A Summary of Earth’s Climate History-a Geologist’s View

Thoughts from Dr. Eric T. Karlstrom, Emeritus Professor of Geography, California State University, Stanislaus

Earth scientists have learned that earth was significantly warmer than present (by perhaps about 8 to 10 °C) for about 80% of the earth’s 4.6-billion-year history.

From a historical as well as a geological perspective, warming trends are beneficial for humans, for agriculture, and for plants and animals. No “tipping points’ were reached during past geologic intervals when temperatures and CO2 concentrations were much higher than present. In fact, life flourished during these relatively warmer conditions.

For the past 2 million years (Quaternary Period), the earth has been in an ice age comprised of some 20 major glacial/interglacial cycles. Each cycle was characterized by very wide swings of temperature and precipitation.

For the past 10,000 years, the earth has experienced an unusually warm and stable (interglacial) climate known as the Holocene Epoch. The stable and favorable climate of this interglacial allowed for the development of agriculture and human civilization.

71% of the earth is covered with ocean water. 90% of the world’s ice is in Antarctica. Our instrumental climate records only extend about 100 to 150 years back. There are still not enough weather stations on the earth to determine the average temperature of the earth. The best data from satellites and the Argo (ocean robot) systems suggests the planet has been cooling slightly since 1998.

Exhaustive analyses of proxy paleoclimatic records (deep sea cores, ice cores, tree-rings, glacial deposits, soils, loess sequences, cave deposits, pollen studies, etc.) by scientists reveal that past climate changes are complex and of varying frequency and magnitude. There is much we still don’t agree on. Many scientists, including myself, believe climate change is cyclical and these cycles are of varying periodicities.

The main climate drivers include variations in solar output, ocean circulation dynamics (the ocean stores some 22 times more heat than the atmosphere and circulates that heat around the globe), and orbital variations in the earth-sun-moon system.

Carbon dioxide has a negligible effect on atmospheric temperatures. Rather, because the oceans hold about 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere, and because the oceans and atmosphere exchange CO2, CO2 fluctuations are mainly caused by changes in ocean temperatures. And ocean temperature changes are mainly driven by the sun.

Because we have seasons, the earth is constantly warming and cooling in various locales. Weather and climate change is a constant. But is the earth as a whole warming or cooling? The answer to this question depends entirely upon the length of the climate record being analyzed. On the basis of many paleoclimatic records, earth scientists agree that the general trend over the past 3 million years has been toward cooling; the trend over the past 15,000 years has been toward warming; the trend over the past 5,000 years has been toward cooling; and there has been a warming trend since Little Ice Age maxima about 1650 AD. The earth warmed very slightly between about 1975 and 1998, and since 1998 the trend has been toward cooling. Read full post

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Chuparosa – the Hummingbird Bush

Chuparosa, Justicia californica, (aka Beloperone) is a perennial plant native to Southeastern California and the Sonoran Desert including Arizona and Sonora and Baja California, Mexico. It is a favorite of hummingbirds which go after the nectar. Other birds go after the sugar-rich center of the flower and seeds. The fruit are elongated, club-shaped capsules about one-half inch long which contain four seeds in the inflated tip.

 

Chuparosa is a shrub that can grow three- to five feet high and six- to eight feet wide. It is usually found in dry washes and on rocky slopes below elevations of 2,500 feet. The shrub is usually grayish green with hairy branches. Plants initially have succulent oval leaves, up to one inch long, that give way to bright red (and sometimes orange or yellow) flowers. The flowers, up to two inches long, are tubular and grow in clusters at the end of stems. The flowers have a large “lower lip” that opens to reveal a white anther which contains the pollen. According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM), Chuparosa flowers can be found any month of the year, except during drought or right after freezes. Big blooms often occur in the winter and early spring months.

According to DesertUSA, “This member of the large, tropical Acanthus family (Acanthaceae) is the only New World genus that extends north into the US. The common name chuparosa, “sucking rose” in Spanish, is abundant with nectar, making it popular among various birds, especially hummingbirds. Quail and house finches eat the seeds. Known locally as honeysuckle, chuparosa is said to have been eaten by the Papago Indians.” Chuparosa is browsed by livestock and deer.

Chuparosas are very drought tolerant and often cultivated as a landscape ornamental in desert regions for its bright flowers and to attract birds. ASDM has a plant care guide for chuparosa here and notes that they can survive quick dips in temperature to 22°F.

See more photos here.

Observations on the new Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

In March, 2019, President Trump signed legislation creating the 3,600 square mile Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in parts of Pima and Santa Cruz Counties, Arizona. This has long been a pet project of Congressman Raul Grijalva. The proposed boundaries of the heritage area encompass major copper mines, sources of construction aggregate, and many ranches.

