Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sunlight to Oxygen

Day after day, year after year trees turn sunlight into oxygen.
"Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky."
Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
Growth and Storage

Growing trees sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Carbohydrates are formed from the carbon dioxide that a tree stores as wood fiber.
It is wood fiber that provides the structure that enables a tree to grow outward and upward toward the sunlight. The carbon in the carbohydrates is converted into water and oxygen.

One tree can store over 70kg of carbon over its lifetime.

Oxygen Factory

Trees release water and oxygen back into the atmosphere as a by-product of photosynthesis. A tree is a carbon dioxide scrubbing oxygen factory. Over the course of its life a tree continuously:
  1. Consumes atmospheric carbon dioxide as input;
  2. Makes use of the sequestered carbon for the fiber it needs for structural growth; and
  3. Produces clean water and fresh oxygen.
"One acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year."
― New York Times

The Red Tree by Piet Mondrian (1872–1944)

"I keep drawing the trees, the rocks, the river, I'm still learning how to see them; I'm still discovering how to render their forms. I will spend a lifetime doing that. Maybe someday I'll get it right."
Alan Lee, Book Illustrator


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shifting Pattern

A massive swath of unusually warm water has settled off the coast of North America since early 2014. Ocean surface water temperatures are about 1° to 4° Celsius (2° to 7° Fahrenheit) above the mean.
"In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year."
— Nick Bond, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean
Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly, March 2015, NASA Earth Observatory

Significantly warmer ocean temperatures, dubbed "The Blob" by climate scientist Nick Bond, seem linked to weather anomalies across North America.

Scientists hypothesize that the persistently warmer ocean temperatures over the past 15 months could be causing a range of phenomena from stressing Northwest salmon and steelhead trout populations to supplying a pipeline of moisture that fed record-breaking East Coast snowstorms.
"Men argue. Nature acts."
Voltaire (1694 – 1778)
Natural phenomena are often characterized as a continuous process, by a state of continuous change, or by evolutionary adaptations. As humans observing and collecting data from the world around us, we establish and recognize patterns that enable us to distinguish anomalous changes from expected changes.

Shifting patterns are a leading indicator of larger systemic changes that demand our attention.
"Are humans any smarter than frogs in a pot? If you put a frog in a pot and slowly turn up the heat, it won't jump out. Instead, it will enjoy the nice warm bath until it is cooked to death. We humans seem to be doing pretty much the same thing."
Jeff Goodell


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Summer into Winter

Mount Tambora
Two hundred years ago Mount Tambora erupted. The event occurred over a two-day period, April 10-11, in 1815.
It is considered the world's largest ash eruption since the last ice age.
Sulfate aerosols generated from the volcanic gases blocked sunlight turning the approaching summer into winter over much of the Northern Hemisphere.

The Tambora caldera is about 6 km or 3.7 miles wide by 7 km or 4.3 miles long and more than a kilometer or .6 miles in depth.
"Because Tambora ejected sulfurous gas that generated sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere, which block sunlight, the eruption created a ‘year without a summer,’ leading to food shortages — people were eating cats and rats — and very general hardship throughout Europe and eastern North America"
Stephen Self
That summer, mean temperatures dropped by 0.7–1.3 °F (0.4–0.7 °C) around the world causing food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere.

Intense atmospheric haze led to unusually spectacular sunsets like those painted by the Romanticist landscape painter J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851).

J. M. W. Turner Sunsets


Saturday, April 4, 2015


Sierra Juniper
During a summer's journey through the High Sierra in 1869 John Muir observed and wrote of an emergent philosophy of beholding, understanding, and championing the natural world.

He recorded observations and illustrations in My First Summer in the Sierra and Selected Essays which was first published in 1911.

Muir wrote of the abundance and exultance of both living and inert, the waste-less economy of the natural world, the forces and tools of nature, the profound inter-dependence of the living, and of human mortality.
"The snow on the high mountains is melting fast, and the streams are singing bankfull, swaying softly through the level meadows and bogs, quivering with sun-spangles, swirling in pot-holes, resting in deep pools, leaping, shouting in wild, exulting energy over rough boulder dams, joyful, beautiful in all their forms."
On waste-less economy of nature Muir wrote,
"No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull, or any trace of what in manufactories is called rubbish or waste; everything is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons."
Muir eloquently mused about the cosmological brotherhood of the living,
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow-mountaineers."
He often paused to observe, experience, and illustrate. In Tenaya Cañon he paused at length to consider Sierra junipers in exquisite detail.

Junipers in Tenaya Cañon
Illustration by John Muir

He personified the trees comparing them to hardy highland mountaineers.
"A thickset, sturdy, picturesque highlander, seemingly content to live for more than a score of centuries on sunshine and snow; a truly wonderful fellow, dogged endurance expressed in every feature, lasting about as long as the granite he stands on."
Muir admired the hard-scrabble tenacity of the junipers. Aware of his mortality and wistfully envious of the junipers' longevity he wrote,
"Wish I could live, like these junipers, on sunshine and snow, and stand beside them on the shore of Lake Tenaya for a thousand years. How much I should see, and how delightful it would be! Everything in the mountains would find me and come to me, and everything from the heavens like light."