The leftish press and Hollywood climate experts have been claiming that the recent rash of dangerous hurricanes is due to global warming. Dr. Roy Spencer, U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, takes exception to these claims in a short blog post and in a new E-bookavailable from Amazon for $2.99. The E-book is about 11,000 words long and contains 17 illustrations. I recommend you read it.
In the book, Spencer explains the origin of hurricanes and gives a history of U.S. hurricanes from colonial times to present time, including comments on hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Spencer notes that geological studies of sediments in coastal lakes in Texas and Florida show that “catastrophic hurricane strikes were more frequent 1,000 to 2,000 years ago than in the most recent 1,000 years.” Hurricanes making landfall in Florida show a downward trend in both number and intensity (that trend includes hurricane Irma). Spencer says that hurricanes in tropical Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico are not limited by sea surface temperatures.
He also notes that “ two major hurricane strikes endured by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1635 and in 1675, have yet to be rivaled in more modern times.”
“…Most Atlantic hurricanes can be traced back to African easterly waves [of low wind shear]. These waves draw their energy from the temperature contrast between the hot air over the Sahara Desert and the cooler air over the Sahel, and as they leave the west coast of Africa they ‘kick start’ the organization of rain shower activity over the tropical eastern Atlantic Ocean.”
You will have to read the E-book to delve more deeply into the mechanics of hurricanes. Here is an excerpt:
If you were to go up inside the eye at the altitude where jets fly, you would find the air temperature there is 10 or 20 deg. F warmer than normal for that altitude. This warmth is caused by air being forced to sink in response to rising air in the showers and thunderstorms surrounding the eye. This ‘subsidence warming’ is a universal feature of all precipitation systems, but only in hurricanes is it highly concentrated into one relatively small area. All of the warm rising air in billowing rain clouds must be exactly matched by sinking air elsewhere, and in the case of hurricanes, that sinking air is most concentrated and intense in the eye of the storm. For more common rain systems, the warming is much weaker as it is spread over huge areas hundreds or even thousands of miles in diameter. Only a few miles away from the eye is the heavily raining eyewall of the hurricane; this is where the strongest surface winds occur.
Spencer also has a chapter on “The Effect of Sea Level Rise on Hurricane Storm Surge” in which he shows that sea level rise has been mostly if not entirely natural, with no convincing evidence that it has accelerated from human-caused global warming.
Separate from Spencer’s data, Dr. Chris Landsea of NOAA Hurricane Research Division presents at table of Atlantic hurricanes beginning from 1851. You will see that there is no sign of influence by global warming. Landsea has this caveat about the data: “The Atlantic hurricane database (or HURDAT) extends back to 1851. However, because tropical storms and hurricanes spend much of their lifetime over the open ocean – some never hitting land – many systems were “missed” during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (Vecchi and Knutson 2008). Starting in 1944, systematic aircraft reconnaissance was commenced for monitoring both tropical cyclones and disturbances that had the potential to develop into tropical storms and hurricanes. This did provide much improved monitoring, but still about half of the Atlantic basin was not covered (Sheets 1990). Beginning in 1966, daily satellite imagery became available at the National Hurricane Center, and thus statistics from this time forward are most complete (McAdie et al. 2009).” See data
Back in 1999, Landsea et al. published a paper which found “that multidecadal variability is more characteristic of the region. Various environmental factors including Caribbean sea level pressures and 200mb zonal winds, the stratospheric Quasi-Biennial Oscillation, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, African West Sahel rainfall and Atlantic sea surface temperatures … show significant, concurrent relationships to the frequency, intensity and duration of Atlantic hurricanes.” (Source)
Dr. Neil Frank, former Director National Hurricane Center:
“Over the past several weeks numerous articles suggest Harvey and Irma were the result of global warming. The concept is a warmer earth will generate stronger and wetter hurricanes. A number of people have said Irma was the most intense hurricane in the history of the Atlantic while Harvey was the wettest and both were good examples of what we can expect in the future because of global warming. What does a fact check reveal about these two hurricanes?”