According to the Arizona Geological Survey, the mines in the area have produced 65 percent of the nation’s copper. (Maps in this article are from AZGS.) It remains to be seen whether establishment of an NHA will impact mining and mineral exploration.

The heritage area will be managed through the National Park Service which will contract management to a “local coordinating entity” which in this case is the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance. The Alliance will receive $1 million per year up to a maximum of $15 million for its services.

According to the House version of the legislation (link 3 below):

The purposes of this Act include:

(1) to establish the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in the State of Arizona;

(2) to implement the recommendations of the Alternative Concepts for Commemorating Spanish Colonization study completed by the National Park Service in 1991, and the Feasibility Study for the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area prepared by the Center for Desert Archaeology in July 2005;

(3) to provide a management framework to foster a close working relationship with all levels of government, the private sector, and the local communities in the region and to conserve the region’s heritage while continuing to pursue compatible economic opportunities;

(4) to assist communities, organizations, and citizens in the State of Arizona in identifying, preserving, interpreting, and developing the historical, cultural, scenic, and natural resources of the region for the educational and inspirational benefit of current and future generations; and

(5) to provide appropriate linkages between units of the National Park System and communities, governments, and organizations within the National Heritage Area.

The Act also gives these reassurances:

Nothing in this Act:

(1) abridges the rights of any property owner (whether public or private), including the right to refrain from participating in any plan, project, program, or activity conducted within the National Heritage Area;

(2) requires any property owner to permit public access (including access by Federal, State, Tribal, or local agencies) to the property of the property owner, or to modify public access or use of property of the property owner under any other Federal, State, Tribal, or local law;

(3) alters any duly adopted land use regulation, approved land use plan, or other regulatory authority of any Federal, State, Tribal, or local agency, or conveys any land use or other regulatory authority to any local coordinating entity, including but not necessarily limited to development and management of energy, water, or water-related infrastructure;

(4) authorizes or implies the reservation or appropriation of water or water rights;

(5) diminishes the authority of the State to manage fish and wildlife, including the regulation of fishing and hunting within the National Heritage Area; or

(6) creates any liability, or affects any liability under any other law, of any private property owner with respect to any person injured on the private property.

That sounds good in theory, but experience with other National Heritage Areas is not so good.

The Heritage Foundation (link 5 below) opines:

There are three key reasons why Congress should not create any new NHAs and why existing NHAs should become financially independent of the federal government, as their enabling legislation requires.

1) NHAs divert NPS resources from core responsibilities. NPS advocates and staff have long complained about the limited resources that Congress provides in comparison to its extensive responsibilities. Both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service estimate that the cost of NPS’s maintenance back-log exceeds several billion dollars and is rising despite increased annual appropriations.

2) Federal costs for NHAs are increasing at a rapid rate.

3) NHAs threaten private property rights. On the surface, most of the legislation designating an NHA, and the subsequent management plans that guide them, include explicit provisions prohibiting the NPS or the management entity from using eminent domain to acquire property. They also prohibit the use of federal funds to acquire private property by way of a voluntary transaction with a willing seller.

Nonetheless, NHAs pose a threat to private property rights through the exercise of restrictive zoning that may severely limit the extent to which property owners can develop or use their property. Termed “regulatory takings,” such zoning abuses are the most common form of property rights abuse today. They are also the most pernicious because they do not require any compensation to owners whose property values are reduced by the new zoning. (Read full article for details.)

The American Policy Center (link 4 below) opines:

Specifically, what is a National Heritage Area? To put it bluntly, it is a pork barrel earmark that harms property rights and local governance. Let me explain why that is. Heritage Areas have boundaries. These are very definite boundaries, and they have very definite consequences for folks who reside within them. National historic significance, obviously, is a very arbitrary term; so anyone’s property can end up falling under those guidelines.

The managing entity sets up non-elected boards, councils and regional governments to oversee policy inside the Heritage Area.

In the mix of special interest groups you’re going to find all of the usual suspects: Environmental groups; planning groups; historic preservation groups; all with their own private agendas – all working behind the scenes, creating policy, hovering over the members of the non-elected boards (perhaps even assuring their own people make up the boards), and all collecting the Park Service funds to pressure local governments to install their agenda. In many cases, these groups actually form a compact with the Interior Department to determine the guidelines that make up the land use management plan and the boundaries of the Heritage Area itself.

Now, after the boundaries are drawn and after the management plan has been approved by the Park Service, the management entity and its special interest groups, are given the federal funds, typically a million dollars a year, or more, and told to spend that money getting the management plan enacted at the local level.

