photo essays provides insight into the geography of this region at this particular point in time. Previous segments are linked at the bottom of this post.

Today's post focuses on western Queens starting at Socrates Sculpture Park to the Pulaski Bridge toward Brooklyn. It follows the East River past the Roosevelt Island Bridge and under the Queensboro Bridge. This segment follows some parkland and industrial land uses along the East River to a revitalized waterfront in Long Island City.

A view toward the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan across the tip of Roosevelt Island from Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.

A view toward Midtown from Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.

The main lawn of the Socrates Sculpture Park. It is built on an old landfill. Read about the current exhibit here.

Another view of the park.
Folks doing yoga in the Socrates Sculpture Park.
A small farmers' market in the Socrates Sculpture Park.
Between Socrates Sculpture Park and Rainey Park is a drive in and walk in Costco. I saw lots of folks with their own two-wheel baskets walking to this site from residential neighborhoods in the area.
The entrance to Rainey Park has some nice tiles made by children on the gate. This is only one of several examples at the entrance.
The ubiquitous symbol of a New York Park: the leaf in a circle.

A nice view of the Roosevelt Island Bridge over the East River from Rainey Park.

New York is the center of the U.S. entertainment industry, so it is no surprise that one finds a lighting equipment company in Queens.

After leaving the nice parkland and the Costco areas of eastern Long Island City, one enters an industrial zone. To the right is the Ravenswood Generating Station, one of the largest electricity generating sites in New York City. It was originally going to be developed for nuclear energy. 

A view toward the Roosevelt Island Bridge from Vernon Boulevard.

Another view of the Ravenswood Generating Plant. Note the Queensboro Bridge in the background.
The entrance to Queensbridge Park which is west of the Ravenswood Generating Plant.

A view toward Midtown, note the United Nations to the left, from Queensbridge Park.

The Queensboro Bridge from Queensbridge Park.

Another view.

A soccer field in Queensbridge Park.

The Con Edison Learning Center near Queensbridge Park.

A streetscape between Queensbridge Park and the redeveloped areas of Long Island City.

It is hard to see it in this photo, but this is an artist's studio which does sculpture of ironworkers. See this.

A view toward the redeveloped (and gentrified) areas of Long Island City.
Yup, gentrification.
Nearby is this haunted house with some impressive horror murals.
I should have taken more photos of the redevelopment in this area, however, this is one of many many high rise apartment and condo buildings that have been built in this area. The entire East River shoreline has been redeveloped into an impressive park system.

A view toward downtown from the Long Island City Promenade.


A focus on the United Nations across from Long Island City.

An old Pepsi Cola sign along the promenade. 

Part of the new public space along the East River shoreline in Long Island City.

This is actually part of a State Park complex called Gantry State Park. This is an area where barges and trains connected to bring goods to Long Island.

Another abandoned gantry. This area is distinctly not industrial. It is a perfect example of gentrification.

A rather nice dog park in the area.
A nice picnic/restaurant area in Long Island City.
Yoga in a former zone of train/barge interaction.

Toward downtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center.
Many industrial zones remain near Long Island City--a remnant of past land uses that are being resused. I noted a number of engineering, food processing, and transportation land uses here.

It is surprising to run into streets like this so close to a gentrified zone, but this is but a few hundred feet from where new Long Island City residents are doing Yoga in the park. Note the Pulaski Bridge to Brooklyn in the distance. The next segment will begin on the Pulaski Bridge.
Part 1. Port Washington to Manhasset
Part 2. Manhasset, Kings Point, Great Neck, Little Neck

Sunday, August 13, 2017

First Quantum Communication

Click for photo credit.
According to the World Economic Forum, scientists in China have for the first time achieved quantum communication without the use of particle transfer.  For those of you who have had some advanced physics, you know that quantum physics shows us that observation and measurement can change outcome of a system. The Chinese scientists use this Zeno effect to transmit an image via photon, not particle, which makes this the first quantum communication. You can read about it here. However the below video provides a much clearer explanation of the process.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Climate Change Denial Enforced at USDA While Separate Government Report States Climate Change is Real and Problematic

Photo by Mario Gomez.
Two important bombshell reports on climate change came out over the last few days. First, there was news from The Guardian that USDA administrators are asking staff to no longer use the term climate change, but instead use the phrase weather or climate extremes. The other bombshell published by the New York Times is that there is a new official unpublished U.S. climate change report written by some of the top scientists in the U.S. government that states that climate change is real and problematic. The report looks at all the available data on climate change and makes a conclusive case on how and where the climate is changing. The Times got a copy of the report but didn't state how or from whom. However, it did note that there was concern among the authors that the report would be suppressed. It was put together for the U.S. congress as part of a regular 4-year report to congress on climate change.

Climate change cognitive dissonance will not go away. There are so many strange dualistic examples in our society like the one I outline above. For some reason, there is still a strong belief in some corners of society that climate change is a hoax even though there is a preponderance of evidence.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in Florida. This is not one of the monuments that is under review for delisting as per executive order by the president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

Click for photo credit.
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Previous On the Brink posts in the National Monument Series:

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument