Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker

CLIMATE CHANGE vs GLOBAL WARMING

Posted by on Dec 2, 2018 | 0 comments

CLIMATE CHANGE vs GLOBAL WARMING

CLIMATE CHANGE vs GLOBAL WARMING

Are they the same thing, and if not, what is the difference?

For answers, let’s look to some things we already know.

First, consider a few things that science has provided:

Medicine, Surgery, Dental solutions, Eye Glasses, artificial limbs, Hearing Aids, Blood Pressure Cuffs, Pacemakers, Stethoscopes, Defibrillators

Airplanes, Cars, Trucks, Trains, Subways, Ships, Submarines, Spacecraft

Cameras, Microscopes, Telescopes, Satellites, Thermometers, Altitude Meters, Anemometers, Compasses, Depth finders, X-rays, MRIs, C-Scans, PET-Scans, Mammography

Lights, Fans, Refrigerators, Stoves, Ovens, Microwaves, Dishwashers, Washing Machines, Dryers, A/C, Heaters, Radio, Television, Stereos, Computers, Telegraphs, Telephones, Cell Phones, DVD Players, Recorders, Projectors

Paper, Cardboard, Plastic, Rayon, Nylon, Vinyl, Glass, Fiberglass, Steel, Asphalt, Cement, Aluminum products, Copper products, Porcelain

Cloud Seeding, Rain Gauges, Wind Power, Water/Steam Power, Solar Power, Weather Balloons, Tornado tracking, Tsunami/Earthquake/Volcano Seismographs, Pollen Detectors

What science is able to predict about weather

We know about air currents and jet streams and how they affect weather patterns such as snow storms/blizzards, dust storms, hurricanes, cyclones, rain storms and their intensity, and tornadoes. Meteorologists can tell you within hours, sometimes within minutes, when an event will be in your area.

We can be informed about tsunamis in time to find higher ground. Warnings come early enough for us to evacuate during hurricanes and cyclones. Sometimes the information just helps us pick what route to take when driving or traveling. Other times, warnings regarding tornadoes, dust storms or heavy rain give us enough time to find shelter. We can even find information that shows the tendency for drought conditions and fire danger. All of this depends on equipment invented by scientists from before Aristotle to the space experts of today who have studied weather patterns and developed methods of measuring data.

We also know there are things we can’t do anything about, such as sun flares, which can adversely affect electronics and also give us marvelous light shows, (if we happen to be close enough to the north or south poles,) called the Aurora Borealis. The sun and its flares can constitute a major risk for astronauts and even airplane pilots, though. Risks include cancer and vision problems.

Right now, most of us are protected by earth’s atmosphere, so although we can get cancer from over exposure to the sun’s rays, we can also use sun screen or hats to help reduce the risk. Our atmosphere dilutes the rays, so that it takes a much larger concentration to hurt us than it does with pilots and astronauts who don’t have any atmospheric protection. The concern becomes – what is happening as the earth’s atmosphere is weakening due to carbon emissions and other pollutants (sometimes called greenhouse gases) coming from earth?

What is the difference between Climate Change & Global Warming?

Global Warming was an early term used to reflect what’s happening at the earth’s poles, where ice is melting and not being replenished. It still exists and affects more than just the North Pole and South Pole. Ice is also melting at an accelerated rate in places like Iceland, Canada and Alaska. One of the side effects of this is rising sea levels. Ice that would normally remain on land is sloughing off into the sea. When measured in inches, it doesn’t seem like much, but over time inches become a foot or more. Think about adding ice cubes to a nearly full glass of water. At some point, the water is going to overflow. There are several threatened communities already, where the ocean is taking homes and land.

In Shismaref, Alaska, inhabitants are moving their town back – away from the sea.

Shismaref, Alaska – 2005 (Photo: AP Photo/Diana Haecker)

In the Solomon Islands, several smaller islands have already been swallowed by the ocean. Others are rapidly losing shoreline.

C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\Solomon islands.jpg 

Solomon Islands, 2013

 

Climate Change is a more inclusive term and includes the resulting changes seen in various areas of the earth, such as worsening storms, additional flooding or drought, and more and hotter forest fires. In some cases, it actually causes colder weather in the winter cycle, only to rebound with a hotter summer. In other places, the winters become milder with less snowfall, which decreases the amount of water the area receives in the spring as there is less snow to melt.

In this case, one argument is that the earth has undergone major changes over its history, long before we had automobiles, factories, and oil production. That is absolutely true. We’ve all heard of the great Ice Age. There have actually been several ice ages, of lesser degrees. We’re nearing the end of one right now. However, it isn’t one that we or our near ancestors would recognize as one. It started several thousand years ago, and has been receding now for centuries. Many factors figure into what finally causes the ice to recede. Some 20,000 years ago, earth’s inhabitants found that they were able to migrate a bit farther north (or south, in the southern hemisphere.) There are several things that might have contributed to that phenomena.

The earth has, indeed, had its positioning change in our solar system. The earth’s axis tilts slightly over long geographical periods of time, meaning thousands of years. But as we orbit the sun, our tilt (which is currently at a specific 23.5 degrees and pointing in the general direction of the North Star,) is leaning towards the sun for half the year.  The other half of the year it tilts away causing our seasonal changes. We’re also exposed to gravity by other celestial bodies that pass nearby from time to time. Even the moon has a pull of gravity that affects our tides. Meteors have also pierced the atmosphere and slammed into earth. It’s possible that at one time, the earth’s orbit was brought closer to the sun during such an event, allowing a steady heating of the atmosphere in the past. But the earth hasn’t moved any closer or farther from the sun since scientists have been able to measure it, except for the naturally occurring range of earth’s orbit.

Meanwhile, most scientists claim that the rate of climate change is, to a large degree, man-made. That is also true. Indonesia and other locations on the globe currently have disappearing rain forests, due to man cutting natural trees to install seedlings that will produce palm oil trees – a product used in the manufacturing of diesel fuel. The cutting of trees and the burning of stumps and grasses have released exponentially larger amounts of CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere.

We have millions and millions of gas-driven vehicles on the roads, emitting tons of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. We have factories, and power plants emitting the same poisons, along with other pollutants such as Sulphur dioxide and Nitrogen oxide. We heat our homes with coal and oil products which produce even more CO2. By ignoring the effect of these practices on our air quality,  we’re hastening the process so that the changes that might take place over several thousand years are taking place at a much faster rate.

Crops are susceptible to temperature changes of only a couple of degrees, depending on the stage of growth. Some plants become stunted when subjected to a slight rise in temperature during germination. For example, by mid-century, corn and rice will be affected by higher temperatures to the point of forcing farmers to plant other crops, instead of these staples. Other concerns to crops are droughts and seasonal flooding.

How can we know how much is man-made and how much is just nature in action?

Well, we know that changes are happening faster, so that might be one way. We can’t change the Universe, the Solar System or our Sun. What we can do is measure the changes on earth, watch them while continuing to do research, and doing the things we already know have had an impact in the past. In 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created and adapted the Clean Air Act. Besides the damage the pollutants do to the atmosphere, they also contribute to asthma, bronchial difficulties, coronary heart disease and other cancers and disorders. A reduction in smog also brought a reduction in health complications to the big cities.

Scientists can also tell from ice cores and rock strata that CO2, or carbon monoxide played a part in warming from the Ice Age. This wouldn’t be man-made 20,000 years ago. But it could’ve come from natural sources such as the CO2 released by plant life, or even methane produced by dinosaurs. Volcanoes also spew ash into the air, blanketing and warming the earth. Those factors are still in play today, and the width of the layers on the cores or strata show a comparison of more recent changes to that of thousands of years ago.

One problem with that is, when large swaths of trees are cut, huge amounts of CO2 are released in the atmosphere. Where the peat wetlands need to be cleared after a drying period, the remaining stumps and debris are set afire. This releases even more CO2. This carbon monoxide is eating away at our protective layers of Ozone and the Stratosphere, allowing more and more of the sun’s rays to penetrate and cause land heating, plus risk factors to plants and animals, including humans for exposure to harmful UV rays. Indonesia is just an example. There are hundreds of forested areas around the globe that clear the trees for palm oil and other crops, or for community and industrial development.

Recently, the forest fires have contributed again to the smog levels. Some regulations have been cut so that factories are now puffing out pollutants again. The gray skies are returning.

The United States isn’t the only culprit. China, India, Europe and virtually every industrialized nation has pollution problems and smog. The Paris Agreement, reached in 2015 put together actions that we, as nations could and must take to reduce the destruction of our air, which if allowed to continue at the rate it is now, might make earth certainly less healthy, and possibly uninhabitable within a century or two. Fortunately, all industrial nations have signed onto the Paris Agreement and are working diligently to provide sustainable air quality. The United States government has stopped actively working against climate change, but most of the individual states have continued their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Climate Change is simply a more complete picture of what is happening with Global Warming. Global Warming doesn’t eliminate the fact that some winters are colder than others from time to time. It just means that the average temperature of the earth is rising on a steady basis. – The End

 

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IS AUTUMN FOLIAGE IN WINTER A HARBINGER OF WORSE THINGS TO COME?

Posted by on Jan 7, 2018 | 0 comments

IS AUTUMN FOLIAGE IN WINTER A HARBINGER OF WORSE THINGS TO COME?

IS AUTUMN FOLIAGE IN WINTER A HARBINGER OF WORSE THINGS TO COME?

I went golfing yesterday. It was a beautiful day, with the sun shining and temperatures rising quickly to shirtsleeve weather. The course has a well-manicured layout for casual golfers, but the grass is struggling this season because of the prolonged heat lingering through autumn and on into winter. It seems every one of the last several years has brought us a later start than usual for the cooler temperatures of fall. Normally, winter rye is planted in October on the desert courses, and it weathers well until the spring. The plan isn’t working quite so well this year. Did I mention it was 78° yesterday? Our average high in Southern Arizona for January is 64°. January mornings would normally hover around 30° and have the golfers waiting for the frost to clear before allowing the early birds to begin their rounds, but not this time. There’s no mention of climate change, but the facts are evident. The winter rye is burning, even though it receives daily watering. The sun is too much for it.

The golf course is surrounded by aging but well-kept homes, and with many thirty to forty year old trees offering much needed shade. Most of the trees are either desert types, such as Mesquite or Palo Verde, but there are quite a few Pine and Cedar trees as well. The desert trees will lose most of their leaves during the winter, and if late winter and early spring brings us the life-sustaining rains, we’ll be treated to a majestic show of intensely yellow flowering trees around April, before they develop their canopies of green leaves for summer.

This year, as last year, we see subtle changes, though. Normally, January would be colorless, with bare tree limbs and the occasional pine tree breaking up the horizon. We’ve had the cloudy days of winter, but without the cold and without much rain to speak of since last July. Even in the desert, a certain amount of rain is common. Winter is often a good time for 2-3 inches of rain, but not this year.

So back to the golf course. On the side of the 12th fairway stood a magnificent Oak tree (not native to Arizona, most likely planted by a homesick human transplant) dressed in full orange and red regalia, as if it were late September in Iowa, not early January anywhere! It was so out of place it struck me as surreal. But then I remembered that we had planted an Ash tree in August and it had only begun losing its yellowing leaves around Christmas, which seemed late to me, but I hadn’t given it much more thought.

Why am I telling you this? Because in this morning’s paper there was a front-page article about a nearby canyon still boasting full autumn foliage – with the worrisome thought that this might be cause for concern for the future of our natural weather patterns, and the effects that could have on our fragile desert flora and fauna. You might question the word “fragile” when you think of cactus with 2″ long spines, and scorpions, snakes, coyotes and javelina. But all these creatures depend on the vegetation to be at its appropriate stage when they begin having their offspring and teaching them to forage for water and food, and how to use the plants as camouflage for safety.