Here’s how they operate with those funds. They go to local boards and local legislators and they say, Congress just passed this Heritage Area. “You are within the boundaries. We have identified these properties as those we deem significant. We have identified these businesses that we deem insignificant and a harm to these properties and a harm to the Heritage Area. We don’t have the power to make laws but you do. And here is some federal money. Now use whatever tools, whatever laws, whatever regulatory procedures you already have to make this management plan come into fruition.”

This sweeping mandate ensures that virtually every square inch of land within the boundaries is subject to the scrutiny of Park Service bureaucrats and their managing partners. That is the way it works. It’s done behind the scenes – out of the way of public input.

True private property ownership lies in one’s ability to do with his property as he wishes. Zoning and land-use policies are local decisions that have traditionally been the purview of locally elected officials who are directly accountable to the citizens that they represent.

But National Heritage Areas corrupt this inherently local process by adding federal dollars, federal mandates, and federal oversight to the mix. Along with an army of special interest carpet baggers who call themselves Stake Holders. (See the article for much more.)

References:

1) P.A. Pearthree and F.M. Conway, 2019, Preliminary evaluation of mineral resources

of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area, Arizona, Arizona Geological Survey, Open-file Report OFR-19-03 (link)

2) Southwestern Minerals Exploration Association (SMEA), 2001, Mineral Potential of Eastern Pima County, Arizona, Arizona Geological Survey Contributed Report 01-B (link) (Note: I am one of the co-authors of this report.)

3) Text of House version of establishing legislation: H.R. 6522 (115th): Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act (link)

4) Tom DeWeese, American Policy Center, 2012, National Heritage Areas: the Land Grabs Continue (link)

5) Cheryl Chumley and Ronald Utt, 2007, National Heritage Areas: Costly Economic Development Schemes that Threaten Property Rights, The Heritage Foundation (link)

Globe Chamomile, an invasive species in Arizona

Globe Chamomile (Oncosiphon piluliferum) is a pretty, but prolifically invasive, species. It is currently expanding its range in the Phoenix area. It is a native of South Africa. It was first recorded as an invasive near Los Angeles and San Diego.

According to the Arizona Native Plant Society:

“Globe Chamomile sprouts and grows vegetatively from late November until the end of January. It begins to flower in early January and quickly begins seed setting by early February. The seeds are very light and easily transported by wind and vehicle traffic. In years of sufficient winter moisture, Globe Chamomile can go through up to three generations between November and the end of April, resulting in a prodigious production of plants and seeds in a short period of time. Globe Chamomile readily infests sunny, disturbed soils that are not shaded by vegetation. It readily takes root in bare areas bordering any vegetation, both residential and wild land.” (See more photos) Individual plants can get up to two feet tall.

Globe Chamomile is related to the more commonly known species of chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) an important, daisy-like medicinal herb native to southern and eastern Europe.

Some claimed medicinal uses for Globe Chamomile: a gynecological aid, an antidiarrheal, a cold remedy, and to treat heart problems. Europeans administered an infusion of the plant for convulsions and the Hottentots used an infusion of the flower and leaf for typhoid and other fevers including malaria. It has also been used as food.

The other name for this plant is Stinknet because of its strong, unpleasant odor. Handling the plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction. Pollen may cause allergic reaction.

Read about edible and medicinal plants of the Sonoran Desert:

https://wryheat.wordpress.com/edible-desert-plants/

How infrasound from wind turbines can cause cancer

This article from the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions reviews several research studies that show infrasound from wind turbines can cause cancer. Read the full paper at http://wiseenergy.org/Energy/Health/LFN_and_Cancer.pdf

Here is an introduction:

Recently, President Trump made a statement about the possibility of wind turbine noise causing cancer. Predictably much of the press scoffed at this claim. Even some Republican legislators objected. But what are the facts?
Since this is a technical matter, let’s clarify some basics… Infrasound is Low Frequency Noise (LFN)… Industrial wind turbines generate substantial LFN… A variety of wind turbine LFN caused human and animal health problems have been well-documented (see this small sample of studies)… But what about cancers?
The medical term genotoxins is separated into three main groups: carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens (i.e. toxins that cause cancer, genetic mutations, or birth defects)… LFN has been identified as a genotoxic agent of disease, capable of inducing blood vessel wall thickening as seen in autopsy, as well as through light and electron microscopy studies. This can lead to well known consequences such as tumor development, cardiac infarcts and/or the need for cardiac bypass surgery. The pathology caused by excessive exposure to LFN is termed vibroacoustic disease (VAD), and has been diagnosed among several occupational and environmentally exposed populations.
To read about other health problems see: Health Hazards of Wind Turbines  

Preliminary evaluation of mineral resources of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage area, Arizona

The Arizona Geological Survey has just published a geological evaluation on the new Santa Cruz Valley Natural Heritage area in southern Arizona. Here is the introduction from AZGS:

The newly designated Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area includes ~ 3,600 square miles (9,378 square kilometers; 2,304,000 acres) and hundreds of mines distributed in 20 mining districts in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. AZGS just released a preliminary evaluation of metallic and industrial minerals of America’s newest National Heritage Area.