Frank shows that neither of the above contentions is true, read more.
The Arizona Geological Survey is in the process of digitizing both new and older geological reports and releasing them to the public as free downloads.
This month they released a classic work by E.D. Wilson et al.: “Arizona Lead and Zinc Deposits, Part 1″ which was originally published in 1950. (146 p., 19 plates)
Download it here: http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1729
They have also released an index of mining properties in Santa Cruz County, Arizona (100 pages). http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1730
Previous releases available for free down include:
(Note: some of these links take you first to my review of the papers.)
This short video from the Galileo Movement in Australia shows how minute the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide is.
The Pima Pineapple cactus (Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina) is a small (pineapple-sized) cactus that inhabits grasslands and desert scrub in Pima County and parts of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, and parts of northern Sonora, Mexico, at elevations below 4,000 feet. About 90 percent of its historic range is in Pima County.
The cactus is sparsely distributed within its range, but does have some high-density clusters. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) this species is incapable of self-fertilization, which means pollen from another individual cactus is required.
The Pima Pineapple cactus is a low-growing hemispherical cactus that may be found as single or multi-stemmed plants. Mature plants measure 4-18 inches tall and 3-7 inches in diameter. The spines are stout and arranged in clusters with one central hooked spine and 6-15 radial straight spines. Spines are originally straw colored, but become black with age. Flowers are yellow and the fruit is a green ellipsoid. See photos here. The flowers are pollinated mainly by bees. Seeds are dispersed by rodents, rabbits, and ants.
Because the cactus is small and inconspicuous, it is subject to danger from grassland fires, livestock grazing, off-road vehicles, and housing development.
The Pima Pineapple cactus was listed as endangered by FWS on September 23, 1993. FWS never got around to establishing “critical habitat” but now is proposing a recovery plan which you can read here (76 pages). If we follow the plan, which will cost $62,910,560, FWS says they can delist the cactus by the year 2046. There have been many studies of the cactus, but FWS still doesn’t know how many there are scattered around its habitat.
The main recommendations of the recovery plan boil down to protecting existing habitat from human intervention, invasive species, and wildfires. In other words, restrict land usage. FWS also recommends acquisition of private lands to increase habitat and limit development.
The plan recommends monitoring the cactus for at least 15 years. It so happens that Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) established in 1985, comprising 117,464-acres, lies in southern Pima County within the range of the cactus. Has not the FWS been paying attention to the cactus on the Refuge during the past 25 years?
Ironically, management of BANWR may have caused the population of the cactus to plunge. When BANWR was established, they removed all cattle. The result was that the grass grew taller which promoted more damaging wildfires which damaged more cactus. Tall grass also discouraged jackrabbits which are the primary agent of seed dispersal. In tall grass, jackrabbits can’t run fast enough to escape predators.
I have an alternative suggestion. In order to preserve the cactus, delist it and farm it. Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge could be used as an initial farm stock source with many plots dedicated to the cactus. FWS could, if the cactus were delisted, allow commercial nurseries to grow and sell the plants to people who would like them for their yards or gardens, something that is problematical as long as the cactus is listed as “endangered.” This small cactus would make a good potted plant for porches and patios.
Species extinction is a natural phenomenon, but sometimes, as Mark Twain wrote: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” The Endangered Species Act has been used for good to help some species and for political reasons to stop or inhibit mines, logging, farming, and many other activities. Below is a collection of articles which show that some reports of extinction were in error. Sometimes, “settled science” is wrong. (Note, most links have photos.)
Long-lost Tasmanian tiger may have been found
September 6, 2017
Do Tasmanian tigers still exist? A few trackers believe they have found evidence — releasing alleged footage of proof. The grainy and fleeting videotape, according to The Mercury, showed Tasmanian tigers (also known as thylacines) in their natural state: a thylacine walking slowly at a distance, a thylacine nose at the camera lens, and a thylacine with a cub.