Another concern is what happens to the desert when it dries out after months of no rain and then a sudden thunderstorm in summer brings lightning to the canyons devoid of running streams, and strikes a dry tree, ready to burst into flames that race up the canyon, destroying brush, cactus, other trees and smaller wildlife that are unable to flee. The dried up earth can’t absorb the rain fast enough to contribute to the water tables, so the water runs off in raging floods through the canyons, while the debris from the fire forms a sludgy mess as the water roars down the hills. Seedlings are washed away, and healthy plants below the flood are overcome by mud and water and debris.

Scientists who study climate change need much more data than that of one autumn season that’s off kilter. Their information comes from all over the globe and covers years, decades, and where possible, centuries of information. Even so, when an unusual occurrence takes place, scientists take note, verifying everything from temperatures, rainfall amounts, and wind patterns, to sunspots.

There are reports from National Geographic and CNN that the ozone hole seems to be responding to our attempts to get rid of CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons … those things in aerosol spray bottles and refrigerator coolants. http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/health/antarctic-ozone-layer-healing/index.html Good news for future generations of people, to be sure.

 

Closing the hole in the Ozone is one important goal, but decreasing global warming is another that isn’t faring so well. According to another article by CNN http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/18/world/2016-hottest-year/index.html 16 of the hottest years on record world-wide happened since 2000. The last time there was a record cold year was 1911 – more than 100 years ago.

Global warming does not mean the every country, every state, and every city will get warmer each year. It means that the overall warming of our planet (Earth) is rising by a degree or two almost every year. The seas are getting warmer, the poles are getting warmer. Air currents are getting warmer and changing patterns. These alterations are causing weather conditions to change, and CLIMATE CHANGE is a more understandable description than global warming. Although the globe is getting warmer overall, some areas are experiencing fiercer winter weather because of wind patterns bringing in colder lake or ocean effect weather with more snow and lower temperatures over a given time. Tornadoes and hurricanes are becoming stronger and more frequent for the same reasons. This week, a “bomb cyclone” or winter hurricane moved up the east coast of the United States. We never hear of hurricanes in the dead of winter, but here we have one. Although it’s bringing temporary colder weather, its cause is the climate change taking place as other places in the world continue to warm, and the winter temperature of the oceans stay higher than normal, contributing to the development of hurricane force winds. It works in conjunction with the normal jet stream pushing cold air down from Canada this time of year, so that parts of the Midwest and New England are trapped between two areas of colder than usual weather, creating a false impression of “global cooling” as opposed to global warming. But make no mistake, warming is taking place in the United States, and in Europe, Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, and many other places, even if it’s cold where you are right now.

Fortunately, all the major countries in the world, with the exception of the United States, have formed an agreement to reduce carbon emissions and other atmospheric pollution in an attempt to stop the rising heat. The United States was one of the original parties to form the Paris Climate agreement, but has since backed out for inexplicable reasons. Nevertheless, many of our states and cities have contacted the members of the global agreement and pledged to continue to reduce pollutants and maintain safe levels of emissions.

We weren’t really aware of global warming until 1957, when a newspaper mentioned the idea of global warming in southern California. It concerned scientists due to escaping gases and carbons that appeared to heat the atmosphere and could possibly lead to changes in weather if left unchecked. But the idea itself wasn’t really new. As early as the 19th century a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, considered that the burning of fossil fuel (coal) could have an adverse warming effect on the planet. It’s taken more than a century for most of the population of the world to accept that indeed, the earth is warming, and the outcome might not be very good if we don’t get a grip on it right now, before the damage becomes irreversible.

If we don’t act against climate change and man’s contributing behaviors, what will become of autumn foliage, spring flowers, and ordinary grass? Will we be golfing on sand on the west coast, while the east coast fights hurricanes and snow cyclones year round? – END

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