The report is accompanied by six figures, two tables and citations for more than 50 published geologic reports and maps from the AZGS and the US Geological Survey. All of which are available as free PDF downloads.

Citation: Pearthree, P.A. and Conway, F.M., 2019, Preliminary evaluation of mineral resources of the proposed Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area, Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Open-File Report OFR-18-03<http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1911>;, 7 p.

My comment: It is yet to be determined if designation of a heritage area will have any detrimental effects on mining and mineral exploration. Mining has long been a part of the heritage of this area.

The People for the West newsletter for April, 2019

The People for the West newsletter for April, 2019 is now online:

https://wryheat.wordpress.com/people-for-the-west/2019-archive/2019-14-April/

Earth Day is recognized in April each year. In view of recent predictions that the world will end in 12 years unless we get rid of fossil fuels and completely revise our economic system, it is well to review the track record of past predictions.

Other subjects include:

Brainwashing children to shill for bad science

Why Fossil Fuels Are Good for U.S. National Security

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet

Green New Deal Would Barely Change Earth’s Temperature. Here Are the Facts.

The unintended consequences of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s global warming crusade are hitting close to home—literally.

 

Enjoy,

Jonathan

Chuckwallas – another desert lizard

Several species of chuckwallas occur in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. The most plentiful are the Common chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater) and the Western chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater obesus). Adults males get up to 16 inches long. The Isla San Esteban chuckwalla (Sauromalus varius), also called the piebald chuckwalla, inhabits several islands in the Gulf of California. This species can get up to 24 inches long. A population of Isla San Esteban chuckwallas also occurs at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) as part of a research and education project.

All chuckwallas are large, heavy-bodied lizards with folds of skin along the neck, shoulders and sometimes along the sides. The head of males tends to be black with lighter colors along the body. Females are generally lighter-colored shades of gray. Color varies with species, sex, and age.

Chuckwallas are found in rocky areas within desert scrub and woodlands. They use the rocks for basking, shelter, and protection from predators. For protection, a chuckwalla will seek a rock crevasse and wedge itself in by inflating its body with air. The top photo shows this behavior.

Males will fight over territory and females. Dominance for both males and females is often based on size. Males will warn rivals with “push-ups”, bobbing the head, and mouth gaping. These lizards are not harmful to humans. In fact, the Seri Indians and other Native American peoples collected and raised the lizards for food.

Chuckwallas are mainly herbivores that eat a variety of vegetation including fruit, leaves, buds, and flowers of many plants. They also eat insects.

Chuckwallas breed from April through August. Females lay eggs in clutches of five to 16. The eggs are incubated for 33 to 50 days. Juveniles (and females) are usually banded. The lizards reach sexual maturity in two to three years.

Chuckwalla predators include hawks, American kestrels, coyotes, Mohave rattlesnakes, and humans.

 

 

See more photos of three species from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum digital library here.

More articles on lizards:

Clever Horned Lizard

Metachromatic spiny lizards

Spinytail Iguanas

Venomous Lizards

A Petition From Southern Arizona Ranchers on Border Security

A group of Southern Arizona ranchers are exercising their First Amendment rights in seeking a redress of grievances from their senators and congressman.

The following is a petition to the federal government written by several ranchers on the Arizona-Mexican border. These ranchers have to deal everyday with illegal crossings and lack of proper infrastructure that would make our southern border more secure. Unlike politicians spouting talking points, these ranchers have first hand knowledge of what is really going on along our southern border. The federal government is failing to adequately protect the private property rights of these ranchers.

One of the ranchers, Jim Chilton, is a friend of mine and I have been on his ranch which lies south of Arivaca, AZ, and extends to the Mexican border. On the ranch, the Mexican border is marked by a four-strand barbed wire fence. That’s all. There are many trails from the border through the ranch. Two years ago Jim set up cameras on two of the trails. During that time the cameras captured approximately 500 trespassers going both north and south. Jim suspects he has recorded drug smugglers. The ranch headquarters has been burglarized twice and often water supply pipes to stock tanks have been broken. The smugglers have free run of the ranch because there is no real barrier.