Official accounts, according to The Mercury, suggest the thylacine became extinct on the Australian mainland more than 2000 years ago, although unverified “sightings” occur across many states of Australia from time to time. (Read more)
Boy finds ‘extinct’ frog in Ecuador and helps revive species
July 7, 2017
A school-age boy has rediscovered an Ecuadorian frog considered extinct for at least 30 years. The animal has now successfully bred in captivity.
The colourful Jambato harlequin frog (Atelopus ignescens) was once so widespread in Ecuador that it turned up in people’s homes, was something children played with and was used as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Then it was suddenly wiped out, probably by a combination of climate change and fungal disease. (Read more)
Frog not sighted in 30 years and declared extinct reappears in Costa Rica
June 07, 2017
SAN JOSE – Costa Rican scientists reported the reappearance of an endemic frog species that had not been sighted for three decades (Heredia robber frog, Craugastor escoces.) It was declared extinct in 2004 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN). (Read more)
Seychelles snail, believed extinct due to climate change, found ‘alive and well,’ says group
Sep 8, 2014, NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A snail once thought to have been among the first species to go extinct because
of climate change has reappeared in the wild. The Aldabra banded snail, declared extinct seven years ago, was rediscovered on Aug. 23 in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles. The mollusk, which is endemic to the Aldabra coral atoll — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — had not been seen on the islands since 1997, said the Seychelles Islands Foundation. Read more And here
‘Extinct’ corpse-eating fly back from the dead
July 9, 2013
Behold the bone-skipper, high in the running for the strangest fly on Earth. For the bone-skipper, fresh carcasses just won’t do. No, these flies prefer large, dead bodies in advanced stages of decay. And unlike most flies, they are active in early winter, from November to January, usually after dark. They also disappeared from human notice and were declared extinct for more than a century. That’s why they’ve often been considered almost mythical or legendary, said Pierfilippo Cerretti, a researcher at the Sapienza University of Rome. In the past few years, three species of bone-skipper have been rediscovered in Europe, setting off a buzz among fly aficionados. (Read more)
Biologists find rare snake near Gila River
July 6, 2013
The northern Mexican garter snake was once thought to be extinct in New Mexico. Not so, according to biologists at the Albuquerque BioPark. They found three of the snakes in early June near the Gila River and another three later in the month. Two of the snakes were studied, tagged and released. The remaining four were brought to the Albuquerque Zoo to establish a breeding population.(Read more)
An ‘extinct’ frog make s a comeback in Israel
Jerusalem, June 4, 2013 — The first amphibian to have been officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been rediscovered in the north of Israel after some 60 years and turns out to be a unique “living fossil,” without close relatives among other living frogs.
The Hula painted frog was catalogued within the Discoglossus group when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley of Israel in the early 1940s. The frog was thought to have disappeared following the drying up of the Hula Lake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the IUCN in 1996. As a result, the opportunity to discover more about this species’ history, biology and ecology was thought to have disappeared. (Read more)
Cute rodent species surfaces after 113 years
May 19, 2011
Scientists thought a mysterious guinea pig-sized rodent species that hadn’t been seen in 113 years was long extinct. Until one of them ambled up to two volunteer naturalists at a nature reserve in Colombia two weeks ago. The nocturnal animal, the elusive red-crested tree rat, turned up just as the scientists were heading off to bed, at 9:30 p.m. on May 4. It spent two hours watching as the volunteer biologists took photos of it, the n calmly ambled off into the darkness. (Read more)
India team uncovers 12 frog species
Sep 18, 2011, New Delhi – Years of combing tropical mountain forests, shining flashlights under rocks and listening for croaks in the night have paid off for Indian scientists who have discovered 12 new frog species plus three others thought to have been extinct. (Read more)
Pygmy tarsier, a tiny primate, rediscovered in Indonesia
November 19, 2008
The tiny Furby-like pygmy tarsier, presumed to be extinct, was found during a recent expedition to Indonesia. And the cuddly, huge-eyed nocturnal critter is the very definition of cute. Gursky-Doyen of Texas A&M
University traveled into the mountains of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia to confirm that the pygmy tarsier was unequivocally extinct, but ended up becoming the first person in more than 80 years to spot a live one. (Read more)
Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Rediscovered in Arkansas
April 28, 2005
A group of wildlife scientists believe the ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct. They say they have made seven firm sightings of the bird in central Arkansas. The landmark find caps a search that began more than 60 years ago, after biologists said North America’s largest woodpecker had become extinct in the United States. (Read more) Note: this contention is still controversial – see here.
