It’s A Hot One

The little digital thermometer on my window here in south-eastern France read 50.1°C (122.2°F) yesterday. Today it’s even higher. Not that the outside air is really that hot. It’s just the sun heating the glass of the window to that searing temperature. Until I get around to moving the thermometer to a location that offers…

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Stone Cold Facts

Switzerland just experienced its coldest winter in thirty years; back in October, several meteorologists predicted this winter would be Europe’s coldest in a century. From my vantage point on the Franco-Swiss border, where temperatures didn’t get above freezing and were further chilled by a strong northerly wind, I can testify that January was desperately cold…

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Waiting For Rain

I was running my loop the other day when I came across this delicate specimen in the middle of the road – a damselfly that was flitting around two weeks later than the very end of the usual damselfly season, probably because it still feels like high summer. I shooed it off the asphalt as…

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Covering Our Eyes

The main centers of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lay like a loose pearl necklace around the coastal edges of the nation. I’ve never been to any of the NASA sites, but I grew up watching them from a distance. As a child of the Sixties, the moon launches that took…

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Drinking From Your Neighbor’s Glass

In honor of World Water Day, here’s an interesting riddle: There are two kinds of water sources for a town, surface and underground. In times of adequate rain, that water can be used for human activities from farming to consumption to mining and so on. But let’s say the rain stops for a long time.…

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Patch Job

A study published earlier this year pointed to a decrease in the size of the ozone hole over the Antarctic. This healing process indicates the success of the Montreal Protocol, the 1989 treaty intended to limit the production and use of ozone-harming chemicals. Ratified by all United Nations Members, as well as Niue, the Cook…

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Oxbows and Meanders

I found this tangled map, created in 1944, over on the ever-fruitful NASA web site for the Earth Observatory. It shows historical changes along a stretch of the Mississippi River. I stumbled upon it while looking at a small collection of river surveys from 1865, and comparing them to modern Google maps. There was this…

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A Little Perspective

It’s been a rough start to 2015, so I thought I’d step back and look at a bigger picture. NASA released an image of a section of one of our nearest neighbors, galactically-speaking: the Andromeda galaxy, also known as M31. The image itself contains 1.5 billion pixels and represents the largest image ever released by…

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Turtle Chirps, Volcanic Whistles

Anathasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit priest and scholar, had interests ranging from fossils to hieroglyphics to micro-organisms and volcanoes, was above all a master of expressing wonder at the natural world. He proposed, among many other things, the idea of a parabolic horn, an amplification system for sound waves. In the illustration below, the…

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Water Falls

A crucible for past, present and future examples of extreme climate developments, the western part of the United States – and California in particular – continues to suffer under extreme drought conditions. Drought is nothing new in California. What’s new (or rather, not very old in geological terms) is a culture and economy built on…

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