The Petition:

Whereas, one of the most active drug smuggling and human trafficking corridors in the Nation is the international boundary between Nogales and Sasabe, Arizona;

Whereas, 25 miles along the border area south of Arivaca is marked by only an old four-strand barbed wire cattle fence;

Whereas, the Sinaloa Cartel has control of this 25-mile international boundary and of the thousands of square miles of minimally patrolled ranchland adjacent to it inside the United States, due to lack of adequate border infrastructure, the Border Patrol has been largely restricted to a “Defense in Depth” strategy which is inefficient due to rough terrain and inadequate access and allows the presence of well- equipped cartel scouts on top of our mountains to successfully direct drug and human trafficking;

Whereas, although the Tucson Station Patrol Agent-in-Charge and Border Patrol agents try their best to do their job, the lack of access and infrastructure, cartel scout presence, and rough terrain and inefficient “Defense in Depth” strategy creates a de facto “no man’s land” in which border ranchers live and work;

Whereas, the national Border Patrol Council Vice President, Art del Cueto, has asserted on national television that under the present situation, no more than 50% of illegal crossers are apprehended;

Whereas, Border Patrol agents are headquartered in Tucson, eighty miles and three hours from the border on our ranches and there are no roads paralleling the border and no efficient north-south access for the Border Patrol to respond to incursions; and

Whereas, current “defense in depth” strategy means the Tucson Station Border Patrol agents are dispersed across the 4,000 square miles of area of responsibility and are operating in the “backfield” instead of operating on the 25 linear miles of the actual border;

Therefore be it resolved, Border ranchers petition our government to construct an adequate security barrier such as a Bollard-style fence at the border, good all-weather, well-maintained roads leading to the border and along it, adequate, modern flood gates at water crossings, appropriate surveillance technology to monitor Border Patrol personnel and border status, air mobile support, and reliable communications for Border Patrol agents to call for back-up, and forward operations bases near the border barrier to effectively secure the international boundary between Nogales and Sasabe, Arizona.

The petition is signed by these ranchers: Jim Chilton, Chilton Ranch; Tom Kay, Jarillas Ranch; John R. Smith, Arivaca Ranch; Ted Noon, Oro Blanco Ranch; and Lowell Robinson, Tres Bellotas Ranch.

 

This post was first published in the Arizona Daily Independent where it received more than 100 comments.

Volcanic Threat Assessment in the U.S.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has updated its assessment of volcanic hazard threats in the United States. Most volcanoes occur along the Pacific coast of the U.S., within the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and on certain other Pacific islands such as Hawaii. The USGS lists 161 volcanos as dangerous, of which, 18 are considered to have a “very high” threat for damage.

Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, which erupted last year, ranks number 1 as the most hazardous volcano. Mount St. Helens in Washington comes in at number 2. It last erupted in 1980.

Yellowstone caldera in Wyoming comes in at 21, a “high” threat. The San Francisco Volcanic Field near Flagstaff, AZ comes in at 80, a “moderate” threat.

According to the USGS:

The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries, having within its territory more than 10 percent of the known active and potentially active volcanoes. The geographic footprint of U.S. volcanoes is large, extending from arctic Alaska in the north to tropical American Samoa south of the Equator, and from Colorado in the east to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic unrest (increased seismicity, observed ground deformation, and (or) gas emission) at 44 U.S. volcanoes.

Volcanoes produce many kinds of destructive phenomena. In the United States over the past 38 years, communities have been overrun by lava flows in Hawaii and in Washington State, a powerful explosion has devastated huge tracts of forest and killed people tens of miles from the volcanic source, and debris avalanches and mudflows have choked major river ways, destroyed bridges, and swept people to their deaths. In California, noxious gas emissions have resulted in fatalities, and in Hawaii, given rise to widespread respiratory ailments. Airborne ash clouds have caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to aircraft and nearly brought down passenger jets in flight in U.S. and international airspace, and ash falls have caused agricultural losses and disrupted the lives and businesses of hundreds of thousands of people in Washington State and Alaska. The growing risk of such severe threats to communities, property, and infrastructure downstream and downwind of volcanoes drives the need to decipher past eruptive behavior, monitor the current activity, and mitigate damaging effects of these forces of nature.

 

The full report may be downloaded here: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/sir20185140

(50 pages, 24Mb). It contains photographs of volcanic damage and many regional maps and descriptions of the local volcanoes.

Here is a list of the 18 most dangerous volcanoes according to the USGS (go to the full report to see the rest):