Coelacanths (seel-a-canths) were once known only from fossils and were thought to have gone extinct approximately 65 million years ago (mya), during the great extinction in which the dinosaurs disappeared. Today, there are two known living species.
The first living coelacanth was discovered in 1938. For many years, living coelacanths were known only from the western Indian Ocean, primarily from the Comoros Islands, but in September 1997 and again in July 1998, coelacanths were captured in northern Sulawesi, Indonesia, nearly 6,000 miles to the east of the Comoros. Read more
The moral of this story is that even “settled science” can be wrong. A good scientist should always be skeptical.
Related: For the past several years alarmist scientists have claimed that humans are causing “the sixth mass extinction” on Earth. Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin debunks this claim in the article: “Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction.”
Erwin is one of the world’s experts on the End-Permian mass extinction, an unthinkable volcanic nightmare that nearly ended life on earth 252 million years ago. He proposed that earth’s great mass extinctions might unfold like these power grid failures: most of the losses may come, not from the initial shock—software glitches in the case of power grid failures, and asteroids and volcanoes in the case of ancient mass extinctions—but from the secondary cascade of failures that follow. These are devastating chain reactions that no one understands.
Houston, Texas, seat of Harris County, has a long history of flooding because the city was built on a flood plain. The deluge generated by hurricane Harvey in August, 2017, is only the latest episode.
Houston lies within a coastal plain about 50 miles northwest of Galveston. The area has very flat topography which is cut by four major bayous that pass through the city: Buffalo Bayou, which runs into downtown and the Houston Ship Channel; and three of its tributaries: Brays Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Heights and near the northwest area; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel goes past Galveston and into the Gulf of Mexico.
The land around Houston consists of sand, silt, and clay deposited by local rivers.
The sedimentary layers underneath Houston ultimately extend down some 60,000 feet, with the oldest beds deposited during the Cretaceous. Between 30,000 feet and 40,000 feet below the surface is a layer of salt, the primary source of salt domes which dot the metropolitan area. Since salt is more buoyant than other sediments, it rises to the surface, creating domes and anticlines and causing subsidence due to its removal from its original strata. These structures manage to capture oil and gas as it percolates through the subsurface. [source]
Groundwater pumping also causes subsidence in parts of the city. (See: Geologists find parts of Northwest Houston, Texas sinking rapidly )
Hurricane damage in Houston:
As described by the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) [link]:
When the Allen brothers founded Houston in 1836, they established the town at the confluence of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous. Shortly thereafter, every structure in the new settlement flooded. Early settlers documented that after heavy rains, their wagon trips west through the prairie involved days of walking through knee-deep water. Harris County suffered through 16 major floods from 1836 to 1936, some of which crested at more than 40 feet, turning downtown Houston streets into raging rivers.
Houston was flooded during the September, 1900, hurricane which wiped out Galveston.
In December of 1935 a massive flood occurred in the downtown Houston as the water level height measured at Buffalo Bayou in Houston topped out at 54.4 feet which was higher than Harvey. There have been 30 major floods in the Houston area since 1937 when the flood control district was established in spite of construction of flood control measures.
In June, 2001, Harris County suffered widespread flooding due to hurricane Allison. According to HCFCD, before leaving the area, Allison would dump as much as 80 percent of the area’s average annual rainfall over much of Harris County, simultaneously affecting more than 2 million people. When the rains finally eased, Allison had left Harris County, Texas, with 22 fatalities, 95,000 damaged automobiles and trucks, 73,000 damaged residences, 30,000 stranded residents in shelters, and over $5 billion in property damage in its wake.
Some climate alarmists are claiming that global warming has played a part in the flooding produced by hurricane Harvey. Dr. Roy Spencer debunks that notion here and here. Storms of or greater than Harvey’s magnitude have happened before. Storm damage is not due entirely to weather. Some is due to local infrastructure.
It all boils down to the luck of the draw: if you choose to inhabit a flood plain, you will get wet from time to time.
P.S. Prior to Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, the U.S. had gone a remarkable 12 years without being hit by a hurricane of Category 3 strength or stronger. Since 1970 the U.S. has only seen four hurricanes of Category 4 or 5 strength. In the previous 47 years, the country was struck by 14 such storms.
I have tentatively identified this spider as a Western Spotted Orbweaver (Neoscona Oaxacensis ) also known as a zig-zag spider. It is a pretty spider with a body length of just under one-half inch.
This spider occurs throughout the mid-west and western U.S., Mexico, Central American and parts of South America. Like most spiders, the orbweaver has venom to subdue its prey, but most sources say the venom is not harmful to humans.
The spiders eat insects and anything else that gets caught in its web. It also eats spider silk. You can watch a short video from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum which shows this spider in action:
Spider silk is a protein fiber. Spiders can produce as many as seven different types of silk. Wikipedia has a long and detailed article on spider silk (link). I will summarize.
Spider silk is five times as strong as the same weight of steel and some silk can stretch up to five times its length without breaking.
Types of silk (from Wikipedia):
Major-ampullate (dragline) silk: Used for the web’s outer rim and spokes and also for the lifeline. Can be as strong per unit weight as steel, but much tougher.
Capture-spiral (flagelliform) silk: Used for the capturing lines of the web. Sticky, extremely stretchy and tough. The capture spiral is sticky due to droplets of aggregate (a spider glue) that is placed on the spiral. The elasticity of flagelliform allows for enough time for the aggregate to adhere to the aerial prey flying into the web.
Tubiliform silk: Used for protective egg sacs. Stiffest silk.
Aciniform silk: Used to wrap and secure freshly captured prey. Two to three times as tough as the other silks, including dragline.
Minor-ampullate silk: Used for temporary scaffolding during web construction.
Piriform: Piriform serves as the attachment disk to dragline silk. Piriform is used in attaching spider silks together to construct a stable web.
It seems that spiders are more complicated than one would initially think. Have you seen this spider around your garden?
The Arizona Brown Spider – a reclusive beastie
The rains of the summer monsoon have given rise to some exotic flowering plants in my yard. My wife calls them weeds. Recently, I noticed two flowering plants by the pool that I had not seen in my yard before. I sent photographs to botanist Mark Fleming at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum who identified them for me.
The first is Sida abutifolia. Common names include Spreading Sida, Prostrate Mallow, and Spreading Fanpetal.
Sida is a tropical plant whose range now includes southern Arizona and New Mexico, most of Texas, and southernmost Florida.
Sida is classified as an herb that grows up to one foot high and has ground-hugging stems that have small spikes. The leaves are about one inch long and the yellow flowers are about 3/4 inch in diameter. See a more scientific description and more photos from SEINet.
This plant has what I regard as strange behavior. Most of the time the flowers are closed. They all open together around 2pm and close again after two hours. This behavior has been repeated for about two weeks so far. It would seem that this limits the opportunity for pollenation.
In Mexico, Sida was used medicinally to treat boils and kidney problems (Source).
The second plant is Euphorbia capitellata aka Chamaesyce capitellata, a member of the Spurge Family. It has a lovely common name: head sandmat. Other names include capitate sandmat and head spurge.
The white flowers are less than 1/4 inch in diameter when open. The flowers look pointed before they open fully. The leaves are about one inch long. See a more scientific description and more photos from SEINet.
Capitellata is a small perennial plant with a woody base from which the herbaceous stems regrow year after year. It has a milky sap that can be a skin or eye irritant.
Capitellata is native to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico.